Children’s Genre

Children’s Genre

What genre does your writing fit into?

This week we will explore the genre of children’s writing.

Have you ever read Where the Wild Things Are or Curious George? What about Dr.Seuss or Hank the Cow Dog? Then you have a good idea of the type of writing that fits into the children’s genre. Written for small children ranging from the littlest tykes to eleven years old, these books contain simple words and characters of animals or other young children.

As with most genres, there can be several subgenres.

Juvenilia are works written by the author in their childhood.

Early Readers use simple syllable words to help children learn to read.

Middle or Junior Readers also known as Chapter books, are usually longer books that use more involved wording.

Picture Books have bright and colorful illustrations, and have minimal printed text.

Pop-Up Picture Books are written with three-dimensional pop-up pictures that open when the pages are turned.

Traditional Stories are older stories such as fairy tales and fables told in a simple form and illustrations.

The children’s category is a fantastic genre where kids learn to read, dream and develop their imagination.

Rory C. Keel

Getting the Facts

TRAILS END – The Novel

Getting the Facts

Last week I wrote about continuing to improve our abilities, and to learn new skills, even as we age. I attended the Team Roping school taught by Rickey Green, and would like to share a little about that experience.

In sports or any profession, there are individuals who completely change the standard methods in use. In his era, Ricky revolutionized the excepted way of roping the back feet of a steer, and left his competition behind. Everybody had to change what they were doing to catch up, because his ideas worked better and faster. After slowing down from full time competition, he then devoted himself to teaching others to rope. In the same way he competed, he so improved the process of instruction that he is today considered one of the best clinicians in the business.

If you want to improve your skills, in whatever field, you need to learn from the people who have made a living at doing it. Not someone who has made a living at teaching it, but someone who was successful producing income from it. Then you have to be sure that person is capable of instruction. This takes a lot of effort to develop. I’ve known World Champions who couldn’t teach you how to tie your shoe.

In the story of TRAILS END, Jim Barnes is that very type of person to teach Donnie Williams how to ride broncs, and how to win. But is the veteran bronc rider a good influence for the young and impressionable kid that worships him? I hope you will be interested to find out.

I would like to thank Rickey Green for a great positive experience. I wasn’t able to put the information to use during the school, but I’m confident I now have the tools for success. Thanks also Rickey, for making the learning fun.

Thank-you all for reading,


Why Do I Write


Why Do I Write

From time to time I run across a writing exercise that asks the question, “Why do you write?” I have read other people’s answers, and they are as varied as face shapes. Some people write to make money, some write for release, some write for therapy.

I thought about my answer. Why do I write? I write to tell a story. I write to connect with people. I write for the fun of it. I write because I can’t stop. However, I think my favorite reason to write is the rush I get from creating. I love to sit with my hands on computer keys and my eyes pointed at the monitor. I get a thrill to feel a rush of words flow from my brain to my hands and then onto the screen. I get a little giddy when I come out of my “zone” long enough to realize that several pages have appeared and I had no idea I was even doing anything.

So, why do you write? Do any of the reasons mentioned above describe you, or is there a new one?

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

Nandy Ekle


by Sharon Stevens
by Paul Green
Act I
Scene I
(With Choral Overture)
The evening star hangs like a liquid ball of fire trembling above the canon’s rim in the amethyst summer sky. As the night deepens, it descends and goes on down and out of sight. The amphitheater lights fade into darkness. Far up on the rim of the high canyon wall at the rear a single trumpet sounds a call-The first two phrases of the old cowboy song, “Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie”.
A halo of light comes on up there revealing a Texas Ranger seated on his horse with a lifted trumpet to his lips. The call is repeated, then the light dims down on him and his horse somewhat. The rattle of a drum begins as if under the very feet of the horse and comes down the canyon wall toward the audience in a growing avalanche of sound, building with the timpani until the whole amphitheater is enveloped in a thundering turmoil of musical tempest.
The tumult deluges the audience for a moment, then like a great ocean wave begins receding, passing backward and up the canyon side and diminishing as it goes, finally to merge itself into the ranger’s trumpet call again as the light brightens there. This time the call concludes with the last two phrases of the above song, with one repetition only.
After an instant of pause, the light dies out from the ranger and his horse.
The above passage comes from the actual script of the musical drama TEXAS. What thoughts must have been running through Paul Greens mind as he contemplated the letter sent by Margaret Harper inviting him here. She had read the article about him in the July 1960 edition of the Readers’s Digest. After an evening shared with her husband Ples, and Margaret and William Moore, professors at WTAMU, they sent the note to invite Green to come to see what he thought about writing a play for Palo Duro Canyon.
Green responded quickly with excitement and to inform them of his expenses, but also asked if they could send him information about the area so he could begin to gather ideas of the struggles and joys of the panhandle settlers.
Of all the plans made from that day forward I am sure the hardest had to be with that first step. The Harpers and the Moores knew not only the Greek philosophers, and Shakespeare but George M. Cohan. They also knew and had read Loula Grace Erdman and J. Evetts Hayley as well as all the other local authors from here to Dallas. Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of the Panhandle Professional Writers, one of the oldest continuous writing groups in the nation, were established writers in their own right, and probably found their way into the mix.
How do you choose? How do you fathom? How can you condense buffalos, American Indians, faith, cattlemen, farmers, merchants, families, and everyone in between in one package? What do you think will be important in the thoughts of a man a thousand miles away as he begins to form the basis of the heritage and civilization of the panhandle of Texas? What will tell the true story of the ancient understanding of man versus man, man versus nature and man versus himself?
Paul Green was a Pulitzer Prize winning author with several shrine dramas under his belt. “The Common Glory” and, “The Lost Colony”, were just two of the many sagas he had helped bring to the stage. What was important to him as he began to form a picture in his mind of the canyons, the people, and the wind, the ever draining wind?
 So many times as I sit down at my computer I am totally overwhelmed with what faces me. I am not afraid of the blank screen. I am petrified of the billions of words that will fill it up. There are so many stories and plots, people and struggles that share white space. How can I tame them down, and share their memories with the respect they truly deserve without getting mired in the rhetoric sure to follow.
There is no magic formula, no book on writing, no critique group that can cure this dilemma. The only relief is to write and read, and read and write again, and again, and then again, always tightening, cutting, adding, and deleting until the words make sense.
And this is why we write.
I am sure Paul Green was faced with this insurmountable task when he received the package from Canyon Texas. He knew to fulfill his mission he had to do justice to the characters found within the pages of the mountain of materials from the post office. When he visited Palo Duro Canyon they say he jumped from rock to rock, always with pen in hand, to hear where the echo sounded the best off the canyon walls to complete his manuscript. I am sure he stopped to listen and to see if he could hear the sound of a thundering herd of buffalos, or the yip of a coyote, or the screech of an owl, or a whisper of the wings of a hawk or a field lark, or a mockingbird. No doubt he witnessed the majesty of our sunrises and sunsets painted by The Master himself.
Every year when I am sitting in the audience of the Pioneer Amphitheater and follow the music and hear the overture signaling the opening scene I am reminded of the words condensed and written in the actual script by Paul Greens own hand…The rattle of a drum begins as if under the very feet of the horse and comes down the canyon wall toward the audience in a growing avalanche of sound, building with the timpani until the whole amphitheater is enveloped in a thundering turmoil of musical tempest.
If only my words could talk like that!
Sharon Stevens

Three Lawyers and a Judge

Outtakes 26

 Three Lawyers and a Judge

I just spent four days on jury duty. Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t enjoy jury duty. I have issues with the hurry-up-and-wait situations. I read James Patterson’s 10TH ANNIVERSARY on the first day. That gives you an idea how much idle time we had. I also hate being away from the office. It just takes so long to catch up. That said we should be thankful for our jury system. Not many countries allow trial by jury.  Most defendants or respondents will never know what it’s like to be judged by their peers instead of magistrates. As inconvenient as jury duty is, it is the best system around. It also provides some spectacular inspiration for a novel.

Take this case as an example. We were not hearing a criminal case. Ours was a civil matter, and the rules were different. The jury was comprised of 6 jurors and an alternate, all novices except me. In fact, my experience as a foreperson is what landed me on the panel. Instead of a reasonable doubt, we judged on the preponderance of the evidence. We did not determine guilt or innocence, but answered yes or no to the questions on the charge. A yes response was in favor of the State of Texas; a no vote favored the respondent.

While there were some characters on the jury, the real players were the judge and the three attorneys. The attorney for the state was knowledgeable but arrogant. He felt we did not need medical reports and tons of pictures; we should believe the witnesses because they were professionals from law enforcement, vets, and accomplished dog trainers. Never mind the fact the humane society left the property with all the pictures and the sheriff hadn’t seen any of them until closer to trial. We just had to believe the state’s case.

In contrast, the respondents’ attorneys offered expert testimony, but they had photos released on the internet, medical records, invoices, and pictures of all those lovely registered dogs. They were more low keyed, soft spoken and respectful. They appealed to our common sense and logic over emotions. It was only when the State’s attorney tried to introduce a statement from the respondent that I saw the fire from the lead counsel for the respondents. He and his attractive co-counsel demanded, “May we approach, Your Honor?” They covered the distance between the counsels’ tables and the bench quickly. The word mistrial was whispered before the judge asked the jurors to take a break.

Finally, the judge acted as moderator between the opposing sides. He smiled a lot,  spoke softly, and continually thanked the jurors. He didn’t take sides, but effectively ruled on the objections,  never favoring one side or the other. His judgments were based on the law. I respected him.

Now, let’s put the characters together in a totally different situation. In place of a quiet civil action we are in the middle of a high profile multi-count criminal trial. The defendant is the son of a mob boss. The state’s attorneys maintain their soft-spoken demeanor. The defense attorney hammers away at the state’s DNA expert. And then…

Now you finish it.

Cait Collins

Where do you belong?

Where do you belong?

Where does your writing fit in the world of genre?

A genre is a “category” of literature or other forms of art and culture. Knowing the answer to this question will be a great benefit in every area of your writing.

Here is a list of the major writing genres: children, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, short fiction, thriller, westerns, young adults, mainstream, nonfiction. Within each of these groups there are multiple sub-genres.

You will find that your thoughts will be more focused when you write if you understand the genre where your project best fits. You will also have a greater chance of success when seeking the proper agent for representation. Remember that not all agents represent every genre. When submitting your work directly, choose a publisher that best fits your writing. Research the company to understand what genre they represent to ensure greater chances of publication.

To help you discover which Genre fits your writing best, we will explore each category in future weekly blog posts.

Rory C. Keel

Creating History for Fictional Characters

Creating History for Fictional Characters

By Natalie Bright

“I’m not quite sure what I feel is missing.” This from an agent who had requested my middle grade novel. “It doesn’t feel fully cooked yet.”

What’s missing? This character has haunted me and has woken me up nights for almost a year. My critique group had critiqued every word, phrase and scene. They loved it! I posted this agent’s email on my bulletin board and studied them over and over. All the while this character keeps clogging my brain. She’s ready for two more adventures and I still don’t know what’s missing.

While lunching with writer friends, the discussion turned to their small town series. One already had a contract for seven novels, and the other had plans for four with hopes of pitching her idea in the near future. They discussed the dynamics of creating a fictional town with characters that must ultimately resonate with readers. I asked them how would one keep up with all of that detail, not just who is who, but the history of how they

got there, the street layout, the minute details that bring a story to life for the readers?

Their answer involved two very different processes, which I’d like to sharing with you here: Jodi Thomas [] keeps all of that detail in her head. She becomes so engrossed in the world she creates, that if she writes any notes it’s hard for her brain to remember if she used that in the book or not. The town, the people, their quirks and strengths, all vividly ramble around in her amazing head. She can “see” the streets, the buildings, the characters as they play out the story. While she’s writing one book, her brain is working out details for the next and the next. Her character’s reactions and personalities chart the course.

Phyliss Miranda [] begins with extensive research on her location and develops detailed characterizations. She charts a family tree for her characters, going back several generations. She writes detailed descriptions on what they look like, their good and bad habits, their favorite foods, childhood experiences, etc.

Both agreed that giving your characters a history is very important. I replied that my main character is only eleven, so she doesn’t have much history to tell. Their response was a rapid-fire line of questioning: How did her father and mother meet? Where was her mother born? Why did is her father a US Marshall? Where do her grandparents live? Horrors! I had to admit that I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions.

Today, I’m happy to report my character has a history. Over the New Year’s Holiday I created family tree charts, expanded my characterizations, drew a town plat, and because I write historical, I made a complete time line on creation of the town. And the best thing, I got ideas for two more adventures.

Now, if I only had the courage to submit it again…

NOTE:  Both of these authors will be speaking at Frontiers in Writing Conference June 28-30 at Amarillo, Texas. Jodi will be talking about finding inspiration to write every day at the Friday night dinner, and Phyliss will be conducting a workshop on developing characters. click on the FiW Conference tab.

Natalie Bright

Continuing Education

TRAILS END – The Novel

    Continuing Education

This weekend I am attending a school. It is a Team Roping clinic.

I have been a cowboy my whole life and have used a rope in my occupation and for recreation since I was a kid. So why would I drive 200 miles and pay someone for this instruction? Because I want to improve. I want to be more competitive. I want to partner with my wife and catch more consistently. This will increase our chances to win, and decrease my chances of sleeping on the couch. That’s an unfounded joke, but my point is, regardless of age we should never quit trying to get better or  try new things. I’m learning to develop physical balance and inner peace, learning to invest, and learning to write.

Donnie Williams learns to ride broncs in rodeos, but the story is really about the life lessons he experiences, which shapes him into the person we see develope.

What’s going on with you? Get after it.

Thanks for reading,


The Brick Wall


The Brick Wall

In writing my story, I have smacked into a brick wall. I never even saw it. I was just bopping along, taking dictation from the characters who talked and acted while I wrote it all down. I was in “the zone” and everything moved smoothly. Then, POW! The wall appeared and knocked me so hard the characters temporarily lost their voices.

As I sat on the ground and looked up at the brick wall that had suddenly grown in front of me, I looked back at the steps that brought me here. Good intro/prologue, consecutive chapters that built on each other, plenty of twists and turns, and enough hints of the future to keep it interesting. And then, in the middle of an intense scene, nothingness.

Now, it’s not as if the whole thing disappeared from behind the wall. I still hear voices and I know what should happen next. So I mentally changed my visual of the problem from a brick wall to a bridge over a river, only the center of the bridge is broken. Now I can see the characters on the other side motioning for me to join them, but there’s no way to get past the gaping hole.

I take words out of my tool kit and try to fill in the missing part of the road, but the words are hollow and unstable. Still, the characters urge me to keep trying.

As a writer, I cannot leave them alone on the other side of the bridge without me for long. As a writer I will have to get to the other side, even if I have to jump over the broken part of the bridge. And, as a writer, I know I can’t wait forever to do it. So I put my hands on the keyboard—pen to the paper—and just write words.

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

Nandy Ekle


by Sharon Stevens
There are so many simple memories within our life and those of our families and friends…moments that are fleeting, but not gone forever. A single word, phrase or a picture helps to bring these memories back into focus and into our thoughts.
Take a second to restore these precious treasures to your heart and soul.
You don’t need a fancy journal. Any writing surface will do whether it is a diary, notebook, scrap of paper, school spiral or “Big Chief Tablet”. And don’t be afraid to record any insignificant thought. You never know when this just might be the memory that will touch you not just for today but in the years to come as well.
Below are just a few triggers to help you get started.
“Writing Other Days and Nights and Times of Your Life”
By Maria Altevers-excerpted from Personal Journaling June 2001
Birthdays-Keep the memories-good or bad- of how you celebrated all the birthdays of your life by storing them in this journal.
Sunday afternoons-Record the lazy Sundays that you lived through. Looking back you might find ways to make those afternoons more productive…or not.
Friendship-Keeping a journal with your friends or about your friendships will strengthen the bond that is already present. Plus by communicating in this journal when trouble strike, you may curb the turmoil at the start and avoid major damage to the relationships.
Baby/Child-Forge an even deeper bond between yourself and your children by keeping a journal for them while they are young. It will make a great gift once they are old enough to appreciate such a wonderful and love filled book. Pregnant? Write a journal as your baby grows in the womb.
Sister/brother-Try to avoid the pitfalls of sibling rivalry and strengthen your relationships by channeling your feelings into a journal. One day, the pages might serve up a good laugh.
Women’s (PMS, pregnancy, childbirth menopause)-Keep track of the positives and negatives of womanhood in a journal. It might help preserve the joyous memories of giving birth or help funnel and deal with more emotional times-when hormones are raging.
Work-Schedule those important meetings and luncheons or use this journal to help dissolve job stress. It will enable you to keep your work life separate from your personal life.
School-Not only can you write about all the wonderful-and not so wonderful- times at school, you will have a place to store all those mementos that you’re not quite ready to leave behind.
Pet-If a dog is man’s best friend, treat him that way. Dedicate a journal to your pet. Capture funny moments, paste in pictures and track appointments to the vet.
Exercise-Most people agree that exercise is hard work. Monitoring your fitness progress in a journal can help motivate you to keep it up.
Interactive-Communication is hard to achieve in any relationship. Create a nonverbal dialogue in this diary you share and take turns writing in with another person.
Meditation-Where does your mind wander during meditation? Keep a grasp on peaceful feelings by channeling those thoughts into a journal. It may be a source of comfort during times when meditation just isn’t enough.
Cooking/Food-Journaling about cooking or food and your eating habits just might lead to a healthier lifestyle. You may get tired of writing about the same old foods and, in turn, become inspired to prepare more interesting and healthier meals.
Vacation-Keep all your vacation memories in one place by herding them into this journal, or keep a separate book for each vacation. Both will become an easy reference when reminiscing with family and friends.
Restaurant-Don’t let the restaurants of your traveling experience be forgotten. After visiting new sites, dining can be that relaxing moment when you learn about cultural food and tastes and when you discuss the places you’ve seen. Not a big traveler? That doesn’t mean you can’t still record the fun dining experiences of your life.
HolidayThis will make a nice conversation starter during future holidays when you want to retell the unforgettable stories of celebrations past.
Devotional-This can be a journal of quotes from religious texts or personal thoughts on religious matters. It will allow you to focus on your spiritual side, even if you don’t necessarily practice a particular religion.
Inspirational-This can be classified as a wisdom-for-living journal. Keeping quotes from your favorite authors, philosophers, teachers, family members and more will help to motivate you when you’re dealing with life’s obstacles.
Poetry-Use this journal to store your own poetry, as well as favorites you hold in high esteem. You can also include snippets of thoughts, passing ideas or images…
Gardening-Writing about something you care about can add a whole new perspective on your hobby. This journal can keep track of the seasons of growing for you and your garden.
Photography-Keep a journal of your favorite photos-from your life or from magazines, newspapers, or the Internet. Pictures are still frames of life; they can trigger a memory or spark an idea that’ll keep you writing for days.
Music-Whether you play or just listen, keeping a music journal can help you categorize your favorites. Make lists of your own “Best Albums Ever” and “Best Love Songs” or just write down the words to moving songs. Who knows maybe someday you’ll write your own music.
Hiking/Biking-Have you ever hiked to the top of a hill to find beautiful scenery, then forgotten the path that you took? Record all your hiking experiences and use it as your own personal, self-made guide when you get the next itch to go hiking.
Good laughs-Recall those times when you just couldn’t stop laughing. Write down what made you laugh good and long-before you forget.
Grief-Channel your grief in a positive way by journaling about it. This can be an aid and a comfort to you in your time of need.
Golf-Not a golfer? Keep a similar journal for any sport. Learn to improve by indexing games. Keep track of clubs used when you did right and high and low scores.
Sharon Stevens