History and Kids


Outtakes 345

History and Kids

By Cait Collins

I teach a group of fourth and fifth graders at my church.  They’re great kids and are really starting to figure out that the past often has a bearing on the present.  They know I’ve been working on a story about Route 66 and have expressed an interest in the Mother Road.  So I’m planning to take them to 6thStreet here in Amarillo.  This stretch of the historic highway is a haven for antique collectors, music lovers, and art gallery patrons.  I plan to show my kids how we lived back in the “olden days”.

This section of the Mother Road is a still a business district with antique shops, galleries, and music.  The Old Nat Ballroom still stands.  The history of a kinder gentler time lives on in a few blocks of the older part of Amarillo.  I really want them to see that even though it’s different our lives were still full and happy and we had technology.  Well, sort of.

I think young people are more willing to learn history when they have hands-on or eyes on the artifacts.  But there’s another reality…they keep me young.  I get to see the life I lived through their eyes.  I get a second chance at living the good times and the bad times through their interpretations of the items they see and touch. And I will pick their brains for a historic building to house my antique pottery and china shop in my next Route 66 story.  The location has to be special because the mission is life saving.  I have my eye on a store front.  I wonder what my students will think about my pick.

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A Good Saturday


Outtakes 344

 

A Good Saturday

By Cait Collins

 

Last Saturday a new coffee company opened across from my office.  They had a special going—any medium coffee was $1.00. I decided to support the new business in the neighborhood. So I left home early to get in line for a white chocolate mocha.  When I got to the window the barrister handed me my coffee and said that another company had paid for the first 100 cups of coffee. My coffee was paid for.  Now a dollar cup of coffee doesn’t seem like much, but just the idea of someone doing something nice for a bunch of people really made my day.

It made me think that we all should find ways to make someone’s day.  Writers have opportunities to give back to the next generation of authors.  Schools have mentoring opportunities, kids after school programs might need story readers, judge a youth writing contest, or sit with a young person and teach him to read.  Kids need adults to help them grow and blossom.  They could use a high five when they write their first poem or story.  And we need them to remind us of all the people who helped us develop our talents.

Just an hour, a Big Chief tablet, a pen could mean more that we imagine. So pay it forward and mentor a kid.

Spring Cleaning


Outtakes 339

Spring Cleaning

By Cait Collins

 

I always hated to see my mom bring out the buckets, mops, brooms, and garbage bags. I knew it must be spring and mom was going to do the spring cleaning. My sisters and I had a part in the ritual. It was a time when we were supposed to dump the trash and really clean our rooms. When mom deemed the house clean, we could step back; inhale the scents of cleaners, furniture polish and sun-dried linens. (We didn’t have a dryer, so all the laundry was hung on the clothes line in the backyard.)

Writers need to do some spring cleaning. W need to take time to assess our accomplishments and our failures, toss out expired ideas and rejected pages, and clear the clutter from our minds. Here’s where I plan to start.

Go through the boxes of old manuscripts and unfinished projects. Keep the pieces that have potential and toss the dead-weight.

Clean out the office supplies. Yes, there’s a lot of junk there. Donate or trash electronics that I no longer use.

Clean up my attitude. If I’m not writing, it’s my fault. I can’t blame it on others or on circumstances.

Make time to write. No more “I work long hours at the office and just can’t look at the computer one more minute.” This is an excuse not a reason.

Understand that others are having difficult times and be encouraging instead of dismissing their importance in the grand scheme of things.

Remember this is a business and not a hobby. Reject my “It’s okay if I never publish. Just finishing a project is an accomplishment.” Really?

Dump negative thoughts. I can do this.

Once the trash is tossed out, commit to keeping my writer’s life clutter-free. Junk and trash are not conducive to success. Besides, I hate spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning


Outtakes 339

Spring Cleaning

By Cait Collins

 

I always hated to see my mom bring out the buckets, mops, brooms, and garbage bags. I knew it must be spring and mom was going to do the spring cleaning. My sisters and I had a part in the ritual. It was a time when we were supposed to dump the trash and really clean our rooms. When mom deemed the house clean, we could step back; inhale the scents of cleaners, furniture polish and sun-dried linens. (We didn’t have a dryer, so all the laundry was hung on the clothes line in the backyard.)

Writers need to do some spring cleaning. W need to take time to assess our accomplishments and our failures, toss out expired ideas and rejected pages, and clear the clutter from our minds. Here’s where I plan to start.

Go through the boxes of old manuscripts and unfinished projects. Keep the pieces that have potential and toss the dead-weight.

Clean out the office supplies. Yes, there’s a lot of junk there. Donate or trash electronics that I no longer use.

Clean up my attitude. If I’m not writing, it’s my fault. I can’t blame it on others or on circumstances.

Make time to write. No more “I work long hours at the office and just can’t look at the computer one more minute.” This is an excuse not a reason.

Understand that others are having difficult times and be encouraging instead of dismissing their importance in the grand scheme of things.

Remember this is a business and not a hobby. Reject my “It’s okay if I never publish. Just finishing a project is an accomplishment.” Really?

Dump negative thoughts. I can do this.

Once the trash is tossed out, commit to keeping my writer’s life clutter-free. Junk and trash are not conducive to success. Besides, I hate spring cleaning.

The Mom Gene


Outtakes 338

The Mom Gene

By Cait Collins

 

Our minister and his wife have three lively toddlers. They can be really sweet and then get busy. I have wondered how his wife will manage three kids and a baby. I volunteered to let one of the boys sit with me during services, but both boys wanted to sit with me. I thought, “Why not? I can handle this.”

I was so wrong. You see, I don’t have the Mom gene. I tried explaining to a four year old why he could not play with my antique matched jade bead necklace. My sister shook her head and handed him her necklace. My sister could hand one a crayon while preventing the other one from dumping a bible on the floor. One ate two bags of snacks and the other handed his bag back to me stating “I don’t like these.” I thought every kid liked Goldfish. You see, I don’t have that Mom instinct. I never had kids, so if I ever had that gene I did not develop it. And while I might be able to deal with one toddler at a time, I’m woefully inadequate in handling two.

Sometime I feel inadequate as a writer. I can put the words together, but it’s not always the ones I should be using. I find it difficult to write the emotions. And sometimes I just can’t get the setting right. This is very difficult for a perfectionist. I’d like to believe everything I put on paper is perfect and will not need editing. But as fellow writers you know the perfect sentence is as rare as a perfect gem stone.

Writers don’t edit because the sentence or paragraph is lousy. We edit to make the story better. To flesh out characters. To include another perspective. Or to evoke an emotion from the reader. Like being a good Mom, learning to honestly review your work and make the corrections takes time and patience. It requires determination and hard work. But are we willing to invest the same effort into being a great writer as we do being a good parent? It is a choice.

What’s In a Name?


Outtakes 337

What’s In a Name?

By Cait Collins

 

 

I disagree with the Bard of Avon. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet may not smell as sweet. What if we called the rose a daisy? Would it smell like a rose or like a daisy? Can a Magnolia smell as sweet as a rose? If I handed you a lilac would you envision a rose?

Names mean something. If I introduced two men in a story as Butch and Allen but did not describe them, could you picture each man in your mind? I see Butch as a big, burly man with a loud voice, and less than perfect manners. He’s not a bad man. He lacks polish. Allen is mild-mannered. He tends to fade into the background. He’s neither handsome nor ugly. He’s just average.

Monique is exotic and beautiful. Delilah would be desirable and devious. Would you name your daughter Jezebel? Or would you choose a name like Elizabeth or Mary. Let’s be honest, a name has positive or negative reactions. We have prejudices against certain names based on experiences, history, literature, and movies.

When we are writing a story, how careful are we in naming our characters? Do you ever get half way through the work and suddenly decide the hero’s name is wrong? Do you make the change or keep the name that doesn’t seem right? If I can’t be comfortable with the name or can’t warm up to it, I’ll change the name. If I am not happy with the character’s name but hold on to it, I risk creating a negative response from the reader.

Names are important. That’s why we spend time researching character names and names of the location. We want our characters to enhance the story; not detract from it.

Could This Be Love?


Outtakes 335

Could This Be Love?

By Cait Collins

 

Ah, romance. The book shelves are full of romance novels. Poets extol the virtues of love and commitment. Cynics decry the emotion, calling it a crutch and an opiate for fools. I like to view love as something very special. But despite varying opinions of what love is and the part it plays in our lives, love stories are popular. And there are so many variations in the genre. Straight romance…boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy gets girl. Then there’s romantic suspense…girl is in trouble, boy rescues girl, boy marries girl. Add paranormal romance, magic, war stories, western romance, “adult” romance, and you have almost unlimited story lines.

Poetry, song lyrics all extol the virtues of love. And then you have the broken romances, stories of love gone bad, and broken hearts that are mended by a new love. Face it, love sells. So write that romance. You just might find a whole new outlet for your talent.

Happy Valentines Day.

 

Inspiration


Outtakes 332

 

Inspiration

By Cait Collins

I have this great idea for the last chapter of my Route 66 short story and it involves my neighbors’ dog. I’m not a real animal person. I like some pets, but don’t want the responsibility of caring and nurturing one. But Frodo is different. I first met Frodo soon after his parents brought him home. He wasn’t very big size wise, but he had personality. I soon realized I kind of liked having him greet me.

Being around this pup inspired me to write a new character to end my story. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works. The point is that inspiration can come from so many sources. It might be a picture, a song, a laugh, or a sigh. Experiences inspire us to create settings, characters, and story lines. Don’t ignore these little moments.

The Speech Writer


Outtakes 334

The Speech Writer

By Cait Collins

I am not much for political speeches, but I did watch the State of the Union address. In my career I have been called on to give a talk or address a gathering. It’s difficult enough to write something for yourself, but can you imagine writing for someone else?

Writing for yourself allows you to hone in on your experiences, your personality, and to use your instincts in adding humor or satire to the presentation. But if I were writing for someone else, I would need to get into his head, draw on his desires, dreams, and ideals. The speech would need to suit his personality and his goals. What would happen if my dreams clashed with his? Think about it. Could you put your personal agenda aside and dedicate your talents to building up someone you might not support?

Of course political figures, successful businessmen and women hire people who can mesh with their visions. But if you are just starting out in the speech writing business, how can you be sure you can target the speaker and not interject yourself into the presentation? If you have doubts, the presentation could suffer.

The bottom line is writing speeches, press releases, and maybe even copy for commercials or news appearances requires more than a way with words. It demands an ability to put the personal aspects aside and focus on the speaker or performer. Personally, I wouldn’t want the job.

End of the Journey


Outtakes 334

End of the Journey

By Cait Collins

 

One chapter to go. That’s where I am right now. I have one chapter to pull the entire story together and then it’s on to a new project. Well, not immediately, but after I finish my Route 66 story and send it to be edited, I will be at loose ends. Soon I will pull out a finished manuscript and begin the needed edits.

I have mixed emotions about finishing a writing project. First I’m elated when I put “The End” on the last page. But then I begin to miss the characters. I’ve invested months in building their personalities, finding their strengths and weaknesses, and guiding them along the way to the end. They have become invisible friends and I miss them. And then I have to make the final edits, my least favorite part of the process. Once that’s done I’m ready to walk away from the finished product.

In some aspects of my life, I find I have to be hands on right until the end. But in this case, I believe I can hand it off to the publisher and let him work his magic. I will continue to help with promoting the book and look forward to the release of Our Time on Route 66.

Writing is a journey. It has a beginning and a final destination. There are roadblocks and pitfalls, but there is also the sense of accomplishment when the scenes come together and create the story. But the final destination is not the book release and all the promotion. The destination is when you let go of the old and begin a new journey with a new story line and become friends with a new set of characters. It’s when the creative process begins and you travel that new road. It’s a journey that pauses but never ends.