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.
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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.

BOSTON


BOSTON

“Every step tells a story”

 Freedom Trail

By Sharon Stevens

 

So many years ago I took a creative writing class at Amarillo College from Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace.  In the first class Jodi asked us to write a story about finding a shoe. The friend that had encouraged me to take the class had told me about this so I was prepared…somewhat.  I debated and contemplated day after day about what I would write. The whole six weeks of class I worried about my shoe. I have taken three creative writing classes since that time, as well as also attended writing conferences, and joined the Panhandle Professional Writers, one of the oldest continuous writing groups in the country. And I still hadn’t prepared my thoughts on shoes.

Jodi explained that the best advice she ever received was, “Put feet to your dreams.”

And I couldn’t quit worrying about my shoe.

Some time ago I watched a Native American storyteller, Eldrina Douma, share a story at the Branding Iron Theatre at WTAMU about finding a moccasin, and that this was the spirit of her grandfather reminding her of home. After her performance I asked her what gave her the insight to share such a story and she said she had taken Jodi’s class and this was what she had written about the shoe.

A few weeks ago I was watching a news program about Boston and across the screen I glimpsed one of the road signs for their Freedom Trail exclaim, “Every step tells a story.” I was so moved by this simple statement I wrote this down and referred to it over and over and over again, never knowing what an impact these five words would hold for me. And I could NEVER fathom that they would connect to a tragedy in this dedicated and patriotic city.

There are no words to explain or describe a story such as this. You can write every thought using all phrases and dictionary definitions and still you can’t come up with anything close to the memories the whole world will suffer from now on.

At the bookstore we had a family attending New Student Orientation at WTAMU and the mom asked about crime in our community and whether it was safe. You could see as the weight lifted off their shoulders as I explained how closely our campus police, sheriff and police department work together. The dad explained that they lived close to Virginia Tech and they didn’t want to ask, but since we shared about our community so freely they were greatly relieved. Another visitor came into our store and when I asked her where she was from she was very evasive. She said they were from Colorado and after much prodding she explained she was from Aurora Colorado. She just didn’t want to say as whenever she shared she got funny looks and had to tell everyone what she knew.

Someday a family connected to each of these tragedies may step into our community looking for a safe place to rest. As all those who witnessed the Boston bombing and the kids grow, and leave their homes, we may be the ones they turn to as they journey through life. They may come to the musical drama TEXAS or our Panhandle Plains Historical Museum or any of our countless museum or attractions. With the new marketing campaign of “Make Memories in Canyon” they may travel to our area to find a sense of fun or a moment of peace. Who knows?

The Freedom Trail will forever be marred with the blood of those killed and injured. And of course the trail itself is a reminder of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War. And even though the trail may be miles away from the actual bombing, as far as our hearts are concerned the whole city will be connected with pain and ugliness.

I just hope and pray that families will once again walk in the trail of freedom, but that no one ever again has to write a story such as this, and that NO ONE has to follow in the footsteps of the bomber, or the victims, or their families.

I just don’t think I could walk a mile in their shoes.

From the Freedom Trail website…. Though the Hub was filled with marvelously well-preserved historic sites — ranging from Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church to the Old State House and the Old South Meetinghouse — there was no organized route linking these gems together. So in March 1951, Bill Schofield, columnist and editor for the Herald Traveler, wrote to suggest that citizens get together to create the link that would tie the story of the American Revolution together making it easy and enjoyable for residents and visitors. Businessmen and women, elected officials, and non-profits worked together to designate a walking trail on Boston’s sidewalks in front of 16 historically significant buildings and locations. What to call the new path? Rejecting Puritan Path, Liberty Loop, and Freedom’s Way the group settled on the Freedom Trail. Now a national brand, trademarked by the Freedom Trail Foundation, it sets the standard for historic trails.

TEACHING CREATIVITY


TEACHING CREATIVITY

by Sharon Stevens

“Teach kids to understand everything but to fear nothing.”

Kevin Honeycutt

Almost twenty years ago I sat next to Kathy Gist at the Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College. She had submitted a story for the contest and all of us in attendance were waiting for the results. Kathy won in not only her category, but the best of all the writings that year. The judges for her wrote magazine articles and their talk was about getting your work published. They loved her story! She had taken a sweet memory of her father, and after his death she had taken fabric from his old shirts and quilted them into a wall hanging for her and her family. She wrote that she gathered them up and buried herself within the folds and grieved with each cut but healed with each stitch.

The look on Kathy’s face was priceless as the presenters listed all the publications and magazines that would be interested to carry her story. They told her to submit it now, as quick as she could and to as many as she dared. And she did. She sent her work to Guidepost and Country magazine among others. It was published in Country and then she found out she had won the Guidepost Short Story Award. The prize for this was a week in New York City with five other winners who would spend their time visiting with agents, publishers, other writers, and teachers of the craft of writing.

I thought of Kathy today as I watched Natalie Bright finish up power points for her own presentation. How blessed I was to be beside her as she went over each graphic chosen especially for this talk. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, a teacher at the Sally B. Elliott Elementary School in Irving Texas, had invited Kevin Honeycutt to Skype, and Natalie to speak at their special author’s event. Natalie teaches creative writing for children at various workshops in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, She is also the Program Chair for the Frontier in Writing Conference and a blogger for Wordsmith Six Blog. Natalie and Jodi Thomas would be traveling to Dallas for the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Conference this weekend and had graciously consented to give a talk to the kids over writing and a connection to oil. Natalie and her husband Chris have Sunlight Exploration, as a geologist with an oil and gas business, and she had written the book “Oil People” as a middle reader.

My husband, Joe Stevens was the photographer for the book. He has such a gift in photography, where did he tap into this talent?

Jodi Thomas is a guest speaker at the DFW Writers Conference and her topic is, “To Teach Creativity, Writing Deeper.” And this brings me to the inspiration for this blog.

How do you teach creativity, how do you ingrain writing? To inspire, sure, to instruct, ditto. You can do all of these things. But to be able to take those lessons and create a story is something that comes from within. As I watched Natalie I was overwhelmed with all the emotions exploding in my heart. The colors, the graphics, the whole kit and caboodle came alive and sang to my soul.

I felt the same way when I took Creative Writing classes from Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace at the urging of my good friend Connie Hirsch. Jodi taught each of us in the class to write from our own heart. They taught us the craft of writing and the mechanics, but it went so much deeper than that or higher above. They inspired us to tap into ourselves and find a way to transfer that onto print. I also am touched in so many ways with each guest speaker at Panhandle Professional Writers like Barbara Brannon from Texas Tech University Press as they share their passion and gifts. In just a couple of hours they take a simple subject and weave a connection that we can use to our own benefit.

And then again my heart is so full as I watch my daughter gather ideas using all she learned with her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, but also with Podstock, Follett Higher Education, Destination Imagination, BrainPop, Girl Scouts and on and on. And then there are the people who have touched her life such as Dr. Alice Owen, Dr. Elaine Roberts, and Elaine Plybon. Who was their teacher that gave them their gifts? Andrea has volunteered for years every which way she can, and stores tidbits everywhere she goes. Teaching children with Autism keeps her sharp in all the ways she can give them a voice. Her creativity knows no bounds. Where did she find this spark? How does she transfer it to others? It boggles the mind. My husband and I may have given her life, but the extras she created on her own.

Each and every person connected together share the essence of their creativity. Some exude through their very soul. The definition in my 1890 Webster’s dictionary only describes creativity as related to creation as in birth. And maybe it is nothing more than that. But I believe creativity is what takes a scene or an idea and gives it life, and helps it to explode with vivid colors bright with everything that gives us spirit.

I won’t be there to watch Andrea shine, or as Natalie gives her talk or Kevin Skypes, but I will be blessed to hear them as they share their excitement when they return home, or watch their postings on facebook or email. As God and John Wayne are my witness I know with their creativity they will touch the life of a child, or a parent, or a teacher. And each of those will return to their own homes and their own families and pass these moments on to their siblings and to their friends, AND this will perpetuate an endless cycle of heritage and legacy for eternity. What a treasure!

I think words taken from the musical drama “TEXAS” says it best. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things. And here where you once followed the Buffalo, a kind and happy people will build their homes and cities in joy and Thanksgiving-trusting in one another, friends to one another. Yes, that’s what I mean, honored warrior and chief. And we will remember your suffering and the suffering and sacrifice of your people and of my own Mother who sleeps in this ground where you will sleep, and so will the better and more beautiful make this land because of you. And our children, and children’s children will remember. WILL REMEMBER!”

Sharon Stevens

TEACHING CREATIVITY


TEACHING CREATIVITY

by Sharon Stevens

“Teach kids to understand everything but to fear nothing.”

Kevin Honeycutt

Almost twenty years ago I sat next to Kathy Gist at the Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College. She had submitted a story for the contest and all of us in attendance were waiting for the results. Kathy won in not only her category, but the best of all the writings that year. The judges for her wrote magazine articles and their talk was about getting your work published. They loved her story! She had taken a sweet memory of her father, and after his death she had taken fabric from his old shirts and quilted them into a wall hanging for her and her family. She wrote that she gathered them up and buried herself within the folds and grieved with each cut but healed with each stitch.

The look on Kathy’s face was priceless as the presenters listed all the publications and magazines that would be interested to carry her story. They told her to submit it now, as quick as she could and to as many as she dared. And she did. She sent her work to Guidepost and Country magazine among others. It was published in Country and then she found out she had won the Guidepost Short Story Award. The prize for this was a week in New York City with five other winners who would spend their time visiting with agents, publishers, other writers, and teachers of the craft of writing.

I thought of Kathy today as I watched Natalie Bright finish up power points for her own presentation. How blessed I was to be beside her as she went over each graphic chosen especially for this talk. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, a teacher at the Sally B. Elliott Elementary School in Irving Texas, had invited Kevin Honeycutt to Skype, and Natalie to speak at their special author’s event. Natalie teaches creative writing for children at various workshops in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, She is also the Program Chair for the Frontier in Writing Conference and a blogger for Wordsmith Six Blog. Natalie and Jodi Thomas would be traveling to Dallas for the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Conference this weekend and had graciously consented to give a talk to the kids over writing and a connection to oil. Natalie and her husband Chris have Sunlight Exploration, as a geologist with an oil and gas business, and she had written the book “Oil People” as a middle reader.

My husband, Joe Stevens was the photographer for the book. He has such a gift in photography, where did he tap into this talent?

Jodi Thomas is a guest speaker at the DFW Writers Conference and her topic is, “To Teach Creativity, Writing Deeper.” And this brings me to the inspiration for this blog.

How do you teach creativity, how do you ingrain writing? To inspire, sure, to instruct, ditto. You can do all of these things. But to be able to take those lessons and create a story is something that comes from within. As I watched Natalie I was overwhelmed with all the emotions exploding in my heart. The colors, the graphics, the whole kit and caboodle came alive and sang to my soul.

I felt the same way when I took Creative Writing classes from Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace at the urging of my good friend Connie Hirsch. Jodi taught each of us in the class to write from our own heart. They taught us the craft of writing and the mechanics, but it went so much deeper than that or higher above. They inspired us to tap into ourselves and find a way to transfer that onto print. I also am touched in so many ways with each guest speaker at Panhandle Professional Writers like Barbara Brannon from Texas Tech University Press as they share their passion and gifts. In just a couple of hours they take a simple subject and weave a connection that we can use to our own benefit.

And then again my heart is so full as I watch my daughter gather ideas using all she learned with her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, but also with Podstock, Follett Higher Education, Destination Imagination, BrainPop, Girl Scouts and on and on. And then there are the people who have touched her life such as Dr. Alice Owen, Dr. Elaine Roberts, and Elaine Plybon. Who was their teacher that gave them their gifts? Andrea has volunteered for years every which way she can, and stores tidbits everywhere she goes. Teaching children with Autism keeps her sharp in all the ways she can give them a voice. Her creativity knows no bounds. Where did she find this spark? How does she transfer it to others? It boggles the mind. My husband and I may have given her life, but the extras she created on her own.

Each and every person connected together share the essence of their creativity. Some exude through their very soul. The definition in my 1890 Webster’s dictionary only describes creativity as related to creation as in birth. And maybe it is nothing more than that. But I believe creativity is what takes a scene or an idea and gives it life, and helps it to explode with vivid colors bright with everything that gives us spirit.

I won’t be there to watch Andrea shine, or as Natalie gives her talk or Kevin Skypes, but I will be blessed to hear them as they share their excitement when they return home, or watch their postings on facebook or email. As God and John Wayne are my witness I know with their creativity they will touch the life of a child, or a parent, or a teacher. And each of those will return to their own homes and their own families and pass these moments on to their siblings and to their friends, AND this will perpetuate an endless cycle of heritage and legacy for eternity. What a treasure!

I think words taken from the musical drama “TEXAS” says it best. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things. And here where you once followed the Buffalo, a kind and happy people will build their homes and cities in joy and Thanksgiving-trusting in one another, friends to one another. Yes, that’s what I mean, honored warrior and chief. And we will remember your suffering and the suffering and sacrifice of your people and of my own Mother who sleeps in this ground where you will sleep, and so will the better and more beautiful make this land because of you. And our children, and children’s children will remember. WILL REMEMBER!”

Sharon Stevens

Eleven Commandments


Outtakes 42

Eleven Commandments

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be telling you about some of the speakers and what to expect when you attend Frontiers in Writing’s Let’s Write Weekend June 28-30 in Amarillo, Texas. We have a very talented faculty and a comfortable facility. The Amarillo College administration, faculty and staff go out of their way to welcome us and make sure all our needs are met. I would like to express my appreciation to AC President, Dr. Paul Matney and the staff for their hospitality.

While the planning committee has worked hard to prepare for the event, and the speakers are working on their presentations, there is an unknown element—the attendees. Many of you will be attending your first conference. Perhaps you are unsure about who you will meet. Will you make mistakes? What do I wear? What do I need to bring? I hope the Eleven Commandments for conference attendees will help you have an enjoyable experience.

  1. Be on time. You want to arrive with sufficient time to locate the meeting rooms and the rest rooms, grab a cup of coffee or bottle of water, and find a seat. No one likes walking into a session that has started.
  2. Be prepared. Check out the speakers’ websites. Decide which sessions you want to attend. Don’t forget paper, pens, and a bottle of water. Don’t forget your business cards.
  3. Dress appropriately. While three piece suits are not required, business casual is the best guideline. Jeans are okay, but they should be clean and pressed. Comfortable footwear is a must. Just remember that writing is a business and you want to present yourself as a professional.
  4. Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave empty cups, plates and such for someone else to pick up.
  5. Volunteer! Help is appreciated. Whether it’s decorating tables or distributing the speaker’s handouts, offering assistance sets you apart from the pack.
  6. Network! Network! Network! A conference is your opportunity to make new contacts and learn from others. Don’t sit on the sidelines and hope someone will approach you. You might miss out on an opportunity.
  7. Comment cards are available for your input. Please fill one out. Your comments help us improve our conference. Don’t forget to say thank you to the planning committee and the speakers.  A hand written note to the college administration will be greatly appreciated.
  8. Do not monopolize the conversations or the question and answer sessions. You are not the only one with something to say.
  9. Respect the speakers’ need for a break. Do not follow them into the rest room to shove your business card in a hand. You can be sure we still giggle over the story of the writer who followed an agent into the bathroom and pushed her manuscript under the stall door.
  10. Do not bad mouth your fellow writers. The writing community is a small one, and word will get out.
  11. Do not drink to excess. It’s not unusual for a group to go for a drink at the end of the day. Remember your image and the safety of yourself and others. Above all, we want to see you next year

We look forward to meeting you during the Let’s Write Weekend June 28-30 on the Amarillo College Washington Street Campus, Amarillo, Texas. Ya’ll come!

Cait Collins

Getting Out the News


Outtakes 33

Getting Out the News

At one time or another, we volunteer to help with an organization’s fund raiser or special event. Once the committee learns we are writers, we are appointed to serve on the publicity committee. One would think writing press releases or commercial copy would come easily to a writer.  And of course we’re naturals for appearing on TV and radio. Not necessarily so. Even the experts have problems preparing quality announcements.

One only has to watch television ads to realize good spots are scarce. I’ve watched commercials that did not sell the product or service. Sometimes I didn’t even know the point of the advertisement. If the viewer is scratching his head at the end of the spot, the copy writer has failed his client. I’ve written copy over the years, some good, some not so great. This is what I’ve learned about writing ads and press releases. Simply approach the release as a story.

That’s it. Give it a beginning, middle, and an end. Ad classes say we should create the need (beginning), provide a solution (middle), and seal the deal (end). Keep it simple. Don’t leave out the details. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had to call a client to get event dates, location, times, or contact information. Omit this vital information, and the reader or listener is still in the dark. Proof read your copy for typo’s and transposed numbers. Phone numbers, email addresses, website information, street addresses and dates are easy targets for errors. Finally, make sure you submit the information at least 48 hours prior to the media’s deadline. Early submission gives the media reps the opportunity to verify information before the ad hits the air or newspaper.

Radio and television stations often provide slots on morning shows or talk news for non-profits and community organizations to promote events. Seize the opportunity! It’s not as frightening as you might think. Send a press release to the station so the producer has enough information to properly schedule your appearance. Make a few notes on index cards and keep them with you during the interviews. Arrive early so that the producer or interviewer can review the press release with you before going on the air. Relax. Be open and friendly. Listen to the interviewer’s questions before responding. Thank the interviewer for their time, and write a thank you note afterward.

One of the things I’m slowly learning is the value of social media. Press releases may be posted on Face Book or any of the numerous social media sites. If you send the message out to all of your friends, one of your contacts might share with their friends, who will share with their contacts. The potential is amazing. Linking to friends’ websites provides another avenue to promote the activity. Above all, it’s free publicity.

Good promotion takes time to prepare. It can make or break your event so don’t wait to the last minute to get started. Now if you will excuse me, I have a PSA and press release to write for Frontiers in Writing’s Let’s Write Weekend to be held June 29-30, 2012 at the Amarillo College Washington Street campus in Amarillo, Texas. Additional information may be found on our website, panhandleprowriters.org.

Cait Collins

Writers’ Resources


Outtakes 29

Writers’ Resources

My published works are associated with broadcasting. I do have a few fiction pieces out there, but overall, the various television and radio stations I worked with own the rights to my commercials, documentaries, and news reports. Switching to fiction put me back in the newbie ranks. I never enjoyed being a beginner and not knowing all the ropes. I believed there were instructions out there, but where do you start looking for help? I must admit I got lucky when I attended my first conference. I found the direction I needed and met some great people along the way.

Kim Campbell helped me avoid mistakes with my first agent/editor pitch. No one mentioned the agent didn’t want my manuscript. I’d been toting that 400 page book for a day and a half. My shoulders ached from the extra weight. Kim let me know all I needed was my business card and a great pitch. I met with the agent; she requested a synopsis and the first thirty pages. It didn’t lead to a contract, but I did receive valuable information and encouragement from her. Kim began a screenwriting class on-line. She taught me how to format a screenplay, focus the action, and keep the story visual and moving. I’ve had some interest in that first screenplay, but no sale. The truth is that without Kim’s lessons and encouragement, RHYMES would not have been written.

FIW lead me to another wonderful organization. Amarillo College has an excellent continuing education program. The instructor for my first creative writing class was New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author, Jodi Thomas. We had a great group of writers in that class. We all wrote different genres, had different perspectives, and varying experiences. I truly enjoyed that class. Jodi was a fantastic instructor. A former high school, teacher, she knew how to instruct and encourage us. She was able to bring out the very best in each student. Jodi was the inspiration for the short story RHYMES. The assignment was to write a story about a lone shoe on the side of the road. I was the last to read my story. I sat and listened to hilarious pieces, thought provoking stories, and some sweet romances. Mine was different and I feared my audience would not like the offering. The room was deadly quiet as I read. When I finished, Jodi looked at me and stated, “I would not want to go to your house tonight. I’d be afraid of finding where the bodies were buried.” Wow! That felt great. I still look to Jodi as a mentor. She has befriended many a struggling writer as an honorary member of Panhandle Professional Writers and as the current Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University.

That brings us to writers’ organizations. Panhandle Professional Writers is one of the oldest, continuing writers’ groups in the country. I’ve made good friends through this organization. I treasure their support and encouragement. Through PPW, I joined my first critique group; attended writers’ retreats in Taos, NM. My association with this organization has allowed me to test my abilities and receive correction and instruction. I’d be lost without PPW.

Bottom line is we have resources. Go on line and do a search of writers groups, contests, and conferences. You are sure to find a group or conference in your area. Try entering contests. The critiques are so valuable. Check out your local community college or university for continuing education classes. Read blogs. Attend book signings. As you can see the resources are unlimited.

Cait Collins