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Interview with ACFW South Carolina Lowcountry

People vacation all around the world to visit scenic lighthouses. They climb to the top and read about the dangers faced by lighthouse keepers. But what if your city sports, well, an unattractive lighthouse? One that’s rectangular instead of the iconic round shape?

The ACFW South Carolina Lowcountry chapter, which meets in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, decided to embrace their “wonderfully awkward-looking” lighthouse—the Charleston Light, also known as Sullivan's Island Lighthouse—and create a novella anthology to raise funds for a pro-life, non-profit ministry in their community.

The whole idea for an anthology based around Charleston Light started with chapter President Christina Sinisi’s husband, who is the president of the Friends of Charleston National Parks. Sinisi heard a park ranger mention one of the park service’s “top priorities” is to repair the lighthouse, as it’s currently defunct.

Eight members came together to create the anthology, which they later named Charleston Light: Stories Inspired by Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, and when the chapter took a field trip to the lighthouse, ideas began to flow. The authors took on the challenge of writing novellas based on the memorable structure.

“It opened up opportunities for writers to create stories. The lighthouse became a plot point,” author and former chapter president Laurie Larsen says.

Larsen has independently published her novels for about a decade and has her own publishing imprint, Random Moon Books. About a year ago, she presented an overview of indie publishing to her chapter and used their anthology idea to show the decisions and steps their members would need to take to publish their novellas.

Then the project truly became a team effort, even the cover, which Laurie Sibley’s husband designed.

“We wanted to do this self-published book as cheaply as possible so we could donate to Sanctuary of Unborn Life in Charleston. Normally, you have to pay for an editor, cover artist, and promotions, but we’re just doing all we can on our own,” Larsen says.

The chapter members volunteered editing time and their own promotion teams to review the book.

“For our unpublished members, it was a way to get their feet wet and to learn everything about [the publishing process]. It was a great learning experience for the members of the chapter,” Larsen says.

As far as choosing a ministry to support, Dianne Miley, one of the anthology authors, started Sanctuary of Unborn Life (SOUL) less than 10 years ago. A pro-life organization, SOUL is a not-for-profit that provides support, mentoring, and housing assistance for local pregnant and new mothers in need.

“It was a motivator for us to write. It wasn’t just for ourselves, but we’re raising the money for a good cause. It really brought us together,” Kelsey R. Budd says.

The group decided the short stories to keep the stories within the “Christian” umbrella and needed to be between 10,000 to 15,000 words. Other than those parameters, the authors had free rein.

Sibley explained that all eight of the stories included the lighthouse and an element of romance while still offering a lot of variation.

“Annette Wiley’s novella is more of a women’s fiction. Jody Stallings’s qualifies as young adult but is set in the late ‘80s, which makes it even more amusing for adult readers,” Sibley says. “Mine is a romance with suspense elements. I was really intrigued by the way the town of Sullivan’s Island grew up around the fort and the batteries. Mostly, I guess I’m nosy because I wanted my characters to get to go inside the lighthouse and the closed-off battery passageways, so I structured all the story events around those two goals.”

The stories also needed to fall under the designation of “inspirational.”

“I really fell in love with the idea of light versus darkness, and that’s what lighthouses are for—to shine a light in the darkness and show people the way,” Budd says. “I really incorporated that into my story of how God is a light, and the only true light is in Him in this dark world. I hope my story comes across as encouraging.”

Within the anthology, the lighthouse became a character all on its own, especially as each contributor envisioned stories in different genres. With such a memorable structure nearby, the Charleston Light lighthouse breeds commonality whenever discussed.

“As soon as you say, this is Charleston Light, inspired by the lighthouse, people are instantly like, ‘I’ve been there’ or ‘I live here!’” Melissa Henderson says. “No matter how many stories are written about the Lowcountry, people are looking for more beach reads or inspirational stories. It’s not preachy, but they are good, clean, inspirational Christian stories. I think it’s great we all came up with unique ideas. That’s a God thing.”

Jody Stallings and Annette Wiley also contributed novellas for the anthology.
The Bible came to life for Christine Boatwright when she realized it told one, complete story—the story of Jesus Christ. A church girl from the get-go, Christine learned storytelling through her time as an award-winning journalist and academic writer. She's the president of the ACFW Upstate South Carolina chapter and has won a handful of ACFW awards for her debut manuscript. In her free time as a stay-at-home mom, she connects the dots between the narrative of the Old Testament, the prophets who lived it, and the God who never changes. Connect with her at or on Instagram.

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