Seven years ago I made the switch from high school English teacher and basketball coach to writer and professor. Since that time, I’ve been blessed to have been hired to teach First Year Writing courses at St. John’s University in New York. I write novels, scripts, publish a podcast, and have just sent out my first documentary film for consideration at several film festivals.
Cherokee McGhee Press has published two of my novels. The first, Love on the Big Screen, tells the story of a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies. In writing that book, I drew upon my early dating experiences, my time riding the bench of a small-college basketball team, and my devotion to 80s films such as Say Anything and Sixteen Candles. My adaptation of that novel won the Grand Prize of the Rhode Island International Screenplay Competition.
a scene from the novel by artist Keegan Laycock
Horseshoe is my most recent novel and is set in a fictionalized version of my hometown, Winamac, Indiana. It’s a place where everyone knows everybody else’s business. Writer Bryan Fuhurness endorsed the novel by writing, “What Sherwood Anderson would have written if he had a sense of humor.”
I ask my students to write a hybrid research paper we call a Scholarly Personal Narrative. I think of Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man and Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking as examples of this sort of text that combines a personal story with scholarly research. The students also create short documentary films, follow Tweets in their area of interest, and compose ePortfolios as their final writing project.
In order to consider my professional life, I use a metaphor gifted to me by a former professor: Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation. Given that, I invite you to respond to anything you find here as the first lines of what could be a rewarding conversation. You can get in touch with me via Twitter @BillTorg or write me an email at William.Torgerson@gmail.com
As a part of hearing my friend Fern’s testimony, in this podcast episode he remembers the night he stole a U.S. Marshal airplane. This is a point in Fern’s story that he has come to think of as a sort of flight to redemption, a night which eventually took Fern to prison where he began a process to start a new life. Fern and I start off by discussing an article I found published on January 18, 1990 in several newspapers around the country including the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun Sentinel. The headline reads, “Marshals Plane Stolen.” I appreciate Fern’s honesty as he shares this difficult story as a way to illustrate how he believes God has helped him change his life.
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This is the fifth podcast in a series in which I ask Fern to give his testimony. We are working on the manuscript of a book. One of the titles we have thrown around goes something like this…
Flight to Redemption: A Story of Cocaine, Prison, and a New Life Through Christ.
Fern discusses what it was like to live in a halfway house and look for his first job. He highlights events that he has come to refer to as God Moments. Several times when he shares with prospective employers that he has served twelve years in federal prison, he hears the response, “We believe in second chances.”
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In the latest Torg Stories podcasts, we’ve been talking with Fernando Fernandez about his life. This includes time involved with running cocaine, stealing a US Marshal airplane, arrest in Cuba, and a prison conversation to Christianity.
In this episode, Fern finishes his 12-year sentence in Terre Haute and Peoria. He talks about his relationship with his son and what it was like to think about creating a new life following prison. After spending most of his life in Cuba and Miami, Fern is released into a Midwestern snowstorm and a halfway house in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Fern’s Bible with Prison Number
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“Give me a chance to thank Jose for the Bible,” Fern had prayed. The events that actually allow Fern the chance to do that could be explained away as an amazing coincidence. Fern, however, calls them God moments.
In this conversation, Fern covers his trial, the gift of a Bible, and the invitation from a fellow prisoner to receive Christ, something he dismissed at first as crazy.
There are more of these God moments in today’s conversation, from the way that Fern was able to quit smoking cold turkey after a lifetime of smoking to how Fern was able to get a job working in the prison’s church. In our last episode, Fern described his arrest in the Bahamas and that he missed the birth of his son while being transported to a federal holding facility in Miami.
So get ready to hear a series of stories highlighting these “God Moments.” It’s the sort of stuff that gave me goosebumps.
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