EVERY Idea has Potential


EVERY Idea has Potential

west texas christmas stories

If you’re brand new to writing, you may have self-doubt. You might question sentence structure, your novel’s length, character motivation, the list goes on and on.

If you’re fairly new to writing, you might have dealt with these self doubt issues already, but might be shocked at how much your writing changes over a week, months, even years.

Whatever stage you’re at in this game, I want to emphasize the importance of writing every idea that pops into your head. As I blogged about last week, we must become fearless. The hardest part is to stop trying to make sense of the ideas that come to you at the most inopportune times.  I say this because I’ve let so many slip away.  However, one idea that I didn’t let slip away became a published story this week.

West Texas Christmas Stories

In 2006, I remember having an idea for a Christmas story. No clue as to why it came to me or where I was, but it was about a cowboy spending a lonely holiday and being content in his life.  Last year, I watched an old cowboy greet the morning sun on his horse just before he rode out into to the pasture to gather a herd. The look on his face was pure joy and contentment. The horse seemed excited too. For both of them a day’s work was just ahead, doing what they loved to do. That old cowboy reminded me of that holiday story. I found it on my computer, polished it up, and wondered where I could send it. This year, someone forwarded a story call out to me. My story fit the submission criteria, I submitted it, and had a “Yes” before days end. Six years after I had made a note, the spark became a published story in West Texas Christmas Stories with Abilene Christian University Press.

Write, Write, Write

The more you exercise that writing muscle, the more your eyes will look at the world as a writer. I remember taking our kids to the Fort Worth Zoo, just after I had begun to write fiction. My oldest, who was around seven then, said, “Would you stop saying everything’s a story.” My husband agreed, “ It is annoying.”

I hadn’t even realized I’d been speaking out loud, but the entire day held fascinating events, animals, sights and sounds wherever I turned. I couldn’t contain my excitement at seeing the world in a different light; through the eyes of a writer. Because everyone seemed annoyed, I didn’t take a note one. I was too embarrassed. I can’t help but wonder what might have been the fate of all of those ideas I never wrote down.

Now, I carry a journal or notebook everywhere and even snap a zillion pics with my iPhone. I’ll let you know the results in another six years or so. How crazy is this business?

www.nataliebright.com

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R.I.P Brain


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

R.I.P Brain

By Nandy Ekle

The alarm rings at a mythical a.m. time. You rub your eyes and roll yourself to a sitting position. Then you hobble to the bathroom with one eye partially open. After your bath/shower and all your other bathroom duties are done, you style your hair, apply your make up, and head to your car.

The sun finally peeks over the horizon just as the traffic thickens and slows. You turn into the parking lot and race for the space closest to the door. As you trudge into the office the sun turns up the heat and your keys twist on your finger.

The computer is sulky and the programs are glitchy. The requests you deal with are confusing and you’re far behind where you should be in your duties.

By the time you get home your characters are screaming for attention. But you still have to prepare a meal and clean up. When the time comes for you to sit and talk with your characters, they have gone to bed.

Welcome to brain dead exhaustion. How in the world do we continue to write in this state? One thing we can do is to read the last couple of pages of the last thing we wrote. This will usually get the voice whispering again. Another thing we can do is read a few pages of a book we enjoy. This also turns on our creative juices. Deep cleansing breaths of oxygen, and maybe a few calisthenic exercises to get the blood to our brains. Set a word count goal. try your hand at some free verse writing.

If none of that works, start a new story. But whatever you do, write SOMETHING.

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

ECHO


ECHO
by Sharon Stevens
I was watching Josh Groban on “America’s Got talent” as he sang with the finalist Forte‘. The song they sang together was “Brave” from Groban’s ALLTHAT ECHOES album. Josh said that performing with the three talented men for him was a full circle moment. The producer for AGT is Houston Howell who is a local son. His parents are teachers from the Canyon area, and tell me that they are overjoyed when they see their son appear on screen doing his job.
At Wal-marts a few years ago I was buying ingredients for homemade cookies for a celebration at our Buffalo Bookstore. Sugar, flour, more sugar, more flour. I kept checking my list over and again. This would go in for making Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, sugar cookies, ginger snaps and any other cookie recipe I might find between now and then. I thought I had everything in my basket. What was I forgetting?
The lady who was checking out the groceries was always one of my favorites. She would smile, and chat, if only briefly. But this time it was different. She saw all the sugar and just had to share a story. She said that seeing the sweet brought up the most precious memories. Her mother had died when she was thirteen and being the oldest of the siblings she had to take responsibility for everything in the household during the years of the Depression before World War II. Her father didn’t drive so he traded all his gas rations for sugar as his children liked this on their cereal. He said this is what he could do. I could only imagine what this meant to her as she remembered not only the heartache of the loss of her mother, but the simple gesture of love her father shared with his children.
When she shared this with me I knew it was only moments out of a lifetime for the both of us. She needed to connect, and what better person to link with than me. I so love a good message.
I noticed the cashier who shared this with me, Jeanine Trout, passed away this past week. When I saw her obituary in the newspaper I was struck with how privileged I was to know that in a brief moment in the checkout line at Wal-Marts I was given a priceless gift. An echo coming full circle.
This past week celebrated International Dot Day. Another treasure! I purchased little scissors at Wal-Marts to cut out my dots. I will never forget visiting with our daughter’s kindergarten teacher before the first day of class. Mrs. Baker told us to be sure and purchase a GOOD pair of scissors. She explained that if we got the rounded, cheap scissors that the kids got very frustrated. They couldn’t cut, took more time, and the edges were ragged and chewed the paper or tore it to pieces, and it wasn’t worth it. The teacher told us that she would teach the kids how to use the better scissors so they wouldn’t harm each other. She knew that this simple advice would carry Andrea through her lifetime, in whatever she pursued. And it did.
I remember this when I bought my cutters for Dot Day and the teacher was right. They cut beautifully, easily and completely in moments. Another echo.
As writers we are given so many special moments of echos. How can we ignore when they are dropped into our lap. We might not connect right then and there, or tomorrow, or the day after that. But we know when the time will be right to gather these back into our souls, until we open our hearts to share them again.
And for a special note. This next week I will be celebrating 20 years since my first creative writing class at Amarillo College with Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace. In fact, I spent the evening of September 23, 1993 at Llano Cemetery while Jodi shared all the echos of those buried beneath our steps. I can’t tell you what a tremendous journey and gift this has been!
And for the final note: We have witnessed so many tragedies this past week with the flooding in Colorado and the shooting at the Navy yard in Washington DC. In the coming days we will hear so many wonderful stories of those lost. We need only to collect and protect them for another day.
Echos every one, coming full circle.

Points of View


Outtakes 113

 

Points of View

By Cait Collins

Recently four of my sisters and I sat down to work on our segment of the “This Is Your Life” presentation for our minister’s retirement celebration. We had all attended Black Mesa Bible Camp as either campers or counselors, so we were going to bring back memories of our camp days. As we exchanged ideas, it became apparent we had some similar memories and a few “I don’t remember that” moments. But when we combined our recollections we were able to put a good act together. And if you can believe the all the comments, we were a hit. But if the program had been based on just one sister’s memories, the skit could have been flat.

Varied points of view of an event add spice to a stew pot of memories. For example, one sister remembered the first verse of a favorite camp song. Three of us did not remember that verse. Two sisters harmonized the opening lines and soon the other three of us broke in with the portion of the song we remembered. It was great fun. But without the opening lines it would have been so different.

Television police procedurals employ multiple views in solving the crime. Listen to detectives as they interview the witnesses to a bank robbery.

Detective:        How many perpetrators were there?

Witness 1:       Three maybe four. They moved so fast I couldn’t track them.

Detective:        Can you describe them?

Witness 1:       One was tall and skinny. Didn’t have much hair, but he did have a mustache. The second one was short and kind of hefty. I only saw him from the back. The other two are kind of blurred. I wasn’t worried about them ‘cause they didn’t have guns.

Detective:        Please describe the weapons.

Witness 1:       I don’t know man. Guns are guns. I wouldn’t know an assault rifle from a hand gun.

Detective:        What about their vehicle?

Witness 1:       An SUV. American make. Black. Couldn’t see the plates because they were smeared with mud.

The detective goes to the next witness. Her answers were different. She saw only two men and one woman. They were all young late teens to mid-twenties. White, all with long hair and athletic looking. The girl was the driver of a dark green SUV. New York plates 5233. The witness only had a partial plate number.

The second detective comes over and begins flipping through his notepad. His witnesses recalled three to five criminals, midget to giants in size, all men, wearing coveralls, business suits, or jeans and flannel shirts. They drove dark SUV’s, Lincolns, or mini-vans, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut plates 5233, 5332, 3532. Now the detectives must go back to the station and wade through their notes to find matching information or consistent statements in order to find suspects.

One of my instructions taught the lesson this way. During his lecture, a man came into the room and spent a couple of minutes talking with the professor. When the door closed behind the visitor, we were asked to write our recollection of the event. Each student saw a different man and viewed the conversation as hostile, friendly, businesslike, or “I thought we were going to have to call the cops”. The visitor was a police officer wearing a blue APD uniform with the standard utility belt. He returned some books the professor had lent him. The meeting was friendly. Twenty some odd pairs of eyes and no one got all the details right.

The point is varied recollections and viewpoints provide differ stories, hooks, or plot turns. Employing the inconsistent memories and stories helps us build the plot, provide glimpses of character traits and character interaction. Using the varied viewpoints allows a writer the opportunity to write multiple works based on one set of events but from the eyes of each major character.

5 Ways to Start Writing and Stay Writing


5 Ways to Start Writing and Stay Writing.

by Rory C. Keel

Break it down

Don’t focus on the whole story or book. Concentrate on  writing one scene or segment at a time.

Apply Layers

First, write down facts. Next write surrounding details about the facts. And then write about the feelings of the facts, yours and those surrounding time of the facts.

Mine tidbits

Expand the small things that happen in life. Remembering a feeling you once had or the way someone acted can create scenarios for you to write about or incorporate into your writing.

Discover Defining moments

Explore life-changing moments. Did you have a point in your life that changed you? What happened? How did you feel? What different actions did you take from that point forward? Use this information to understand the characters you write about.

Expose Rebel Jewels

Did you ever go against the mainstream? What was the outcome good or Bad? Use the moments in life when you had a little rebel in you and transfer the actions, feelings and results into your writing. Yes you may change the names to protect the innocent!

Roryckeel.com

Writing is Stupid


BE BOLD WRITERS

By Natalie Bright

In a previous blog, I talked about a little book often referred to within writing circles titled ELEMENTS OF STYLE. I turned to this book, not as a writer, but as a mother to help my son retake a major state competency test in English. I’m happy to report he passed the multiple-choice portion on editing with an above average score! However, the discussion question was lame and he didn’t want to fill up a whole page with something stupid so he wrote a short paragraph. One paragraph does not a one page answer make.

Words on Paper

What is it about putting words on paper that is so defeating to some people? Kids trying to answer discussion questions aren’t the only ones who wrestle with these issues. Adults do too. I’ve met so many people at conferences who have some amazing stories to tell. They’ll talk your ear off, but become incapacitated when it comes to actually putting pen to paper. “I’m afraid I’ll mess it up,” said one lady, who’d been collecting family letters and genealogy research for years yet it’s all in a box, waiting. She had an amazing history to tell and a solid idea for a creative fiction novel. I hope she finds the courage someday to tackle the project.

Fearless Attitudes

From this day forward, let’s become fearless writers. No matter how lame, or how silly the idea might be that pops into your head, write it down. Whether it be fiction or nonfiction, setting, character, or a snippet of dialogue, write it! Jot it down on a sticky note, and you can elaborate in your idea journal later. I have ideas on meeting programs, napkins, and bank deposit slips.

  • A card index is a good way to stay organized; title, markets, short synopsis or intro paragraph.
  • A 3-ring binder filled with project sheets with details where you were when the idea came to you, possible titles, markets, themes.
  • A new .doc. It might only be a one sentence note, but it’s there and surprisingly I remember it and find myself expanding on the idea years later. Some have even turned into something major (see next week’s blog for some exciting news!)

Regrets

The one thing I haven’t done in years past is to write every idea down. Regrettably, there’s been tons of sparks that have popped into my head at the worst possible moments. Unique and wonderful gifts of inspiration that I knew I’d remember. Unfortunately, I never could.

So be bold ye fellow wordsmiths! Just write.

www.nataliebright.com

Finishing a Novel


A Pinch of Rodeo

Finishing a Novel

By Joe R. Nichols

 

The story of a bucking horse and how he directly effects the lives of one main character and four sub-characters, has been in progress for a long time. I am finally nearing the end and it is getting me stirred up.

It’s not a story based on any life experience that I’ve had, yet happenings during my time spent as a rodeo cowboy, allowed me to tell the story.

There are a few incidents in the book, depicting life on the rodeo trail, that have a bases of actual events. I’ll never admit which ones, and those who witnessed or partook in these events, don’t have enough credibility to discredit me. Besides, I changed the facts enough that everything can be flatly denied.

The point is, it’s fun to invent fiction and still have a realistic and profound story. Finally reaching the climax of the novel, and interjecting my brand of realism, is very satisfying.

I hope your interest is tweaked.

Who Loves You Baby


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Who Loves You Baby

By Nandy Ekle

The second and fourth Thursdays of every month I subject myself to a bloodletting beyond anything Stephen King could ever write–and I love it. These are the nights my critique group meet.

We six writers sit around a conference room table and expose our deepest thoughts and passions to each other, and then beg to be ripped apart. Afterwards, we gather our shredded souls and hug each other, thank each other, and promise to do it again in two weeks.

This group of tough word lovers is one of the finer things in life. Writing itself is a huge rush; then add reading your work out loud to friends who believe in you enough to tell you the truth about what works and what doesn’t work, what makes them think, makes them laugh, makes them cry. These wonderful brothers and sisters of ink and paper care enough to slap my hands when the writing is bad and to raise me up on a pedestal when the writing is good.

So tonight I raise my glass in the most honorable toast I can put together. You five lovelies have educated me better than I could have dreamed and I love you all. And just so you know, red is an amazingly fantastic color for ink!

So, I guess you, my dear readers, are waiting for some clever bit of inspiration from me as the muse tonight.  Okay. Here it is. Find yourself a critique partner. It really will change your writing life.

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

ECHO


ECHO
by Sharon Stevens
 
 
I was watching Josh Groban on “America’s Got talent” as he sang with the finalist Forte‘. The song they sang together was “Brave” from Groban’s ALLTHAT ECHOES album. Josh said that performing with the three talented men for him was a full circle moment. The producer for AGT is Houston Howell who is a local son. His parents are teachers from the Canyon area, and tell me that they are overjoyed when they see their son appear on screen doing his job.
 
At Wal-marts a few years ago I was buying ingredients for homemade cookies for a celebration at our Buffalo Bookstore. Sugar, flour, more sugar, more flour. I kept checking my list over and again. This would go in for making Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, sugar cookies, ginger snaps and any other cookie recipe I might find between now and then. I thought I had everything in my basket. What was I forgetting?
 
The lady who was checking out the groceries was always one of my favorites. She would smile, and chat, if only briefly. But this time it was different. She saw all the sugar and just had to share a story. She said that seeing the sweet brought up the most precious memories. Her mother had died when she was thirteen and being the oldest of the siblings she had to take responsibility for everything in the household during the years of the Depression before World War II. Her father didn’t drive so he traded all his gas rations for sugar as his children liked this on their cereal. He said this is what he could do. I could only imagine what this meant to her as she remembered not only the heartache of the loss of her mother, but the simple gesture of love her father shared with his children.
 
When she shared this with me I knew it was only moments out of a lifetime for the both of us. She needed to connect, and what better person to link with than me. I so love a good message.
  
I noticed the cashier who shared this with me, Jeanine Trout, passed away this past week. When I saw her obituary in the newspaper I was struck with how privileged I was to know that in a brief moment in the checkout line at Wal-Marts I was given a priceless gift. An echo coming full circle.
  
This past week celebrated International Dot Day. Another treasure! I purchased little scissors at Wal-Marts to cut out my dots. I will never forget visiting with our daughter’s kindergarten teacher before the first day of class. Mrs. Baker told us to be sure and purchase a GOOD pair of scissors. She explained that if we got the rounded, cheap scissors that the kids got very frustrated. They couldn’t cut, took more time, and the edges were ragged and chewed the paper or tore it to pieces, and it wasn’t worth it. The teacher told us that she would teach the kids how to use the better scissors so they wouldn’t harm each other. She knew that this simple advice would carry Andrea through her lifetime, in whatever she pursued. And it did.
 
I remember this when I bought my cutters for Dot Day and the teacher was right. They cut beautifully, easily and completely in moments. Another echo.
 
As writers we are given so many special moments of echos. How can we ignore when they are dropped into our lap. We might not connect right then and there, or tomorrow, or the day after that. But we know when the time will be right to gather these back into our souls, until we open our hearts to share them again.
 
And for a special note. This next week I will be celebrating 20 years since my first creative writing class at Amarillo College with Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace. In fact, I spent the evening of September 23, 1993 at Llano Cemetery while Jodi shared all the echos of those buried beneath our steps. I can’t tell you what a tremendous journey and gift this has been!
 
And for the final note: We have witnessed so many tragedies this past week with the flooding in Colorado and the shooting at the Navy yard in Washington DC. In the coming days we will hear so many wonderful stories of those lost. We need only to collect and protect them for another day.
 
Echos every one, coming full circle.

I Am a Writer


Outtakes 112

 

I Am a Writer

By Cait Collins

 Writers’ groups and conferences provide opportunities to meet new people and learn more about the craft of writing. Introducing yourself to another attendee might go something like this.

            “Hi, I’m Cait Collins. I’m the chairperson for the conference.”

“Nice to meet you, Cait. My name is James Davis. I’m from Albuquerque.”

“We’re glad to have you join us. Is this your first conference? What do you write?”

“Yeah, my first. I thought I might pick up a pointer or two. I’m a tech writer. I produce training manuals. I know it’s not glamorous, but someone has to do it.”

Why is this writer apologizing for his profession? Just because he is not a novelist, poet, screenwriter, playwright, or children’s author does not disqualify him as an author. In fact, many talented men and women make their livings as journalists, lyricists, ministers, historians, business correspondents, copy writers, and text book writers. These folks are members of the family of writers and authors.

No matter the genre or professional title the basic skills of writing apply. Proper grammar, spelling, formatting, and continuity are required. Attention must be paid to style and the audience. Research must be complete and no short cuts may be taken. The materials must be crafted in a manner that will inform, train, teach or entertain without being condescending or superior. Such writing requires the same professionalism as that of a novelist or poet.

So next time a writer introduces himself as a tech writer, welcome him and pick his brain. Consider what we might learn from this new point of view.