The List

Outtakes 105


The List

By Cait Collins

I’m a list maker. I have shopping lists, packing lists, and even weekly lists for my Sunday school tote bag. You should see my Christmas list. It contains not only the receivers’ names; it has likes, sizes and colors. My meal assignments are there along with the recipes and the ingredients I need to buy. I know it sounds crazy, but these scraps of paper are essential to maintaining my sanity. Nothing aggravates me more than returning home from a shopping trip and realizing I forgot to buy a key ingredient.

Lists are helpful to writers. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Michael Cunningham, suggested making a list of 20 physical characteristics of your protagonist and then writing the first paragraph of the story. It’s amazing how sharp the lines are. By focusing on the character and his surroundings, you tend to start the story in the proper place, thus avoiding the dreaded fish head,

This is not to say every character has to have a detailed study or every scene must be outlined. A few short notes will keep the narrative clean and targeted. It’s an easy way for those of us who do not outline every scene to keep track of who’s who and their relationship to the main characters. I also like short time lines. These notes help me associate historical events with the players’ lives.

I keep a small journal for each novel. The main characters have sections in the book.  By allowing the extra space I can make additions and corrections as necessary. It’s a way to make sure Handsome Prince has the same color of eyes in the beginning and ending of the book. It’s also a good way to be certain Miss A and Mr. B are the correct age when they meet and become attracted to one another. It would be a shame to have a fifty year old man falling for a teenager.

International Standard Book Number

International Standard Book Number

What’s the big deal about an ISBN?

What is the ISBN and why do I need one for my book?

The International Standard Book Number is most commonly known as the ISBN. It is a special numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin, for the booksellers and stationers W. H. Smith and others in 1966.

Before 2007, the ISBN consisted of 10 digits; however after January 1, 2007 every ISBN assigned is 13 digits long. An International Standard Book Number consists of 4 or 5 parts:

  1. For a 13-digit ISBN, a GS1 prefix: 978 or 979 (indicating the industry; in this case, 978 denotes book publishing)
  2. The group identifier, (language-sharing country group)
  3. The publisher code,
  4. The item number (title of the book), and
  5. A checksum character or check digit.


Note the different check digits in each. The part of the EAN‑13 labeled “EAN” is the Bookland country code.

The ISBN separates its parts (group, publisher, title and check digit) with either a hyphen or a space. Other than the check digit, no part of the ISBN will have a fixed number of digits.

Rory C. Keel

Memory Jolts


By Natalie Bright

Through out life, isn’t it strange how the simplest experiences can stun us with a jolt of memory? More often than not, it seems this is connected to a significant loss.  I walked into a welding shop eight years after my father had passed on and the smell brought tears to my eyes.


The loss of a child has an even longer impact and today I’m blogging about the loss of a baby. If you are suffering from this devastating grief, just know that you have more strength than you might realize. Good days and bad days are in your future, and you’ll make it through.  I’m sure you’ve already noticed that every day occurrences can knock you to your knees.

For me, it’s playground equipment and the beginning of school.  Every year around this time I keep thinking I should be buying three sets of school supplies instead of just two. And playground equipment always reminds me of the things our sweet baby will never experience.


When I asked my friend Joe Stevens to take a picture of abandoned playground equipment for the cover of a book I was writing, I mentioned that he had about a month before I finished the final edits. The very next day, he drove to an abandoned rural school yard one evening after work. Out of only eight pictures, this was one of them:

The haunting symbolism in this picture resonated with me, from the beam of the setting sun shining at the top of the slide, to the dead weeds at the end of the slide where a parent might be standing.  His gift and talent to capture that image at that exact time makes me realize how fragile life is. A split second, and the photo would be lost and still life goes on. You must continue too.


For words of hope and healing after the loss of a baby, my book GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN  is now available for Kindle at Based on my experience, I’m offering words of hope and poems to lift you during the bad times. From my heart to yours.

Natalie Bright

Sedan, Kansas

A Pinch of Rodeo
By Joe R. Nichols
Sedan, Kansas
We worked the rodeo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and spent the night. Our next out was the night performance at Strong City, Kansas. There were two car loads of us traveling together, and we had all day to get there. There’s not a lot of things to see or do on that drive, and I kept trying to come up with someway to kill some time and stay out of the heat. Getting to the rodeo early just meant more time spent sweating.
The route we chose took us through Sedan, Kansas, and a few miles from town I saw a billboard advertising a museum. This historic attraction featured a famous person born to the town of Sedan. Being from Kansas, I was aware of this person, although I hadn’t thought about him forever. I never mentioned the billboard, and I don’t think anybody else noticed it.
I was in the lead car, so when I parked on main street of this small town, the other group pulled in as well. Everyone ambled out of the cars, stretching, looking around, and acting confused. “What are we doing here?” one kid asked.
    “Yeah, why are we stopping in this dink of a town?” another said.
    “We’re going to the Emmett Kelly Museum.” I announced with enthusiasm.
    “Who the hell is Emmett Kelly?”
    “He’s a clown.” I said.
    “A rodeo clown?”
    “No, dumb ass. He’s the most famous circus clown in the world. You know, Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers. This is where he was from.”
They all looked at me like I was nuts, but I walked right in and paid my seventy-five cent admission and began to take it in. About half way through, I looked around at my buddies. They were all split up, not talking at all to each other, and absorbing the displays and information.
Back outside on the street, I spied an ice cream parlor across the street. We spent at least an hour in there, telling stories, soaking up cool air, and taking our fill of some great ice cream. We never saw another human being besides the lady curator in the museum and the gal running the ice cream shop. Not one car even drove through town the whole time we were there.
As we crossed the street back to our cars, one cowboy remarked to me, “You know, I thought you were crazy for stopping here, and I never would have gone in that museum otherwise, but that was a neat deal. I’m glad I got to see it.”
There’s always great things to see all around us. You just have to have your eyes and your mind open.

Borrowing Ideas


Borrowing Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

I’m obsessed with stories. I read every minute that I can, and I’ve recently discovered a new time and place I can read. I’ve learned all about audio books and I listen to them while I drive to and from work. And I’m SO hooked. As a matter of fact, as much as I love music, I have not listened to the radio or my playlist in a long time because I’m “reading” instead.

This past week I was listening to a book while driving to work one morning and the narrator read something very interesting. He read, (paraphrased) “Imagine you are walking in the woods and you see yourself running toward you and the face on the running you is contorted with fear.”

So guess what my writer’s mind started doing. Yep. I know it’s someone else’s idea, but ideas are not copyrighted. I could take that idea and write a completely, absolutely totally different story from the one this idea came from (and you can look for something like this from me sometime in the future).

This subject sort of fits with the blog Cait wrote last week about Braylan’s miner. If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, go to Cait Collins’ blog and read Outtakes 103, Braylan’s Contest. She writes about a photo of her young friend, “Braylan” and his new friend, The Miner. She challenged readers of the blog to write a synopsis of a story about what would happen if Braylan’s miner came to life. This is an example of many different versions of the same idea.

By the way, you really SHOULD go check out Cait’s contest. Sounds like a great writing exercise, and tons of fun.

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


tag words:



by Sharon Stevens


“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you,

but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach,

because you do not live in a world, but a world lives in you.”

Frederick Buechner

On the same day the birth of the future King was celebrated I came across a People magazine dated December 12, 2012 announcing Kate’s pregnancy. Who knew that nine months later a child would be born to the couple, not to the Royal union, but to two young kids, blessed with joy, surrounded by family and friends. This fact of life doesn’t change just because “one” was born with a silver spoon in “ones” mouth. (Upper crust slant there)

Kate was hospitalized for severe nausea and vomiting in December. Quite a scare for the world to witness. Her pregnancy was marred at this time by the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who took a crank call by a radio station posing as the Queen. Can you imagine what kind of wonderful nurse Jacintha must have been? I wonder who the nurses were that attended Kate and William during the delivery. What an honor to be chosen to be there at such a special time in someone’s life.

I was a nurse for so many years in so many capacities on so many floors. I began my nursing career at age sixteen working in a nursing home as an aide caring for pioneers that were still living, listening to their wisdom, sharing their stories. For several years after that I was on the eye, ear, nose, throat and plastic surgery floor doing pre-op and post-op teaching, attending to tonsils, cataracts, burns, and ten days old cleft palate babies. The day surgery kids and cataract patients came in the night before, had their surgery, stayed that night and went home the next day. Now, as soon as their eyes open they are out the door.

And then there was the years I spent on the OB floor and the newborn nursery witnessing births and struggles, elation and tragedy, many times all in the same shift. What a gift those families gave me to let me be a part of the circle of their life. I also can’t tell you what it meant all the years I worked for an old-fashioned OB/Gyn doctor. Being a nurse for at least three generations of women was not only heart warming but touching in so many ways. And my years as an instructor with the Prepared Childbirth Education League (Lamaze teacher) gave me such insight in couples interaction and the dynamics

I wished I had an idea of how many thousands of seminars, workshops, classes etc. that I have attended with almost 50 years of nursing. My mother was a nurse and graduate of Northwest Texas Hospital School of Nursing, her first job at the Neblett Hospital hired by Dr. Neblett himself. My great aunt was a nurse in Galveston and died during the flu epidemic of 1918 after she had attended a family with the flu. They said when she came home that day, put her head down on the table and died. What a tragic legacy to remember. My grandmother didn’t want mother to go into nursing for just that reason. Over the years in my nursing career there have been so many wonderful mentors that have given me terrific guidance. At Palo Duro Hospital I learned such skills and care by those who share their passion and love through their dedication in a small town, rural hospital. Living or legacy I gain inspiration from them all. Florence Nightingale, a “social entrepreneur” is just one of the nurses-the ladies with the lamp-who led the way.

As a writer and nurse I know there are billions of opportunities to write in this field. Not to expose any secrets, but to share of life. There are so many nursing magazines that welcome stories for their pages. Blogs about empathy and caring abound throughout the world. Even if you aren’t a nurse, at one time in your life you were probably a patient. Focus on a memory concerning your experience and celebrate something connected. Think about sending a note to the hospital even though it may have been years. Nurses always appreciate sweet thoughts to sustain them through dark days. Even if that particular person is long gone. The sentiment will always remain the same.  I still treasure the notes I received so many years ago.

That reminds me, I have about a thousand stories I need to write, and about a gazillion letters to send. I better get busy. Prince George will be grown before you know it.


Outtake 104


 By Cait Collins


Today I have reached a milestone. Outtakes 104 marks two years of blogs on Wordsmith Six. I never imagined we would reach this point. One year I could accept, but never two. It’s hard to believe I have published an original work each week. It hasn’t been easy. Some weeks I agonized over the blog. I had no idea what I would say. Sometimes the effort was a hit, but there have been plenty of misses. The satisfaction is in what I have learned along the way.

Commitment keeps me focused. When we first started the blog, I was concerned it wouldn’t last. Maybe we’d struggle along for a few months, but after awhile we’d allow life to interfere with our blog site. We’d begin missing a week here and there. Soon it would be consecutive weeks, and then we’d stop. That hasn’t happened. Over all, we have maintained our commitment to the site and to our readers. We discuss ways to improve Wordsmith Six so that our fellow writers and readers will want to return to our blog site.

Respect for deadlines. I’m not a techno-geek. There are times when I bang my head on my desk because I can’t remember how to number the pages in my manuscript. About the time I get a handle on the program, it changes. Needless to say, I have no idea how to manage the mechanics of running a blog site. Thank you, Craig Keel for shouldering that task. You give so much to the group I can’t imagine missing a Tuesday deadline. I might post my weekly Outtakes at 9:30 or 10 in the evening, but I have to get it in. It wouldn’t be fair or right to do otherwise.

It’s great therapy. I can have an absolutely awful day at work. My tongue hurts from biting it. But when I get home, I can write a scathing piece decrying all the injustices in the world, press control A and delete. Bingo, the heated words are gone, my blood pressure is back to normal, and my honor and reputation remain intact. No one’s the wiser and it’s cheaper than a therapist.

I enjoy writing Outtakes. I spend my day writing business correspondence. It’s a totally different format than writing a novel, memoir, screenplay, or play. But then writing a blog is new. I keep looking for ways to improve my presentation. I go through books, magazines, newspapers looking for new ideas. I plan to keep on stretching my wings.

Finally, it provides opportunities to connect with fellow writers and readers. You are the reason I am committed to another 52 weeks of blogs. From the beginning I said I didn’t have aha moments or deep insight into the craft of writing. I simply love what I do.

Don’t forget Braylan’s Contest. You still have time to submit your synopsis to The rules are in Outtakes 103. I look forward to reading your ideas.


Making Retail Connections

By Natalie Bright

If you’ve self-published a book, it’s up to you to establish retail connections.

An author once told me that he’d only intended to write the book, and never wanted to be a book salesman. Now he’s traveling around with a car full of books. Welcome to the reality of today’s publishing world.  How are people going to read your book, if they don’t know it exists?

As the CEO of YOU, guess who is in charge of book promotion?

Make the Connection

While the internet offers a multitude of book promotion opportunities, for this particular post, I want to talk specifically about working with retail outlets and how to approach owners or managers.

On cold calls, approach them in a friendly, cooperative manner, introduce yourself and ask if they’d like to see your book. Most bookstore owners are always interested in talking to authors. Ask them if it’s a subject their customers might like. Information flyers and postcards work as well. When I receive inquiries in regards to my middle grade book, OIL PEOPLE, I offer to leave the store manager a preview copy. If it’s an inquiry by phone or email, I always offer to mail a preview copy. Be sure to include promo copies in your budget.

Store Owners Rule

Retail stores have to realize at least a 50% to 60% markup in the items they sell. They have a store front to operate which includes payroll, building utilities, and inventory expense.

DO NOT tell the storeowner the retail price. It’s their store, they set the price. Business owners are independent and territorial. If you tell them how to run their business, you’ll be out the door in a flash. Quote them the price you need, and you can suggest a retail price but ultimately the cost to customers is the store owners decision.

Setting the Price

If you self-publish, you have to leave a little wiggle room when setting your price. I hear this complaint all of the time and it is confusing to self-published writers. Authors quote the price printed on their book or the over-inflated price they paid for printing, expecting that’s the price they are due. Shop around and find the best possible printing deal in order to keep your price per book as low as possible. Hopefully, you’ll have room to make a few bucks, and the store comes out ahead as well.

Retail owners are in business to make a profit. If business owners’ efforts aren’t going to generate dollars to pay for the cost of staying open, it’s not worth having your book take up valuable shelf space.

The key, I think, is being able to offer a low price to retail outlets and being able to negotiate a price without being too pushy.

Consider ALL Possibilities

Major chain bookstores may not be an option to self-published authors for many reasons which are beyond your control. Are there specialty shops in your area? What about possible connections through family and friends?

Think about cross-selling. If you have a book of poetry, why not approach a lingerie shop? If you have a children’s book about horses, drop by a saddle and tack store or the local feed store. Stop stressing over things you can’t control and consider all of the possibilities, and keep writing!

Natalie Bright

Big Dreams


Big Dreams

By Nandy Ekle

What do you dream about when you sleep? Do you have fantastical visions of pink and purple grasses and talking trees underneath a turquois moon? Or maybe you dream you’re falling and know you must wake up before you hit the bottom. I once dreamed a scary clown was lying on the floor between my bed and the wall. I woke up when my son cried from another room because zombies were chasing him, but I was afraid to get up because I didn’t want the clown to grab my ankle.

The world of psychology tells us that dreams are our subconscious minds sending us messages. While some of these messages are very easy to understand (dreaming of an accident may cause us to be more cautious during the day), most of them are so cryptic we have a hard time decoding them.

If we wake up and can remember some of what our dream was during the night, that might be a clue that we have the makings of a story. I like to write down things I saw during the night, people I might have met, and feelings I might have had. Somewhere in the hazy illogical world of night vision, an interesting subject or character will appear, and you can fill in whatever blanks you might have and come up with a great tale.

Keep a pencil and paper near your bed so you can write down any parts of a dream as soon as your eyes pop open in the morning before it withers away in the sunlight. Keep a dream diary. Find music that brings back some of the feel of what you dreamed. You’ll have a great story beginning.

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


by Sharon Stevens
Letter to the Editor
Today I was reading the letter to the editor in the Amarillo Globe News from Kathleen Hess about Paula Deen and repentence. Then I was reading on facebook the blog Shawn Smucker wrote that connected to the ugliness of the headline news of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, but with a wonderful twist reflecting Temarr Boggs and heroes.
From both spectrums I was reminded of so much.
I remembered a time several years ago at our family owned business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We sell Scantrons for taking tests at WTAMU. They are only a quarter apiece and sometimes the kids come in wanting to pay for their purchase with a credit card. It costs us more to swipe the card and we don’t want them to miss taking the test so we tell the kids to bring back the money another time.
One day I was working by myself at the store when a young black man came in the door. He had a dark hoodie pulled over his head with his hands deep in his pockets. Please understand that we are rarely frightened. We have every nationality, color, culture, size and religion come into our store. We see hair dye and body art of all shades of the rainbow, piercings we can see and others we are glad that are hidden from view.
What scared me about this particular young man is that he wouldn’t look me in the eye. He came in downcast with shoulders hunched and head bowed. So what happened next was unexpected. As he got closer he began to pull one hand out of his pocket. Not sure whether to run or collapse I stood rooted to the spot as he silently held out his hand, and opened his palm in which lay twenty five cents with two pennies for tax.
He was paying for a Scantron he owed for. His discomfort was because of his embarrassment in returning a debt he owed, not sure how he would be received or what he would have to explain.
Ever since that day I have wanted to write a letter…a letter to the editor, or maybe a letter to his mom, dad, teachers, pastors, grandparents,Sunday school teachers, scout leaders, or for anybody on his journey who would listen. To tell them they had raised a good man, that they should be proud of him, and that they taught him the lessons in life that would stay with him forever. This young soul has since graduated from college and I am sure he is now somewhere out in the world. I would have loved to have written a letter of recommendation to his future employer or the corporate executives. I think anyone and everyone should have known of this man and what he would mean to their company. He would be a good and loyal employee his entire working life.
So many years ago after the death of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa I wrote a letter to the editor reminding readers of the Canyon News about all of the people we celebrate that touch our lives. They are not celebrities, do not make grand speeches or hold office, but they mean so much just the same. I mentioned J.C. Newton and what he had meant to so many in our community even though he had been gone for several years. I received the nicest note from his wife Fern thanking me for remembering her husband. I then called her to thank her for sending me such a sweet letter and she told me how she became a teacher. I was so touched and will always remember such a wonderful gesture from the heart.
As writers we are so focused on our novels, or a story, a character, a completed work and even every chapter. We get so lost in our efforts. Many times we should step back and celebrate the simple things. What would it hurt to sit down and write a letter to the editor regarding something that piqued our interest? No one says they have to be sent or exposed or even revealed. We can bury them deep within our computers never to see the light of day. But then again they can be a reminder of what we are feeling at the time, what is in the headlines, and who is involved in our government. But even more important, this may bring up feelings of ugly hatred, sweet joy, intense pain or exciting elation. Who knows what we might feel when we look back over our letters. This might just be the catalyst that can break a writer’s block or something that can add richness to our efforts, a wonderful tool to aid us as we journey through this life.
Speaking of tools, did I mention that we give a free pencil every time we sell a Scantron? They can’t take the test otherwise.