Sarah Chew / Contributing Writer
On Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m., Samford hosted the 11th annual event in the Tom and Marla Corts Distinguished Author Series. Members of the Samford and Birmingham community, including President Beck Taylor and First Lady Julie Taylor, were in attendance in Brock Recital Hall. Members of the Corts family were also seated in the room, and they were recognized for their generous involvement in the Samford community, which made this event possible.
Featured at the event was Charles Martin, New York Times bestselling author of 16 novels and two non-fiction books about his faith and storytelling. His novels have been translated into more than 35 languages, and one, “The Mountain Between Us,” was adapted into a major motion picture in 2017. Martin was accompanied by friend and fellow New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry, who was the 10th anniversary Corts Distinguished Author.
Henry opened the event by talking about how storytelling shapes the human experience and has been crucial to her own life. After contrasting the live audience with the pandemic precautions of the previous year, Henry went on to discuss how lockdown renewed her long-held interest in C.S. Lewis. This prompted the writing of her latest book, “Once Upon a Wardrobe” (2021), which tells the story of an Oxford student who approaches C.S. Lewis with questions about Narnia. After briefly describing her work, Henry introduced Martin.
Martin opened by reading excerpts from his book, “What If It’s True?: A Storyteller’s Journey With Jesus.” His words painted a vivid description of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, imagining the story through the eyes of a witness. After closing the book, Martin challenged the audience with these questions: “What if every word is true? And if it’s true, how should I change?”
Through stories of his life and writing process, including how he copes with writer’s block, Martin explained how profoundly he has been shaped by these questions, and how he hopes to pass on their importance to the audience.
One member of the audience was particularly showcased: Martin’s son, Rives, who is a freshman currently attending Samford. Martin asked him to stand before recounting cherished memories of his son.
Martin acknowledged the potential for awkwardness, telling the crowd, “Maybe you thought I went on too long. Maybe you thought I should’ve let him sit down. But maybe you wish somebody would have pinpointed you and raised you up to tell you how valuable you are and how much you are loved.”
Afterward, Rives chimed in.
“I had no idea he was going to talk about me or use me as an example,” Rives said, “My favorite part about his work is how unashamed he is of the Lord and sticks to that no matter what the critics say.”
Martin’s passion for the Christian gospel is not only evident in his books, it was also the crux of his talk. He ended by urging the audience to remember that every person is worth Jesus’ sacrifice.
“As long as I live,” Martin said, “I want to write stories that tell that story.”