Natalie Bright

The Texas High Plains Writers brings you a new collection of short stories, memoirs, essays, and poetry from our talented members. One of the oldest writer’s groups in the country, we are celebrating our 100th anniversary next year in 2020. It’s amazing to me that a group of women who wanted to support each other in their writing under the name of Panhandle Pen Women, started an organization that has met continuously for 100 years. Our members today represent every genre from inspirational to horror, play writes, music, and everything in between.

Based in Amarillo, an anthology for this group is nothing new, but I am so glad the current Board of Directors made the decision to revive the writing contest and publish members’ works. In this new anthology, thirty-two authors — from New York Time’s bestselling to newly published — spin tales of laughter, love, and loss. A lawman on the western frontier, a go-kart race for the ages, a keening banshee in picturesque Ireland . . .These stories will make you smile, get your adrenaline pumping, and bring a tear to your eye.

Here’s the link on Amazon to buy. Click here.


For more information about THPW, visit their website here. http://texashighplainswriters.com/

Thank you for supporting our upcoming 100th year celebration through your purchase of this new book and thanks for reading Wordsmith Six!

PROMOTING YOU: What’s Your Word Count?

PROMOTING YOU: What’s Your Word Count?

Natalie Bright

We had a great discussion at last week’s critique group meeting about word count. Nandy Ekle found this bit of information on Pinterest:

Short Story = 7 scenes

Novella = 27 scenes

Novel = 60 scenes

Our current group project in progress will feature six novellas around the common theme of the famous highway that goes through the Texas Panhandle: Route 66. We are striving for around 20,000 words each, but it can be a struggle. Sometimes you have to tell the story you want to tell, however long or short it turns out to be.

Here’s another word count guideline I found, which includes several options I’d never thought about:

Twitter fiction (really?)

Under 1000 words = flash fiction

Under 7500 words = short story

7500 – 17500 = novelette

Up to 40,000 = novella

Around 90,000 – 100,000 words = novel (360-400 page manuscript)

Series = 1 scene 1500 words (a change of setting or location is a scene change and usually signals a new chapter)

Let us know your thoughts and suggestions on word count. Thanks for the comments and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

EVERY Idea has Potential

EVERY Idea has Potential

west texas christmas stories

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

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

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

West Texas Christmas Stories

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

Write, Write, Write

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

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

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




By Sharon Stevens

I was putting the finishing touches on my husband’s Santa coat for his performance as Cowboy Santa for The Hide Out. Earlier in the day I had read the Canyon News article about Gene Vaughn Morrison and Bill Anderson and the musical drama TEXAS. This instantly brought me back to another time and place years ago.

The Canyon High School drama department was performing “Becket” as their one-act play, and Kathy Gist and I were working on the costumes. The art teacher, Charlotte Brantley, had bought all the material and we were sewing the final pieces. I will never forget Gene standing beside me while I hand stitched the final button on his cape for his role as the Bishop.

On the spur of the moment Kathy and I decided to take the opportunity to ride the Greyhound bus to see their performance in Odessa. We got off the bus and caught a cab and gave the cab driver the address of where we needed to go at the college where the one-acts were being performed. This driver meandered through the campus and drove into this entrance and that, taking the scenic tour on our dime. We had no clue where we were going, but we thought he did. He truly knew where he was headed, but was hesitant about getting us there.

When we finally pulled up to the theatre entrance he told us the charge was twenty dollars. In 1971 this was good money, especially for me as I was living on my own, paying all my expenses while working part time at the nursing home. This money represented probably a week’s worth, no maybe a month’s worth of groceries for me. We had no choice. Kathy and I divvied up our dollars and gave it to the cabbie. Even worse than losing so much money was that we were so late we missed the performance, which meant we didn’t get to see all our hard work come to life onstage.

Kathy Gist sat beside me again at the Panhandle Professional Writers Frontiers in Writing Conference as she won Best of Show for her story. The judges stood in front of all of us gathered and excitedly told Kathy to send her story to several different magazines. They even listed the addresses of where to write for writer’s guidelines as well as where to submit her stories. Kathy went on to have this story published with Guidepost Magazine and her award was to attend the Guidepost Short Story conference in New York.

As writers we have so many opportunities to send out our stories. And with the Internet the possibilities are absolutely endless. But we can never forget to research our destination to make sure we go in the right direction. We may think we know EXACTLY where our thoughts need to go, but in all honesty we ourselves are missing the point. This is not saying we shouldn’t stray from our intended path now and again, but it is very important for us to weigh our options before embarking down what appears to be a promising road. At all times we have to be mindful of the correct address in case our bread crumbs are eaten before we can retrace our steps. We can’t expect the post office to deliver our message if we don’t have the write destination. They are not Santa whose only address is the North Pole!

I came across “The 1941 Reader’s Digest 20th Anniversary Anthology” at our Buffalo Bookstore. In it was the most wonderful story called, “ADDRESS UNKNOWN” by Kathleen Kressmann Taylor. The story involves a time before World War II and the rise of Nazi power. This powerful message revolves around both sides of the horror and tragedy of this time, and totally reverses the meaning of the address of the soul.

I will always miss Kathy. She was so kind to me over the last several years with our heritage project in Canyon, and our storytelling at The Fountain on the courthouse square. I don’t have her correct address in Heaven, but I have no doubt this message will be delivered without any problems. I was very careful as I wrote where I thought my words needed to go.