Faculty Information

2013 Lightning Bug Literary Festival Faculty
Brian Bird is a writer/producer and co-founder and partner with Michael Landon, Jr., of Believe Pictures, specializing in life-and-faith-affirming media content. His most recent writing and producing credits include Janette Oke’s “When Calls the Heart” (2012), Beverly Lewis’ “The Confession” (2012) and “The Shunning” (2011), all for the Hallmark Channel; "Gametime” for NBC (2011); “Not Easily Broken" (2009), adapted from the novel by T.D. Jakes, for Sony/Screen Gems; “Saving Sarah Cain” (2008) and “The Last Sin Eater" (2007) for 20th Century Fox.
He is currently writing and producing two feature films, “Captive,” the untold true story of 2005’s Atlanta hostage crisis, in partnership with producers Ralph Winter (“X-Men”) and Ken Wales (“Amazing Grace”), and “The Boy From Baby House 10,” based on the internationally acclaimed true story and book, in partnership with the UK's Footprint Films.

Between 1998-2003, Brian served as co-executive producer and writer on the final five seasons on the series "Touched by an Angel." His TV series writing and producing credits include more than 200 episodes of "Touched By an Angel," 'Evening Shade," "Step by Step" and "The Family Man," as well as pilots for ABC, NBC and Showtime.

Brian's other film credits include the Morgan Freeman-directed "Bopha!" (1993) for Paramount Pictures, the Hallmark Hall of Fame drama "Captive Heart" (1996), and “Call Me Claus,” the highest rated cable film of 2003 for TNT. He has also written screen adaptations of “In Silence” for Paramount Pictures, "Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation" for TNT, "Before Time Runs Out" for Fox, "The Deaths of Sybil Bolton" for CBS and "A Dirty Business" for HBO.

His blog, www.brianbird.net, is a vibrant, creative exchange serving thousands of new screenwriters on the art of story and the craft of screenwriting with free tools, tips and training.

As a longtime member of Saddleback Church, Brian has also served Pastor Rick Warren in a variety of media consulting roles. Brian’s best productions to date are his five children with his wife, Patty, of 31 years.

Jeff Gerke holds a BS in Film Production from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to that, he was a theatre major (acting) at Trinity University in San Antonio. Jeff also holds the Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Jeff's first novels appeared in the mid-1990s, followed in the early part of the 21st century by his Operation: Firebrand novels and then several nonfiction books. In 1999 Jeff came on staff with Multnomah Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, as an editor. Over his career he has been on staff with Multnomah, Strang/Realms, and NavPress. Jeff is the founder of Marcher Lord Press, a small indie publishing company dedicated to producing the finest in Christian science fiction, fantasy, and other wonderfully weird genres. Jeff is also the author of bestseller, The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up for Success.
Alexander Nifong has appeared as a guest lead on episodes of Law & Order, Glee, and The Fugitive Chronicles to name a few. A graduate of New York City’s Tisch School of the Performing Arts, he has starred on stage in Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, and Medea, and was awarded a summer internship to study acting and movement at Bangkok’s Theater Mitu. He is also an accomplished musician with his own band, Light.
Cecil Stokes co-wrote and produced the Award Winning October Baby movie as well as over 1250 television shows for networks such as A&E, Court TV, DIY Network, ESPN, Fine Living, Food Network, HGTV, History Channel, the Travel Channel and Turner South. Cecil has won Cable Ace, Communicator, New York Film Festival, and TElly awards. He also won a Southeast Emmy Award for his work on "Blue Ribbon Hunting: Best of Tailgating," a Turner South television mini-documentary that focused on college football game day around the South." Cecil executive produced two award winning documentaries as well as commercials for national businesses such as BMW, Cadillac, and Sara Lee.
Linda Mitchell is a newspaper columnist, grant writer, and author. Linda is a professor at Mississippi State University with a Ph.D. in technology. She is director of the MSU 4-H Tech and Writers Conference, and founder of the MSU Imagination on Paper contest. Linda enjoys speaking and teaching and often travels across the nation to speak to speak to youth, educators, Christian women and other groups.
Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with hundreds of articles and devotions to her credit, including those for Focus on the Family, CBN.com, Crosswalk.com and Christiandevotions.us. A savvy business owner, Edie has numerous copywriting clients who rely on her expertise in SEO and keyword formatting. She also consults on web content and social networking. Her latest book is Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. You can connect with Edie on her popular writing blog, www.thewriteconversation.com

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