The Cast


The Cast

Auditions are now open for your story. You need a cast of characters to carry this tale and it’s time to find them.

First we need a main character who normally is the protagonist. This is the person through whose view point we see the world. This person tells us thoughts and actions, intentions, and feelings. We want him/her to be the good guy and win in the end.

Next we need an antagonist, traditionally the bad guy. This character tries to stop the main character from reaching their goal, whether on purpose with diabolical evil or strictly by accident. This character can be someone who starts out one way then changes in midstream, or can be a person who never changes or wavers an inch while the protagonist grows and matures. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be a person at all but nature or even the protagonist against himself.

The fun begins when we mix it all up. Maybe our main character is not a good guy. Maybe our protagonist is really the bad guy and we use him to show the world the other side of the coin. And then the antagonist can be the one trying to thwart the bad guy.

I have heard some famous actors say that playing the bad guy in a play or movie is the most fun acting.

Open your imagination to the “what ifs” of the darker side of the world and have some fun.

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

By Nandy Ekle

William Faulkner

“It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.”

William Faulkner

by Sharon Stevens

 This last August as I was putting books on the shelf for the fall semester at WTAMU I came across the textbook, “History of Women In America” by Janet Coryell, required in Professor Jean Stuntz’s history class. Since it was a used text I thumbed through it and came across the radio speech First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt gave on the eve of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I can only imagine how the speech writers must have scrambled franticly for just the right words that day to set the tone for the wife of the president. How Mrs. Roosevelt herself must have agonized as she trembled within to address all those who would listen to her voice, the emotion she knew she must convey. I wonder as well what copy the sponsor, The Pan American Coffee Bureau, had to toss out in support of the history unfolding that could very well affect relations with South America.

This history book is no longer on the shelf. It had been bought by a college student four months ago. So instead on the anniversary of the “day that would live in infamy” I Googled and read those words again, and listened to a recording of what Mrs. Roosevelt spoke December 7, 1941. She noted her husband was hard at work conferring with his cabinet, the heads of state, and even to the Ambassador to Japan. In so many words she was telling the nation that he had everything well in hand and to leave the worrying to him, a sentiment at the time. But she didn’t discount the fears of the mothers, the young people, the community. She, or her speech writers, knew she only had a few minutes with which to celebrate the strength of our United States built on one hundred and sixty five years of sacrifice on American soil.

The world couldn’t know that seventy years later you just had to touch a screen or keypad to take you anywhere in the universe you wanted to travel. Within seconds I pulled up a transcript of that moment in time. I listened to the cultured voice of the president’s wife, the strong words of an American soldier, and the light copy of the advertising sponsor. But the message will always remain the same. Year after year anyone can research any moment of any time recorded in history.

I treasure the ability to read, to research, to remember, to write, to memorialize. I celebrate that generations yet to be born will for a thousand, no a million years be able to question and argue history as it unfolds, all the while looking back on the past as it impacts our future.

I wonder what key points speech writers will write for the president on that day to commemorate our military and those on the home front at the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. All the while as the American people hold their hands over their hearts as the Star Spangled Banner is played.

The following is an excerpt of Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech.

“…You have friends and families in what has suddenly become a danger zone. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart and yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears. We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can and when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it.

We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America!”

Sharon Stevens

Are You Writing in the Right Genre?

Are You Writing in the Right Genre?

By Natalie Bright

The question was posed at a romance writers workshop in Wichita Falls by Jane Graves, an award winning author of contemporary romance. Her advice was to, “hone in on the one thing that speaks to you.”

I’ve always been a huge fan of historical romance, and that seemed the obvious direction when I decided to expand my nonfiction job-related writing to writing fiction. I love history and stories set in the wild west. In the beginning the whole process was a chore; I hated my characters, the dreary plot line, and the editing process seemed like torture. In the back of my mind lurked a ten-year-old boy who found a Comanche as a best friend and one night I dreamed about a wild-haired eleven year old girl who turned a frontier town on its ear. In my minds eye, I could see them clearly and their adventures played out in my head on a daily basis. They refused to leave me alone, and that’s when I realized I wanted to write for children.

I found my notes from that workshop just yesterday, and Jane’s words came back to me, “Freshness and originality come from what you can imagine.”

Rather than fight with myself and feel frustration every time I sit down at the keyboard, I work on the piece that puts a fire in my gut. Today, I’m writing blogs. Tomorrow, who knows?

I’ve finished four middle grade novels since that first romance seminar. Some I’ve entered into contests, some are buried in a closet, and one I self-published. They may never find a place to land in the publishing world and at this point it doesn’t matter because those characters are not waking me up nights anymore. I refuse to ignore the voices in my head.

Are you writing in the Right Genre?

Natalie Bright

One Picture

Outtakes #18

 One Picture

There are times when the muse takes a vacation and I struggle to move from one scene to the next. I’ve even had the horrible experience of staring at the blank screen and nothing happens. No words come to mind. The characters fail to speak to me. The page remains blank. I can only shut down my computer and walk away.

So what do you do when faced with “writer’s block”? Here’s an exercise that works for me. Gather a few necessities—a tablet, your favorite pen, a kitchen timer, magazines, photo albums,  or coffee table books, a cup of coffee or tea. Now find a quiet spot, and relax. Forget about editing, you will write whatever comes to mind. Set the timer for no more than ninety minutes. Ready? You are about to put the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” to the test.

Flip through a coffee table book or magazine for a picture that speaks to you. Study it for a few minutes and then draft as many story lines as possible from the scene before you. Imagine characters that would fit into the story ideas and write brief character sketches. Take the setting, your character sketches, and using one story line write a romance, a mystery, a paranormal piece, a thriller, and a horror story.  The possibilities are endless.

Review some of your ideas. Is the writing more vivid? Do the characters breathe? Compare the number of active verbs to the passive ones. Which is greater? I’ve learned my internal editor sometimes inhibits the creative process. When not concerned with perfection, the ideas pop. The words are sharper and the draft less cluttered.

Give this a try next time you are struggling. You’ll be surprised how quickly the creative ideas begin to flow and you are able to get back to your current work.

Cait Collins

The Wizard


The Wizard

A recent series of young adult books has reminded me how fun it is to believe in magic. Can you remember the first time you watched the movie The Wizard of Oz? How about Cinderella or Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Remember sitting in front of the television and not even being able to blink your eyes as magical things happened to make scarecrow talk and pumpkins turn into carriages and little orange people mix chocolate by waterfall? And how did you feel when the words “The End” scrolled up on the screen?

Writing is that way. You know the story because you’ve listened to the characters tell it in their own words. Your job is to take the story they told you and find the magic words that will weave a spell around your reader and keep them glued to your words.

Stephen King uses the term “telepathy,” and that’s a very good description. But J. K. Rowling goes a little further and alludes to “a book that casts a spell that won’t let the reader put it down.”

The magic comes from words spun like a spell, winding around the reader’s eyes and pulling their imagination to the page. They can’t put the book down until the story ends, and then they turn back to the beginning and start over.

Look for magic all around you and the words will appear.

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

Nandy Ekle


Panhandle Plains Historical Christmas Open House, December 2, 2011 from 6-9 pm and December 3, 2011 from 2-6pm


by Sharon Stevens

You wouldn’t think you were making history in receiving this wooden nickel presented by the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for the annual Christmas Open House 2011.

In all actuality this creates as much as any written in the history book throughout the ages, and is given to commemorate the rebuilding of Pioneer Town at the museum. This represents over a hundred years of habitation of the panhandle, and the generations of those who came together to settle this area. So before you stick this in a drawer, the holiday box or “gasp” throw it in the trash, take just a moment to contemplate the significance of this token souvenir.

Christmas Open House commemorates the Christmas day in 1887 when L.G. Connor and his wife Queenie Victoria located and surveyed the town of Canyon, Texas. L.G. was twenty-seven years old and his young wife was twenty-one. They lived their first year in a dugout facing a severe winter on the open plains. Their home was the first meeting house, post office, church, school, business and courthouse. Later they hauled logs from Palo Duro Canyon to build their first house. L.G. donated land for anyone who wanted to build a home, church or business to establish a strong and dedicated community. They were charter members of the First Baptist Church, and worked tirelessly to bring WTAMU to the Panhandle. Their daughter, Mamie, was the first Anglo-American child born in Randall County and the first student at the college as well as in the first graduating class.

Your wooden nickel is being given to bring back and redeem for a peppermint stick at the grand opening of the newly restored Pioneer Town in the future. Everyone at the museum was disappointed it was not completed in time for the Open House. The town will be more interactive for all who visit. Visitors will be able to walk through displays and touch some of the artifacts, many of the items passed down through generations of families. The area will continue to house the history donated and treasured by the people of the panhandle.

This nickel is a commemorative souvenir and a tangible example of history itself.

On December 5, 1931 almost eighty years ago during the depression, the Citizens Bank in Tenio, Washington failed, leaving the merchants of the city without any way to make change. The nearest bank was 30 miles over the mountain on roads only meant for horses and mules, a journey that took four hours round trip. Most storekeepers couldn’t close their businesses for this amount of time, much less leave it in the hands of employees, and robbers would be on the lookout for easy money going and coming.

The merchants and Chamber of Commerce banded together and came up with the idea of using wooden money to be given as change and then redeemed. The newspaper printed rectangular wooden coins. In turn the Blaine Washington issued the first round wooden coins when their bank failed in 1933.

Also in 1933 with the Century of Progress in Chicago, the first wooden money pieces was given as souvenirs. They were distributed as advertising and souvenirs for civic celebrations. The only fault was that they had an expiration date stamped on them rendering them worthless after that time. Many also had a note that they had to be unbroken, and many of the rectangular ones were fragile. This is where the adage, “Don’t take any wooden nickels” came into play. This meant in the depression era that if you couldn’t turn them back in, it was money down the drain. And it might even mean whether your family would be able to afford to eat or not. Every nickel was precious.

But it wasn’t until the J.R. Rogers Company of Fosteria Ohio obtained a copyright for their design in 1938 that these nickels took on a lighter tone. Their idea had to be the greatest marketing scheme of the 20th century. They printed up wooden nickels, dimes and quarters before a celebration and then sold these to area merchants for face value. These in turn were given back in change. In actuality you paid to take home your own advertisement of the event.

The Wooden Nickel Museum in San Antonio displays their collections and gives the history of these nickels. This is also the home of the largest wooden nickel, recognized by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”

Lets bring the presentation of this commemorative coin back to the present. Even though you can’t believe that this little circle of wood you hold in your hand represents anything of value. There is a connection between it, the Connors, their first Christmas in Canyon, the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, the Christmas Open House and you. Imagine the history that you can now carry with you to share from this day forward? After all, you and your family and friends represent the heritage. The value is not within the wooden nickel.

Grace Warwick wrote in her book “The Randall County Story” about a reporter interviewing Queenie Victoria Connor. Queenie was asked about her part in making history. She was offended and retorted… History? Why, we weren’t making history. Why, we were living-doing whatever had to be done in a new community, and have some fun along the way as we did it. No, we weren’t making history, we were living it!