Stories of Our Youth

Stories of Our Youth

The Young Adult Genre is comprised of works written for the age group between twelve and eighteen, according to the Young Adult Library Service association (YALSA), which is a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

While written for a young audience, many adults also enjoy young adult stories and adventures. The protagonist as well as most of the main characters will usually be close in age, and the stories may deal with any social topic or subject that allows the character to deal with an inner struggle. The young adult genre will show the main character growing as they work to learn important life lessons.

Sub-genres include stories that fall into most other genres such as fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, science-fiction, historical and adventure, with a writing style that appeals to a younger audience.

It has been many years since my childhood, yet even today many of my favorite books are still those from my youth.

Rory C. Keel

Giving and Receiving Critiques: Consider the Ground Rules

Part 3:

Giving and Receiving Critiques: Consider the Ground Rules

By Natalie Bright

In receiving a critique of your writing, it’s only fair that you’d be expected to give back.

Once you’ve identified several reliable critique partners, set some rules or guidelines to ensure that everyone is in total agreement as to how the critique should proceed. This only makes certain that the process is fair to everyone involved, and that it’s not a waste of your time. I’ve read numerous manuscripts for people, and it’s always nice to hear “send me one of your stories sometime.”

You can learn much about story craft by reading other people’s work, in addition to having them read yours in return.

The Rules Rule

Based on my experience, following are a few basic rules to consider for critique groups:


*Page limit: minimum or maximum number of pages to submit for critique

*Time limits for equal time of discussion

*New or edits: limit submissions to new material only, or can members bring edit? This eliminates the problem of someone bringing the same chapter over and over.

*Determine order of reading, if you meet in person.

*Find something positive, then move into the negative. Identify strengths and weaknesses.

* Group size; do you want to limit the number of members?

Wordsmith Six

My first critique group, that I found through the creative writing course, sadly didn’t stay together for various reasons. Some of us had work and family obligations that made it impossible to attend meetings, and several others moved out of the area. A few of us from the original group met a few more writers through a local writers organization, and we formed a new group about three years ago. Six months ago we started a blog about our publishing journey.

Even though we write in a variety of genres, the commonality is that we are all actively writing and submitting for publication. We stay on task. I come away from every meeting with invaluable critiques.

Here are the rules of Wordsmith Six critique group: we meet every other week, and our meetings usually lasts three to four hours. Due to time constraints, we’ve set a maximum of ten pages each. If we don’t have our own work to read, members bring a general interest article on writing craft or share notes from a recent conference, for example.  The key is everyone participates.

We generally restrict readings to new material, however if a piece has had a tough critique, then we’ll look at it a second time after edits. We draw numbers to determine who reads first, and we each read our own work out loud to the group.

Productivity is the Key

This is a biggey rule: we work first, and visit last. Everyone arrives on time, we begin on time, and we get right to business. After the work is done, a few might hang around to discuss character motivation, books we’re reading, or just gabbing about families.  The main point is that our writing is the main focus, and the main goal is to keep everyone moving forward.

Members who only bring chips and dip do not make for a productive atmosphere. Everyone understands life is crazy, and some weeks are unbearable as writers. We all know this. Do your critique mates a favor, and become a dependable giver as well as receiver. As you become familiar with each others work, you’ll move beyond basic grammar checks. A magical thing happens when you begin discussing character motivation and plot structure. As you realize the development of your story through others eyes, you’ll be able to edit and polish your work until it shines.

Next week in Part 4, I’ll discuss responsible behavior.

Natalie Bright

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,


What If . . .


What If . . .

We all play the game and sometimes it’s not a very healthy game, as when we can’t sleep because we’re too worried about something with a very remote chance of happening. But there are times when the What If game is good for us.

For example: You at the planetarium with your granddaughter and she asks you, “What if the stars are not just pictures on the wall and an alien walks in the room while the lights are off.” Does that sound like a story?

Or how about this—what if you’re reading a book written by a very popular horror writer and a spider crawls out from the pages? After jumping around and stepping on the little monster, can you think of something to write about?

One more. You are watching your favorite singer on television during family time and loving his show when there’s a knock on your door and there on your doorstep is the singer himself grinning as if he’s very happy to see you.

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

Nandy Ekle



by Sharon Stevens

“Once more into the fray,

Into the last good fight I will ever know..

Live and die on this day.

Live and die on this day.”


from The Grey

I have a pet peeve, one that is not black or white.

Let me explain it this way. Here I am watching a movie and BAM right out of the blue, I see fingernails attached to hands, attached to arms, attached to a body pop right up to my line of sight directly into my psyche. Within seconds an entire mood is gone, vanished, vamoosed, disintegrated and destroyed forever and ever amen, and all because of fingernails..

My husband and I were watching, “The Grey” with Liam Neeson at the Varsity Theater in Canyon. What a powerful movie filled with the most tremendous scenes of beauty and savagery in each frame. The story comes from the novella, “Ghost Walker” by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers with the screenplay co-written with director Joe Carnahan.

This night in the theater, the cold of the Alaskan wilderness permeates the air around us even with the heaters going full blast. On screen the silence of the deep snow and roar of the bitter wind fill us with frozen dread. The sense of the snarls echoing deep within the spirit of the wolves pulls us to the heart of the struggling men on their desperate journey.

And this brings me to the peeve.

A movie MUST be consistent with every frame. Nothing can be left to chance. Every second needs to be seen through the eyes of both those who critique a movie from every angle along with those who treasure a good story. There can be no in-between, no understudy, no rest for the weary. Everyone from make-up, set design, technical crew, costumers, directors, actors, musicians…they all have to come together for one common goal, with the final destination of the craft, the gift, the movie. No if, ands or buts.

This is where the fingernails come in.

To me there is nothing worse than to be watching a war movie with fighting men, farmers plowing the fields of their family farm, or construction or oil field workers out on the job site miles away from a shower or toiletries of any kind. Lo and behold a close up reveals the actors with perfectly manicured fingers, with every cuticle and every pore obviously softened with high dollar lotion, and perfumed with expensive scents.

At that moment, when I see this egregious error I know instantly that these are simple actors paid for playing a part. After the scene is over they will return to their million dollar homes, solid gold bathroom fixtures, and trillion dollar lifestyle.

To see perfect fingernails is a terrible distraction that pulls me out of the movie, breaks the mood, and destroys the meaning.

But let me be perfectly clear. This was not so with “The Grey”. You can tell from the first to the final scenes that Liam Neeson once had nails that were trimmed and clean as he kept himself groomed not only for himself, but also for the love of his life. In the end his hands are torn, stained with blood and dirt, the past embedded deep into his skin.

Those of us in the audience knew that these hands were attached to the same arms, the same body, the same scars, the same spirit all the way from the first frame to the ending shot after the credits. There was absolutely nothing that pulled me away or distracted me from the depth of the story.

Each of us as writers should always stay true to everything we set down in our writing. We can never be distracted while trying to fill our characters with the visions we imagine in our minds or what we seek for them in our hearts. We MUST cherish each word with clarity of what our readers will perceive. This is just an extension of the show don’t tell equation. And even though we know nothing is ever black or white, but every shade of grey, we owe our readers at the least that much.

All the way down to the fingernails.

Sharon Stevens

Getting Out the News

Outtakes 33

Getting Out the News

At one time or another, we volunteer to help with an organization’s fund raiser or special event. Once the committee learns we are writers, we are appointed to serve on the publicity committee. One would think writing press releases or commercial copy would come easily to a writer.  And of course we’re naturals for appearing on TV and radio. Not necessarily so. Even the experts have problems preparing quality announcements.

One only has to watch television ads to realize good spots are scarce. I’ve watched commercials that did not sell the product or service. Sometimes I didn’t even know the point of the advertisement. If the viewer is scratching his head at the end of the spot, the copy writer has failed his client. I’ve written copy over the years, some good, some not so great. This is what I’ve learned about writing ads and press releases. Simply approach the release as a story.

That’s it. Give it a beginning, middle, and an end. Ad classes say we should create the need (beginning), provide a solution (middle), and seal the deal (end). Keep it simple. Don’t leave out the details. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had to call a client to get event dates, location, times, or contact information. Omit this vital information, and the reader or listener is still in the dark. Proof read your copy for typo’s and transposed numbers. Phone numbers, email addresses, website information, street addresses and dates are easy targets for errors. Finally, make sure you submit the information at least 48 hours prior to the media’s deadline. Early submission gives the media reps the opportunity to verify information before the ad hits the air or newspaper.

Radio and television stations often provide slots on morning shows or talk news for non-profits and community organizations to promote events. Seize the opportunity! It’s not as frightening as you might think. Send a press release to the station so the producer has enough information to properly schedule your appearance. Make a few notes on index cards and keep them with you during the interviews. Arrive early so that the producer or interviewer can review the press release with you before going on the air. Relax. Be open and friendly. Listen to the interviewer’s questions before responding. Thank the interviewer for their time, and write a thank you note afterward.

One of the things I’m slowly learning is the value of social media. Press releases may be posted on Face Book or any of the numerous social media sites. If you send the message out to all of your friends, one of your contacts might share with their friends, who will share with their contacts. The potential is amazing. Linking to friends’ websites provides another avenue to promote the activity. Above all, it’s free publicity.

Good promotion takes time to prepare. It can make or break your event so don’t wait to the last minute to get started. Now if you will excuse me, I have a PSA and press release to write for Frontiers in Writing’s Let’s Write Weekend to be held June 29-30, 2012 at the Amarillo College Washington Street campus in Amarillo, Texas. Additional information may be found on our website,

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

Giving and Receiving Critiques: What to Expect

Giving and Receiving Critiques: Part 2:

Giving and Receiving Critiques: What to Expect

By Natalie Bright

WAS is a pesky little word. I had no idea how much I truly love the word WAS until I joined a critique group. Someone actually counted the number I had on one page and it wasn’t pretty. Then there were other pages with not one WAS in sight. Who knows what goes on in your brain during the writing process?

That is an example of what an honest and unbiased critique of your work can do for you; invaluable insight into your tendencies and quirks.  If you write humor, obviously you want people to laugh at the funny parts. What if they’re laughing in places you didn’t even realize were funny?

When you listen with an open mind, a critique group forces you to step away from your work. You must take the gutt-wrenching, personal feelings out of the process and develop a critical eye.  Critique members can help you do that.

Next week in Part 3; establishing ground rules for critique partners.

Natalie Bright

Politics and Life

 TRAILS END – The Novel

    Politics and Life

The political season is among us, and whether we are involved or not, or if we are informed or not, our daily lives are effected by election outcomes. I hope you are knowledgeable about the issues of this great and free country, and exercise your right to make your voice heard.

Cowboys have their political battles as well. Professional Rodeo holds elections for directors, event representatives, selection of top pickup men, bullfighters, contract acts, and a continuing barrage of rule changes and proposals. Also, the cowboys vote on the top timed event horses and bucking stock of the year awards. This is a specific part about the story of Trails End.

Jim Barnes, who is a hero in the eyes of Donnie Williams, is a veteran bronc rider and past event director. He campaigns for Trials End to be Bucking Horse of the Year. Although the owner of the horse is his close friend Jerome Jarrett, Jim believes the bronc deserves the title.

The current bronc riding director, the villain, won’t agree. His Uncle owns a rodeo company and he would rather promote a horse owned in the family. “Pretty Boy”, (nicknamed by Jim) refuses to acknowledge the ability of Trails End.

The award means substantial financial compensation and a significant upgrade to a rodeo company. This can lead to higher paying contracts and overall success.

Learn how this conflict develops, and see some of the politics of rodeo.

Thanks for reading,


A Delicious Torture


A Delicious Torture


I crave the pain.  Nothing can compare to this torture—the sweetness, the aching and the longing.  And I must have more, more, more.

I’m talking about the torture of the bookstore.  Inside the glass doors, among the page laden shelves, the torturer calls me.  It waits to dazzle my senses, blind me with colorful beauty and hypnotize me with the perfume of printed paper.  My fingers itch to touch and caress every single tome.  Even my hearing is involved.  The quietness of the store itself makes it possible to hear the books whisper their stories.

I look across the shelf at the bright colors and catchy titles whose sole purpose is to violently capture the attention of shoppers wandering through the aisles.  There have been times that I’ve seen, from the corner of my eye, a book move on the shelf and turn to watch me pass as if praying that I will pick it up. They beg to tell me their stories.  As I witness such extreme measures, how can I resist? Before I know what has happened, I have the book in my hands.

Then my fingers and ears twitch anxiously as my eyes search the cover.  How does it present itself?  What does the artwork say to me?  I measure the heft of the book and the warmth of the cover.  Does it appreciate my touch?  Turning the book over I examine the back and read whatever words are speaking to me.  Finally I open the pages to see the print and smell the feelings in the book—even adventure has a smell.

The torture of this exciting process is making a choice.  How I wish that I could take the entire store home with me.  There are about twenty books that I am seriously considering.  Which of these children, which of these little darlings is the most worthy? Aahh – the torture of deciding on one book from the entire store.

Wait a minute—here’s a shelf I haven’t seen.

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

Nandy Ekle