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Faith and music bring songwriter an award

Turner receives top award at CWIMA songwriting contest

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

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When former Shorewood resident Carisa Turner wrote the song “Lost at Sea,” she hadn’t a clue it would win her a songwriting award.

“I was coming through a dark season a few years ago, feeling like I was drowning,” she said.

In July, Turner was named the grand prize winner in the 2013 Christian Women in Media Association’s annual songwriting contest.

Turner submitted several of her works just under the deadline as a way to promote her music. She never dreamed she would win.

A panel of experts and members of CWIMA chose 10 finalists from the submissions. They were judged on musicality, lyrics, phrasing, creativity and melodic appeal. Turner had three of her songs place in the top 10, she said.

The top 10 finalists performed as part of the CWIMA’s National Music Showcase. Eight female artists from different parts of the country and Canada came to perform.

“Everyone there was so talented,” she said. “It was so neat to be there and be one of those women.”

Turner grew up in Shorewood and graduated from Minooka Community High School. She first took an interest in music at just four years old when she started banging on the piano keys. She became a classically trained pianist.

Turner began writing songs in eighth grade. During high school, she had all the heartbreak of a typical teenager and wrote about it in love songs, she said.

As co-valedictorian at her junior high, she needed to write a speech for commencement. 

“I wrote a song instead of a speech and I sang that song (at graduation),” she said. “That’s when I realized I loved writing.”

During high school, Turner was also involved in worship and music at Minooka Bible Church, where she played the piano and keyboard during services.

It was then she put the two together, realizing music was a gift from God and she needed to use it to minister to others. Music was also a natural reflection of her faith and the process by which she worked out personal things with God, she said.

After high school, Turner wasn’t sure what direction she should take in life. She originally planned to go to pharmacy school, but she changed her mind and went to business school. She graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., with a major in journalism and Spanish.

“Looking back over my life, I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “But he was there the whole time.”

For the past six years, Turner has been working for a nonprofit public relations firm utilizing her writing talents. She has gotten married, moved to Atlanta and found a church where she can use her gifts.

She was encouraged and motivated by her pastor to step out of her comfort zone and lead music during worship. Although she didn’t consider herself a performer at the time, people frequently asked if she had a record in the works.

After attending a musical conference called Indie Ignite for Christian artists, she came back with a boost of confidence. 

“I came back home and recorded the [extended play],” she said.

Five of the six songs on her EP are inspired by her faith.

“I can write love songs one day and a worship song the next,” she said. “I take it where my heart is.”

Turner continues to lead worship with her music twice a month at Grace North Atlanta Church. She’s two years into building her musical career and her ministry, she said.

The CWIMA award has given her even more confidence to continue in her musical career.

“This award is huge,” she said. “It’s incredible to have other people validate something. It’s such a great confirmation. It’s such encouragement.”

At the same time, she’s still in awe of how things have changed so quickly and drastically in her life.

“I believe God has given me the talent and desire to do what I am doing,” she said. “For a long time I didn’t know what that meant.”

Turner hopes the award will continue to open doors for her and that people will consider her a serious artist.

“I hope it allows me to continue growing and inspiring people; moving people and changing people,” she said. “It’s what I hope comes out of what I am doing.”

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