WIP? Do Tell!

WIP? Do Tell!

By Natalie Bright

Do you talk about your WIP (work in progress)?

Some writers feel it takes away the momentum of their story. They don’t breathe a word about the characters and scenes mulling around in their head.  Ask me about my stories, and I’ll talk your ear off.

The first niggling of an idea works itself out in my brain, and as I ponder the possibilities a character, a place and usually their problems begin to evolve. Once I have the ending in my head, I like to verbalize the story idea. When I talk about my characters, it makes them even more real to me. Their personalities and quirks come to life. The whys and reasons and obstacles begin to make sense. And thank goodness, I have a critique group that listens.

Our meetings usually run long. We delve into much more than commas and sentence structure.  Since we’ve been meeting together for several years, we are familiar with each others projects. We dig deep and talk character motivation and plot structure, and it’s wonderful.

What about you; do you spill about your WIP?

Natalie Bright

Drop Me a Line

Outtakes #17

Drop Me a Line

I think I may be a dinosaur. You see, I miss hand-written letters on nice stationary. I believe we have lost the art of writing personal correspondence. I remember my mother set aside time each week to write the folks back home. With Dad in the military, we were often great distances away from loved ones. Telephones were still party lines, and international calls were limited and expensive, so letters were the best method of communication. Mom’s letters were full of family news. She related our school successes, the details of our forty-inch snow storm and digging out the cars, and my number six sister’s first words. Reading one of her letters was like sitting on the sofa with her and just talking. Her Christmas card notes were full of news and holiday cheer. There was never a hit of self-pity because she was away from the extended family for years at a time. When my husband and I moved to El Paso, I’d watch the mail box for an envelope addressed in mother’s feminine handwriting. It brought me home and kept me close to those I loved.

In Mom’s later years, she was no longer able to maintain contact with her dear friends by writing letters. I started penning her holiday messages and taking them to her to sign. Her address box turned into a book of memories and family history. As I wrote the letters, I relived the wonderful experiences and people from our time in Newfoundland, Louisiana, and Maine. I recalled family reunions, weddings, and births.  Now I realize the importance of my mother’s lessons on writing letters.

Advances in telecommunications and the availability of personal computers changed the face of personal correspondence. Phone calls replaced letters. My family and I communicate by email or texting. The lovely cards and newsy letters are now reduced to quick phrases and LOL in an email. Oh, how I miss seeing the flow of ink across paper. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy family newsletters generated on the computer. I’ve even gotten better at navigating Facebook to check messages and view photos. A chatty phone call works too. Just keep in touch.

This time of the year offers each of us the opportunity to reconnect with friends and loved ones. As writers, we have one more platform for stretching our creative juices and resurrecting a dying art. Why not create a newsletter template and correspond with those who are important to you? Once you get the basics down you can customize the letter by including tidbits that have special meaning to each person on your list. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but trust me on this. Your loved ones will be thrilled.  As for me, I plan to build a fire in the fireplace, get out my best stationary and favorite pen, and write my letters mom style.

Cait Collins



by Sharon Stevens

Everyone has something to learn,

and everyone has something to teach.

Richard Baraniuk

At the post office one morning after a minuscule drizzle that sprinkled moisture on earth parched by drought, I watched as a little girl leapt across the walk and up the steps from one shimmering mirage to the next. There was not even enough water to make a splash. Nevertheless with each jump to the next indention she joyfully recited, “Puddle…puddle…puddle.” There was a woman following behind her guiding her up the steps who could have been her mother, aunt, friend, or grandmother. Our eyes connected over the child’s head as we were caught up in the magic of this enchanted moment.

I stayed and watched until the little girl twirled through the door of the building, then got in my car and drove away. I pondered for the rest of the day who it was that taught this little one to “read” puddles. Who gave her the gift to celebrate raindrops and rainbows? Who released the creativity and imagination she held within her heart? Who showed her there were sparkles in the sidewalk no matter how measured the moisture? Who whispered to her the song she sang that led her to dance with each step?

Today is Thanksgiving. A time we hold hands together to share the abundance that surrounds us and the life we treasure with our family and friends.

This day I want to recognize what I am truly most thankful for, and without question this is the life of a teacher.

Please acknowledge not only just the teacher in the classroom, but all educators in the purest sense of the word. They give us accolades or praise, and from somewhere deep within they recognize we are worthy of sharing everything good and kind in our community. Teachers surround us with courage and strength, joy and inspiration, and believe in us each and every day. I picture all of them with a halo shining above their heads, with their angel wings wrapping themselves around our fragile souls, protecting us against the evils in the world.

The following are just a few examples of the educators that touch our lives. It may simply be a Sunday school teacher or those that teach us to say grace at the family table. Take a moment to celebrate both those who do, and those who do not have a diploma hanging on the wall that decrees they are truly teachers.

Don’t discount the smile given by the greeter at the door of a business, a favorite eatery, at church or at school. Think about what this teaches a child, a parent, a friend and where they learned the basics. Who teaches the kids to bag groceries or wait tables, to make change, or meet the public? Who is it that touched our spirit to draw, paint, sculpt, or express in any medium we choose?

What about the doctors and nurses in the medical field that truly care for all humanities and species? Someone, somewhere shared their knowledge of the healing gifts that they now have passed on to the generations that follow, as well as for the future of our planet.

Where would we be without those that teach us to count the leaves on a tree, the rocks in our path or the legs on a bug? And then there are the scientists who show us how flowers grow, how frogs croak, how fish swim and snakes crawl. How about the engineers that teach us and our children to build with a hammer and nails, movie sets as well as skyscrapers, to construct with snow, with glue, with tape, with needle and thread, and with “More Than Bricks And Mortar.”” History, literature, theater, communication, dance, symphony, band, choir, journalism are all filled with those who give outside the usual school day.

Even within the schools there are countless people who do more than just their jobs. They are the janitors, cafeteria workers, secretaries, school bus drivers…those who impact the very basis of our lives. And don’t forget the dedicated coaches on the playing field, and also those who work with Kid’s Inc., Pee Wee, and Little League. They teach sportsmanship, fair play, discipline and tolerance.

What about the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, FFA, Key Clubs, Student Council, and all the other civic clubs that surround us? What about those who lead the meetings and teach the kids the life lessons they can carry with them wherever they go in life?

One of the most important teachers that are left out of the educational loop are those who teach us to volunteer. Not a lost art by any means, and every age and skill level can contribute in giving outside themselves when they are taught to volunteer. But then again how can you teach this gift?

We can’t forget about those who teach us how to do our chores. We learned to pick up after ourselves, to feed the family pet, to do the dishes, simple tasks that teach us the most fundamental lessons. Even the most successful and dedicated CEO’s of our world learned work ethic from those who were guided within the family.

And I want to give special mention to those that are the librarians and help all of us with the love of not only the written word, but everything else the library has to offer, whether it is in the public library or within the school.

Last but not least, I want to recognize the teachers who taught us to read and, with the same token, taught us how to write. To me this is the greatest gift of all. Besides my family, my friends, my critique group, Wordsmith Six, Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace, my original creative writing teachers, they have all given me the gift that I am most thankful for in my life!

My mind keeps going back to the sight of the little girl jumping from puddle to puddle in front of the post office. She had no idea that she was teaching me a life lesson in the simplest form. With her I witnessed a true miracle—that of a teacher! This child taught me everything I needed to know.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you celebrate the teachers in your life.


To make your writing more exciting and add depth, use dynamic verbs in place of generic.

Doing this will make your writing richer.

Generic Verb Dynamic Verb
Jump Leap, bound, hop, skip, prance
Run Sprint, dash, bolt, gallop
Play Amuse, entertain
Go Move, proceed, leave, depart
yell Shout, howl, wail, scream,

Rory C. Keel



By Natalie Bright

When my story “The Race” was selected for Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul, I realized few had even heard of my name, but everyone knew about this international series. At the suggestion of a friend who is a bestselling author, I agreed that I should take advantage of the Chicken Soup name by holding an autographing at our local Wal-Mart.

Following is a list of ten tips for organizing a promotion in your town or neighborhood, including several things I should have done better.

1.  Find your business frame of mind.

Publishing is a business and marketing is all about timing. Take an objective view and coordinate a plan for best promoting you and your current project, whether you have previous publishing credits or not. Research your options.

2.  Compile a mailing list NOW.

Gather addresses for a mailing list now, or email list, into a database that is user friendly. It should be versatile for printing labels and cards, or merging to a newsletter. As your exposure increases, you’ll find more and more uses for mailing lists. I wish I would have organized my list with the capability of determining writers versus bookstore owners. I have a mailing of over 500 names and addresses, and I have not clue where I met some of these people

3.  Organizational contacts.

Communities harbor a multitude of clubs needing speakers. You probably know several people who are members.  Mail fliers offering free talks, along with details on proposed topics.  If you receive an invitation to speak, deliver a well thought-out, informative program. I’ve met so many people at events which led to invitations to other events. Networking is important as you work to establish a name for yourself as an author.

4.  Compile an industry contacts list.

Build a professional database of bookstore owners, book buyers, librarians, and newspaper contacts.

5.  Think outside the bookstore.

Consider advertising in unique ways that have a direct relation to the work you are promoting. Many different kinds of stores might be willing to host an autographing. Does your anthology’s theme tie into a scrapbook store, floral shop, or espresso bar? Ask the owner of that specialty gift shop when she experiences the most crowds and schedule an autographing during that time.

6.       Plan a merchandise tie-in.

Inexpensive give-aways to coordinate with your book are fun and will enliven your event. My toddler inspired my story in Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul when he refused to eat anything but fish crackers. The store manager contacted the vendor, who agreed to provide free crackers for the autographing.

7.  Remember holidays.

Does your anthology relate to an important retail day or holiday? Schedule an autographing the day of or prior to that special day. Storeowners and managers can provide you with a wealth of information. The manager of the store in our community told me that Mother’s Day has the third largest sales of the year and ninety-one percent of American’s participate. We decided to hold the autographing the day before Mother’s Day. The time was set during the busiest traffic being after lunch through middle afternoon. My table was located on a main aisle in front of the book department. I had a steady stream of shoppers the entire time and sold three cases of books.

8.  Do-it-yourself printing.

If you have a good printer and software, design your own postcards and flyers. The key is to purchase quality paper.

9.  Spread the Word. Never underestimate the power of “buzz”. Your family, friends, and fellow writers will generate talk about your success.

10.  Get personal and show appreciation. Personal contact is crucial to a successful promotion on the local level. Show your appreciation to these folks with a personal note or phone call of thanks after the event.

If you hit stumbling blocks, and you will, remain professional. One neighbor could not believe I had a story published and told me I had too much time on my hands. On the other hand, our city’s mayor bought two copies of the Chicken Soup when I was seated next to her in a local eatery. Always carry extra copies in your car. You may be surprised how quickly word about your writing buzzes around your town.

You Are Worthy!

Ignore the doubting voices. To some it may be one little story in a book containing many, but consider the big picture. One published piece serves as a stepping-stone to advance your exposure as a writer. Every opportunity to become published or to talk about your writing lends credibility to your career.

Natalie Bright


Outtakes 16


I’ve been blessed to have heroes in my life. My parents were my first heroes. They didn’t do anything big like break world records or find the cure for a terrible disease. They lived quiet, ordinary lives, working to feed, clothe and house us. They taught us the value of honesty and hard work. We learned responsibility and owning up to our mistakes. Best of all, they provided a positive example for us to follow. They weren’t perfect, but they did their best to raise six girls with lots of love and praise. They even admitted to making mistakes and asked forgiveness.

My husband was another hero. Bill was a bit of a devil in his youth. His mom told me if I had met him when he was a teen, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with him. Maybe, maybe not, but the man I knew and loved was a good man who loved his family and mine. My husband served in the Navy, trained as a paramedic after leaving the military, and worked until the cancer sidelined him. Even after an accident paralyzed him, he kept going, and proved to those he met that handicapped was a state of mind, not a state of being. Bill told people I was the most precious thing to ever walk this earth. He was truly special.

I could continue listing people who have touched my life, made me dream big things, and helped me achieve my goals. I won’t bore you with pages of names and their contributions to my life. The point is we all look up to someone. We acknowledge those who mean so much to us because they held places in our hearts and lives. We honor them because they were human, flawed, but with redeeming qualities.

Heroes play a primary role in our writing. My current novel HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW has three heroes: Dr. Mike Lofton, Sheriff Travis Cooper and Clive Dalton. Mike and Travis achieved their status because they befriended a lonely, ignored seven-year old girl. They vowed a spit vow to take care of Kate Walker to the end. When Kate became ill, they rescued her and earned her grandmother’s undying love. Both let her down because they were mere mortals, yet they never forgot the promise. When Kate returns to Harley to bury her grandmother, they rally to her side to be the friends she’d always loved.

Clive Dalton enters Kate’s life when she marries Jonathan Meyers. He loves Kate, but respects her relationship with Jon. He hides his feelings by treating her like a kid sister. Dalton in many ways is bigger than life. He’s honest, honorable, loyal, and when Jon’s widow needs help with King Phillips, he becomes her fiercest protector. He assumes an I-am-going-to-protect-you- from-all-harm attitude that annoys and angers Kate. His determination to stand between the woman he loves and potential threats leads to a rift in their relationship. Instead of detracting from his sterling qualities, he becomes human. Flawed, yes, but Clive remains a man worthy of respect, admiration, and love. After all, who wants Sir Galahad perfection when a real man is available?

Cait Collins

Empty Halls


Empty Halls

“No! I don’t want to! You can’t make me!” Did you ever try to force a toddler do something? I’ve heard the expression, “. . . pushing a chain.” Or think about styling your hair when you only have so much time and even less talent. Maybe you’ve “herded cats.” Can you remember trying to pick up mercury that came out of a broken thermometer?

You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you—frustration at its highest, which leads to anger and depression and, finally, completely giving up.

Sometimes that happens with words too. You hear the voices whispering something juicy, something that you must write down and sign your name to. You know it has to be a whopper because why else would it keep running through your mind with so much energy? But when you open the door to get up close and personal with the shapes moving and whispering behind that curtain in your head, it vanishes leaving only the hint of laughter and a voice saying, “Fooled you!” Sometimes the words just won’t come out.

The way to beat this is to write anyway. So the words to a particular story don’t want to make an appearance; write words that do. I once read a profound quote: “A writer writes.”

Close your eyes and imagine what the inside of your imagination looks like. Imagine your characters locked behind cell doors. Imagine all the little story starters you have as patients laying on tables in a laboratory waiting for your special jolt of electricity to start them up.

If nothing else, write about the inside of your head.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

Foundation and Details

Foundation and Details

Over the last year, I have been involved in planning and building a new facility for the church where I attend. In the planning, every aspect of the building has a purpose. The measurements of the foundation are laid out on paper and then the details are considered, what color of paint, what kind of flooring? Will the congregation be comfortable with the seating? What about sound quality? What happens in an emergency? Is the lighting adequate? The list seems endless.

The day came when the project started and the foundation was poured. At the end of that first day, I stood gazing at a slab of concrete that didn’t come close to looking as large as I had imagined. My mind said something’s wrong! The plans confirmed the size was correct!

Every day since, I have watched as each wall was raised and the roof now appears atop the building, and my perspective has changed. The building has been transferred from ink on paper, to a multi-dimensional object that better fits the concept I had imagined.

As a writer, a similar process takes place, only we use words as the building materials. We hold a story concept in mind with all of its grandeur and we begin to write, one page then two, our mind says something is wrong! What we see doesn’t look like what we have imagined, so we wad the paper up or hit delete.

The story doesn’t look like the grand story in your head, because it isn’t finished!

Don’t give up too quickly, create an outline, the foundation, and then build your story by filling in the blanks with the details.

Rory C. Keel

Rejection and Inspiration

Rejection and Inspiration

By Natalie Bright

The rejection came in the form of an email at 9:57 P.M. Extremely nice note encouraging me to “keep trying”. The first thought in my mind is to head as fast as possible to the nearest Barnes & Noble. This may seem twisted in some way, but to surround myself with aisle after aisle of books restores my soul and reminds me why I love to write; I love to read even more.

Every section offers so many undiscovered secrets and delights, how can you pick just one?

I enjoy holding a new found treasure in my hand, flipping the clean pages, smelling the newness, and getting lost in the tale. Sometimes I can’t help but to glance at the ending (yes, I’m that person). To feel sad when I reach the end of a good story inspires me to keep digging and learning and discovering, ‘how’d they do that?’

Where do you seek refuge to renew your creative spirit and find inspiration?

Natalie Bright

Grocery Shopping


Grocery Shopping

It’s that stress-me-out time of the year. My calendar begins to fill with all the obligations of the season. There’s the family Thanksgiving dinner, black Friday planning, black Friday shopping, my brother-in-laws’s annual merry unbirthday party, the sisters dinner, the company holiday luncheons, ornament exchange at church, and the list goes on. Each of these events requires food, so I will sit down with my calendar, my coupons, my holiday shopping-and-planning-notebook and begin to make my grocery list.

Start with the basics. For example, I’m making the dressing for Thanksgiving. So here’s what I’ll need: corn bread mix, onions, eggs, chicken broth, seasonings, celery, a roasting pan, and foil.

Once I have the basic list, I sort through my coupons to see what matches and begin to revise the list to correspond with my coupons. I have 25 cents off on 3 packages of corn bread mix, 75 cents off one container of seasonings, 50 cents off eggs, two coupons for discounts on broth, 25 cents off on foil, and one for the disposable storage bowls I left off my basic list.

The list is further edited by brand, size, quantity, expiration date, and limitations. The final list looks something like this.

6 15 oz cans Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth 50 cents off on 3 can purchase

6 packages Martha White’s yellow corn bread mix on sale 3 packages for $1.25; one 25 cents off on 3 packages.

1 dozen large grade A Eggland’s Best eggs 50 cents off coupon

1 McCormick poultry seasoning ,65 oz bottle. 75 cents off

1 rolls Reynolds aluminum foil 50 foot roll or larger 25 cents off

2 packages of 2 cup Ziplock storage bowls 3 to a package $1.00 off

1 container diced onions in the refrigerator case

1 container diced celery

Now I have a detailed list I could give to my nephews along with the cash, and they could battle the crowd at the store. So what does this mean for a writer?

I make a basic list regarding the characters and storyline for a novel. On a first draft of my novel, I have basic ideas of my characters, setting, time of year and so on. As the story develops, the details emerge and the characters become more alive and the settings are more vivid. I update the list as I go. By the time I’m on the final edit, all the details are filled in and an agent or editor will have the necessary details to present and promote my project.

Getting the details right takes time and effort. It also requires being open to change as the story develops. Making notes of the progress helps prevent errors like the hero has blue eyes in chapter two and brown eyes in chapter ten.

I also use lists to spark creativity. There are some days when the muse is not with me, so I make my grocery list. Instead of green beans, I refine the item to Green Giant French cut green beans. Olives become large, jalapeño-stuffed Spanish olives. Ground beef is lean ground sirloin 90/10. After a few minutes working this exercise, I find my inspiration and get back to writing my novel.

Cait Collins