Stephen Copeland Uses Degree in Journalism to Tell Others’ Stories
Stephen Copeland is a storyteller.
For him, stories are more than a way to make a living. They are how he processes life, how he heals from grief, and how he nurtures his faith. But above all, stories are a means for him to serve others. How did he get here?
Well, that’s a story of its own.
Starting the Story
Copeland came to Grace in 2007 because he wanted a Christian education. He also wanted the opportunity to play golf – and his time playing golf with coach and director of athletics Chad Briscoe proved to be invaluable. Briscoe modeled to Copeland a type of servant leadership that Copeland carried with him throughout his career.
Copeland pursued a degree in journalism and Bible and put his writing into practice early on. Copeland and his best friend and roommate, Josh Neuhart, ran the sports information department for three years with the goal of elevating Grace athletics in interesting and entertaining ways. With the same goal in mind, they designed and wrote sports features and columns for the campus newspaper “The Sounding Board.” He knew that after graduation, he wanted to do creative writing and long-form storytelling.
“Grace is a special place — I’m grateful for my experience there,” said Copeland.
Serving Through Stories
After graduating in 2011, Copeland wrote for “Sports Spectrum,” a faith-based sports news organization. As a columnist and feature writer, Copeland wrote two to three stories per issue. During that time, Copeland was introduced to the publishing world.
Through Sports Spectrum, he started collaborating with coaches and others in the sports world to write their stories. He worked with each client to provide for their unique writing needs, whether that be ghostwriting or coaching. Some of the people he collaborated with include Jason Romano, former producer for ESPN, Steve and Lorri Zeller, parents of Indiana basketball stars, and Sylvia Hatchell, NCAA Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Coach of the Year. The books he wrote with these individuals are titled “Live to Forgive,” “Raising Boys the Zeller Way,” and “Fight! Fight!” respectively.
“I’m constantly learning and stepping into other people’s worlds,” says Copeland. “Being a storyteller has taught me a posture of openness to see the uniqueness and beauty of people.”
Copeland’s favorite collaborative project was a book called “12 Second Culture” written by a NASCAR pit crew. It discusses the demand for perfection in NASCAR races and relates it to leading in a demanding business space.
The most interesting character he’s met through his collaborations is Steven “Coop” Cooper, who dribbled the basketball across America to support youth organizations when he wasn’t consulting for SpaceX and Tesla. Copeland got connected with Coop through his first collaborative book project, “The Jersey Effect” by Hunter Smith and Darrin Gray.
Copeland has used the skills from his degree in journalism to bring his client’s stories to life. Through all his collaborations, Copeland has exercised the servant leadership he saw Coach Briscoe demonstrate throughout his time at Grace.
“I am committed to serving clients and being at the service of others,” says Copeland. “The servant leadership Briscoe taught me has stuck with me – whether I’m collaborating on a book, coaching golf at the local high school, or leading my family.”
After five years with Sports Spectrum, Copeland became a full-time freelancer. Now, he collaborates on three to five book projects a year.
Writing His Own Stories
“I’ve always been drawn to obscure stories,” says Copeland. “The tug of inspiration does something to you.”
Copeland found inspiration in 2011 when Briscoe invited him to the Interstate Church of God Softball Tournament in Roanoke Valley, Virginia. The annual tournament invites church softball teams from around the country to support missions work in Paraguay. Copeland was moved by the stories of diverse people — all playing softball for one cause. He was so interested that he went back year after year, collecting the stories of people attending.
The person whose story most moved Copeland was Briscoe’s best friend and Paraguayan missionary, Norberto. After losing his wife and son in a car accident, Norberto displayed relentless faith and hope in God despite tragedy — a hope that impacted Copeland immensely.
“Never had I looked into someone’s eyes who had suffered so much,” says Copeland. “My faith at that time was in shambles. Norberto displayed a hope in Christ that I could trust in, that I could believe in.”
Norberto’s story was the key piece of Copeland’s first memoir, “Where the Colors Blend,” released in 2018. The book prompted Copeland to discover more stories that connected him to his own faith journey — including his most recent book ‘In the House of Rising Sounds,’ which he worked on for seven years. It centers around the Double Door Inn, a Blues venue in Charlotte, North Carolina, which Copeland’s mentor introduced him to.
“I’m juiced up about my new book right now,” said Copeland. “The Double Door Inn is a place where time slips away, and you feel connected to everything around you.”
Though the Double Door Inn was flattened in 2017, its impact on the community has been preserved through Copeland’s memoir. He is excited about what the book means, not only to his fellow Charlotte residents and former patrons of the Double Door but to all readers.
Through his degree in journalism and experience at Grace, Copeland developed the skills and character needed to be a successful writer.
Interested in making a difference with your writing career? At Grace College, we train excellent communicators and storytellers. Check out Grace’s degree in journalism. Also, discover our majors in communication and English, as well as a minor in creative writing.