A Christmas Memoir

Outtakes 270

A Christmas Memoir

By Cait Collins


As I have been going through my father’s papers and notebooks, I’ve found some notes and stories he wrote. What a gift these writings are to my family and me. My dad died young and none of his grandchildren really knew him. The kids were infants and toddlers at the time he passed. Not only did they not know their grandfather, many of them never met my husband. So Uncle Bill is just a name they’ve heard.

I believe most of us have similar situations in our families. Names and pictures don’t really tell the family story. We can improve that situation by writing down stories about those who are no longer with us. What if we begin with a favorite story about a parent or grandparent? Then we move on to Uncle Jim and Aunt June. Add Cousin Fred and his kids, and soon we have a family history. Don’t forget holiday traditions. Try having family members contribute their stories. It may not be the great American novel, but it will be a history filled with voices and laughter.

A local printing firm might be able to print, compile and bind your memoir. Start now and you could have your book ready to present to your family next Christmas. Your Christmas memoir will be treasured for generations to come.

The Power of Emotion through Words

The Power of Emotion through Words

Natalie Bright

A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. I have spark notes written on everything. Sticky notes, deposit slips, and torn bits of paper. I have numerous spiral notebooks and journals filled with spark notes. Some have morphed into written works, some are still waiting patiently. You just never know what those ‘sparks’ might become. In this case, one man’s sorrow becomes a beloved Christmas Carole of hope.

As I writer, I’m always fascinated with the history behind the words and how the environment at the time might influence the spark. Good or bad, joyous or devastating, a writer’s strong emotions can evolve into powerful words. The prefect example is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Hopeful Words behind the Sorrow

In the case of Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to his poem on December 25, 1864. The music and words are up-lifting and it’s always been one of my favorites, recalling joyous holidays with my favorite grandmother.

The words came from a very distraught Longfellow during one of the worst times in his life.

Tragedy Strikes

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had tried 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. How they both must have suffered through that long night, only to have Fanny die the next morning. Henry was much too ill to even attend her funeral.

“A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellow’s’ journal entry dated December 25, 1862.

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 a battle. 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 his motherless 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.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, which 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 a beloved carol, sang and enjoyed by many generations.

As you read the words out loud, think about the emotions of a distraught husband and father, who is seeking peace and hope in a life that is filled with sorrow.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day


I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play

And mild and sweet their songs repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells are ringing

Like a choir they’re singing

In my heart I hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head

There is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing

Like a choir singing

Does anybody hear them?

Peace on earth, good will to men

Then the bells rang more load and deep

God is not dead, nor does He sleep

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail

With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing

Like a choir they’re singing

And with our hearts we hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?

The life the angles singing

Open up your heart and hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth

Peace on earth, Good will to men

My all time favorite version of this song is performed by Casting Crowns. You can watch them signing Christmas Bells on YouTube.


Knock, Knock


Knock, Knock

By Nandy Ekle

I watched a movie which, for several reasons, took my breath away. The plot was a sweet love story about a grown man searching for answers about his father who had died. One thing he knew about his father was that he had written a very popular children’s book that became an overnight classic.

While he’s searching for answers he meets a man who believes himself to be the king of the imaginary kingdom the book was written about. This triggers a memory of an interview his father gave on a talk show promoting the book. The interview actually is the turning point of the movie and plays a part in the resolution at the end.

So while I’m watching the movie, I hear a knock at my door. I open it and see a middle aged woman standing on my porch with several bruises. Her husband stands next to her with a bandaged knee and a black eye. Their dog sits next to them with his head hanging low to the ground. They begin to tell me their story and urge me to write it down.

I look back at the television just in time to hear the man’s father tell the interviewer, “Sometimes the story finds you instead of you finding the story.”

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



by Adam Huddleston


This week’s literary term is: hamartia. It is also referred to as a “tragic flaw.” A hamartia is an aspect of the protagonist which can hinder their progress or possibly bring about their downfall. This “tragic flaw” can be external, but more often than not, it is an internal characteristic. For example, hubris (ego or pride) is one of the more commonly seen problems with characters. This inflated sense of oneself may lead to unwise decisions.

One of the positive results of utilizing a character’s hamartia, is that they are more relatable. Readers like to see a hero that suffers from the same issues that they do. This can increase suspense for the reader because they may realize that the protagonist could ultimately fail due to their flaws.

Hopefully, the use of hamartia in your writing will help flesh out your characters and make the story more enjoyable. Happy writing!

The Holidays

Outtakes 269

The Holidays

By Cait Collins


Once October 31 is over and the Halloween decorations disappear, I begin to realize the year is almost gone. Thanksgiving is upon us, and while I have bought my Christmas cards, I haven’t addressed one. Black Friday is two days away and I have to work. Just think of all the money I will save because I’m not at the mall. I’ll be on vacation Christmas week, and I plan to write.

Before all the real hustle and bustle begins, I’d like to take a minute to sit back and think about all my blessings, and to thank those who add so much to my life.

I’m thankful that I went 65 years without breaking a bone. But when I did lose the battle with the sidewalk, I’m grateful I was not injured as badly as I could have been. I happy the three doctors in the emergency room were kind, and supportive, and good looking. (If you have to be in pain, it’s nice to have something pleasant to look at.) Excellent care and good insurance are bonuses. Think about all the people around the world who are not as fortunate.

I’m thankful for my family. I don’t know what I would do without my sisters, nieces and nephews. I also have great in-laws.

I’m blessed with good friends.

I have enough. While more might be nice, it’s good to have enough to eat, enough to wear, enough shelter.

I can read. That might not sound like much, but I have opportunities and experiences because I can read. For this reason, I support programs that encourage children to read. One of my favorite baby shower gifts is a story book. If parents read to their children, the kids have a head start in learning.

I have a memoir and a novel in final editing, and a new work in progress.

I have a job I love. Of course it’s frustrating and sometimes tedious, but it keeps me on my toes and gives me fodder for new books. There are some real characters around the office.

I have faith. Not only do I have a strong religious background, I have faith that tomorrow will be better than today.

I have a wonderful critique group and great writer friends. They keep me writing and striving to reach my potential.

This is a short list of good things and people who make my life happy and fulfilled. I wish all of you who visit wordsmithsix.com are as blessed and happy as I am. And for those of you who, like me, are working toward that big break, I wish you success. To all of you, may your holiday season be blessed with family, friends, good food, good books, and may your favorite sports team make the playoffs.



Why do we feel the need to write?

Why do we feel the need to write?

Rory C. Keel

The reasons people write are as varied as the individuals doing the writing.

Some are motivated by a desire to be famous and others write to express their personal feelings or beliefs. Some want to share their imaginations and others record the realistic facts that surround them.

For me, I have an appetite to learn about the past. It motivates me to write about how other people felt and their thought processes during their life experiences.

For me understanding the strength and wisdom of those who have written about their past struggles of life, as well as their ideas and hopes for the future, inspires me to share my thoughts for others to read in the future.

What are your hopes and dreams? What struggles do you face today that others could learn from tomorrow? Write about them.

NaNoWriMo aspirations

NaNoWriMo aspirations

Natalie Bright

Totally defeated by my NaNoWriMo aspirations, but maybe I will end up with half of a novel by month’s end. Sometimes the entire universe seems to be against the written word. How is the word count going with you all?
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

― Louis L’Amour

Writing Quotes



By Nandy Ekle



  1. “From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” —Winston Churchill
  1. “I get a lot of letters from people. They say: ‘I want to be a writer. What should I do?’ I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.” —Ruth Rendell
  1. “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” —Mary Heaton Vorse
  1. “Revising a story down to the bear essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” —Stephen King
  1. “If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers” —Irvin S. Cobb
  1. “If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.” —Doug Larson
  1. “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” —Douglas Adams
  1. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” —Ernest Hemingway
  1. “Amateurs sit and wait or inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” —Stephen King
  1. “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” —Franz Kafka
  1. “When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: ‘House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.” —Neil Gaiman
  1. “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke. —Joss Whedon
  1. “The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it.” —Ernst Hemingway
  1. “Nothing’s a better cure for writer’s block than to eat ice cream right out of the carton.” —Don Roff
  1. “Good fiction create its own reality” —Nora Roberts


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


Atmosphere and Mood

Atmosphere and Mood

by Adam Huddleston


This week’s literary term(s) are atmosphere and mood. They more or less equate to the same thing with subtle differences. Atmosphere is the overall feeling or mood in a story. This can be affected by a good description of objects or the environment. For example, gothic horror leaned upon the trope of dark, rainy nights and old, dusty castles. The imagery helps the reader to understand that the story has a scary or depressive feel.

Mood is similar but may change throughout the plot. Also, this aspect is more closely related to characters than to location. For example, a protagonist’s mood may begin as happy, progress through stages of fear, and return again if he triumphs over the antagonist. This variation can occur even if the surrounding atmosphere remains constant.

When emphasizing atmosphere and mood, take care to use familiar (but not stereotypical) wording, so as not to confuse or bore your reader. When fully developed, these parts of your story will draw the audience in and leave them satisfied.

Happy writing!