“Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Rory C. Keel book signing event.

Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Rory C. Keel book signing event.


Rory C. Keel’s story The Challenge is one of the many motivational stories included in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers.”

This anthology contains 101 stories to inspire and encourage writers at every stage of the process. Whether you’re a bestselling author or a beginning blogger this book will help you find the inspiration to write.

Join Rory C. Keel on Old Route 66 Saturday, February 15, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lile Art Gallery, 2719 SW 6th Avenue, Amarillo, Texas 79106, (806) 664-3089.




by Sharon Stevens


I was so down-deep, dark, under the bridge, deep in the tunnel, buried six feet under, destroyed.

Anyone who is a writer knows this feeling, that overwhelming sadness that comes with the knowledge every dream is dead, and will never see the light of day. That moment when you realize deep in your soul that any passion should have been buried way before thoughts were turned into words. Powerful images that come from within the heart of anyone that celebrates putting letters together to form a visual emblem.

Who cared? What did it matter? The pain is real. We know we must let it go, but we hang on against all hope that an idea will magically appear.

I gave up and gave it away. THEY had won and I had nowhere I could go. Actually, at peace knowing there was no way to turn, knowing that no one would be there waiting on the other side.

So I put everything aside and picked up the book I had been reading, turning to the next chapter to begin again. The first words were, “Myron Dart stood inside the Doric fastness of the Lincoln Memorial, staring moodily at the expanse of marble beneath his feet.”

OMG! In that one sentence my world was renewed! Lincoln Memorial, what a sweet memory that surfaced and broke. My faith was restored. Who could imagine that words written in a book could have that much power. This was such a message to me, for me, about me.

The book I was reading was Preston & Child’s “Gideon’s Corpse” and Lincoln’s statue had special meaning to me. I had no idea what a doric was, but I knew that within minutes I could find the definition, and I did. I had alternated between this book and my new “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Inspirations for Writers” reading each story over again. Our fellow Wordsmithsix blogger, Rory Craig Keel’s story appeared in this issue. His and all the other authors brought me such peace.

As writers we never know when our reader will be facing great joy or absolute and draining sorrow. We can’t choose anyone’s memory for them or what they will celebrate or what they will shed. So never, ever get down in the depths of darkness where you can’t see the light that surrounds you. You never know when a sentence, or word just might be the ticket to drag the reader’s heart out in the open where they can face another tragedy, another day, another memory.

The doric’s will still stand.

How Did You Do It?

css-inspiration-for-writers-2How Did You Do It? 

By Rory C. Keel

This is the number one question I’m asked when others learn that my story, The Challenge, was published in the recent edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul:Inspiration for Writers. 

There is no magic button

In trying to answer this question, I realized there is no one specific thing that will get a story published. There is no switch to flip or button to push that makes it happen, nor did I have an acquaintance or inside contact at Chicken Soup.

However, hard work along with a few of the following things can improve your chance of success.


To keep me from getting writer’s block, I have made it a practice to write in a journal everyday. I jot down simple things like a quote, a thought or a remembrance of something in the past. Many times I express an emotion and try to explain in words how I feel. The words in a journal don’t have to be profound, hilarious or novel worthy, but write something, anything.

Over time your journal becomes a vault of story materials.

Study the publication

I believe a crucial step in getting published in any market, is to know the market. If you desire to be published in Chicken Soup, read it, study the stories and notice how they are written.

Submit, Submit, Submit

Watch for story call outs. Many publications announce the type of stories they are seeking to publish. This is where the journal comes in handy. You may have story material already waiting to be expanded, worked or polished.

Early in my writing at a writer’s conference, I remember a publisher who said, “Ninety-five percent of those who want to be published begin writing, but only five percent finish and submit.”


Finally, sometimes it’s a matter of having good work at the right place at the right time.



by Sharon Stevens
My husband was outside mowing as I was finishing up this week’s blog on the first day of summer. With the recent rains he was already behind in keeping the weeds at bay. In the house I had just cut up a cantaloupe to put in the refrigerator, really wishing for homemade ice cream instead that signified a return to summer memories. Within the last couple of years our area had faced deadly drought, reminders of the dust bowl days that once had sucked the life out of every living thing, wildflowers included.
May 29th celebrated the 70th anniversary during World War II of Bing Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas”. Jeff Messer, the chaplain of Bivin’s Foundation had posted in the Amarillo Globe News about the story, and described what a morale booster this was for those in service and those on the home front.
When I think of Christmas like everyone else I picture glittering snow, shiny tinsel, curling ribbon, rolls of wrapping paper, evergreen and holly wreaths, and of course Santa Claus. You wouldn’t think that summer months are the perfect time to remember the holidays, but in all actuality this is a great time to set down family memories.
The Otwell Twins describe dressing in holiday costumes when it was still sweltering in California. The Lawrence Welk specials were taped in late summer, and they told me it was hard for everyone to get into the Christmas spirit weighed down with heavy velvet under the hot stage lights.
Jack Sorenson tells me that when he gets ready to paint his Christmas Santa his wife turns up the air conditioner and decorates his studio in twinkling lights encircled around the tree. The only thing missing is the yule log crackling in the fireplace, and gingerbread cookies along with a glass of milk waiting on the hearth for ole Saint Nick.
For years publishing houses and magazines called for submissions six months ahead which meant that June is the time for holiday stories. With the Internet and Facebook you would think that you could wait until at least the fall to send in polished work, but they are already deciding what will go into those issues. Chicken Soup for the Soul is one example that needs those tales shared.
Even if you are not interested in sending in a story of Christmas or Hanukah celebrations or disasters, now would be a great time to stretch your writing skills. As you are watching the grass grow or melting in summer heat pull out your writing utensils and try to capture the shiver of building snowmen, the warmth of hand stitched quilts, the smell of pecan pie and so on and so on. Take every little bit of the experience and shape it into a story. Write a poem and weave the threads together. Pen a song that helps you to remember just why you celebrate with your families and friends this special time of year.
You may be surprised to find you have a classic on your hands that sends a timeless message to be read year after year around the family hearth.
And now I think I will go get a piece of cantaloupe out of the fridge and imagine its snow ice cream, all the while dreaming of a “White Christmas”.
Sharon Stevens



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