Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Getting Your Creative House in Order


Getting Your Creative House in Order

-Darren Kehrer-


This may only be my limitation, but I find that it’s hard to be creative when my actual daily life has “to-do” items populating the virtual list in my mind. That list tends to muddy the waters of my creative wellspring of ideas.

Knowing that limitation, I try to clear the plate of immediate, necessary tasks so that my brain isn’t spinning away on those items and soaking up available creative bandwidth. The way I see it, you only have a few options to offset this logjam to creative productivity:

1.    Get those tasks completed so you have that sense of satisfaction and your non-writing slate is clean.

2.    Get out of the environment that is “homeport” for those tasks. Head to your favorite local coffee shop, tea joint, or cubby in a corner.

3.     Realize your limitation with this obstacle, be honest with yourself, and then structure your creative writing time around it to form a better navigation strategy.

Maybe for you it’s the laundry, fixing dinner for the family, getting the kids homework completed, getting the lawn taken care of, balancing your checkbook, or just other tasks from your “day” job (if that applies to you).  

There are SO many things that can clog up the creative pipelines. Identify yours and put a plan into place to clear those out before your creative writing time begins. The persons that will benefit most from this are your future readers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Epistolary Novels--Not What They Used to Be

 Since I will not be able to attend our informal Zoom meeting on February 21—yes! It’s on for tonight—I wanted to toss around ideas about a little-used subgenre in today’s fiction. The epistolary novel. 

The epistolary novel (emphasis on the second syllable):

“a novel told through the medium of letters.”

For the record, I hated them. As a kid, I refused to read them voluntarily. In junior high, I had no choice. The first epistolary novel written in western civilization was Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740). I had to look that up for this article. I have no idea if Pamela was the novel I read in eighth grade. At that point, it was: read the book, take the test, throw out the knowledge to make room in my brain for something more worthwhile. I never read another epistolary novel, never changed my mind until—last week.

Along came Pepper Basham’s 2022 epistolary novel, Authentically, Izzy, on my library’s “New Fiction” shelf. Pepper is a member of ACFW, and can she make romance and wit zing off the page! She performs her magic via emails and texts flying between main character Izzy and the people in her life. I’m guessing ninety percent of the four hundred-plus pages is based on written communications and only contains standard prose for key scenes when the two heartthrobs are together in person.

I’ve begun to appreciate the healthy exercises epistolaries provide to writers.

1. Our main character, or whoever is writing the letter, naturally has a subjective point of view. There is no way we can fall into the head-hopping trap.

2. We are forced to write inner monologue as the character shares thoughts and feelings with the recipient of his/her letter.

3. Author intrusion is impossible.

4. Written communication between characters automatically allows for more than one point of view within the novel unless the person who receives the letters never responds. (That would make for a boring and depressing book!)

5. We have to move the story without benefit of dialogue.

The major pitfall to watch out for is this:

The characters must be able to psychoanalyze themselves as they pour their hearts out to a friend. They have to recognize their own virtues and vices. How many of us can do that in real life? So, the writer has to figure out how their characters can be so talented at introspection without stretching the reader’s suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.

Which is why epistolary novels fell out of favor by the turn of the nineteenth century. Readers wouldn’t take them seriously.

Writing Challenge

When you find the time (am I hearing hysterical laughter?), try your hand at an epistolary short story. Submit it to a literary magazine. Who knows? You may be ACFW Indiana’s next award-winning author!

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She has completed a  middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister. Book One, Reaching Into Silence, was an ACFW Genesis Contest semi-finalist and a First Impressions Finalist.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:










Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Indie Author Panel to Share Tips and Resources

If the thought of going "indie" causes you to break out in a cold sweat, leaves you quaking in your boots, and/or chewing your fingernails, you are not alone. Independently publishing a book (what about a series?!) without the backing of a traditional publisher can be a scary proposition. Just ask Valerie, Gretchen, and Beth, three Hoosier authors who faced their fears and became indie authors.

In fact, that's what you'll have the opportunity to do on March 11 at our next ACFW Indiana Chapter meeting. Via Zoom this author panel will share what led each of them to choose the indie route. Then, the discussion will transition to the nuts and bolts of indie publishing as they present:

    • a look at the basic decisions 
    • tips for keeping costs low
    • marketing opportunities
They are excited about sharing what they've learned and encourage chapter members to submit questions before the panel's presentation on March 11. Please send questions to: bethsteury@gmail.com

We hope to see you on March 11! 

“Go Indie and Win: Indie Authors Share Tips and Resources”

 March 11 ~ Noon – 2 p.m. via Zoom


VALERIE BANFIELD is a talespinner to the lost, the loved, and the found. When she isn't making up stories, she might be found tangled in a basket weaving project, with a book in her hands, or maybe walking the dog.

She is the author of sixteen novels, co-author of three West Virginia-themed tales, and recipient of the Cascade Award for Historical Fiction.

 She counts her participation in international short-term missionary campaigns among her life’s most blessed and humbling journeys, and firmly believes that when we give our Father control, He rocks our world.

 This Midwest gal wandered to Florida, took a short jaunt to West Virginia, and then moved westward. These days, she’s counting the stars in Indiana and making new memories with her Hoosier kin. Connect with Valerie via her website or email and check out her Amazon author page.


GRETCHEN CARLSON’s background in journalism and education fed her heartbeat for writing and sharing stories of hope. Her debut novel, More Than Grit, won the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis award for the young adult category and the 2017 First Impression’s award.

 Growing up, she spent vacations on her grandparents’ farm in Kansas where she collected memories and heard stories of hard times and strong friendships. Her grandmother waited for decades to share the family secret of how they got electricity, and it was this story that inspired More Than Grit.

 She is a member of Front Range Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and The Storyteller Squad. She is available and loves interaction with public schools, book clubs, homeschool groups, and readers of all ages. Connect with Gretchen via her website or by email and check out her Amazon author page

BETH STEURY’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her YA “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life. 

As a genetic genealogy enthusiast and "search angel," she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents via DNA. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” She also serves on the executive board of the National Association of Adoptees and Parents. Connect with Beth via her website or by email and check out her Amazon author page.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Let's Evaluate Your Favorite Author

Who is your favorite Christian novelist? Why? Try this exercise. Gather three books by your favorite author and evaluate these features:

Themes. What life issues are at stake? Does the author choose themes that are genuinely important to you? Do her stories help you reflect on these issues in a meaningful way, or are they simply entertaining diversions from them?

Plots. Are the author’s story lines intriguing enough to capture your interest? Are they true to life? Do they contain the sort of complications and twists that you experience?

Characters. Do you learn useful life skills from the author’s protagonists? Do they have realistic conflict with other characters in the story? Do you find yourself reading this author’s stories with eager curiosity to learn how her characters deal with their problems?

Description. Does the author describe settings in ways that engage all of your senses? Does she choose settings that conjure up good memories of places you’ve known, as well as settings that are unfamiliar enough to draw you into the narrative? Does she describe characters in sensory-rich ways that cause you to visualize them?

Transcendence. Does your favorite author narrate her stories effectively yet unobtrusively, so that you feel transported to that place and time? Do you enter a “fictive dream” when you read her stories? In other words, are you so immersed in her narrative that you feel transported to the scene of action as you read?

Inspiration. This one's especially important for a Christian author. Do you sense that God’s Spirit is telling the story through the author’s words? Do your favorite author's books make you more aware of God’s presence? Do they move you to say to the Lord, “In your light we see light” (Psa. 36:9b)?

Not only does this kind of evaluation help us appreciate our favorite authors more; it can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of our own writing. That's well worth the effort.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather.