Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Writing IS Teaching

I have spent nearly my entire life in classrooms. From my earliest attempts at finger painting in nursery school to running a recent workshop, my time in school is like a duck paddling around in its favorite pond. I’m home.

Because I love learning and because I love teaching, I waited a long time before taking the jump to concentrate on writing instead of lesson plans.

You know what I found out?

Writing IS teaching.

It doesn’t matter if I pen an informative blog or create a scene with my characters. With both projects, I use my life’s experiences to share a topic worth learning. The manuscript becomes my lesson plan, and the best lesson plans connect with my students, in this case, my readers.

I’m giving a book talk at a local school today. As I planned for what I would say, I became more and more enthused. I’d be back on old stomping grounds. I outlined my lesson plan (the book talk). Effortlessly, I slipped on my teacher persona and came up with a great “anticipatory set,” or as writers say, a great “hook.” I raced through the rest of the outline, knowing how I would move from one concept to the next. I am teaching again. About writing!

Scene by scene, my novels teach lessons on a theme.

As I learn a little more about writing craft each year, the sense of teaching via the written word has become stronger and stronger.

My World Without Sound series teaches loyalty and family love. The first of my Cracked Quartet series teaches the consequences of misplaced guilt and shame and offers the solution for peace in a person’s soul.

Many of you in ACFW Indiana are teachers or have been teachers.

Have you made the same connection between teaching and writing? Do you get excited about a story as you see how the plot is aimed toward a specific outcome? And how your characters are going to discover the beauty of that outcome? I hope so.

Recognizing that I am still a teacher feels so good! That realization solidifies the purposes God has for me. I may not choose to be in the classroom every day, but I can see I’m at the center of His will. I am content.


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.

Linda had always figured she’d teach teens and tweens until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair and rolled her out the door. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to becoming an author.

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, March 7, 2023

Stating the Obvious

A beagle sits atop his dog house, head tossed back, ears dangling, eyes closed in intense concentration. A burst of inspiration pitches him over his typewriter and he composes the first line of his novel: “It was a dark and stormy night…”

Our comic strip shows him stuffing a padded envelope into the corner mailbox. Soon after, he receives a letter congratulating him on the publication of his novel and containing a fat royalty advance. The next frame shows him atop his dog house again, staring at a blank sheet of paper in his typewriter. Then another surge of inspiration prompts him to write: “It was a dark and stormy night…”

The canine author is Charles Schulz’s Snoopy. He’s using the first line of an 1830 novel by Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a line notorious for describing the obvious. (What sort of night was it? Dark. What sort of weather suited a mystery? Stormy.) 

Lord Lytton's opener has become such a running joke that an annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest invites authors to create an opening line for the worst of all possible novels. This usually turns out to be an overwrought description of what need not be described at all, such as this:

It was a dark and stormy night, made darker still by the melancholy that gripped the drainpipes of my soul in a plumber's wrench of despair...

Stating the obvious--even stating it elaborately--is what Jerry Jenkins calls "on the nose" writing. It doesn't gain the trust of our readers. In fact, it's laughable. We want a story that hooks our curiosity and teases us with the unexpected.

In fairness to Lord Lytton, he gave us more than a trite opening line. He also originated this one: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Indeed it can be, especially if we write with insight and originality.

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.