It’s Never The End

It’s Never The End

By Natalie Bright

I typed THE END several weeks ago on a middle grade novel set in pre-civil war Texas. The spark happened years ago from my Uncle Milas telling me about my grandfather Cline’s adventures in Fort Towson, Oklahoma when he was a pre-teen. His best friend was Indian Joe, a full blood Cherokee. My grandfather describes that time as the best years of his life hunting, fishing, and exploring the wilds of the Kiamichi River area. He remembers the day he told his best friend they were moving to Texas. Indian Joe beat him to a bloody pulp. My grandfather asked him, “Why’d you do that for?”. Indian Joe replied, “You’ll never forget me now.” How can you not love those two characters?

As I thought about my grandfather and Indian Joe, the idea for a lower middle grade high-adventure along the lines of Jack and Annie series came to mind. The characters were a white kid and a Comanche kid, brought up to be enemies, but becoming friends. Oh the adventures they could find. I started writing, but what I just typed THE END on the first of this month is nothing like the story I had imagined a year ago. The characters took me along a totally different path.

The book was helped along by my brilliant Wordsmith Six critique partners and is now in the capable hands a small group of Beta readers before going to my brilliant agent. From there, with his insight and expertise, I hope it finds a home someday.

Do you have tunnel vision in the outline you’ve created for your work in progress? Don’t ignore all of the possibilities for your story. It may take you in a direction you’ve never even thought about before. So, in other words, it’s never really the end. This process continues on and on and on.

Happy Writing!

N. Bright


William Faulkner

“It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.”

William Faulkner

by Sharon Stevens

 This last August as I was putting books on the shelf for the fall semester at WTAMU I came across the textbook, “History of Women In America” by Janet Coryell, required in Professor Jean Stuntz’s history class. Since it was a used text I thumbed through it and came across the radio speech First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt gave on the eve of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I can only imagine how the speech writers must have scrambled franticly for just the right words that day to set the tone for the wife of the president. How Mrs. Roosevelt herself must have agonized as she trembled within to address all those who would listen to her voice, the emotion she knew she must convey. I wonder as well what copy the sponsor, The Pan American Coffee Bureau, had to toss out in support of the history unfolding that could very well affect relations with South America.

This history book is no longer on the shelf. It had been bought by a college student four months ago. So instead on the anniversary of the “day that would live in infamy” I Googled and read those words again, and listened to a recording of what Mrs. Roosevelt spoke December 7, 1941. She noted her husband was hard at work conferring with his cabinet, the heads of state, and even to the Ambassador to Japan. In so many words she was telling the nation that he had everything well in hand and to leave the worrying to him, a sentiment at the time. But she didn’t discount the fears of the mothers, the young people, the community. She, or her speech writers, knew she only had a few minutes with which to celebrate the strength of our United States built on one hundred and sixty five years of sacrifice on American soil.

The world couldn’t know that seventy years later you just had to touch a screen or keypad to take you anywhere in the universe you wanted to travel. Within seconds I pulled up a transcript of that moment in time. I listened to the cultured voice of the president’s wife, the strong words of an American soldier, and the light copy of the advertising sponsor. But the message will always remain the same. Year after year anyone can research any moment of any time recorded in history.

I treasure the ability to read, to research, to remember, to write, to memorialize. I celebrate that generations yet to be born will for a thousand, no a million years be able to question and argue history as it unfolds, all the while looking back on the past as it impacts our future.

I wonder what key points speech writers will write for the president on that day to commemorate our military and those on the home front at the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. All the while as the American people hold their hands over their hearts as the Star Spangled Banner is played.

The following is an excerpt of Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech.

“…You have friends and families in what has suddenly become a danger zone. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart and yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears. We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can and when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it.

We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America!”

Sharon Stevens


Outtakes 126



By Cait Collins


I don’t know about you, but the last few weeks I’ve been begging people to give me ideas for holiday gifts. More often than not, the response is, “I don’t know.” If it one of the nieces or nephews it’s money or an I Pad. I love to shop for friends and family, but I need hints. I don’t know all the new toys and games, and I definitely cannot shop for clothes for teenage girls. Thank heavens for the kids’ moms and grandmothers. Without them I’d be lost.

Sometimes I feel lost in my writing. I think I’m on the right track but I’m just not confident with my story. But I have been given more than one special gift. I’ll start with five fellow writers who have been such an influence on my life. We meet twice a month to share our work and give and receive critiques. The members of Wordsmith Six never let me down and I hope I never disappoint them. I have Beta readers who take the finished work and give it another set of eyes before submission. And I have great friends and family who encourage and support me. They are the gifts that money cannot buy. I am so thankful I have then.

I hope each of my fellow writers is blessed with the gifts of honest and respectful critique partners. I wish you the gift of encouragement from those you love and respect. They are irreplaceable.

May the holiday season bring you happiness and a new dedication to the written word. I wish you success in 2014.

Stories of Our Youth

Stories of Our Youth

The Young Adult Genre is comprised of works written for the age group between twelve and eighteen, according to the Young Adult Library Service association (YALSA), which is a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

While written for a young audience, many adults also enjoy young adult stories and adventures. The protagonist as well as most of the main characters will usually be close in age, and the stories may deal with any social topic or subject that allows the character to deal with an inner struggle. The young adult genre will show the main character growing as they work to learn important life lessons.

Sub-genres include stories that fall into most other genres such as fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, science-fiction, historical and adventure, with a writing style that appeals to a younger audience.

It has been many years since my childhood, yet even today many of my favorite books are still those from my youth.

Rory C. Keel

Sparks, Words, and Longfellow

Sparks, Words, and Longfellow

by Natalie Bright


Longfellow’s Sorrow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem sparked from the depths of his soul on December 25, 1864.

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had wanted to preserve her daughter’s hair clippings in wax.  In a tragic turn of events, hot candle wax dripped onto Fanny’s dress, igniting it in flames. She ran into her husband’s study, where Henry tried to extinguish the blaze with a rug. He experienced severe burns to his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow passed away the next morning and Henry was much too ill to attend her funeral.

A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellows’ journal entry for December 25, 1862. His beloved Fanny had left him with small children and a sorrow that he could not recover from.

Tragedy struck the family again in 1863 when his oldest son Charles, who was only 19 at the time, suffered a severe wound as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Charles had left without his father’s blessing, joining the Union cause in March of that same year.

The Christmas season of 1864 must have been a dreadful time for Longfellow, as he carried on to care for their remaining small children; Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. The Civil War was raging, skirmishes had continued throughout the country as they were still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and Abraham Lincoln had just been re-elected.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, what some believe to be a pacifist poem roused by his grief upon hearing about his son. It was first published in 1865 in a juvenile magazine.

In 1872, five stanzas were rearranged by John Baptiste Calkin and put to the tune “Waltham”. Two stanzas referencing the war were omitted, and the poem became the beloved carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

  1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play;
    And wild and sweet their tones repeat,
    “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
  2. And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.
  3. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
    For Christ is here; His Spirit near
    Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
  4. When men repent and turn from sin
    The Prince of Peace then enters in,
    And grace imparts within their hearts
    His peace on earth, good will to men.
  5. O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
    The Word of God is light and life;
    Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
    Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
  6. Then happy, singing on your way,
    Your world will change from night to day;
    Your heart will feel the message real,
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Sparks and Words

A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. The actual words may morph into a short story, a poem, even a full length novel. A writer never knows what those spark might become.

Writers find sparks in overheard conversations or by reading others written words. Pictures or art can conjure up a story idea. More often than not sparks come from a writers life experiences. Good or bad, joyous or devastating; emotions evolve into wonderful prose.

At this point, writers take it to the next level. We’re not afraid of those emotions that story sparks can evoke. We’re not afraid to dig deep into the joy, the embarrassment, or the unspeakable pain.

Ignore your fears in this New Year and follow your sparks where ever they may lead you. Thanks for joining us at Wordsmith Six.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Interview


The Interview

By Nandy Ekle

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

Ray Bradbury


Cast:    Interviewer

Main Character (Claire)

Setting:  A concrete room, similar to an interrogation room in a cops-type TV show. The walls are gray, the light is gray, the floor is gray, and the ceiling is out of the picture. There is a large mirror on one wall right next to the door.

Interviewer walks in carrying a laptop computer. She sits in one of the chairs and opens her computer.

The door opens and Main Character walks in shyly, head down, eyes peeking out from under her hair.

Interviewer:    Come in and have a seat.

Main Character walks a little further into the room.

Interviewer:    What is your name?

Main Character (sits in chair timidly)   I’m Claire.

Interviewer:    Hello, Claire. What have you come to tell me?

Claire:    Well, I’m going to tell you how I came to be where I am.

Interviewer:     I’m not sure I understand.

Claire:    Well, I’ve had a little . . . adventure. I stood in line out there (motions with head toward the door) waiting my turn, and now it’s here. So I get to tell you my story.

Interviewer:     Okay. (She clicks ink pen and holds it over the paper) You may begi

Claire:   It all started when I woke up one morning and realized I was out of coffee. That’s all I wanted, just some coffee. But that’s the one thing that, when I want it, I want it NOW. (Claire’s face darkens) I. NEEDED. MY. COFFEE. (She pauses and then her face morphs back to its original demure expression)

Interviewer:     I know exactly what you mean. I’m the same way about coffee.

Claire:   (Smiles softly) Then you’ll understand my story.

Interviewer:     (Returns smile) Of course I will.

Claire:   It happened like this . . .

I simply take dictation while my characters talk. After all, they’re the ones telling the story.

Your assignment: What came next? Post in the comments below. And, by all means, have fun.


by Sharon Stevens
Recently a student brought textbooks into our bookstore to sell. None of them were being used for the next semester, and a couple were so damaged we were unable to buy them back. Rather than tossing them into the dumpster they decided to leave them with us after we explained that the Mortarboard at WTAMU had a fundraising project to recycle used books.
After the students left I thumbed through some of them. One was “The Western Heritage” and covered not cowboys or cattle drives, but Greeks, Romans, Thucydides, Aristrophanes, and the like, the very basis of our civilization. All Greek to me. Another of the books was “Searching, Researching Internet and the World Wide Web”. More Greek.
By far the most interesting of those left behind was the ones with a language I couldn’t decipher, unable to make heads nor tails of the titles. One of the books even appeared to be an inspirational day book with an inscription or dedication handwritten in Chinese characters. Thats when I discovered they were written in Korean. Or at least this is what the one page printed in English read.
I would have loved to have known the story of who wrote the words. I wonder if it was given to a student by his or her parents as they prepared to leave their ancestral home to cross the world to study at a foreign university? Could it have been inscribed by a beloved teacher or grandparent and given as a gift to give them strength as they ventured out into the world?
Who would ever know the memories treasured within? Surely not me. I can’t read Korean, and I don’t have friends that can translate either.
This reminded me of a letter I found in Loula Grace Erdman’s scrapbooks housed at the Cornette Library on the campus at WTAMU. Erdman’s publisher R.T Bond with Dodd, Mead & Company Inc. sent a note dated November 14, 1960 concerning her book “Years of the Locust”, informing her that this was to be translated into Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Indonesian. The body of the letter explained, This will pay you only about Sixty dollars-but think of the fun you will have in reading your own writing in Urdu!
Barbara Brannon author and marketing manager for Texas Tech University Press received inspiration from Erdman’s book, The Wind Blows Free for her Christmas greeting with music and verse for “Red Hawk in the Sky/Fe’lark in the Grass, Two Plains Fables for the holiday season 2011”. Brannon will be the guest speaker for the January meeting of Panhandle Professional Writers (PPW) and will be speaking on “Circles of Desire: A Workshop for Refining Your Plot and Synopsis (Fiction or Creative Nonfiction).”
And this is what links me to this blog. You never know where you will find that next bit of trivia that will brighten your story, or even lead it in another direction. A word, phrase or quote can change things in an instant, drag you back to reality, or give your character dimensions you never knew they possessed.
Even though you think a book has no connection to the story you are writing you may find the catalyst to spur it forward. Any genre can benefit with a fresh look from another perspective to keep it bright and alive instead of stale and flat. Reading something outside your focus just might be the ticket to help you break free.
Take for example my last blog about buses. Who knew that it would link to so many memories? And one of the responses from “Neeks” spurred me to share with my writing critique group her idea of using three words and making a story out of it.
To get back on track. Beginning with the January meeting of the Panhandle Professional Writers I am going to set up a table of all sorts of discarded books from our bookstore in hopes that someone might find inspiration within the pages. All proceeds will go to benefit the Frontiers in Writing Conference.
There will also be an extra jar for loose change collected for scholarships for Opportunity Plan Inc., This is one of our pet projects at our Buffalo Bookstore.
On display will be all sorts of books. Some of them on public speaking can help spur you on with how to face an audience at a booksigning or as a guest speaker. We ALL need to be prepared. Government books can direct you to write about politics or political history. What a great time to live in a democracy! It doesn’t have to be just about Freedom or Civil Rights to make a good story. Look at “The Help”. What a tale Kathryn Stockett wove around a period in our history.
And how about a book on marketing to expand your horizons on social media or community projects or marketing in general. Retail, salespeople, customer service can open your eyes to the workplace or writing for business, or even a “Chicken Soup For the Soul”.
What about exercise? These books never go out of date and those used in physical education can be useful when you hit a wall in your writing. It only requires a few moments to get out of your chair and stretch that can brighten your focus to face your worst writers block.
Come see what books you can find to inspire you in your writing. Celebrate the journey, not your destination. You never know where you will find something that will help in the translation.
Loula Grace Erdman’s letter from Dodd, Mead tells her, This is a Franklin Publication and is a part of the American effort to bring the best things in America to the Attention of the World Beyond. Now we will both stand up and face the flag while the Star Spangled Banner is played.”
Please make plans to attend the Panhandle Professional Writers bi-monthly meeting on Saturday January 21, 2012. PPW is a wonderful, active, organization that is doing some great things for all levels of the writing community. The Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College in June will be an exciting time for any writer. Jodi Thomas’ Writing Academy in July rounds out the summer programs.
PPW’s meeting will be held at the East Campus of St. Stephen United Methodist Church, 4600 S. Western, Amarillo. The meeting is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch is $10 and requires an R.S.V.P. Please call or email Janet Taylor, Hospitality Chair, at 282-1227 or “” by Tuesday, January 17. There is a $5 program guest fee, which will be deferred if the guest joins PPW that day. PPW dues are $30 annually and renew each January. (That’s this month, folks!) Students with school ID will be charged a $1 guest fee. Our January program, Circles of Desire: A Workshop for Refining Your Plot and Synopsis (Fiction or Creative Nonfiction), will be presented by writer, photographer, musician, artist, and Marketing Manager at Texas Tech University Press, Barbara Brannon. Janet Cooper Taylor 1918 S. Tyler St. Amarillo, TX 79109 806-282-1227
Sharon Stevens

Reality vs. Fiction

Outtakes 125


Reality vs. Fiction

By Cait Collins

Hospital scenes on television and in the movies are nothing like reality. I have yet to see one doctor pat a nurse’s backside. Nor have I noticed doctors and nurses sneak into a supply closet for a quickie. In fact the hospital routine is pretty boring.

My niece recently had day surgery. Before the staff took her to the OR, the nurse anesthetist came in to meet with the patient. She verified my niece’s name matched the information on the bracelet. She confirmed the doctor and the procedure, and explained the process—sedative; anesthesia; intubation, and then she made way for the surgical nurse. Same procedure. The two ladies had different personalities. The anesthesiology nurse was pleasant but straight forward. The surgical nurse was professional but more personable. She assured us everything was under control. Then the doctor came in to mark the surgical field. Again, very nice, but totally professional.

Totally boring.

It’s no wonder writers exaggerate the setting. The trick is maintaining enough reality to keep the reader or television/movie viewer from sitting up and saying, “No way.” The long-running TV series ER is an excellent example of both good and bad writing. I truly loved this series, but I was also aware of the flaws. One can only go so far before the action is unbelievable.

One episode that rang true centered on misdiagnosed toxemia. The mother presented with an infection, but as treatment progressed, it became apparent Mom and baby were in jeopardy. A botched C Section and inability to control bleeding lead to the mother’s death. Dr. Green’s attempts to come to terms with his mistakes were so believable the viewer could feel his pain and self-doubt.

Not so believable was the disappearance of ER doctors from their shifts without having secured coverage for the department. Such action would result in the doctor’s dismissal from the hospital and possible suspension or loss of his license to practice. The quarantine episodes and the helicopter accident that deprived a surgeon of his arm were just too contrived to be good drama.

One story line that was well written and beautifully performed was Dr. Green’s death from brain cancer. I lost my husband to brain cancer. Watching the deterioration of a vibrant character hit too close to home. I watched the episode once. I will never watch it again. It hurts too much.

The ability to suspend disbelief, to make one believe the impossible is an art. It takes research, observation, and practice. But when done correctly and well, the reader or viewer is totally engrossed and satisfied with the work. The writer needs to develop good research techniques and professional sources so that his writing is believable. I challenge all of us to make the audience believe and accept exaggerations of reality.

Anthologies a Good Place To Start

Anthologies a Good Place To Start.

by Natalie Bright

While you’re working on the novel have you thought about submitting a few short pieces to build your pub clip file and boost your ego?

Our critique group, WordsmithSix, came together in part from connections made through a local writing organization to combine with an existing group who lost several members, and through long time friends and new neighbors. We’ve been meeting since 2009.

We began with a common goal—get published. We’ve consistently produced, read our work to the group, revised (and revised some more), and submitted. Between us we’re now multi-published across several genres in short stories, inspirational, devotionals, and kid lit. Since 2010 we became active bloggers. Each success motivates us to keep writing. Every meeting inspires us to work harder.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. I’d like to share a few of our recent works with you.

The Least He Could Do And Eleven Other Stories

Featuring Miss Bitsy by Nandy Ekle

From StoneThread Publishing comes an eclectic collection of twelve short stories. At times you’ll laugh out loud, and at times you’ll have to stop reading to let your heart calm down. This edition includes a story from WordsmithSix member Nandy Ekle. Miss Bitsy tells the tale about a kindly neighborhood grandmother who isn’t all she appears to be. This story gave me chills when I first read it in critique group, and I’m thrilled that it’s out there for everyone to enjoy. Way to go Nandy!

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Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers

Featuring The Challenge by Rory C. Keel
Features 101 Motivational Stories for Writers. Sometimes we need to be challenged to write, and this would make a great gift for those special writers in your life. This edition features The Challenge, by WordsmithSix author Rory C. Keel.

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West Texas Christmas Stories

Featuring A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessings by Natalie Bright

An anthology of more than 30 Christmas stories–short and upbeat, set in West Texas or by West Texas writers including Elmer Kelton and John Erickson. You’ll laugh out loud at the clever piece by editor Glenn Dromgoole about a holiday fruitcake, while other stories will evoke warm memories about past holidays.  My story, A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessings, was inspired by the cowboys and their families who live and work on Texas cattle ranches. It’s an age old tradition and a proud heritage that continues today.

Texas Christmas Stories west texas christmas stories

Remember, books make great gifts!

Botany Lesson


Botany Lesson

By Nandy Ekle

I dug a hole in the dirt and dropped my little seed in, covered it up and walked away from it. Then the bad weather hit and I completely forgot about what I had just planted. I didn’t water it or check on it at all.

One day, after the storm ended, I walked down the pathway and suddenly remembered the seed. As I walked by the spot where I had buried it, I got a surprise. A stem poked up out of the ground with a couple of leaves. I knew from my biology classes in high school that under the dirt was an intricate network of roots. And these roots, while very necessary to the story, would never be seen by the above ground world.

The roots are important to a plant because they give it nutrition. They absorb minerals and water from the ground. They also give the plant balance and structure. Another thing roots do is give the plant depth. However, the roots are not beautiful. They are never meant to be seen.

The stem of the plant is fiber that conducts the nutrients to the rest of the plant. It also gives structure and height. The leaves are the main kitchens. This is where the outside elements come together to feed the body and roots. Photosynthesis takes place in the leaves and sends the nutrients to the rest of the plant.

And then there’s the flower. The purpose of the flower is procreation. This is beauty and fragrance that lures in the pollinator. Once the bee finishes its job, a new seed for a new plant is created.

Now. Did you see the story up there?

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