Say What?

Outtakes 55 
Say What?

I’m an Air Force brat. My father served 26 years in the Army Air Corps and the Air Force. We did some traveling; mostly south to north and back again. Dad was assigned to a three-year stint in St. John’s, Newfoundland, an island province of Canada, but that’s a separate story. You see the military views things a little differently than civilians. Someone might ask about your hometown, but the service views you as Air Force regardless of age, sex, or state of origin. Imagine how difficult is for Southern-Air Force to be stationed in Northern Air Force.

As Southern Air Force (Texas-born, Louisiana cultured), I was raised to say ‘Ya’ll come’, ‘Thank you kindly, sir.’ ‘ Mom’s cooking up a mess of turnip greens and ham,’ ‘the skillet’s hot and ready to fry up some chicken’, or ‘I sure do love corn bread and sweet milk’. Unfortunately, the good citizens of Bangor, Maine, considered my terminology quite colorful. Of course, I had the same issues with Maine-speak, especially if the speaker was from down-east Maine. My teacher told me I needed red shots for gym. Cas were paked in the paking lot. Shooting stas could be seen in winter. We went to Ba Haba on Saturday. Quick translation: Red shots are red shorts. Cars were parked in the parking lot. Shooting stars can be seen in winter. And we went to Bar Harbor on Saturday. No wonder I nearly failed spelling! It seems strange that a country whose primary language is English is full of dialects and colloquialisms. Then again, the regional differences in our language are a gold mine for writers.

Can you imagine Scarlet O’Hara without her sweet southern belle smile and “Oh, Rhett, I do love you.”  Or “I want everyone to be pea green with envy.” I also enjoyed the Closer’s Brenda Lee Johnson’s syrup-sweet “I’m doing just fine, thank you, but you on the other hand are under arrest.” What about President Kennedy’s cultured Boston accent? Californians have their special vocabulary. Sarah Palin speaks with a wonderful homey twang. Sprinkling these regional dialects and phrases in our stories adds color and enhances the setting. It brings realism to the work.  Just don’t over-do it. There is a balance that should be maintained.

I say all this as I work on my contemporary cowboy story.  In Texas, a filly could be a young female horse or a young lady. Is wushin’ my dirty clothes appropriate? I know we must greeze the axle on the hay-hauler. But if I order a soda, will I get a Dr. Pepper or a Big Red? Will the sky fall if I plan a bar-b-q on Friday night during high school football season? Such an action is sacrilegious and a hanging offense if a town’s team is in the state play-offs. Is referring to the protagonist’s girlfriend as ‘ugly as a mud fence’ too much an insult? When in doubt, I’ll consult Lou Hudson’s SPEAK TEXAN IN 30 MINUTES OR LES. I just have to be sure my good friends up North know that Texans no longer tie their horses to the hitchin’ post in front of the livery stable. We now drive trucks and park them in the parking lot.

Cait Collins

Beginning, Middle and End – WHAT A RIDE!

A story has a beginning, middle and an end.

Make a brief outline answering these questions to create a story skeleton to build upon.

  1. The Beginning: What event happens to person, that creates a problem or a need?
  2. The Middle: What struggle does the character face in solving the problem or the need?
  3. The End: How is this person changed and what have they learned as a result of the struggle?

This is where the story is made. Imagine the process like a roller coaster. The reader’s attention is captured by the alluring promises made by the title and then they are locked into their seat at the beginning of the ride. Tension builds as the chain’s click-clack pulls them higher into the problem, and then drops them into the middle of the story where there’s no turning back. The reader struggles back and forth, and then up and down along with the characters to solve the problem. The ride then comes to an end where there is resolution showing a change created by the struggle.

Rory C. Keel

Happy Blog-iversary to us!

Happy Blog-iversary to us! 

We’re Celebrating the Big 1!

By Natalie Bright

We are a diverse group of writers actively writing and critique together. We started WordsmithSix Blog on August 1, 2011 with the goal to share our love of the written word.

I have to admit that I was very reluctant to start blogging, mainly because of the commitment. I’m of the opinion that if you volunteer to do something, you follow it through to the end and you give it your all. I wasn’t sure if I had enough topics on writing, but I have to admit it’s been fun, and there are a few things about blogging that surprised me…

Blogging Surprises

1) Exercise that writing muscle. Stuck on your WIP? Write a 500 word blog and just get your words out there. Don’t focus on the number of hits. Focus on the craft of words, make it your very best, then go back and tackle that 100,000 word novel.

2) Develop your “write brain” and your “idea eye”. You’ll begin to see ideas for posts everywhere, and eventually conversations, sights, sounds, tastes will give you more ideas for blogs, articles, stories, characters, settings. The overload is wonderful.

3) Deadline looming, means you must get something written no matter what or you’ll let your critique partners down. They’re just as busy as you are, and they don’t want to hear excuses.  Just do it.  You’ll turn into dedicated writer who can consistently produce new material and meet a deadline.

3) Creative people are inspiring, and it’s fun to be involved in a group effort.

4) People are nice. I’ve made wonderful connections on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest. And vice versa, I’ve discovered a lot of talented writers and their books through social media. There’s a whole world out there of interesting people. Learning about the things they are passionate about is interesting, and being part of a vibrant community is fun and stimulating.

5) Focus, Focus, Focus. If you’ll notice, the most popular blogs are based around a common theme whether that be cooking, marketing, history, home decor, modern mommy’s, politics, etc. Writing a complete novel works in much the same way. You must have that common theme running throughout which ties your plot and characters together.  Establish your blog around a common theme rather than random posts, and when you post, make it the best. The most popular blogs have built that huge audience over a long time through quality and consistent posts.

Thank you for following us at WordsmithSix!

by Natalie Bright





I love scary stories. I love to watch them, hear them, read them. The best way to enjoy a scary story is to turn the lights down, maybe light some candles, and have a huge bowl of popcorn, or m&m’s. Curl up on the couch reading my book or cuddled up with my honey watching a movie.

Believe it or not, I also love to write scary stories. Doesn’t matter how my story starts, it always ends up on the dark side. And there is also a great way to get in the mood for that kind of writing.

Pull a chair up to the desk with just you and the computer. Turn off the lights and turn on some quiet music. Light some candles and let your imagination run amuck. The fun will begin.

Every genre has its own atmosphere. If you write romance, you might want flowers and love songs. If you write science fiction, you might want cerebral music and stars shining on the ceiling. If you write mystery, you might want a fog machine and a trench coat. Western writers might want hay and a cowboy hat in their writing space.

The point is, your writing space should be planned and arranged to create the perfect writing space that inspires your words to flow onto the paper.

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

It’s a Real Job

Outtakes 54

It’s a Real Job

“I always thought about writing a novel. I think I could do it.” I hear that statement 99% of the time when folks find out that I’m a writer. I’m sure most authors have heard similar responses. If people really understood what it takes to write that novel, they might reconsider their responses. Do these well intentioned folks really think writing is easy?

What does it take to be a writer? Some would say talent is the key component. Of course there is a certain degree of talent involved. However, there are thousands of folks who have the ability to write, but never start. I have a nephew who has talent, but he doesn’t write. Why not? Because he prefers music to the written word. He devotes his energy to perfecting his skills on the various instruments he plays. Simply put, talent comes into play when the writer has the desire to write.

The desire to put words on paper propels a talented person to begin the journey. He buys the right books, studies the craft, experiments with a few ideas. He might join a critique group and a writers’ group. As he presents his work to his peers, he receives kind but honest feedback on his writing. He rewrites, but his critique group still is not satisfied with his efforts. Frustrated, he packs the first novel in a box and shoves it under the bed. The book is never completed.

A successful writer combines his talent and desire with bulldog tenacity. No one is going to convince him it can’t be done. He plans his writing time; places his backside in the chair and writes. He listens to other writers’ critiques and does the necessary rewrites to produce a better product. The writer risks rejection when he submits the finished novel to agents and editors. A writer doesn’t expect overnight success or instant wealth. Instead he will take the free short story publication to enhance his writer’s resume. He will volunteer to help at a conference or present a program to students. He keeps up with current trends in publishing. Deep in his soul, he believes he will be a successful writer and he works for it.

Writing is a real job.  It requires talent, desire, effort, a thick skin, risk, confidence, and tenacity.  No one component is enough. Even Snoopy concedes “Good writing is hard work.”

Cait Collins

Where to Start?

Where to Start?

Where do I start writing? This question confounds even the best writers.

When you have trouble getting started, pick a setting. What objects do you see? Describe any characters in your vision. Include smells, colors, textures or tastes. All these will help describe what you see.

Use an organized outline or simply jot down notes to organize later.

Rory C. Keel

8 Best Quotes on Writing from FiW’12

8 Best Quotes on Writing from FiW’12

By Natalie Bright

Based on the sessions I attended during Frontiers in Writing 2012 in Amarillo this past June, here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  1. “The work of writing: a writer writes. Save the make believe for your books, not your excuses.” Jodi Thomas, NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author
  1. “Keep it real, keep it authentic, keep it accurate, keep it human.” Jeff C. Campbell, former law enforcement and detective, now author and historian.
  1. “Every book has to have a heart which the reader will find beating in the central drama.” Hilary Sares
  1. “Writing comes from blue BIC pens. That’s what I wrote with beginning in 7th grade, and that’s what I still use.” Nandy Ekle, multi-award winning horror author, blogging at
  1. “Only tell the reader what they need to know at that point in your story. They don’t need a lot of back-story in the first chapter. Instead, sprinkle it throughout your book.” Candace Havens
  1. “My stories come from who I am and where I come from, not from a course that is taught.” John Erickson, prolific author of Hank the Cowdog series.
  1. “The barriers to getting published are way lower today.” Chris Stewart, Attorney
  1. “Texas writers get to the heart of the matter. You have clarity of situations that are  very rare.” Hilary Sares, former Kensington acquiring editor, now writer and freelance editor.

Natalie Bright

The Job


The Job

And as a writer, one of the things that I’ve always been interested in doing is actually invading your comfort space. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Get under your skin, and make you react.

As writers we have several goals to accomplish when we write a story.

1.  We entertain. Well, of course. People who read fiction read to be entertained. A true reader will read your words and see the action and hear the dialog as if watching a movie. Therefore we write to keep their attention.

2.  We write to make a connection.  We reach out to our readers with our words and try to touch them. We want them to know who we are, what we think and why we think it. This is our voice and our shot at immortality.

3.  We write to teach a lesson or to make a statement. I used to get really upset in high school because the teacher constantly reminded us that every story has something to say. I really wanted a story to just be what it is. But as a writer I have learned that there needs to be a reason, or a theme, that drives the story through its course.

4.  And of course, we write because we have the need to create. There are characters inside our heads that scream to be heard. There are worlds that need to be described.

So we write and we tell our stories to whoever will read them. And even if no one reads them, we still write.

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

Nandy Ekle



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