An Inspirational Book


An Inspirational Book

It might as well be midnight for me. I get up very early in the morning, work an eight-hour job, cook dinner when I get home (and other domestic activities), work a couple of craft projects for friends , and then settle with the computer in my lap. And then it hits me. I have not written my blog and my brain has already counted down, said its prayers and gone to bed.

I reach for the little green book that stays near my writing space: The Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood.

This book is a life saver. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to Ms. Wood for help, and been sent on my way with a pocket full of inspirational ideas from the pages of her book. Just one tiny little nugget catches my attention tonight: “Write a piece – fiction or nonfiction, poetry, or script – in which three objects exist at the beginning and only one at the end.” I read it several times and begin to feel something inside my head split and unwind like an orange peel.

First, I’ll find three random homemade objects with absolutely no connection, then I’ll make up a connection for them. A couple of characters line up and their dialogue escalates the story into, um, a misunderstanding which leads to a couple of the children disliking each other. Two objects disappear and the kids must find them before the bell rings at 3:00 sending them home.

Now it’s your turn to write something from one of Monica’s amazing jam-packed idea book. Ready? Here it is:  “Write about a person whose reputation rests on the appearance of an inanimate object.”

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

Nandy Ekle




by Sharon Stevens

“Tiffany’s blue box is a slogan without words.”

Words of Wisdom by Seth Godin

from Advertising Creative, Strategy, Copy, Design

by Tom Altstiel & Jean Grow

My husband and I were eating out at Jason’s Deli recently and I watched as a young mother tried to corral two little girls at their table. Juggling with keeping them seated in their chairs and retrieving upended juice boxes was a wistful and precious sight especially since our days of parenting were long past. Not wanting to intrude on their frustration I returned to my salad and conversation with my husband until I heard the woman quietly tell her daughter to sit down and eat her supper. (How many times have I said those same words?) But when she called the little child by name my heart absolutely melted as it was warmed with memories of long ago.

Molly. Such a simple symbol, and an old one at that. I didn’t think anyone named their children with such an unassuming, gender specific heirloom in this day and age. It only took a moment for me to be flooded with incredible tenderness at the mere mention of this old-fashioned name.

Instantly I remembered a little red, Radio Flyer wagon, a neighbor, lilacs, cottonwoods and a kindness without detail. Every sweet memory I have of childhood is related to Molly and then glory, rejoicing, sunshine, and the artistry of colors, so many colors, every color of the rainbow. I see it. I feel it. I smell it. I hear it. I even taste it. That’s what the sound of her name and her link to the little red wagon means to me.

I could never relate to a Tiffany box. My family doesn’t run in these circles. Hardly any of my friends connect to it either. On second thought, none of my friends, family or acquaintances would recognize such an item. As far as I know this kind of box can only be seen on Antique Roadshow on PBS where they are always reminding the public that the item is WAY more valuable if it comes in the original package.  And we don’t put much stock into this either, not because any of us are poor. We just don’t want to spend any extra money on a luxury that gives nothing in return.

The artist Jack Sorenson explains that it is so important to him to paint a picture that instantly tells a story to everyone who sees it. In his artwork you feel warmth, and love, sometimes a little high-jinks, but all in good fun, never ugly, no despair, just some good old-fashioned, down home thoughts.

As writers we must try to convey the theme and mood of our piece to our target audience. If you are writing about wealth and riches, by all means write about the Tiffany box, but then again pay close attention to the heart of your story. Even a sweet remembrance like O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” can be revived with a new twist to an age old tale. It’s the name of Tiffany that tells you someone is more than just a spendthrift with nose-up-in-the-air haughty, with lavish lifestyles, designer gowns of incredible red carpet sparkle, jewels with heavy bling from head to toe, and mega million dollar mansions. The blue box is the status symbol, but you have to have what goes inside before you can truly relate. They don’t just sell the box.

But give me the image of a little red, Radio Flyer wagon any day of the week. And send me those who fit into that vintage category and who enjoy simplicity and childhood memories as well.

These are my kind of people…the ones who will name their child Molly. After all,  a rose by any other name…

Sharon Stevens


Outtakes 57


It’s that time of year when there’s little new on television. Reruns, reality shows, and repeats of repeats of the same old movies fill the schedules. When I saw the promotions for Longmire on A&E, I thought it sounded interesting. At the very least, it would be new. I caught the last couple of episodes and was intrigued with the characters and setting. There was a beautiful starkness to the cinematography and an intriguing perfection in the characters and dialogue. I hoped the series would be picked up for a second season.

I was surprised to learn the author of the Walt Longmire mysteries, Craig Johnson, would be speaking in Amarillo as part of the Amarillo Public Library’s summer Amarillo Reads program. Since I was impressed with the series, I looked forward to hearing from the author. As I took notes from Craig’s presentation, I started thinking, “If the guy writes the way he speaks, his books will be great.” I have just finished the first book, THE COLD DISH, and can state I am not disappointed.  Craig Johnson is a master story teller. His novel combines the best of distinct, interesting characters; spot-on dialogue minus tag lines; Indian lore; the harsh beauty of Wyoming and Montana; and a big anti-hero. I am hooked. Thank goodness there are seven more Walt Longmire mysteries to read.

I’m a speed reader. I can read a four-hundred page novel in a matter of hours if there are no interruptions. However, I found my reading slowed because I was savoring the description. Johnson has found the perfect balance between too much and not enough description. I hiked the trails around the lakes and through the mountains with Sheriff Walt Longmire as he and Henry Standing Bear searched for a witness. I felt the bone-chilling, mind-numbing cold as he carried an injured man to safety. I felt his pain and uncertainty as the decision was made to leave his badly wounded friend on the mountain during a blizzard. I hurt at the unexpected end.

After finishing THE COLD DISH, I realized the author had skillfully woven three of the great story themes, man against man, man against nature, and man against himself, without confusing or blurring the plot’s twist and turns. Normally, I detect the perp by the middle of the book. This plot was so well hatched, I never suspected the killer’s identity. I consider that the essence of great writing. I look forward to reading the next book DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY. I can’t wait for season two of the A&E series Longmire.  In the words of Lonnie Little Bird, “Yes, it is so.”

Cait Collins

Try living with your character

Try living with your character

When creating a character try this exercise.

As you build a character, or characters, you should be able to see them and answer questions about them. As you take action and make choices during the day, do the same with your character.

What do you eat for breakfast? Does your character eat breakfast? What foods do they like or dislike?

Do you wear a particular style of clothes? What does your character WEAR? Why do they like to wear them?

Do you go to the store? Where does your character shop and what do they buy?

What do you do for fun, sports or hobbies? What about your character?

What’s important is NOT what the character did, but what you learned about what you know about the character.

Rory C. Keel

Promoting YOU is Business

Promoting YOU is Business

By Natalie Bright

When my story “The Race” was selected for Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul, I realized few have heard my name, but everyone knew about this international series. Following is a list of tips for organizing a promotion in your town or neighborhood.

1. Compile a mailing list NOW.

Gather addresses for a mailing list, or email list, into a database that is user friendly now. Don’t wait until you need it. It should be versatile for printing labels or for sending email notices. Everyone you meet is a potential consumer of your work either at the present time or in the future. Continually add and update names to keep your list current.

2. Think outside the bookstore.

Consider holding a book signing in unique places that have a direct connection to the work you are promoting. Our local Wal-Mart was so excited about hosting a local author, they even provided fresh flowers and goodies for the table. We scheduled the event around Mother’s Day. Other different kinds of stores might be willing to host an autographing. What about scrapbook store, floral shop, or espresso bar?

3. Plan a merchandise tie-in.

Inexpensive give-aways to coordinate with your book are fun and will add a unique component to your event. My toddler, eating nothing but fish crackers, inspired my story in Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul. The store manager contacted a vendor, who agreed to provide free crackers for the autographing.

4. 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. On the day before Mother’s Day, the time of my event 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.

5. Spread the Word.

You’d think that most locales would do everything they can to promote the events they’re hosting. In reality, that is not always the case. Never depend on the store to do all of the promotion. They have other deadlines, work duties, and they’re as busy as you. I know the truth stings a little, but your event might not be a huge priority on the list. Instead, you might have to make it easy for store owners to help you sell books by providing flyers, press releases to the local newspaper, etc. Never underestimate the power of “buzz”. Your family, friends, and fellow writers will generate talk about your event. Social media is FREE so take advantage of the medium. Ask people to “share” or “retweet”.

I’ve been an organizer for several author events and I’m always shocked at the number of people who don’t feel they need to help with promotion. A post on Facebook, linkedIn, quick email or several tweets is so easy these days. Why would you not want to tell all of your social connections when and where you’ll be signing your book?

6. Get personal.

I think personal contact is crucial to a successful promotion on the local level. Contact bookstore managers, provide them with the ISBN number, and outline your plans to promote the book. I was turned down by the manager of our local bookstore chain because he couldn’t find the Chicken Soup title in his computer, however because of someone I knew who knew the Wal-Mart Manager, my event came together. Store managers may require several memory joggers because your event is not the only issue in their busy day. Be considerate, but be persistent. For example, after a telephone conversation follow up with a letter outlining the specifics of your event. In addition, always do what you say you will do. Build a cooperative reputation right from the start and don’t take anything personal. It’s business.

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 a copy for her and her daughter 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.

Natalie Bright

Passing Time


Passing Time

This room is gray, gray as in dull, colorless non-white. Drab walls and drab carpet, buff colored desks and glass windows letting in the gray light from the overcast sky.

Against one wall is a black metal book shelf holding numerous books of different sizes, colors fonts and genres. There is a space between two books in the middle of the shelf. This space is the exactly the size of another book, which is not in its place. It is missing.

As I look closer a the titles, I see that the owner has kept the books in order by titles in their various series. I wonder which title is missing and where it could be.

This is an illustration of what to write when you don’t know what to write. Start describing a room in as intricate detail as you can. Every single time I’ve done this exercise, I have seen sudden threads of stories begin to show up, and before I know what has happened, I have a plot and a character.

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

Nandy Ekle

Tourist Tracks

Outtakes 56

Tourist Tracks


We had a new family visit our congregation recently. I was talking with the wife regarding the area, and she asked about the town and things they should know. I told her I worked near the tourist bureau and would pick up the information she needed. I had not been to the Texas Tourist Bureau since they moved into their new facility. I could not believe the information available for Texas travelers. The racks were divided into the seven geographical areas of Texas: Panhandle Plains, Big Bend Country, Hill Country, South Texas Plains, Gulf Coast, Piney Woods, and Prairies and Lakes. No matter where he plans to travel, the visitor can easily find pamphlets on places of interest.

The travel assistant prepared a packet for the new comers and then handed a booklet to me. “You’ll need one of these for yourself,” she stated. I checked the title; Texas Events Calendar Fall 2012. Doesn’t sound like much, but I now have a list of events across the state that might be helpful for researching story locations and historic sites. I know which events are day trips and which will require longer stays. I’ve started marking my calendar with events that interest me as a writer and ones that just sound fun.

I never considered the Tourist Bureau as a source for research, but now I must reconsider the value of these facilities. Getting to know the state’s geography, geology, archeology, and history will add color to my writing.  Contact information provided in the guides might lead to experts in specialized fields who will have answers to my questions.

While state tourist bureaus do not have locations in every city, local Chambers of Commerce will have information on the area. Every state has a Convention and Visitors Bureau that will be able to send information on state events and historic locales. Email them and they will forward brochures and guides to you. In this day of on-line access to information, obtaining brochures and events calendars from state and local agencies may seem unnecessary, but the information might be the very thing a writer needs to add sparkle to his writing.

Cait Collins

What’s Good about Goodreads?

Monday Musings:

What’s Good about Goodreads?

By Natalie Bright

A deep love of books is what distinguishes Goodreads from the other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. According to their website: “A home for casual readers and bona-fide bookworms alike, Goodreads users recommend books, compare what they are reading, keep track of what they’ve read and would like to read, find their next favorite book, form book clubs and much more.”

Launched in January 2007, it boasts of more than 7 million readers.


As a reader you can keep track of books you want to read and post reviews for your favorites. Join the conversations or check out what your friends are reading for additions to your To Be Read list. I find myself turning to the reviews on Goodreads before any others. The posts are by people who love to read, and I find their comments honest and . It’s like being a part of a gigantic book club.


As a writer, it’s a fun promotional opportunity to discover new readers. Join the book discussions and meet readers, possibly making contacts with people who might like to read what you write. Do your own market research and learn about what’s new and popular in your genre.

Beware Your Words

Just a reminder that what you post on the internet is there forever. You may not particularly like a certain author or the plot line or the ending. Odds are there’s someone else who totally disagrees with your opinion. I usually read two to four books a week, however I only post reviews for my absolute favorites.  And even then, I’ve noticed that my absolute favorites have 1 and 2 star reviews.  Stories are everywhere these days thanks to eBooks. It’s a great thing to be a kind and gentle reader.

Happy reading!

Natalie Bright

Connect with Natalie on Goodreads:




Picture a girl covered in filthy rags and smudges of dirt on her face. We don’t know if she’s beautiful or not because of the stringy hair that covers her eyes and the spots of dirt and ash on her cheeks. This is our story’s first draft, like when you are in a hurry to get supper cooked and ingredients and silverware seem to land all over the kitchen.

Now you take a warm wet wash cloth and wash your girl’s face. You brush and arrange her hair. Then you take the dirty rags she wears and burn them, handing her a fine ball gown that glistens and sparkles and heralds perfection. You dress her in that gown and step back and say, “What a perfect beauty I have created!”

Of course, the metaphor is easy to see. You have edited and re-edited and re-edited your story and brought it to the closest thing to perfection you have ever read. And you’re bursting with pride.

So the next thing you do with your beautiful perfect princess-like girl is shove her in a closet and lock the door. This is what happens when you suffer from submitaphobia.

The only cure for such a disease is to remove the –aphobia and send your darling out to the ball. She will never meet the prince locked in the closet.

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

Nandy Ekle




by Sharon Stevens

You must live on Mars if you don’t know that public school will begin soon. The season comes around every year and we are still taken aback as we face the crowds filled with desperate parents, school lists in hand and disgruntled children in tow, frantically searching for supplies and clothes.

Teachers have been attending in-services and getting their rooms ready whether they teach little ones or secondary. I imagine the dread and elation is much the same for either or. All wonder where their summer disappeared to, and when it will return again.

I love teachers! I treasure their kindness, their firmness, and the knowledge they share. I love my children’s teachers, my friends that are teachers, and teachers wherever they teach. You find each in all walks of life on every level, and every faith.

When our fellow blogger, Natalie Bright, reminded us that we were celebrating a year of blogging with Wordsmith Six blog I thought back to all of the words written this year by each one of us and I celebrate the stories attached to each. Just think, I may have missed out on all of this if it wasn’t for a teacher.

In the middle of first grade we had to move from Canyon to Amarillo and I had to settle into a new school. For some reason I had struggled in Canyon, but blossomed in a different environment. My mom told me later that I couldn’t read and it was the teacher that helped me to figure out what was wrong. Mom said I couldn’t change simple words like cat, to fat, to mat, to rat etc. But once I figured that out I just flew. I loved to read, and from that day on I read everything, even cereal boxes. The library and I became best friends. Teachers are wonderful everywhere and I am sure if I had stayed in Canyon they would have figured out and worked with me, but it was Mrs. Carmody who showed the way.

So this is my homage to all the teachers everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you teach in the home, Sunday School, private or public school. Please know we cherish you and wish you the most wonderful year. And even though you may be faced with terrible restrictions, state mandates, and ugliness from every avenue imaginable, we cherish the gifts you share.

And in honor of all I wish to leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Sharon Stevens