The Art of Surprise

Lots of beginning writers pen stories with surprise endings. Surprise! your quirky narrator was actually a bowling pin . . . Surprise! they were on Mars the whole time! . . . Surprise! This is such a ubiquitous phenomenon that books on the craft perennially warn against using such trickery. Jerome Stern gives precisely this […]

A Jesus-Shaped Vision

In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, the late Dallas Willard noted that anyone who was willing to call Jesus their Savior and Lord should simultaneously think of him as the smartest man who ever lived. However, this usually is not the case, which leads to a deficiency in the believer’s thinking. The inability of one’s […]

“Weird Fiction” and Christianity: Strange Bedfellows

Ever wonder where the word “weird” comes from? Ultimately it derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word “wyrd,” which basically meant “fate.” The original meaning is often still felt. As Michael Moorcock points out in the “Foreweird” (ha!) to a gripping new collection of stories, “should you mention a coincidence to someone, they are likely to […]

Show, Don’t Tell: Good Friday and the Power of Story

One of the key components to writing successful creative literature—poetry, drama, fiction, even creative nonfiction—is specificity. There’s a long history of evidence for this. And some of the most compelling evidence, maybe surprisingly, is theological. Stay with me. Concrete, sensory specificity is particularly important—appealing to the senses, to the physicality of our human natures. That’s […]

Children’s Literature and Hope

My wife and I recently sat down with Shel Silverstein’s enchanting, odd, contemporary classic, Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974). Multiple generations of children now have been captivated by this quirky, deceptively simple, sometimes elusive but sometimes unashamedly straightforward collection of poems and drawings. The book in fact—like its descendents, A Light in the Attic and […]

God in the Details: Zacchaeus

Have you ever heard the story behind a song, story, poem or work of art and found yourself surprised at the author’s inspiration? Understanding the author’s context can often provide a window for deeper understanding. At times, we might be surprised when the author had something different in mind than we originally thought. That we […]