The Popular Fiction Association of Idaho, Murder in the Grove and Me

When I was nineteen I got a job as a theatre critic on my college newspaper. Two weeks later, I became the Features/Entertainment editor in spite of the fact that I was a chemical engineering major. The major changed shortly, and the next school year I was editor in chief.

This was at Boise State University in the 1980s–I was there before the blue turf, and I think I wrote the story about it being installed. BSU didn’t have an actual journalism program, just an English/journalism emphasis to its BA in communication, so I ended up teaching several dozen people how to write journalistically.

In 2001 I started to write fiction seriously–I had dabbled over the years, but 2001 was the year I joined RWA and started reading books and taking classes. It was the year I finished my first manuscript, may it rest in peace.

By 2003 I was the president of the Coeur du Bois chapter of RWA (fondly known as CBC), and in 2004 I volunteered to head up the conference committee for Murder in the Grove 2005, because nobody else was stepping up to the plate. I don’t even write mystery, but I’m in charge of the MITG organization again, through 2011.

Are you sensing a pattern, yet?

Now I’m teaching an online class through PFAI/MITG, for several reasons.

First, I believe that commercial novel writing can be learned; it’s a form of writing, just like technical manual writing, poetry, or journalism. There’s a structure to it, just like getting the five Ws into the lead of a news story. And it’s different from literary novels, which are the form taught in college fiction classes. Well, for the most part.

Second, Popular Fiction is a not-for-profit corporation that exists to support commercial fiction writing in Idaho.

Idaho is a geopolitical territory the size of Great Britain, give or take the Hebrides islands. Getting to workshops, classes and conferences can be expensive in a place that size.

So we’re trying online classes this year. I know they’re not as good as the energy and vibe you get from real classes, but they’re a lot less expensive, too. In case you haven’t noticed, the economy, ah, stinks and will probably continue to do so for the next year.

My next project is how to inexpensively replicate the panels from Murder in the Grove, where fans get to interact with authors. I’ve known that writers are interesting people for a long time, and it’s fun to watch other people discover it.

And in the meantime, my debut novel goes on sale Tuesday, September 8. Sometimes those who teach also end up doing.

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