Professionalism


Outtakes 209

Professionalism

by Cait Collins

 

The outdoor musical drama, TEXAS, is a seasonal event in the Texas Panhandle. The show is spectacular and is loaded with special effects and fireworks. A couple of weeks ago, the young stage manager, Peyton Trueblood, was killed in a tragic accident at the amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon. Performances were cancelled for Friday and Saturday, but the cast and crew chose to start again on Sunday.

I was privileged to be in the audience for the second performance following the accident. The average age of cast and crew could be considered young. Many of them are students pursuing their educations at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas or at another area college or university. The actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and crew bond as a family. No doubt they were still grieving the loss of their friend, but they performed. From the opening number to the close, I did not see a missed dance step, no lines were dropped, no voices faltered. Even as they opened the second act with the beautiful song “West Texas Rain”, they remained strong, and in perfect harmony. These young men and women along with the older members of the company showed true professionalism from the appearance of the Rider on the Rim to greeting guests after the performance. I was impressed by their courage; by their dedication to their craft and to the audience. They taught a valuable lesson just by keeping on keeping on.

Sometimes I get discouraged when my writing does not go the way I think it should. I wonder if I will ever make it in the business. I make excuses for not getting out my computer and working on my current project. I am not always living up to my personal standards. I have no reason to sluff-off on my commitments. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. So I am rededicating myself to my writing. No more failing to have my blog ready to post. I will have something new to read every critique meeting. No more hiding accomplishments. I will put my name on everything I write. I am a professional writer. And the emphasis will be on “professional”.

 

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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.

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.

Writing Exercise


Writing Exercise

Rory C. Keel

Our Wordsmith Critique group participated in a writing exercise in which we wrote a letter to a student. In the letter we selected a word and wrote about all aspects of that word and our surrounding community.

When you’re stuck in your writing, use this type of exercise to move your writing along.

 

Balloon

1. An airtight bag that rises and floats above the earth when filled with hot air or gas lighter than air, such as hydrogen or helium.

2. A bag of this sort with an attached car or gondola for carrying passengers or instruments.

3. A small rubber bag inflated for use chiefly as a toy or decoration.

4.  The outline enclosing the words or thoughts of a character in a cartoon, as in a comic strip.

WEBSTER’ NEW WORLD COLLEGE DICTIONARY, Fourth Edition, Page 110

Dear Brian,

Balloons are the most amazing things. They are made from many different materials such as nylon and rubber. They can be any color of the rainbow like blue, red, yellow and green. Some balloons are even Silver or Black.

When I watch a balloon rise into the air, it lifts the corners of my mouth creating a smile without even being tied to it.

A balloon can fly like a rocket when you let it go untied, zigzagging around the room before running out of air.  Clowns use them at parties to make balloon animals like a giraffe or a wiener dog.

Have you ever used them to play games with your friends? When I was a child, my brothers and I would play with them like volleyballs, hitting them to each other across the room. We would also see who could pop the most by sitting on them one at a time. At the carnival people throw darts at them winning the prizes that are hidden behind them.

One of my favorite things to do is watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on T.V. and see the giant balloons of Mickey Mouse and some of my other favorite heroes. Wow, It takes a lot of people to hold the ropes so they don’t fly away!

Science also uses balloons. A weather balloon is a balloon that carries an instrument that measures atmospheric pressure, temperature, and humidity. It can obtain wind data by being tracked by radar as it floats along the air stream. These balloons can reach an altitude of 25 miles or more.

Ocean scientists use balloons to lift heavy objects from the ocean floor such as sunken ships. Balloons are attached to the object and inflated with air, which brings it to the surface of the water.

In medical science balloons are used to open arteries to help blood flow easier. An instrument is inserted near a blocked artery and a balloon is inflated, expanding the artery to allow more blood to flow to the heart.

Balloons are sometimes used for transportation. In early years giant balloons that were driven by propellers were called Dirigibles or Zeppelin’s. They carried passengers from place to place. The military used them in early wars to carry equipment and as look out posts. Today we call them blimps, such as the Goodyear blimp we sometimes see at football games.

Hot air balloons are very popular today. A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is the gondola or wicker basket that carries the passengers and a source of heat, usually an open flame. The heated air inside the envelope makes it float since it has a lower density than the relatively cold air outside the envelope.

Recently, A hot air balloon event was held near my community of Canyon, Texas, in the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.

The hot air balloons were filled at the bottom and lifted out of the 800 ft deep chasm and high into the sky.

The rim of the Palo Duro Canyon in located about 12 miles from my community, the city of Canyon, Texas. It has a population of about 13,000 people, and is the county seat of Randall County. It is located south of the city of Amarillo, Texas, in the Texas Panhandle. The city of Canyon has an average of 19 inches of rainfall annually and ranges in temperature from 74 degrees for the high to 44 degrees for an average low, and an average of 9 inches of Snow each year.

With a University like West Texas A&M University, and many things to see and do such as the play TEXAS in the Palo Duro Canyon, Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, Canyon Texas is a wonderful community to live in.

roryckeel.com

TEACHERS


TEACHERS

by Sharon Stevens

You must live on Mars if you don’t know that public school will begin soon. The season comes around every year and we are still taken aback as we face the crowds filled with desperate parents, school lists in hand and disgruntled children in tow, frantically searching for supplies and clothes.

Teachers have been attending in-services and getting their rooms ready whether they teach little ones or secondary. I imagine the dread and elation is much the same for either or. All wonder where their summer disappeared to, and when it will return again.

I love teachers! I treasure their kindness, their firmness, and the knowledge they share. I love my children’s teachers, my friends that are teachers, and teachers wherever they teach. You find each in all walks of life on every level, and every faith.

When our fellow blogger, Natalie Bright, reminded us that we were celebrating a year of blogging with Wordsmith Six blog I thought back to all of the words written this year by each one of us and I celebrate the stories attached to each. Just think, I may have missed out on all of this if it wasn’t for a teacher.

In the middle of first grade we had to move from Canyon to Amarillo and I had to settle into a new school. For some reason I had struggled in Canyon, but blossomed in a different environment. My mom told me later that I couldn’t read and it was the teacher that helped me to figure out what was wrong. Mom said I couldn’t change simple words like cat, to fat, to mat, to rat etc. But once I figured that out I just flew. I loved to read, and from that day on I read everything, even cereal boxes. The library and I became best friends. Teachers are wonderful everywhere and I am sure if I had stayed in Canyon they would have figured out and worked with me, but it was Mrs. Carmody who showed the way.

So this is my homage to all the teachers everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you teach in the home, Sunday School, private or public school. Please know we cherish you and wish you the most wonderful year. And even though you may be faced with terrible restrictions, state mandates, and ugliness from every avenue imaginable, we cherish the gifts you share.

And in honor of all I wish to leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Sharon Stevens

DESTINATION


DESTINATION

by Sharon Stevens

“Destination-The purpose for which anything is intended or appointed; end or ultimate designs.” 1890 Webster’s Dictionary

I just love pageantry, don’t you? I love everything about it… the colors, the music, the fanfare, the camaraderie, the life stories, what’s not to like? I am amazed how people can pull together thoughts and families and turn them into visions and images for the whole world to view.

There is so much pageantry going on this weekend. To name just a few, the Olympics begin, the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon will be displaying a lock of George Washington’s hair, and last but not by any means least, Linda Broday, Phyliss Miranda and Jodi Thomas are in Anaheim California for the Romance Writers Conference and Awards.

There is enough inspiration in just one moment with any of these events to carry an average observer for an entire year.  I was reminded of this when I was cleaning out the trunk of my car and came across the May 2001 issue of the local magazine ACCENT WEST. In it was the article by Liz Cantrell, “The Power Of A Dream,” about Brandon Slay and the story of his memories with the Olympics.

I had forgotten there was so many connections to our area so I stopped by the Canyon Public Library and picked up a copy of “Pride Of The Plains, 50 Years of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame” by Mike Haynes and Dave Wohlfarth. The first story was about Joe Fortenberry, the Olympic basketball player from Happy Texas who attended WTSU. The last story was about Brandon Slay and his commitment to youth and sports all around the country. One of the many stories in the book was written about Merry Byers from Canyon, and her journey in basketball, all written by Jon Mark Beilue.

Every story I read is pageantry. I can’t help it. My heart doesn’t need to hear the “Star Spangled Banner” to explode with pride. It swells with everything I read in every publication with each word printed, and every photo posted no matter what country is represented. I can celebrate every single second all the way from the Opening Ceremonies to the last fireworks bursting in the skies over London. And this leads me to the connection with destination.

Diane Sawyer interviewed Apolo Ohno for the 2010 Olympics. He said something so interesting and deep I have carried this in my writing ever since.

Ohno mentioned that most of the other kids were there to win a Gold Medal, but he said he was living his destination. He had come to enjoy and celebrate the experience of just being among competitors and athletic friends.

So this weekend if you watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, or travel to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum to view the lock of George Washington’s hair, or google the awards at the Romance Writers Convention in California of Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, Linda Broday and DeWanna Pace, embrace the joy and excitement and pageantry each represents. Wish them God Speed as they travel to their destinations, and don’t forget that they cherish these wishes as they return home.

As always I am living my destination. Happy trails as you journey to yours.

Sharon Stevens

GEMS


GEMS

by Sharon Stevens

Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cummings died forty years ago this month. She had fallen down the basement steps of her crumbling home and laid there several days in a heap on the floor, no one hearing her cries before a neighbor came to check on her. Old age and pneumonia then tore her down and she succumbed, her features clawed and withered with severe arthritis. She spent her last days in a clinical environment in a local hospital where everyone saw her as ancient.

We called her Aunt Molly and knew her as neighbor in my years growing up. How many times I wished I had visited with her. What could she have taught me with her stories and her memories. What could she have shared with her artist’s eye and her love of all that surrounded her. We will never know. She carried everything to her grave. She was old, her joints knarled and ugly, pain marring every feature. Nothing is left. She is dead and buried. All is gone.

But wait. I have her picture from a photograph that once hung on the walls of the Randall County Courthouse. There is no notation of when it was taken or where or why. It doesn’t tell the story of when she was born, or her passions, or her pain, but her beauty and the sweet face of youth is captured within.

Phebe Warner had urged her to come to the plains of Texas to apply as an art teacher at Goodnight College. Molly and Charles Goodnight welcomed her with open arms and gave her a glimpse of the empire they had established as the J.A. Ranch. Coming from Dallas and encountering dirt streets of Amarillo and the limited comforts of home must have been an eye opener. But the first meal at their home she remembered how the lemonade looked in the glass pitcher, the tour of the gardens, the bee hives, and of course the ranch itself.

She met Charles Lennox Gordon-Cummings at the Goodnights, and they married and moved to land west of Canyon on the Tierra Blanco Creek. Later they built a magnificent home and raised three daughters out here on the Texas plains. Mr. Gordon-Cummings died in the 1940’s and Molly lived out her life alone except for her brother that lived with her until his death in a train accident. You can read the story of her life in “The Randall County Story” by Grace Warwick.  We became her neighbors in 1952 when my dad bought land and moved us out to the country in the hottest year in recorded history.

I was reminded of Aunt Molly at this year’s annual “Night At The Museum” at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I volunteered at the kit house in my role player costume. Armed with my picture of Molly in her youth, a glass picture filled with colored stones, and with my storytelling patchwork hat perched on my head I shared the story of Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cummings and hoped I made her come alive.

I chose the bright gems in the pitcher because my mother had shared with me that Aunt Molly used to take broken pieces of glass and paint the images that flooded through from the sunlight. What rainbows she must have seen. What colors and prisms must have shown through. What beauty she must have witnessed among the shades of dirt and shadow.

And this brings me to this week’s blog on writing. On the season finale of “Castle” his daughter is agonizing over her valedictory speech after researching speeches by the famous such as Steve Jobs, and presidents, and historical figures and famous celebrities. Castle advises her (and I will never forget his words), “write whats true to you”.

In my writings I could pen about how Mary Elizabeth died a horrible death, abandoned, without neighbors to care whether she lived or died. I could write a horror story about how arthritis had turned her body into a mass of ugliness with her hands so gnarled she couldn’t even pick up a spoon to feed herself, much less a brush to paint. But I CHOOSE to write of her beauty, and imagine the sunrises and the sunsets she must have seen from the top floor of her great home. My heart CHOOSES to remember the smell of the lilacs that lined the walk, and the massive, shimmering cottonwoods that shaded her memories.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to read all kinds of stories from “Chicken Soup for the Soul” all the way to zombies, murder and mayhem. I have troubles with “Flowers in the Attic” but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate good writing. I don’t mind being led to an author I haven’t read before such as Harlan Coban and I absolutely fell in love with Stephen King’s, “Dorothy Claiborne”.  I will always treasure stories like “E.T.” and “The Goonies” (celebrating 25 years), “Toy Story” and any story that encompasses good versus evil. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is just one of my favorites with the connection to being filmed in Palo Duro Canyon on the Christian Ranch. And don’t get me started on the musical drama TEXAS. More importantly, I remember those who struggled and faced adversity, but found strength within because they were surrounded by friends. I treasure community and neighbors and family, those that touch our lives on the level of all that is good and honest. My passion is to share of heritage, legacy, the pioneer spirit, beauty, patriotism, and freedom. OH sweet freedom. I feel that there is always room for that

I will always treasure the spirit of Aunt Molly and the artistry she shared. And even though I read anything and everything in sight, I just want to write what is true to me, myself and I.  To me each word and every memory is a gem.

By the way this week celebrates the Queens Diamond Jubilee and since Charles Lennox-Gordon-Cummings was titled nobility from Scotland I am sure he would have received an invitation to the festivities. This week also marks the anniversary of D-Day during World War II and may we stop to remember not only June 6 but also each and every day past, present and future that we honor not only those in service, but those on the home front and the veterans and their families that share this common bond that ties us all to conflict and peace.

Last but not least…WTAMU is hosting the SUMMER STORYTELLING CONFERENCE on campus June 8-10, 2012 at the Sybil Harrington Fine Arts Complex. Friday and Saturday there will be concerts in the FAC Recital Hall at 7pm with a Sacred Story Concert Sunday from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Joseph Hill Chapel. Dr. Trudy Hanson has all the registration information and Eldrina Douma has been instrumental in sharing her stories. The guest speakers are from around the country and our own Jodi Thomas will be front and center speaking on creative storytelling.

And don’t forget the Frontiers in Writing Conference June 28 with the best guest speakers ever, Natalie Bright is the conference chair. And then also we celebrate the Writing Academy at WTAMU with Jodi Thomas and Tim Lewis. WHEW what a lineup!

Sharon Stevens