18 April, 2024

Diane Stortz: Reflecting on 50 Years of Service in Christian Publishing

by | 29 December, 2023 | 4 comments

By Mark A. Taylor 

Fresh out of college in 1972 with a journalism degree and a desire to serve, Diane McIntyre contacted Ralph Small, Standard Publishing’s publisher, to ask about working there. He was noncommittal, but he told her if she was ever in town to give him a call. So, she made the trip from her home in California to Cincinnati, phoned him, and said, “I’m here.” 

“He was surprised,” Diane remembers. But he invited her to come the next day for an interview and asked her what age she had worked with. “I hadn’t worked with any age,” she says, “but I liked little kids.” Standard had been looking for someone to develop a Sunday school curriculum for 2- and 3-year-olds. Ralph sent her to talk to some others on the staff, and then she came back to his office. 

“It’s one thing to know you’re doing what the Lord wants you to do,” he told her. “It’s another thing to think you’re doing what the Lord wants you to do. I only think the Lord wants me to hire you.” 

Diane believes today God led her to Standard. And her work there for some 30 years affirms her conclusion. 

SERVING CHILDREN 

Immediately after her hire, she jumped into creating that curriculum for 2s and 3s, which came to be titled Discovering Together, a comprehensive set of weekly material, two years’ worth, that continued to be sold for more than two decades after it was first created. 

In the process, she had the chance to develop correlated undated products, her first introduction to producing children’s books. A seed was planted that grew to flourish beautifully in years to come. 

In 1975, she married Ed Stortz, and a couple years later she left Standard to raise a family. Several years after that she returned, first as a part-time editor in other departments and then full-time to edit children’s books, including Standard’s widely popular series of Happy Day books. 

Marketing vice president Dick LeGros introduced her to Mike Morris, head of Joshua Morris publishing, which later became Reader’s Digest Children’s books. “Mike was the master of novelty books for children,” Diane remembers. “I learned a lot about product development from him.”     

EXPANDING PRODUCT LINES 

In 1996 Diane became director of Standard’s whole New Products department, which included not only children’s books but every kind of undated item, from stickers to adult Bible studies. Soon that department was split into two: church resources and books, and Diane headed the book side. Under her leadership, those product offerings expanded greatly, including a wide assortment of books for teenagers and adults as well as children.  

There’s certainly no way to list everything created in those years, but two titles should be noted. Jim Burgen’s What’s the Big Deal About Sex? won the Christian Booksellers Association Gold Medallion award in the Youth category in 2000, and Kathryn O’Brien’s I’d Be Your Princess won in the Preschool Children category in 2005.  

DIANE STORTZ

EDITING, WRITING 

Diane left Standard in 2006 to launch her career as a freelance editor and writer. For seven years she edited books for other Christian publishers, “five or six different publishers,” she said, “maybe seven or eight.” She edited curriculum, Bible studies, children’s fiction, and adult nonfiction as well as overseeing some children’s projects for Standard. Tommy Nelson hired her to adapt one of Billy Graham’s devotionals, Hope for Each Day, for kids. 

But Diane had long thought of writing children’s books herself, and with the help of two experienced agents, now she was able to do that. In the years since she left Standard, she has published 18 books (three for adults, more about that below). At least 900,000 copies of her books have sold, including more than 50,000 in seven foreign language translations.  

Her top three sellers are I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God, Say & Pray Bible, and The Sweetest Story Bible. See all her titles still available at her website, dianestortz.com.  

SHARING HER HEART 

But as much as she loves and knows about children’s book writing, two books close to her heart are for adults. And both grew out of her own profound experiences. 

In 2000 she began attending a women’s Bible study led by Beth Neuenschwander, her friend from Clovernook Christian Church (now Lifespring Christian). She remembers the first January night she attended. It was cold, with a raging thunderstorm, and her husband asked, “‘Why don’t you stay home and go next week?” But somehow she knew she was supposed to be with this group. 

The premise of the gathering was simple: Read three chapters of the Bible each day to get to know God. Then meet each week to share insights and questions. “Nothing changed my life like discovering this book is alive,” Diane said. “There’s a God behind this. There’s power here. He works.” 

And Diane wasn’t the only one changed by the study. When she decided to put the plan into a book for other women to use, she included the stories of women who discovered similar strength and hope from the experience. Reading those stories was the tipping point for the editor at Bethany House who accepted her book proposal. The result is A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year: A Life-Changing Journey into the Heart of God. The book has sold 70,000 copies. 

In 2002 Diane’s oldest daughter and son-in-law left Cincinnati to serve with a team planting a church in Bosnia. Diane and her husband experienced profound grief as they prepared to say good-bye to their firstborn, headed to an unfamiliar, faraway place for an undetermined length of time. Diane looked online for help and found nothing. 

At the same time, fellow church member and clinical counselor Cheryl Savageau was asked to help another couple facing the same sense of loss at saying good-bye to their missionary children. She looked for resources and also came up empty.  

So, she started a support group that Diane and her husband and a few others attended. And her research surrounding issues for parents of missionary children became the basis for her doctoral thesis at the University of Cincinnati. Diane and Cheryl hosted a booth and led their first workshop at the National Missionary Convention (now called the International Conference On Missions) in 2003, and continued to do so for about 10 years. 

A book for parents of missionaries was the first writing project Diane thought about when she left Standard. She and Cheryl began meeting to plan the book. They emailed missionaries and parents of missionaries and got many responses sharing experiences similar to Diane’s. In 2008, they partnered to write Parents of Missionaries: How to Thrive and Stay Connected When Your Children and Grandchildren Serve Cross-Culturally

Diane is proud of the book because of its breadth: sound psychological and biblical principles combined with solid academic research and practical advice. The first publisher who received her proposal said, “It’s not often you get the chance to publish on a topic that no one has written about before.” The book continues to sell, 12,000 copies so far. 

FEELING AT PEACE 

Diane announced her retirement on her website in April 2023, marking 50 years of service in Christian publishing. Now, several months since that announcement, is Diane still confident she made the right decision?  

Unequivocally, yes. 

“I knew I couldn’t do it any longer and I couldn’t do it any better,” she says. It was time, she believes, and she’s at peace. 

She still shares the conviction expressed by author Ann Spangler in the quote Diane shared in her final blog post

I’m . . . old enough to realize I have less stamina than previously. Things have shifted. These days I find myself longing for a little more white space—what publishers call the blank space on a page that makes for easier reading. 

I long for more hours in which to be less productive and more reflective. I would also love more space to simply be available for those who need me, like family members and friends. 

Whatever such needs in her life she might meet, it seems certain her work already done will continue to meet needs in the lives of many who have her books on their shelves. All of them are glad Ralph Small had the instinct decades ago to launch Diane on a career that has made a difference in countless lives. 

_ _ _ 

Mark Taylor retired in 2017 after more than 40 years of service with Standard Publishing (now Christian Standard Media). He and Diane served together on the staff of The Lookout for almost four years, 1983-87. 

4 Comments

  1. Carol LeGros

    That’s a great article, Mark. And congratulations, Diane! Enjoy every day of your retirement!
    Dick and Carol LeGros

  2. Lynn Lusby Pratt

    Awesome! Even though Diane and I are friends—and I also worked with her at Standard for a while—I didn’t know some of this.

  3. Sue Hollenbeck

    Wow— what a terrific article and tribute! I knew you were wonderful inside and out and this confirms it. So impressive and so humble! Thank you for being His servant!

  4. Daniel Schantz

    Diane, if you gave 50 years of service, then who is that 39 year old in the picture?
    There was definitely “a God behind you, a power here, he worked in you.”
    I remember how kind and encouraging you were to me, when I started writing in the 1980s. Enjoy your well-earned rest! Dan Schantz, CCCB

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