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The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction Plus: A One-Semester Creative Writing Workbook (using the book) Review by Susan K. Marlow

By Jeff Gerke; workbook by Jeff Gerke and Mary Agius
Marcher Lord Press
8345 Pepperridge Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

There are dozens of writing programs available for teaching children this important skill. Different approaches stress different goals for students’ writing endeavors. Essays, term papers, book reports, fiction stories . . . the list is endless. How do you decide which one is best for your high-school (or older) student?

If your student enjoys writing fiction, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is a resource that deserves serious consideration. Author and publisher Jeff Gerke has written this book from the perspective of the publisher (the folks who decide if your work will be published) for those who might some day want to submit a fiction manuscript for publication.

At 308 pages, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is packed with 52 short, practical “Mastery” units (chapters) that cover every aspect of story-writing. The book is divided into four parts: The Spiritual Heart of Writing Christian Fiction, Strategizing Yourself, Strategizing Your Novel, and Writing Your Novel. Using humor and practical examples for modeling, the author keeps you turning the pages to learn more about topics like “The Ticking Time Bomb” (creating suspense), “The Full Sensory Sweep” (using all the senses for descriptions), or “The Dumb Puppet Trick” (getting information to the reader without interfering with the story). No story element is left out. He even devotes a chapter to “Stick with Said.” After exploring this short, two-page discussion of dialogue tags, you will come away convinced it sounds silly to avoid repetition by using weird tags (blustered, opined, growled, chortled, etc.) that stick out “like flares at midnight.” The goal of well-written fiction is, after all, to keep the author invisible so that readers can become immersed in the story.

A companion workbook is available for use alongside The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction. The author teamed up with homeschooling mom Mary Agius to create a one-semester writing course (63 lessons) for high-school students (and up). The 75-page, loose-leaf workbook comes hole-punched and ready for a 3-ring binder. It also includes a glossary of writing terms and a writing checklist at the back of the workbook, and the lessons may be reproduced for members of the household.

More good news for busy homeschool moms: these biblically based lessons are written for independent study, with no parental help (or teacher guide) needed. If you do decide to grade assignments, a rubric is included. Lessons are presented for Monday through Thursday, with Fridays set aside for overall working on the novel. Each workbook lesson includes: the Mastery (unit) the student should read from the book, a few things to consider and think about, something to look up in Scripture, practice in applying the Mastery; and then an opportunity to apply what has been learned to the student’s own novel.

As a published author, I found the book not only refreshing and fun to read but also right on target for crafting a Christian fiction novel. I definitely would have snatched this up for my own homeschool classroom if it had been available years ago. If you or your children have ever harbored the ambition to some day become a published author, then The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction—and the practical application of these Masteries through the workbook—is an excellent starting point for fulfilling that dream.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2010