PERSPICACITY


PERSPICACITY

by Sharon Stevens

I just hate research. I hate it, HATE it, HATE IT!! Can I tell you how much I hate it. Let me count the ways.

I just start out with one note, one page, one idea and before you know it I am thrown in a million different directions. Take today for instance. We had a gentleman come into our Buffalo Bookstore. He and his wife are retired professors from Buffalo New York. They were in Ireland visiting the national park of the Adair family. They came across information about the Adairs and the connection to the Goodnights, and then found where they could research at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. Voila, they were here.

You cannot imagine the journeys our conversation traveled. We talked about the town, the heritage, books, the community here and there. We discussed their passions, our passions and everything in between and found connections with every connection. Unbelievable!

So this evening I was researching in the book “The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum” by Joseph Hill and came across the word “perspicacity”. I had never heard or seen this word and had no clue what it pertained to. I read it in the context of the sentence but unsure of the true meaning. So of course I had to look it up. And then I had to look it up with the next definition and the next. You know how they have Wikipedia and free this and free that. Well you know the rest of this story. No one needs a rocket scientist to tell you the name of that tune. This means I had to spend the better part of an hour or more going back and forth searching for the perfect definition for my blog that would make the most sense. I AM a writer you know. Well actually I was working on my story for the Llano Cemetery Walk hosted by the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum on October 19, 2013 from 3-7:30pm, but that’s another story.

Back to my original thought,… nope,… can’t go there yet until I copy, paste, and file away for future reference something interesting that I found in the book that surely I can use someday, somewhere, in my next endeavor. So proud of me. That time it only took thirty minutes out of my lifetime. And if you are really dying to read, this is what I came across. I can’t help but to share. I know you will find it just as interesting as I did. So sad you can’t make it to the library to look it up yourself so I will do it for you. Glad to do it. Ask me anytime. Glad to be of service. This is what I live for. No trouble at all … “And here we have the pattern that really built the institution-a clear vision of the possibilities, a strong conviction as to its merit, unselfish devotion to a challenging undertaking, a good public relations program, a co-operative spirit on the part of all interested people, an annual fellowship meeting around a banquet table, and a sound and aggressive leadership.”

Before I knew it the evening was over and I hadn’t written the body of the text, just the definition at the top of the page. There is nothing I can accomplish with just one word. It takes all of them put together to make a functioning, viable statement. Or so they tell me.

Anyway, back to research. If there is one thing I need to change in my writing career is that I need to take a topic, follow just one thread, or one connection, for a focused amount of time and immediately get back to the basis of the article. I cannot spend all my time with “research” and neglect what brought me to this idea in the first place. Oh well, I’ll try to do better. I just wish DeWanna Pace and Jodi Thomas had shared how to limit my research time years ago when I took creative writing from them. My life would have been so much simpler.

But in all honesty, I so love research. It brings me such joy! I just wish I could control it more.

And the definition of the word perspicacity…you will have to look it up yourself and choose your own definition. I have too much writing to do.

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Trick or Treat


Outtakes 118

Trick or Treat

By Cait Collins

 

My congregation held our annual Fall Festival for our kids this past weekend. The event included Trunk or Treating. This is a variation of door-to-door Trick or Treating. We line up our cars, open the trunks and kids come around with joyful shouts of “trick or treat”. I lost count of the number of children I treated. Within a half an hour, most folks were out of candy, so we herded them inside for dinner.

The kids were so cute. They proudly displayed their costumes pretending to be someone else. I spoke with a bride, a ballerina, a cowgirl, a black cat, Athena, a princess, the Little Mermaid, a butterfly, a fairy princess, a witch, and minions. On the guy side, Robin Hood, a skeleton, a Teenage Multitenant Ninja Turtle, Superman, Iron Man, cowboys, a pirate, Captain America, and other comic book heroes crossed my path. I recalled my childhood when I was among the hoards of kids out begging for treats. I too enjoyed playing someone else.

As I watched the children make their rounds, I began to wonder what prompted them to choose their costumes. Why Robin Hood or Captain America, Athena, or a princess. The answer was simple. A writer. Some person with a pen or a computer wrote a story, a television script, a screenplay, or a comic book. What they read, saw, or heard sparked these kids’ imaginations. They assumed the personas of their characters and for a few hours, they pretended to be another person. And they had fun.

As writers, we never know the impact our words will have on the reader. We carefully pen our stories and hope someone will enjoy our efforts. It’s good to know a bunch of kids appreciated the works of writers.

Shorts and Fillers


Shorts and Fillers

By Rory C. Keel

Have you ever had a salad as an appetizer before a meal? You may have asked a house salad for a side dish or placed an order for a salad as the main course. What does this have to do with writing? Well, writing shorts and fillers are like salads. Writing a small filler or short can give you a writing appetite or it can be your main course.

Fillers are everywhere. They are short writings, usually less than 250 words that vary from devotionals to book reviews, short how-to pieces, cartoons, recipes and even children’s proverbs and cartoons.

Shorts may include columns, opinion pieces, nostalgia, and personal experience stories usually fewer than 1000 words.

If you are looking for ways to get your name in print, or you just need a diversion from a longer piece of work, writing a filler or short may be what you need.

roryckeel.com

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

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

Outgrowing an Organization


Outtakes 117

 

Outgrowing an Organization

By Cait Collins

 

Writers’ organizations can be very valuable. New writers may have great ideas, but may not know how to best craft the story, develop the characters, and move the plot. A good writing group can help a newbie get started in building a foundation. Meetings might offer workshops hosted by published authors in characterization, plots and sub plots, editors and agents, marketing, and formatting principles. The sessions are a gold mine for the beginner.

As a writer progresses in developing his craft, his needs change. He goes from baby food to meat and potatoes. Instead of writing one genre, he’s working in multiple categories. He needs more specific information regarding his new directions. He asks the program committee if it would be possible to have presentations on writing contemporary westerns but receives no positive responses. What about creative non-fiction? The response is there are not enough people interested in the genre, so it can’t happen. The next three meetings are repeats on marketing, social media, and plotting. The writer becomes frustrated and begins to occasionally skip a meeting. His absences become more frequent, and finally he stops attending. But he still pays dues.

It is possible to outgrow an organization. The decision to leave the organization need not be negative. It is possible the current group does a great job educating newer writers, but they falter in providing more advanced programs.  When skills and knowledge progress beyond the offerings, it may be time to cut ties with the organization and move on. Conduct online searches for a writing group that specializes in the new genre. Check references, and if possible, attend a meeting. Check for online instruction if the meeting times and locations make an in person visit difficult.

When the decision to move on is made, the writer should be professional.  He should notify the membership chairperson he will not be renewing his membership. It is not necessary to go into details. Simply state his goals have changed and he has found an organization that specializes in his new direction. He should thank the members for their support and wish them success in their endeavors. This courtesy will be appreciated by the chair as he or she will not have to spend time sending out reminder letters and making follow-up phone calls.

Leaving on good terms is to the writer’s advantage. By remaining professional bridges are not burned. The members will still be willing to support his goals and buy his books. Besides we are all part of a large fraternity. We need each other.

Shorts and Fillers


 

Shorts and Fillers

By Rory C. Keel

Have you ever had a salad as an appetizer before a meal? You may have asked a house salad for a side dish or placed an order for a salad as the main course. What does this have to do with writing? Well, writing shorts and fillers are like salads. Writing a small filler or short can give you a writing appetite or it can be your main course.

Fillers are everywhere. They are short writings, usually less than 250 words that vary from devotionals to book reviews, short how-to pieces, cartoons, recipes and even children’s proverbs and cartoons.

Shorts may include columns, opinion pieces, nostalgia, and personal experience stories usually fewer than 1000 words.

If you are looking for ways to get your name in print, or you just need a diversion from a longer piece of work, writing a filler or short may be what you need.

roryckeel.com

Show, Don’t Tell


Show, Don’t Tell

By Natalie Bright

Show, don’t tell: a basic rule for writers. A concept so simple stated in only three words, yet probably the most difficult for beginning writers to grasp.

We tell readers our story. We TELL them facts about our characters, the setting, or the obstacles they face. Boring. Showing means to explain the world inside of our heads in such a way that readers have a vivid picture inside of what we see with a writers’ eye. It’s as if they’re there, inside of our story.

One of the tools we can use to show is to utilize all five senses. As you write you must breathe, listen, feel, taste, and really see the world inside of your head.

Action verbs are the key.  Everything in your story is doing something. Everything is in motion, transition, or energized from the writers’ eye to the reader through words.

EXAMPLES OF SHOWING

Can you feel the cold and hear the moans?

For from somewhere in the mist, on stormy nights when the rain drove harsh and cold, an undiscovered creature would lift its voice and moan. KNEE-KNOCK RISE by Natalie Babbitt.

Even train tracks can be described with action verbs.

Train tracks ribboned the West, tying mankind together as they cut the land into bite-sized slices for civilization to digest. PRAIRIE SONG by Jodi Thomas

Have you ever considered the action of flour? As the reader you are transplanted to the exact place, watching it float in the light.

Flour swirled in a slant of light and lined the creases of the baker’s neck, salting his hair. BREAD essay by Jane Brox. You can find the rest of this extraordinary piece in the anthology, IN BRIEF, Norton 1999.

He flared his nostrils, smelled the air, pulled the air along the sides of his tongue in a hissing sound and tasted it, but there was nothing. Just summer smells. THE RIVER by Gary Paulsen.

Happy writing!

www.nataliebright.com

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

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

PERSPICACITY


PERSPICACITY

by Sharon Stevens

 

I just hate research. I hate it, HATE it, HATE IT!! Can I tell you how much I hate it. Let me count the ways.

I just start out with one note, one page, one idea and before you know it I am thrown in a million different directions. Take today for instance. We had a gentleman come into our Buffalo Bookstore. He and his wife are retired professors from Buffalo New York. They were in Ireland visiting the national park of the Adair family. They came across information about the Adairs and the connection to the Goodnights, and then found where they could research at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. Voila, they were here.

You cannot imagine the journeys our conversation traveled. We talked about the town, the heritage, books, the community here and there. We discussed their passions, our passions and everything in between and found connections with every connection. Unbelievable!

So this evening I was researching in the book “The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum” by Joseph Hill and came across the word “perspicacity”. I had never heard or seen this word and had no clue what it pertained to. I read it in the context of the sentence but unsure of the true meaning. So of course I had to look it up. And then I had to look it up with the next definition and the next. You know how they have Wikipedia and free this and free that. Well you know the rest of this story. No one needs a rocket scientist to tell you the name of that tune. This means I had to spend the better part of an hour or more going back and forth searching for the perfect definition for my blog that would make the most sense. I AM a writer you know. Well actually I was working on my story for the Llano Cemetery Walk hosted by the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum on October 19, 2013 from 3-7:30pm, but that’s another story.

Back to my original thought,… nope,… can’t go there yet until I copy, paste, and file away for future reference something interesting that I found in the book that surely I can use someday, somewhere, in my next endeavor. So proud of me. That time it only took thirty minutes out of my lifetime. And if you are really dying to read, this is what I came across. I can’t help but to share. I know you will find it just as interesting as I did. So sad you can’t make it to the library to look it up yourself so I will do it for you. Glad to do it. Ask me anytime. Glad to be of service. This is what I live for. No trouble at all … “And here we have the pattern that really built the institution-a clear vision of the possibilities, a strong conviction as to its merit, unselfish devotion to a challenging undertaking, a good public relations program, a co-operative spirit on the part of all interested people, an annual fellowship meeting around a banquet table, and a sound and aggressive leadership.”

Before I knew it the evening was over and I hadn’t written the body of the text, just the definition at the top of the page. There is nothing I can accomplish with just one word. It takes all of them put together to make a functioning, viable statement. Or so they tell me.

Anyway, back to research. If there is one thing I need to change in my writing career is that I need to take a topic, follow just one thread, or one connection, for a focused amount of time and immediately get back to the basis of the article. I cannot spend all my time with “research” and neglect what brought me to this idea in the first place. Oh well, I’ll try to do better. I just wish DeWanna Pace and Jodi Thomas had shared how to limit my research time years ago when I took creative writing from them. My life would have been so much simpler.

But in all honesty, I so love research. It brings me such joy! I just wish I could control it more.

And the definition of the word perspicacity…you will have to look it up yourself and choose your own definition. I have too much writing to do.

On Vacation


Outtakes 116

 

On Vacation

by Cait Collins

It was a dark and windy night. With my computer perched on my lap, I typed mindlessly. Nothing made sense. I deleted more than I kept. There are times when the words just don’t come. I usually have this problem when I’ve had a stressful day at work or spent many hours writing business documents. My mind just won’t switch gears.

I know the current problem. I’m on vacation from my job, so my creative side has decided to take some time off. I guess the brain has earned a break. At times like this, I find it is better to abandon the session, save what is salvageable, and begin again tomorrow. I will not waste my writing time. This is a good opportunity to review the critiques for my current work. At least I’m working on my writing.

Taking a brief mental vacation is not a bad thing. We rest from our jobs and obligations. When we return to business, we are more productive and make fewer mistakes. The same goes for our writing lives. We need a break. The trick is not to make a habit of taking writing time outs. Prolonged periods of inactivity are a breeding ground for excuses not to get back to the job at hand. Enjoy the vacation but don’t quit writing.