2022 Ancient Faith Content Creator Conference Speakers and Sessions

We are happy to announce the speakers and topics for this year’s Ancient Faith Content Creator Conference! The conference will take place from Monday evening, September 19 through Thursday morning, September 22 at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA.

Sessions will be taught both by Ancient Faith staff members and invited speakers. We’re also honored to be hosting representatives of several other Orthodox publishers, who will be available to talk with conference guests who want to learn more about their offerings.



Fr. Andrew Damick

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Ruins of Christendom: The Present and Future of Orthodox Christian Media

The commission given by Christ is to preach the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.  As Orthodox Christians in the English-speaking world, how have we been doing?  Where are we now?  And where do we go from here?  Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, AFM’s Chief Content Officer, shares both his critiques and vision for what Orthodox Christian evangelists, educators, and culture creators are and can be doing as citizens of the Kingdom of Christ.

The Very Rev. Archpriest Andrew Stephen Damick is Chief Content Officer of Ancient Faith Ministries and has been contributing podcasts, documentaries, books, blogs, video and live talks to AFM since 2009, joining the staff full time in 2020. He served in parish ministry for 13 years, the final 11 as pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He has a keen interest in scripture, liturgy, history, literature, language, story and culture. Fr. Andrew lives in Emmaus with his wife and children.

Melissa Lauro

For Such Is the Kingdom of Heaven: Orthodox Children’s Content in the Global, Post-Pandemic Age

How are we preparing our children to learn and receive the full truth revealed to us as Orthodox Christians so that they can carry out Christ’s commission to preach the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven? Are we curating the content they consume today in a way that encourages them and prepares them for life decisions 5, 10, 15 years from now? Do we meet them where they are today so that they can lead tomorrow from a solid foundation with a confident knowledge of who they are in Christ?

Melissa Lauro, Director of the new Ancient Faith Kids Division, shares AFKids’ development as a digital destination where the Pan-Orthodox community can contribute to, create, and enjoy digital content that will enrich children’s experience and practice of the Ancient Faith person, in parish, and online. Melissa has been working in publishing, content strategy, and writing programs for the past 15 years. She attends St. Seraphim’s Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas, TX, and lives in Fort Worth with her husband and four sons. She studies literature, poetry, and language; she loves hearing and telling stories on the page, in the podcast, on the stage, at the table, and in the kitchen.


The Great Repatriation: Clarifying the Story and Strategy of Our Cosmic Call to Global Mission
The anglophone Orthodox Christian media and digital content world has reached a watershed moment in its development, past which, it will become one type of animal or another. Will we choose to grow headlong into the light of an apostolic paradigm that is inherently multicultural, intergenerational and pledges allegiance only to Christ? Or will we be ensnared by temporal distractions, toiling only to have broadcast and made disciples of ourselves? Kassiane invites us to update our conception of how mission work can be integrated into our content in the 21st century. Reaching beyond our earthly subscriptions, tribes, and perceived boundaries, we can lovingly coordinate through our collective growing pains, to offer our best work to the Lord of the Harvest.

Kassiane is a project manager and creative working in the digital mission field to serve the Chinese diaspora. She has 15 years of experience in the literary translation and publishing world. She currently serves as the Chinese Content Officer at Ancient Faith in the new Global Outreach team, where she is localizing Orthodox Christian books, blogs, sacred music, and other resources into Mandarin Chinese. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Stanford University.


Fr. Andrew Damick

Sheep, Wolves, Serpents and Doves: Being an Orthodox Public Figure in the Age of Cancel Culture

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).  We live in a time when bad faith is not only assumed but weaponized against preachers of the gospel and cultivators of Christian culture.  How do we navigate such a treacherous landscape? Is it even worth being a sheep sent out when there are such wolves? What does it mean to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove in the 21st century? How can we get past or around the viciousness of current public discourse to communicate Christ?  AFM’s Chief Content Officer speaks on equipping for holiness to engage the world for Christ in the current moment.

Matthew Dorning

Design Basics in an Orthodox World

From book covers to podcast cover art, to blogs and brochures, graphic design communicates your message. In this session, Matt will discuss the artful use of layout, color palettes, typography, photography, and illustration and how to use them effectively to communicate your message.

Matthew Dorning lives in Birmingham, Alabama, is married to Melinda Dorning, and has 3 children. He is a graphic designer with experience in marketing and publishing, and has worked for both advertising agencies and graphic design firms. AFR played a key role in Matthew and his family coming to Orthodoxy.

Katherine Hyde

How to Write a Standout Book Proposal

It takes more than a great idea to sell a book. Get an insider’s look at what publishers are really looking for in a book proposal and learn how you can send yours to the top of the pile.

So You Want to Write a Novel

Multi-published novelist and veteran editor Katherine Hyde will discuss the process of becoming a fiction writer, some pitfalls to avoid, ways of incorporating your Orthodox faith into your fiction, and some thoughts on
pursuing publication.

Katherine has been with Ancient Faith Publishing/Conciliar Press since 1993 and currently serves as senior editor for adult books. Katherine is the author of three picture books from Ancient Faith as well as the Crime with the Classics series of traditional mysteries for adults (Minotaur/Severn House, 2016–2021). She lives with her husband John and the youngest of her four children in California redwood country, where she sings soprano in the choir of St. Lawrence Orthodox Church.

Bobby Maddex

From Waveforms to Formats to Forming Your Own Podcasts: Podcasting 101

So you have a great idea for a podcast, but don’t know how to get started. This is the workshop for you. We’ll begin with the podcasts that you should already be consuming and then work our way through digital recorder selection, proper mic placement, proven editing apps, interviewing techniques and technologies, audio formats, podcast submissions, and more! By the end of the class, you will have all that you need to record and distribute your first episode. You will also be ready to attend the advanced workshop where you will learn how to take your podcast to the next level.

Trends, Techniques, and Tricks of the Trade: Podcasting 201

You’ve edited your audio, and now it’s time to work on presentation. Podcasts are not just a content delivery system, but a distinct species of audio with its own evolving conventions and listener expectations. The first podcasts emerged in 2004—over eighteen years ago!—and with each passing year, the medium has grown in quality and sophistication. There are over two million active podcasts on the internet, so how do you distinguish yourself from the crowd? Well, as with all discourses, you need to master the genre before departing from it and creating something truly new. This workshop will help you do just that.

Bobby Maddex is the Station Manager of Ancient Faith Radio (AFR), host of the AFR podcasts “Ex Libris,” “Ancient Faith Presents,” and the “Ancient Faith Book Club,” and a freelance writer and speaker on topics related to faith and culture. Bobby graduated from Wheaton College in 1994 and later earned a Masters Degree in British Literature from DePaul University.

Jane G. Meyer

All Things Children’s Books

Jane G. Meyer, Ancient Faith’s Children’s Book Editor, will rapid fire as much information about children’s books into one session as she can manage. From crafting a compelling children’s story, to explaining the importance of negative space, to a quick list of the types of books we are currently looking to publish, come prepared with your questions (and a pen and paper–also all things tea are permitted).

Jane G. Meyer is both author and editor, familiar with the two opposite ends of the publishing bench, and is especially enthusiastic about bringing new, inspiring stories and products to Orthodox youth. Jane lives and works in Santa Barbara, California, where she attends Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church.


Derrick Cummins

Owning the Creative Process: A Beginner’s Guide to Editing and Producing Your Own Podcasts

So you’ve managed to go from a great idea to spoken words to a file on your computer . . . now what? This session is going to help you take complete ownership of the creative process when it comes to your podcast. We’ll cover everything from choosing audio editing software, removing unwanted selections of audio, setting proper levels, eliminating background noise, and more! I’ll provide plenty of resources and step-by-step guidance for how to edit and produce your own content. We’ll also be doing a live edit of one of the AFR podcasts!

Derek Cummins has been a podcast producer for AFR for over a year now. Previously, he worked as a protestant pastor before leaving to pursue the fullness of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Derek has over 10 years of experience working in audio production and studio recording, including teaching audio technical skills at the collegiate level. He attends St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKee’s Rocks, PA.

Brian Jarboe

Refining the Creative Process : Taking your Production and Engineering Process to the Next Level

So you’ve got all the tools necessary to make a production… how do you piece it all together to make your magic shine? In this seminar, we will take a look at how to use the tools at your disposal to really make your work stand out. Production, music, editing, timing… it all makes a difference on your final product.

Brian Jarboe is an Audio Engineer at NPR, and has been with the company since 1997. During that time, he has helped NPR with some of their highest profile broadcasts, including the grand opening of Disney Hall in L.A. and Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC, the 2008 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, and the Newport Folk Festival in Newport RI. Also in that time he served as Technical Director for NPR’s “Morning Edition” for almost 20 years, and “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.

Currently he assists producers and editors to make sure their pieces meet the NPR quality control, for shows like Morning Edition, All Things Considered and the TED Radio Hour. He is also a musician of 35 years, playing guitar in several bands. Currently he lives in Cheverly, MD with his wife, Caroline, and two children Alex and Anna Maria.

Nicholas Kosar

SEO 101: Let Your Light Shine Before Men

This presentation will help content creators of all types understand and use best practices to help their content rank higher in online searches. The presentation starts with a high-level view of the online world but provides practical steps you can take.

Nick is a digital marketing consultant with a background in magazine, book, and digital publishing. He is the founder and CEO of Open Road Digital and a director of the Associates of Colonel Philip Ludwell III (www.ludwell.org), a nonprofit dedicated to researching and publishing information on the life and times of Philip Ludwell III, the first known convert to Orthodoxy in America. He presents on SEO and other digital marketing issues to public and private groups.

Nicholas Kotar

The Consolation of Story: Why Becoming a Good Storyteller May Be the Most Important Thing You Do with Your Life

Culture in our time is most often expressed as a fight: culture wars, etc. The results are horrifying: even one’s response to a pandemic has taken the form of a culture war. It’s time for us Orthodox storytellers to heal the world. In this presentation, Nicholas will examine:

  • popular cultural storytelling trends, and why they leave much to be desired
  • new research into the way that storytelling affects learned behavior
  • Eternal truths of classic stories
  • Practical ways we, as Orthodox Christians, can pass on those eternal truths to our audience, no matter who they may be.

Deacon Nicholas Kotar is a writer of epic fantasy inspired by Russian fairy tales, a freelance translator from Russian to English, the resident conductor of Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary choir in Jordanville, NY, and a semi-professional vocalist. His one great regret in life is that he was not born in the nineteenth century in St. Petersburg, but he is doing everything he can to remedy that error.

Phoebe Farag Mikhail

Hallelujah! Creative Ways to Research your Nonfiction Religious/Spiritual Book

Researching your religious writing (and by religious I refer to anything under that umbrella – theological, spiritual, historical, even memoir or fiction) is one of the most exciting aspects of the writing process. Research should be about learning something new and growing in your own faith if it’s going to be fun, and if it’s going to lead you to the epiphanies you need to turn your research into great writing.

This workshop will discuss creative ways to uncover the resources you need to get the authoritative information you want for your project. It will offer guidance for discerning good and bad sources on (and off) the internet; explain how tertiary sources can help guide research and lead to good primary sources; describe different qualitative and quantitative analysis methods (with tips on how to do this properly, including transparency about methodology); and even how to leverage social media to lead you to the information you want.

There will be helpful information for participants no matter where they are in their projects, but the workshop will be especially helpful for those who have a book topic in mind and want to discuss and brainstorm ways to research it.

Phoebe Farag Mikhail is the author of Putting Joy into Practice: Seven Ways to Lift Your Spirit from the Early Church (Paraclete Press), has contributed to the anthology Darkness is as Light (Park End Books), and to the essay collection Many Women Were Also There: The Participation of Orthodox Women in the Ecumenical Movement (World Council of Churches/Volos Academy). She is a recipient of the Sacred Writes Public Scholarship on Religion fellowship and her writing has appeared in PloughChristianity TodayFaithfully MagazineSojournersFaith and Leadership, and Talking Writing Magazine. She blogs at Being in Community, where she also features guest posts from a diversity of contributors. She’s on Instagram and Twitter at @pkfarag. She currently serves at St. Antonious & St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Church in East Rutherford, NJ with her husband, Fr. Bishoy Mikhail and their three children while attending seminary classes at Pope Shenouda III Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. She teaches academic writing and research at Fairleigh Dickinson University and has taught theological writing and research at Holy Sophia University.

Nicole Roccas

Speaking of Tough Stuff: How to Communicate on Difficult Topics with Wisdom, Purpose, and Responsibility

The Christian message does not avoid suffering but rather locates meaning precisely within it. Now more than ever, we live in a world freshly attuned to the reality of uncertainty and human frailty, one that is longing to recover seeds of hope from the dark soil of struggle. Yet producing content that models Christian hope—that turns toward the “tough stuff” in life-giving rather than dismissive or damaging ways—can be challenging and complicated. How can we help others find meaning and healing when we ourselves still struggle? How are we to broach difficult topics in today’s polarized, even traumatized, cultural climate? How do we hold space for experiences of suffering in a way that authenticates rather than detracts from the Christian message? And how do we do all of this responsibly, engaging our audiences and their pain points while also safe-guarding our limits and ethical boundaries as content creators?

This session addresses these questions by applying principles of the trauma-informed approach to content development. Although the trauma-informed approach was initially developed to directly address trauma, its relevance is also much broader. In the context of creative work, it provides a versatile and conscientious lens for reimagining our role as content creators in a suffering, hope-seeking world. Together, we will explore strategies to navigate difficult topics with greater wisdom, clarity of purpose, and responsibility. The session will be broken up into several short, lecture-style presentations around a specific principle, each of which will be followed by breakout exercises or thought starters to help participants reflect on and mold the principle to their own work/topics/genres. Participants will also receive a resource packet with materials to help them continue learning about this important approach and how it might benefit their content creation.

Dr. Nicole Roccas is a communications professional who has worked in both academic and nonprofit environments. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College (University of Toronto). Nicole has been a contributor to Ancient Faith Radio since 2015 as host of the Time Eternal podcast and blog. Her first book is Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2017), which explores the relationship between human perceptions of time and the spiritual sickness of acedia. She has her PhD in History from the University of Cincinnati and attends Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Mission in downtown Toronto.

AFP publications include: A Journal of Thanksgiving Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life , and Under the Laurel Tree: Grieving Infertility with Saints Joachim and Anna .

Kristina Tartara

Orthodox Children’s Book Illustration 101

In this presentation, participants will learn about how to illustrate a book, from reading the manuscript to storyboarding to sketches to final art. The participants will learn how to set up files for print as well as what makes an illustration engaging. We will discuss specific things that Orthodox illustrators need to keep in mind when creating Orthodox books as well as the general rules of illustration and design.

Kristina grew up with a vivid imagination and dreamed of being a children’s book author and illustrator. Her first book, written in 3rd grade, was about a girl who found a four-leaf clover in the parking lot of K-mart.

When her children were babies and toddlers, she would take religious books to church for them to redirect them. If they were to be distracted, she wanted their thoughts to be on God since they were at church after all. She saw a need for more board books, so she created her own and a matching game to help the youngest children learn about our beautiful Orthodox Faith.

An active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Kristina has learned the ins and outs of the industry. She’s studied under a mentor who was an art director at some of the biggest names in publishing. Kristina recently finished her 10th book and is excited to do more to bring kids closer to God.

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