by Sharon Stevens

While going through used paperbacks at our bookstore I came across a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a bookmark I had tucked between one of the pages long ago. My memories instantly took me back. I remembered watching this version, the production by Franco Zeffirelli’s, at the movies on my fifteen birthday. Something stirred in my tender soul that night and it wasn’t just the scene where a naked Leonard Whiting (Romeo) rises from Juliet’s bed and greets the morning sunlight. I was overwhelmed not only with the words of Shakespeare, but the poetry, the settings, the costumes, and the way the dawn filtered through the sheer curtains of the bedchamber. All of it connecting me from that day to this moment, celebrating cinema and live theatre through the centuries. The story is timeless of two families struggling, torn with their beliefs ripping each other apart while destroying the very heart of the youth until all come together in grief.

The notes in this Scholastic book mentioned that Shakespeare borrowed the plot and characters from a long poem by Arthur Brooke called, “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, but the ancient story came from an Italian tale very much older than that.

Jennifer Yirak Ryen directed “Romeo and Juliet” this past year at Shakespeare in the Park at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t tell you what this meant for me to hear “A curse on both your houses” echo against the canyon walls, and to see the lights glint off the swords as they battled each other to the death. I think this is truly what Shakespeare envisioned as he read the “historye” and set his images to resound through the centuries. He wrote this play to be performed on a bare stage with minimal distractions from the periphery of our vision. In Palo Duro Canyon Jennifer did just that as Paul Green did over fifty years ago with TEXAS and Dave Yirak continues to this day. The play is the thing and the world is our stage.

Shakespeare never wasted a tragedy and as writers neither do we. We collect every thought, every scent, every memory, every pain, and every joy in between. We don’t celebrate misfortune, but we do rejoice in the friends and families that stood beside us as we struggle…those who brought us to the brink as well as those who held us back.

We can never know what someone may glean from something we had written. An image may come to mind that we weren’t anticipating, tugging at our hearts or gnawing at our soul. So many times I burst with excitement over a phrase and burst into tears with the next one. Who are we to judge what stirs a soul or drains a heart?

We can only write and hope that someday our writings will touch either a passion or a nerve and ignite a flame.

The musical drama TEXAS begins their season on June 2, 2012. Much has changed from year to year, but the passions remain the same. Dave Yirak, the artistic director, will again be guiding the cast and crew to perform for millions from around the world. Paul Green’s message as a writer of man against man, man against nature and man against himself has never gotten lost amid the controversies trying to divide the very foundation of our heritage. Even though the names of the actors, hospitality, front of the house and those behind the scenes may be different, Shakespeare will be front and center with the best seats in the house.

Sometime in the past I had tucked a quote in between the pages of “Romeo and Juliet” to hold my place. Where ever that place was I have forgotten long ago.  I wondered why in the world I had marked that certain spot. What did I notice, what caught my eye, what was in my heart? The quote was from “The Lost Colony”, a symphonic drama and the accompanying article written in the July 1960 Reader’s Digest by Alan Rankin about Paul Green.  Margaret Harper was moved by the words and she and her husband Ples visited with Margaret and William Moore about asking Green to come to Palo Duro Canyon to see if he would write a play to be performed with the spirit of our heritage.

Green asked for a packet of material to be sent to him so he could get a feel of the legacy that surrounds us. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum gathered material from all his sources and sent it on. The museum will be holding their, “Night At The Museum” on June 1 & 2nd from 9:00-10:30pm. All the lights are turned down and everyone brings a flashlight to explore the museum in all its glory.

I treasure TEXAS and all it stands for. I marvel at the majesty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rejoice in the men, women and children that encompass the cast and crew past and future. I know that each time I walk the grounds leading to the entrance to the amphitheater, as God and John Wayne are my witness I know without a doubt that there will be something that will touch my soul and bring back a memory.

Maybe I will use it in a story or maybe I will store it in my heart, and come across it sometime in the future when I open the page of a book and turn to the placed I marked so long ago.

I truly think Shakespeare will be proud.

Sharon Stevens

An Invitation

Outtakes 44

An Invitation

I believe in writers’ conferences. A conference is one of the best ways to meet fellow writers, catch up on publishing trends, and network. I would like to extend an invitation to all of you to attend Panhandle Professional Writers annual Frontiers in Writing conference to be held June 28-30, 2012 in the College Union Building on the Amarillo College Washington Street Campus in Amarillo Texas.

The Let’s Write Weekend kicks off on Thursday evening, June 28, with a first-timers orientation from 7:30-8:30 PM at Barnes & Noble Booksellers I-40 West and Soncy Road.  Barnes and Noble will also host a book signing from 7:30-9:30 PM on Thursday.

Registration begins at 8:30 AM on Friday, June 29. The Friday “Get Down to Business” seminars focus on the business of writing.  Topics include Story; Self-editing; Publishing 101; Copyright and Publishing Law; Research for non-fiction writers; How to get noticed; Plotting; and Rejection.

Sessions on Saturday, June 30 center on the Craft of writing. Topics include fast draft;  Perfect crimes and Real police procedure; Person, tense and depth; Poetry; Social media; Characterization; Plotting from A to Z.

Arizona author, freelance editor, instructor, and poet , Harvey Stanbrough will keynote the Friday luncheon as well as conduct sessions on Friday and Saturday. Harvey will conduct a bonus session from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM on Sunday, July 1 at the Ambassador Hotel I-40 West and Paramount. Cost for the workshop is $45.00.

Jodi Thomas, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of 35 books keynotes the Friday night banquet. A popular speaker, Jodi is the winner of 4 RITA’s from the Romance Writers of America. She currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A& M University in Canyon Texas.

Keynote speaker for the Saturday luncheon is entertainment journalist, Candace Havens. Her columns appear in more than 600 newspapers. She is the author of six novels for Berkley, and currently writes for the Blaze line for Harlequin. She will present workshops on both Friday and Saturday.

John Erickson, Texas Panhandle rancher and author of HANK THE COWDOG series, will close Frontiers in Writing with a session at 3:30 in the Ordway Auditorium on the Amarillo College campus. The session will be open to the public. Conference registrants and children will be admitted free of charge. Cost for adults is $10.00. Erickson wrote short stories, novels, articles, plays, and essays before starting his own publishing company in his garage in Perryton TX. HANK THE COWDOG has sold well over 8 Million copies and is still going strong.

Other speakers for the Let’s Write Weekend include:

Former acquiring editor turned ghost writer, Hilary Sares

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda

Intellectual properties attorney, Christ Stewart

Former criminal investigator, now author, Jeff Campbell

Barnes and Noble Public Relations manager, Jim Gleason

Web designer and social media guru, Billy Goforth

Song writer and award-winning author Joe Douglas Trent

Teacher, nurse, and author Mary Lou Cheatham

Inspirational writer Craig Keel and horror author Nancy Keel

Additional information, schedules and registration forms may be found on the Panhandle Professional Writers website panhandleprowriters.org. Registration fee for the two days includes 2 lunches and the Friday banquet. Special pricing is available for single day attendees.

Our conference chair, Natalie Bright, and her committee have planned a great event. We hope you will make your plans to attend the Let’s Write weekend. We’d love to meet you.

Cait Collins




I gaze into the eyes of the beast searching to find its soul. I am caught in the childhood game of “the first one who blinks looses,” yet he shows no emotion, no rising of brow, no blinking or shedding of tears, just a long menacing stare.

The creature’s leering eye grows brighter with every passing moment, seemingly intent on seeing the space of my existence. My vision is full of his sight, yet I see nothing.

I study his unrelenting look, my mind searching the far corners and deep recesses, constantly swirling, struggling to find some strategy, or weapon or even one simple word that might defeat my enemy and win this mind-numbing battle.

The desire to close my eyes tugs at the lids. The moisture surrounding my orbs in their sockets has become dry and I struggle against the urge to rub them. The creature shows no signs of weakening and continues to counter every glance.

Without my consent, sudden darkness is all I see. I blink. I am immediately torn between two emotions. First, relief. Moist droplets flood my eyes like waters of the sea crashing onto the shore. The fetters that once restrained the rubbing of my eyelids have now been unfastened.

And second, In the darkness of my blink, dread fills my mind as I wait for the wrath of my opponent to be unleashed. Or perhaps he has already struck with such a swift penalty that I didn’t feel the pain. In the deafening silence I dare to open my eyes. To my surprise I find that it was not I who blinked first, but the computer screen upon which I placed these words.

Rory C. Keel

The Ten Best from DFWcon 2012

The Ten Best from DFWcon 2012

By Natalie Bright

Based on the sessions I attended, here’s a list on the best things about DFWcon 2012:

1) Over 400 creative people all in one conference center.

2) “Creativity is not a bucket, it’s a river. Jump in.” Jodi Thomas

3) “Fiction is a reality in me; a very real part of my life.” Jodi Thomas [www.jodithomas.com]

4) “Every author should have at least three pieces of social media, and it doesn’t really matter which. Start with a website and build from there.” Fred Campos [www.funcitysocialmedia.com]

5) “Don’t go anywhere without your book. You are the advertising agency for your book, and you must get comfortable with that process.” Cheryl Ammeter, author of  steampunk, Ivey and The Airship. [http://www.aethersedge.com/]

6) “Horses, most particularly stallions, are hyper aware of everything around them.” The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make about Horses, by Becky Burkheart.

7) “The key to success is take control and keep submitting.” James Rollins [www.jamesrollins.com]

8) “The only excuse you have to NOT write is death or a coma, and even if you’re in a coma you should still be thinking about your story.”  Candace Havens [www.candacehavens.com]

9) “People of the past felt differently about everyday issues. Life was dirtier, more physically demanding, and more dangerous.” Jennie Goloboy, agent and historian.

10) Over 400 crazed book people all in one conference center.

Great conference!

Natalie Bright


Back To Basics


Back To Basics

Think back to the first thought you had of writing. I’m not talking about the assigned theme about how you spent your summer vacation. I’m not talking about the essay explaining photosynthesis. And I’m not talking about the lines you may have had to write declaring that you would not talk out in class.

What I am talking about is the little paragraph you put together about who said what during lunch. Think about the notes you wrote your friends telling them the latest gossip. Remember the stories you told each other during PE and recess.


Sometimes the best inspiration is where it’s always been, at the beginning. One of the things that used to really stir the story pot in my head was a blue ink pen and a brand new Big Chief Tablet. That was definitely one of the most thrilling things in the world. I could take that medium point pen and the paper with the newsprint texture and whole new worlds full of interesting people opened up. The beautiful blue ink nearly jumped from my pen onto the tablet forming words and sentences, paragraphs and pages. I never experienced a stuck moment as long as I had those tools.

What brought the writer out in you? Did you have a certain favorite paper and ink color? Was it a favorite song? favorite character? a fun assignment? Did you and your friends share stories back and forth? Whatever it was, find it again and feel the magic start all over again. I can almost guarantee that your words will make their way through that blockade that has caused them to huddle in a corner waiting to be pulled out and put down on that page.

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

Nandy Ekle



by Sharon Stevens

When I started working on my Wordsmith Six blog for this week I knew I wanted to center it around Clyde and Grace Warwick. This wonderful couple will have a historical marker placed in their honor at the site of the Canyon News on May 26, 2012 by Harold and Wanda Root on behalf of the Randall County Historical Commission.

All week I had gone back and forth between the Canyon newspaper, Amarillo Globe News, United Methodist Church, Haley’s Printing, Canyon Public Library, the Randall County Story, and the Internet. I could have asked anyone, and I mean anyone to direct me for research. Lynne Guy, the historian for the Methodist Church could have given me so many leads to pursue. Warren Stricker, Archivist at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum would have given me document after document regarding the Warwick family and their contributions to the museum. At the Cornette Library on the campus of WTAMU I could have pored, literally poured over the bound issues of the Canyon News tomes housed there, and each and every staff member would have pulled related articles from the shelves. The Panhandle Press Association would have dug through their history to enlighten me.

Whew! What a journey this has been.

I realized I couldn’t pull just one memory to share. The Warwicks and the Haley’s were not only the most wonderful people involved in every aspect of our community, but they lived their faith and breathed their dedication. They are buried out at Dreamland Cemetery, but their legacy lives on and will for eternity. When I read old issues of when they were editors of the newspaper the writings shimmer and dance off the printed page, vibrant and alive and filled with the very essence of the journalistic spirit.

And this is the point and the guide of every newspaper and every journalist from time eternal. It is absolutely unreal how many avenues of documentation you can connect with for any direction you care to link. Take “The Randall County Story” written by Mrs. Warwick. After my copy disappeared I had the hardest time finding one to takes its place. Rebecca Harp, Mrs. Warwick’s granddaughter told me they were finally able to make arrangements with the University of North Texas at Denton to digitalize the book to make it available on the internet as a mission of their Portal to Texas History Project. Since then I have checked to verify stories and resources and names and family connections with just a click of my mouse any hour or minute of any given day or night.

One of my favorite people in the book was our neighbor where I was raised. Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cumming had such a wonderful influence on me and touched my life deeply. When she first came to this area she was going to teach art at Goodnight College. Charles and Molly Goodnight invited her out to supper and after visiting with Dr. and Phebe Warner (Panhandle Professional Writers) she took a tour of the JA Ranch with Goodnight. I loved her expression as an artist, and this is a direct quote from The Randall County Story the way it was told to Glenna Wilson.

“I remember so well about the evening meal;” She reminisced. “The way the lemonade looked in the pitcher. There was milk in a pitcher too, homemade light bread, fresh roast beef, honey from their own hives, turnip greens grown in the garden and jelly and preserves from the fruit of their own orchard.”

With any research I could investigate honey, or turnip greens or the Goodnights or lemonade for that matter. In only seconds I could connect with heritage and legacies, family or pioneers. It doesn’t matter, I could, I CAN link and share with ease. The hardest part is to focus and condense, but that will always be my downfall. No matter, I can find a self-help instruction manual for writers. I can’t say I will abide by it, but I can find it.

None of this may be newsworthy to the reader, but then again you never know what will inspire a heart at what moment, or how it may touch their soul. Don’t underestimate the power and insight of those who cherish the written word, and don’t attempt to choose their memories for them, but celebrate their interest and passion.

Please come to the dedication in honor of the Warwicks of the historical marker at the Canyon News office on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10.00. Celebrate everything related to writing. And if you have an extra moment go across the street and stand on the News mosaic at the threshold of Haley’s Printing, next door to Stevens Flowers. Haley’s will be closed on Saturday, but come back again and make copies and marvel at the legacy that Mike Miller continues to perpetuate as he and his family prints all the newsletters, all the graduation or wedding announcements, and every funeral card for the funeral homes. You will be amazed what a strong and committed Canyon business they are to this day.

In the Randall County Story Grace Warwick once wrote in her Canyon News column, “Around the Town,” she mentioned some of the things in life to which she hoped always to thrill; and in closing she wrote: “And when I can no longer thrill to these, the simple joys that complete my life, then give me patience, God, to bear my cross until the fire that burns within my soul consumes the clay that can no longer feel.”

Sharon Stevens

Trivial Pursuit

Outtakes 43

Trivial Pursuit

I love Trivial Pursuit. It seems I can recall tons of irrelevant facts, but forget the important information. I have come to realize that I never want to quit learning these little bits of information. Will I ever need to know the name of the most decorated soldier in World War II? Probably not, but it is a Trivial Pursuit question,  and Audie Murphy is the answer. And who can forget losing a tournament to two guys who missed every literary question, and then come up with Tom, Dick, and Harry in response to a Dickens question. That’s the fun of the game.

If, like me, you have a head full of trivia, use it! I pulled old ad slogans for HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW.  What’s wrong with deserving a break today? Or taking a licking and keep on ticking? It’s simple and the reader can relate to the slogans.

Famous quotes also work. I keep my copy of BRTLETT’S FAMOUS QUOTATIONS  handy when I’m working on difficult scenes. I can research by key words or author. It’s not always necessary to use a whole quote. “My dear, I don’t give a…” will always make me envision a dashing Rhett Butler. “I’ll think about it tomorrow…” brings thoughts of Scarlett O’Hara. The point is to use whatever you have to enhance your writing. And when you borrow, don’t use the quotes in a derogatory manner. Respect the original author.

Cait Collins

Where do I start?

 Where do I start?

This is a common question by those who want to write a book. With all the many instructions and how-to’s out there, let me suggest three simple Ideas.

Develop a THEME for your book.

First, develop a theme for your story. Theme is different than subject in that it expresses a purpose or intent of the subject. For example, your subject might be a run-away girl, but your theme might be, “There’s no place like home.” The theme is what ties your plot and characters together.

Develop the PLOT

Develop the Plot or the action of your story. The plot is not equivalent to conflict, but is a series of dilemmas or encounters, which may include conflict, that helps your main character to evolve through their needs and motivations.


These are the people who reveal your theme. They connect with the reader by their traits and inner qualities described by the writer in a believable way. By matching their characteristics with the theme and running them through the plot, they must change in some recognizable way.

These three intertwined together will form a satisfying story. So let’s get started!

Rory C. Keel

Author Platform

Author Platform

By Natalie Bright

You’ve heard the term author platform many times. For most people in

business, it takes years to build connections. Many of the vast
opportunities in social media are free, allowing you to build your platform
before you need to be known as a public person.

Writing is the hardest thing you’ll ever do and marketing yourself is even
more difficult. The writing part, you probably can’t help. The marketing
part can be learned and you can work on promotion at the pace you feel
comfortable with.

Fame before the Pub Credit

While you’re working on that great novel, have you considered some of the
other things you can do that will create a fan base and a professional name
for yourself? Every one of the connections you make now equals potential
customers in years to come.

The key to remember is that social media is “social”. You can promote
yourself certainly, and more importantly you can network with other
professionals, discover new favorite authors, communicate with people all
over the world, and find endless knowledge by reading blogs on a array of
topics. It’s an information overload!

Wordsmith Six Blog

The members of my writers critique group started a blog in August of last
year.  To be honest, I held out as long as I could on the blogging and
tweeting. In my mind, it made more sense to use every spare second writing
my stories. I was worried that I might have just so many words in me.

Jumping In to Blogging

Today, I have a totally different opinion. Within my writers critique group,
we decided to  make a concentrated effort to join the social world out there
and start a blog. We didn’t want to be just one in a zillion. First we did
some homework.

Successful Bloggers

After much discussion over the course of several meetings we came to the
following conclusions:

1) most high traffic sites have a specific theme whether it be political,
mommy bloggers, marketing, crafts, etc.
2) we picked a theme: writing and our journey to publication
3) good bloggers, who have lots of followers, are consistent
4) high traffic blogs have interesting information, and since the members of
our critique group write in many different genres, we felt it would lend a
variety and uniqueness to our posts.
5) the numbers are important, but not something to obsess over. The main
thing you can learn from the statistical analysis is the best times to post
and what topics generate the most hits. Interestingly enough, our highest
traffic seems to be around 2:00 PM in the afternoon.
6) the most popular

Based on the results, we’re doing good and we hope to do better.  Every day
we gain more followers.  Thanks for following us!


Natalie Bright

Let Me Show You Something


Let Me Show You Something

I have something to show you. Come closer, a little closer. Good Now get comfortable. It may sound strange, but you have to close your eyes to see this. Ready? All right, let’s begin.

In order for you to see the things I want you to see and hear the sounds I want you to hear, I am going to draw and paint with my words. Here goes. I’ll use lots of colors and sounds. Do you feel the wind on your face? Can you smell the new air yet? Yes, that’s it. Do you hear the sounds I hear? Yes, yes, that’s it. Okay, open your eyes.

You are now in this world I have created. I meant for this particular world to be beautiful and full of color and scents and sounds. I believe there are some birds in that tree—bright reds and blues in the branches that vibrate with green. And the color of the dirt, have you ever seen it so black? It could almost be velvet. And look at the sun—you see, in my world you can look directly at the sun and never suffer—and how beautiful it is.

And the smells! Did you know the green could smell so green? And up there are some wild flowers growing all over the hillside with the sweetest perfume in this world.

Can you hear the birds sing while the children play in the park? What? You overlooked the park? Well come with me and I’ll show you. It’s up the hill, just a ways. The children are playing on the swings and the slide and the merry-go-round. They’re smiling and laughing; oh, they have such musical laughter! They all get along and run and play together. The jungle-gym over in that corner is covered with kids climbing, hanging by their knees, and just sitting soaking up the sun.

Did you notice their parents and nannies? I think we’ll call them the “watchers.” The mothers and some dads, some nannies, some teenagers doing their homework are all over to the side of the park next to the sandbox. They visit and talk, each one lovingly mentioning the name of their child over and over again.

Do you like the world I have made here? This is why I write.

Nandy Ekle