America’s Writing Teacher

by Lynn M. Brown

Jerry B. Jenkins (Left Behind) says that Dennis E. Hensley is like a utility player on a baseball team—he’s the guy who can do it all.

“Doc Hensley can write curriculum, devotions, novels, short stories, interviews, articles, columns, hard news, speeches, and stage musicals,” says Jenkins. “And, what’s equally amazing, he also can teach it all. I’ve never had a writers’conference that I haven’t asked Doc to be the keynote speaker.”
Hensley holds a Ph.D. in literature and linguistics from Ball State University, and for the past 20 years he has been the director of the professional writing major at Taylor University, where he holds the rank of full professor. Each year he serves as a judge for the Christy Awards, the Christian Book Awards, and the Evangelical Press Association Awards.

“I feel my career is divided equally between being an active writer and training others to be writers,” says Hensley. “I have 72 full-time students in my college writing program at Taylor, and I also teach at eight writers’ conferences each year, write a column about writing for Christian Communicator, and write textbooks about aspects of professional writing.”

Recent releases show the balance between author and teacher. Hensley’s novel Pseudonym (Whitaker Publishers, 2016) and his short story collections, Jesus in the 9 to 5 (AMG Publishers, 2014) and Jesus in All Four Seasons (Bold Vision Books, 2015), verify his talent as a fiction writer. His book Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (Bold Vision Books, 2017) is his tenth writing textbook.

“I was a newspaper reporter for the Muncie Star at nights and on weekends during the four years I was doing my Ph.D. studies,” explains Hensley. “I was writing fast, hitting deadlines, and learning to investigate a wide range of topics. Simultaneously, I was studying the great classics of world literature. For a career in writing, it was the best of both worlds.”

Hensley is in constant demand as a keynote speaker at writers’ conferences. Eva Everson, director of the Florida Christian Writers Conference, says, “Doc Hensley brought the house down the five times he addressed our attendees at our 2017 conference. He’s hilariously funny, but he always provides solid, useful, valuable content related to improving one’s writing skills.”

Similarly, Amy Munnell, director of the Southeastern Writers Conference (St. Simon’s Island, Georgia), says, “Doc Hensley’s 2017 appearance is the fifth time he has served as one of our workshop leaders. He always has fresh material to present. He recites poetry, tells funny anecdotes, shares valuable writing examples, and always takes time to work one-on-one with our conferees.”

Dennis and Rose Hensley have been married for 45 years, having met as teenagers while enrolled at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. They have two grown married children, Nathan and Jeanette, and four grandchildren. During 1970 and 1971 Dr. Hensley served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army and was awarded six medals for a year of duty in Vietnam.

“During my years at Taylor I have taught more than 1,200 students, and each has become a published writer. Many of my graduates are now in key positions in the world of Christian publishing. For example, Estee Zandee is an editor at Zondervan, Amy Green is an editor at Bethany House, and Katie Jameson is an editor at Focus on the Family. In 2015 my student Chandler Birch won the Simon and Schuster college novelist of the year award and received a $3,000 advance and a publishing contract for his novel The Face Faker’s Game. It’s gratifying to see my investment in my students pay off so well.”

As the author of 63 published books and more than 3,500 articles, interviews, columns, and short stories, one might wonder what is left for Hensley to be challenged by.

“Oh, there are always new developments in professional writing,” he says. “When I initiated the writing program at Taylor in 1997, there was no such thing as ebooks, blogging, smart phones, iPads, Nooks, Kindles, online publishing, Skype, or news streaming. I’m continually having to reinvent myself as a writer. It’s invigorating!”

Dr. Hensley writes a weekly blog related to writing on his web site of www.dochensley.com.

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Lynn M. Brown is a registered nurse and freelance writer whose works have been published in Christian Communicator, Toastmaster’s Magazine, and Church Libraries. She is a weekly columnist in Indiana for SEG-Way News.