Our 2012 Idahope Writer’s Conference Keynote Speaker: Jeff Gerke Tuesday, Sep 27 2011 

The Idahope Writers are pleased to announced that our 2012 Conference Keynote speaker will be publisher, editor, and writing guru Jeff Gerke.

Jeff has been on staff with such traditional Christian publishing houses as Multinomah, Strang/Realms, and Nav Press and has freelanced for several others. He also started the Christian Speculative Fiction, Where the Map Ends. One popular feature was Gerke’s, “Writing Tip of the Week” which ran for 96 weeks and provides good advice to Christian writers in not only speculative fiction, but any other genre of Christian fiction as well. Gerke expanded on these tips in his book, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction.  Gerke is also the author of Plot Versus Character: A Balance Approach to Writing.

In October 2008, Gerke launched the Marcher Lord Press, an innovative publisher of Christian speculative fiction that has published Christy Award winner (and past Idahope Conference Speaker) Jill Williamson and Carol Award Winner Mark Schooley. 

Jeff is the author of six novels under the pen name, Jefferson Scott including the Operation Firebrand series.

We’re privileged to have Jeff come to our conference. The 4th Annual Idahope Writer’s Conference will be held March 17, 2012 at Cole Community Church in Boise. Be sure to mark your calendar. In addition to Jeff’s presentations, there will be a variety of workshops offered.  Additional details will be announed in the near future.


What I Learned from Stephen Bly Saturday, Jun 11 2011 

Idaho Christian Writers have lost a great treasure as Stephen Bly: a pastor, an author of more than 100 books, and statesman went home to be with the Lord yesterday at the age of 66, after a five year long battle with cancer and five days short of his forty-eighth wedding anniversary.

I only met him once, but once was enough to leave an indelible impression. Sometimes, with Bly, it didn’t even taken once as Daniel Darling explained .

Bly was best known as a writer of Westerns and Historical Fiction, neither of which I’m fond of, but a Stephen Bly western or historical was different. His storytelling and voice kept me engaged and interested. His love for the places and the stories he told showed on every page.

There are many things that can and ought to be said about Stephen Bly, but my experience with this multi-published author over a period of a few days back in 2008, and that’s what I’ll speak to.

I went to the 2008 Oregon Christian Writer’s conference where Stephen Bly spoke. While it was an expensive conference, his presentations were worth the price of admission.

Shoot Somebody: During his presentation, he talked about how to get your novel going again and one tip I’ll never forget is, “Shoot somebody.”  By this he meant to have have a character get shot or have something else dramatic happen that brings the story to a head. To this day, when I get stuck in a story, and I don’t want to do, the thought comes to my mind, “Shoot somebody.”

Write Short Paragraphs: This helped me a lot in both my fiction and non-fiction writing. I come from a family of long dense paragraph writers. This is really bad in fiction as readers tend to give up when they see that.

Bly taught us to use short choppy paragraph to build tension and forward the action, and it made a big difference for me in my writing life as I’ve implemented that.

Dialogue First: While this isn’t a method I’ve tried, it was one of the most interesting highlights of the conference. Bly did dialogue first writing, where he would write all the dialogue for a scene and then fill in the tags for who was speaking. I’ll never forget when he read several pages of an upcoming work with dialogue only, and the audience had a good laugh listening, with no idea who was saying or what they were doing while they were speaking. It won’t work for everyone, but for him it did.

Our Writing is Ministry:  This may have been greatest lesson I learned from Stephen Bly and his book, Paperback Writers.  

In the novel, Paul James Watson is  a writer going through a career crisis as he finishes up his latest book. Watson is a professional novelist whose books sell a steady number of copies:  just enough to keep the publisher interested in more books in his Toby McKenna series. However, Watson has not achieved critical acclaim or the fame many of us authors would like to experience.

In the course of Watson’s adventures, he converses with his lead character, and during one of these conversations, Watson is able to put his writing into perspective leading to one of the most powerful passages I ever read on the life of a Christian writer:

“I got an inflated idea about my writing. I needed to back up and see it from the Lord’s point of view. I’m a paperback writer, Toby. I’m not a world-famous novelist. Not a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I’m just like in the old Beatles song. But I’m good at it. And it’s my place that the Lord has provided.

“They don’t study my novels in English lit. classes at Stanford. But there’s a single mom, struggling to make ends meet working as a clerk-typist in the admissions office, who tackles those preschoolers in late Friday night in that one-bedroom apartment #421 on 16th Street in Palo Alto, and then curls up on the faded pea-green sofa she inherited from her granny, pulls a tattered afghan over her feet, and reads my book until she falls asleep about three in the morning. And for five straight hours, she isn’t worried about car payments, or alimony checks that never arrive, or little sissy constantly getting sick at day care, or the jerk at the office who brushed up against her backside in the elevator, or her mother’s comments about her marriage failure, or the fact that she’s gained six pounds since Christmas. For those few hours it’s just her and Toby McKenna, having one incredible adventure after another.

“She will fall asleep with a sweet dream of a dashing, though distracted, detective. She’ll wake up in the real world, but for a few hours we gave her mind and body and soul a break. She got to live in your world. And because of that, she’ll tackle the new day with just a little more strength, courage, direction, and, I hope, more faith.

“Oh, the critics don’t think much of my books. But the critics don’t have to carry a three-year-old up two flights of steps every evening at 5:45 and twice on Sundays.

This quote brought home to me that writing of any sort can minister to those around us.  It also means that if we are blessing and ministering to those who God wants us to touch, that we have fulfilled our purpose as writers.

Stephen Bly ministered to tens of thousands of people through his writing and his books will continue to be blessed and comforted by his paperback writings.  He also was  a great blessing to his fellow writers.

Our prayers are with his wife, Janet and their family as they go through this time of loss and mourning.

How to Think of Short Stories Sunday, May 8 2011 

This month is National Short Story month.  For many authors, writing a short story is a bigger challenge than writing a novel.

Much of our writing education is geared towards novels for economic, as well as artistic reasons. And if we get serious about our writing, our dream is most often to write the great American novel, not to come up with short stories.

However, short stories can open opportunities to writers, by providing additional markets for their work and helping them hone their writing craft.  In addition, in the digital age, some authors have taken to selling their short stories as 99 cent ebooks, which can make the whole excercise far more profitable:

How can we get our mind around writing short stories? There are several key ways to think of them:

1) Short Stories Are All Around You

When we think of short stories, we may think of High School English assignments when we were required to read or write them.  However, the truth is that they’re all around us.

If you watch a regular scripted 30-60 minute TV show, you’re watching a short story on film.  We grew up being read short stories with characters such as Dr. Seuss when we were young. When we were a little older, we may have read books such as, Encyclopedia Brown and The Great Brain which were collections of short stories.  Some songs are even brief short stories.

Beyond fiction, and tell each other short stories all the time. We say, “I had the worst experience at this restaurant…” And we start off into a short story.  Or, “Let me tell you what happened when my grandchild came over…” Some of these, if written down might be interesting, but the point is that we tell them.  And so one type of short story, actually takes a small incident that has a big impact on the lives of our characters.

2) Short Stories are Experiments

Short stories offer a great opportunity to experiment in your writing, because you’re not committing to doing a whole novel. You can try a story on for size.

Some ways you can experiment with short stories include having a different narrator or point of view character. This can include having a first person narrator if you always write your novels  in the third person. If you want to have a  POV character of a different gender or ethnic background than you usually write, this can be a great place to experiment. You could try writing a story with a blind man as a point of view character.

You can also experiment with different genres than you normally write. if you want to branch out

Some of your experiments may have positive results such as published short stories. You may even discover something that can be used in a later novel. For example, the solution to Dashiell Hammett’s classic detective novel, The Maltese Falcon was actually borrowed from a short story Hammett wrote in the 1920s.

3) Short  Stories are Opportunities to Tell Your Character’s Backstory

Well-developed characters in novels often have had very interesting lives.  If this backstory is really interesting, it could make a very good short story.

If one of our characters mentions that he was a sea captain during World War II, there may be a short story in that part of his life. If he tells our hero, “I was playing AA ball for the Yankees and I got word that my contract wasn’t being renewed. My life was over. I went out back with the shotgun and would have blown my head off except…”

This could easily be expanded into a short story with the speaker as the hero.

However, you find your inspiration, writing short stories can be rewarding to your writing career.

Getting the Most out of Your ACFW Tuesday, Apr 26 2011 

This is from Adam Graham’s presentation in the March 2011 meeting of the Idahope Writers on the topic of getting the most out of your ACFW membership and talking about the benefits that come with it. Here is the presentation hand out which goes along with the presentation. The audio is below.

Dr. Ben Fischer: Improving Your Writing Monday, Mar 21 2011 

. Ben Fischer talks about how to improve your writing. End is cut off due to mic issues.


Aaron Patterson: Ebooks and the Future of Writing Monday, Mar 21 2011 

Aaron Patterson of Stonehouse Ink discusses his own success in ebooks and where he sees the future of writing.

Peter Leavell: How to Research Monday, Mar 21 2011 

Peter Leavell discusses how to make your novels well-researched.

Julie Hoy: Songwriting Monday, Mar 21 2011 

Julie Hoy’s workshop on songwriting.


Sandra Bishop: A Day in the Life of An Agent Friday, Mar 11 2011 

Award-winning agent Sandra Bishop talks about a typical day in her life.

Lisa Buffaloe: Keep Writing Because… Friday, Mar 11 2011 

Lisa Buffaloe on why to keep writing and how to write well.

[audio http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-79021/TS-462532.mp3]

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