Somebody’s Bible on My Desk

Although I’ve only met Fern once, a Bible that belongs to him lays continuously on my desk, a gift he received from his sister right after his conversion in the Miami-Dade Stockade Pre-Trial Detention Center. The Bible is a small and brown King James Version so worn that the golden letters on the cover that used to spell “Holy Bible” have mostly rubbed off. A white sticker on the first page bears the name Fernando A. Fernandez followed by a prison number. The inscription dates the gift as having been given January, 1996.

Bible, testimony, cocaine, prison, prayer, Christian

a page from Fern’s Bible

My friend Karsten, a middle school teacher and basketball coach, introduced me to Fern. Karsten and his wife Kim were very good to me in those years in my late-twenties when I was on my way to divorce. I spent many afternoons and evenings talking with them about my life. It was back then that Karsten started an informal Bible study that met once a week. I call it informal because one member might put in a dip of chewing tobacco; another might have a beer. It wasn’t the sort of Bible study I knew about growing up or attending Olivet Nazarene University as an undergraduate student. The camaraderie of the men in the Bible study helped me through a difficult time.

Karsten and I had not spoken for several years when he surprised me with a phone call to tell me about Fern. Karsten had just heard Fern give his testimony at a church. Karsten knew about Fern because he’d gone on a mission trip with Karsten’s wife Kim. She’d enjoyed her time with Fern and his wife and had come home telling Karsten that he had to meet the couple. Karsten invited Fern to the Bible study I’d attended a decade earlier, and one night Karsten asked Fern about the number stamped on the side of his Bible. Fern told him it was his prison number. I feel like I can see Karsten’s eyes go wide in Indiana all the way from here in Connecticut where I write.

As Karsten reflected on hearing Fern’s testimony at church, he reported to me that God had put it on his heart to call and tell me about Fern, to see if maybe I wouldn’t want to write about him. Some of you have no doubt that God does things like this all the time. Others of you, if you’re like me, tend to dismiss someone once they talk as if they’ve had a coffee with God and are merely reporting back to us on what they’ve been told.

Fern’s story challenges what I believe about how God works. It’s part of the reason I’ve been trying to tell it. Myself, Fern, Karsten, and Kim have recorded five conversations. You can listen to one of them below.

Listen for free on the iTunes Store


Click here to listen right from the web.

Horseshoe, a novel in stories

Horseshoe is a novel in Southern Gothic tone stirred with Midwestern sensibility that churns the waters of the Tippecanoe River that embrace the town of Horseshoe and its inhabitants.  The novel’s stories are told from multiple characters and points of view. Each chapter can be a standalone story. But when read as a whole, the book produces a rich, multilayered tale of life in a small town.

“The town of Horseshoe is modeled somewhat after my own small hometown of Winamac, Indiana,” Torgerson admits.

“Once I moved out of Winamac to bigger cities such as Fort Wayne in Indiana and Charlotte in North Carolina, I came to realize that it was a really unique feature of living in a small town that everyone knows everybody else’s business,” Torgerson says.  “If you’re from Winamac and marry a person from Winamac, then you likely know that person’s entire history.  You know what they did in the park when they were twelve, and you know the details of their first divorce.  My friends here in New York City do not tend to have the same sort of experiences.  They meet strangers and date strangers and there are parts of those people’s history which remain eternally hidden.”

William Torgerson Love on the Big Screen Horseshoe

click cover to read excerpt on Amazon

The “knowing everybody else’s business” feature of his small hometown was an aspect he strived to illustrate in the stories. “I knew I wanted to have a grocery-store story but I couldn’t imagine what would happen there,” Torgerson says. “Oh sure, I had ideas, but the story surfaced for me when I was browsing a Bible concordance where I was looking for words connected to love, marriage, divorce, and adultery.  It was the verse from Leviticus that unlocked the story for me, that gave me the idea for the Biblical egging of Uncle David and Aunt Barb.  I think stories need that sort of unexpected turn or surprise, and so I guess I could say in a way that God delivered that part of the story to me.”

Torgerson explains that once he thinks he has an idea of where the story might go, he gives himself over to the language and uses it as the mode of transportation to find the conclusion.

“There are almost always surprises,” Torgerson says, “but I like to know where the story is headed when I begin.  I wrote using similar processes with ‘The Bloody Bucket’ and ‘The Secret,’ the latter story inspired by a student who told me his mother had tried to kill him.  Of course he’s not the only person to whom that had ever happened.  It seems like I hear that story every once in awhile, and my story allowed me to experience a bit of what it must be like to be mother and child.”

“Welcome to Horseshoe, Indiana,” Bryan Furuness, author of The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson, states from his reading of an advanced copy. “In the tradition of Winesburg, Ohio, William Torgerson’s new book links stories about big doings in a small town. With a style that is always engaging and often hilarious, Torgerson has written what Sherwood Anderson would have written if he had a sense of humor.”

Jane Roper, author of Eden Lake, says, “As I read, I felt as if each character’s longing, anger, lust or regret were temporarily my own. It hurt—in the best possible way.”

Horseshoe is available now at bookstores and on-line at and from Cherokee McGhee Publishing.

For more information on William Torgerson, please visit  Visit for more information on the publishing house and its current and future novels.


William J. Torgerson is an assistant professor in the Institute for Writing Studies at St. John’s University in New York.  His first novel Love on the Big Screen tells the story of a college freshman whose understanding of love is shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies, and his adaptation of that novel won the Grand Prize of the Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival Screenplay Competition.

William Torgerson Horseshoe Love on the Big Screen

a fictional Ye Olde Trading Post

William’s work has appeared in numerous literary and scholarly journals, including his article “Learning to Surf the Sea of Conversation,” which is forthcoming in the Journal of Teaching Writing.  Over an eleven year span of teaching and coaching, William worked with students ranging from grades six through twelve in the public schools of Indiana and North Carolina.


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An Argument For Church From Someone Who Doesn’t Go

My father-in-law Jim recently passed away from cancer.  Several weeks before his death, my wife received a call that her dad had checked into hospice.  We began packing immediately and drove 800 miles through the night to North Carolina so that we could be sure to see him as soon as possible.  In addition to our emotional worries regarding Jim’s health, there were a lot of practical matters to consider:  Where would we stay?  I had to get back to work.  Would I rent a car or would we rent Megan one?  For how long?  At what financial cost?  Who would help Megan with our girls?

All we focused on was getting to the hospice to see Jim, and before we even had a chance to start doing the math and thinking about money, Jim’s wife called with the news that her Sunday school class had met.  Someone had an extra house outside of town that Megan and our girls could stay in indefinitely free of charge.  We arrived at the hospice, spent the day there, and then another member of this Sunday school class met us so that we could follow her out to the home we were being lent.  She did this after a full day’s work and the drive was at least thirty minutes out of her way, over an hour by the time she would get to her own house.  When we arrived at the home, the owner was already there inside cleaning it and changing the sheets.  Next, the two women took a grocery list Megan had been putting together and got ready to head to the store.  On their way out, they asked if we had any need of an extra car.  They paid for the groceries.  Everything that had just begun to hang over us had suddenly been taken care of by these  two women and the members of their Sunday school class.  My family, especially Megan, was free to concentrate on what was important, to spend time with Jim.  After I departed, this Sunday school group was in constant touch, offering to help, watching my girls, and just letting everyone know that they were around to love and help.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to church, and by that I don’t mean that my family doesn’t pray together, that we don’t talk about Jesus, or that I don’t read the Bible, but we haven’t been attending church as a family.  What transpired in the day or so that we all rushed off to North Carolina caused me to begin to think just how much we were up on our own up in New England.  We do have a growing group of friends, and I realize that it’s not just church folks who can rally around and help out those in need, but the kind people that were friends of Jim’s, those who came together as a part of Sunday school class, they all created for me one of the more convincing arguments I’ve experienced for church attendance.  I thank them for their example of Biblical love.   It’s an example I’ll be sure to try and put into practice myself.