KEYNOTE


KEYNOTE

 “A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom,

But never for lack of courage.”Gene Howe

By Sharon Stevens

In memory of Don Teague

 

What an amazing day that was!

For starters we began the day by opening our doors to kids buying their college textbooks for the beginning of the spring semester for WTAMU. Next, I spoke with the University Study Club at the First United Bank about the life of Gene Howe, founder of the Amarillo Globe News. Before I returned to the Buffalo Bookstore I dropped off an article I had found for Natalie Bright, a fellow Wordsmith Six blogger, connecting with the story she was working on.

And then I received a call from our daughter, Andrea Keller, about the focus for her presentation this next week with, “Making Your Mark-Using Technology to Level the Playing Field.” She had been so excited to have been connecting with Peter Reynolds, who is the author of “The Dot” and founder of International Dot Day.

Also on this day I received the news of the tragic death of A. J. Swope and Melissa Flores. What pain to mar so many glorious moments!

If I was told I would have to divide up my day and choose what events, on this particular day that touched my life above all others I couldn’t do it. Each second, and every encounter made their mark on my heart and touched something very deep in my soul. Every woman in the University Study Club, past and present, had made their mark with their family within their community. Our college students buying textbooks represented the future of this generation into the next. Natalie Bright linked the legacy of writers far and wide. And even though I didn’t know of the life of Melissa Flores, I knew that A.J. had made his mark not only as a mentor, a husband, father, musician, and a friend, but that he was such a gifted man working hard with wind energy across the panhandle.

At our writing critique group recently the question was asked about the content of our blogs and what they should contain. We all threw out our thoughts and ideas about the focus of Wordsmith Six and how it pertained to writing. Each of us had different opinions, and each valued for their merit. This reminded me of the conversation I had with Andrea the night before I was to give my presentation for the study club. She wished me luck and her advice was to stay on topic and to focus on the subject at hand. She knew for me that was an impossible task, but she threw it out anyway. My fellow bloggers also knew full well the hurdles I faced each week as I tried to pull my thoughts together in a disciplined fashion. Craig Keel, bless his heart, set up our blog in the very beginning and keeps us up and running. He is helping all of us to make our mark.

Andrea will stand next week before fellow teachers imploring them to remember that, “As educators we have an important role in reminding students that they are important and even the smallest mark can make a difference in the world.”

As writers we are treasured for our flexibility. Our words are our marks, but more importantly they represent every connection we can link together. We realize we are not only putting words into the hands of the reader, but every moment of every day we are constantly sharing our imprints with those around us in whatever way we can. I personally feel my greatest gift is to find a quote, or an article and to pass it on to the person, without even knowing, who may need this thought to add to their own. I don’t do this to complete their project, but hopefully to enrich the story itself. I know that my purpose in life is not to be the keynote speaker, but to share with those who will speak FOR not only me, but for those who have no voice. And also for those who have the courage to stand and share my voice with others. What a gift!

We will each grieve in our own way for A.J. Swope from now until the time we see him again. I wish his friends and family peace as they move forward in a life empty of his spirit here on earth. His life cannot be measured in a focused way of only one topic.

I know that future generations will come across his mark and remember. And that is what I wish for us all.

Please remember to attend the Panhandle Professional Writers bi-monthly meeting at the Amarillo Senior Citizens, January 19, 2013. Linda Castillo will be speaking on “Writing the Thriller” for the morning session, and Jennifer Archer’s topic will be “Channeling Your Inner Teen, Is Writing for the YA Market For Me?” These two women are our own and are marking their mark in a big way. This will be a fantastic event to celebrate writing in the panhandle!! Every writer, no matter the genre, will be able to glean something that will help in their writing.

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Thank You


Outtakes 69

 Thank You

By Cait Collins

It’s that time when we begin looking back over the events of the year, assessing the good and the bad, the successes and the disappointments. No matter how tough the year may have been, it’s important to realize that writers have much for which to be thankful. It’s been a good year for me. I have completed HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW and am working on the final edits. I have started a contemporary western short story. I’m working on a short work entitled Borrowed Uncles. There have been disappointments, but the good far outweighs the bad. I sat down and made a list of some things for which I am truly grateful.

  1. I’m thankful for parents who taught me to love books and stories. Even before my sisters and I were old enough to read on our own, Mom and Dad took turns reading to us. They made sure there were books in the house. No matter where we were stationed, they found the public library and took us to get library cards. They encouraged my story writing.
  2. I have five sisters who are a major part of my support group. They want me to succeed. They have encouraged me to investigate publishing my novels as E-Books. (It’s on the agenda.) The great thing is they don’t gloss over my mistakes. When something is not right, they tell me.
  3. I have a great critique group and a reader. Natalie, Dee, Craig, Sharon, and Joe give good advice. They temper the problems with positive comments. Cynthia takes the completed work and gives it a final read. Their support and friendship means more than they will ever know.
  4. I’ve been blessed with good mentors. Successful writers tend to give back. They’ve been through the early struggles, have been given support by their peers, and now they reach out to newer writers who are finding their footing. Michael Cunningham told me to write my story. Author/actor Bruce Campbell showed me how to treat fans, Michael Blake spoke of keeping on in the face of rejection. Nicholas Sparks honestly told a group of writers at a book signing that being successful doesn’t make the job easier. It means you have to do it better next time. Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, Linda Broday, Kim Campbell, Jenny Archer, Gail Dayton, Terry Burns, Candace Havens, and the late Rhonda Thompson guided my early efforts and told me never to give up. I could fill this page with other writer friends and mentors. There are so many who have been part of my growth.
  5. I’m grateful there are a limitless number of stories to tell. Okay, were told there are only about seven stories. That may be true, but there are so many ways to tell them. The challenge is to create a unique version of the theme.

This is just a sample of a writer’s list of blessings. Each of us can add more and more to the list. Recognizing the endless blessings and expressing our gratitude helps us through the dark times when we stare at the screen and nothing comes. It makes the rejections easier and the critics less upsetting. Thank you to all of you who read and follow this site. I appreciate every one of you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

by Sharon Stevens

Recently I took a story back to my critique group. My words had been posted in a blog, but I knew from the moment I clicked it into cyber-space to our facilitator that it wasn’t quite right. It may not have been terrible per se, or even wrong, it just needed work, and I looked to my fellow writers to listen to the story and help me “fix it”.

I think they were relieved. They had been confused by the story and didn’t quite know how to tell me. It didn’t connect and not only that, it was filled with many words leading nowhere. The main focus, the heart of the story got lost somewhere in all the jumble.

Our facilitator told me to rework it and bring it back, and he would repost it. No one would ever know.

I left that night even more confused than before. None-the-less I took it back home and worked and reworked the story, following the advice of my fellow writers until it was perfect with a capital P. If I do say so myself it was my finest masterpiece. Granted the word count was over a thousand words, but strong, connected and glowing. Every thought matched to the next. Each paragraph connected together in one sweeping saga linked heart and soul. All my facts were checked and rechecked. All the names honored and placed within the body of the piece. I made sure the story was grammatically correct with every word in its place. I took out all the “wases”, found the echoes, edited the errors and streamlined the focus.

After I had read this saga over for the millionth time I felt it was ready to resubmit. I highlighted to copy and save and then paste to the facilitator. (He would be so proud of me.) And then I clicked a key, I’m still not sure which one, and my work was gone. Not gone to my blog post, or gone to my file folder but gone gone…never to be retrieved again.

I stared at the screen before me not comprehending what had just happened. I pushed paste and paste again, and the computer still glowed empty.

And that is when it hit me. I realized what I had written and what I had initially taken to my critique group and what they had tried to get me to see, was nothing more than an acknowledgment. My story wasn’t a story after all, it was simply a dedication, a Pulitzer prize winning entry to a story not yet written aimed at all those who had paved the way for me in Heaven as well as here on earth.

This is who I am and who I will always be, but it provided a revelation. I worked so hard honoring the people and memories close to my heart who inspired me to put words on paper. I guess I just wanted them to know how much they touched my life and lifted me up and encouraged me to dream. As one of the members of my writing group explained that my heart was so full that it spilled over into my writing.

When my blog disappeared I was hurt. Not only that, I was devastated, dumbfounded, depressed, discouraged and any other “dis” in the dictionary. But I truly wasn’t that upset. There was no gnashing of teeth or ripping of clothes or tearing of hair. There were tears, but no sobbing. It was all just so perfect and I didn’t think I could retrieve it from my memory word for word.

It wasn’t until I found Jennifer Archer’s book, “Once Upon A Dream” at our bookstore, and read her acknowledgment to her friends and fellow writers that I came to my “aha” moment.

There was no question the fault of loosing my written work lay with my stupidity, for not saving it first before taking any other action. That’s a given and one of the first rules in writing!

When I clicked on that key that wiped out my tale it was if the Angels above were admonishing me. “Get past this, go further, reach higher, GET OFF THE FIRST PAGE! We know what we have done and we are proud of what we accomplished while there on earth. You don’t need to acknowledge us any more. You have a glowing, empty screen before you. Now go and write your story.

And so I did, with one last acknowledgment.

Jennifer Archer will be the guest speaker at the Panhandle Professional Writers meeting on September 17, 2011. She will be at the east campus of the St. Stephen’s Methodist Church, 4600 S. Western from 10-3 speaking on the “5 Senses: How to Capture the Magic & Bring Your Story Alive.”

PPW was founded by two women, Laura V. Hamner and Phebe Warner who not only encouraged writing, but were involved in the entire community way beyond the pages of a story. They along with Loula Grace Erdman and the many members of PPW down through the years, have made it all possible for those of us who love to share a story with each other, and in a tangible medium with a printed page.

Jennifer will be speaking on how to make your writing glow for a reader using all your senses and theirs. She should know, she knows how to write a great story.

But I can’t leave without honoring HER acknowledgments, as I think she said it best. But with doing so I want to honor MY Wordsmith Six critique group, Natalie Bright, Nandy Ekle, Barbara Propst, Joe Nichols and Craig Keel.

In Jennifer‘s words…“Many thanks to my Thursday night critique group: Karen Smith, DeWanna Pace, Jodi Koumalats, Bruce Edwards, Kim Cambell and Judy Andrew. Each week you challenge me, encourage me and teach me something new.

Thanks also to Ronda Thompson, Kimberly Willis Holt and Charlotte Goebel for giving me their time, suggestions and friendship.

And, as always, to Jeff for making it possible for me to chase a dream.”

Sharon Stevens

HAMILTONIAN


HAMILTONIAN

by Sharon Stevens

Author Jennifer Archer encouraged us to celebrate National Book Week by choosing a book close at hand, turning to page 56, reading the fifth sentence, then posting it without listing the title of the book or author.

In an old used paperback I had culled from the shelves, next to my writing space (Natalie Bright, August 8, 2011) I found, “They ain’t nothing but animals, they really ain’t.” (1)

What fun! Intrigued I then took it one step further. My husband and I were stocking college textbooks on the shelves of our Buffalo Bookstore getting ready for the fall semester at WTAMU and I came across the words “In addition, some youngsters got involved painting artistic travel posters to decorate the area.”(2)

In another book I found “As if they were spiritual consumers, young adults are shopping around among a wide range of religious traditions, in the process they are finding new ways to incorporate religion into their daily lives:”(3) Last but not least I read in still another book, “Explain why the tour ABCFECDBA is not a Hamiltonian circuit for the graph below.”(4)

A journalist remarked that of all the generations this was the best time to be a reader, that with libraries, Kindles, Nooks, bookstores as well as Google and Bing you can read any time and any place. Since we own a bookstore filled with used paperbacks, local authors and college textbooks, and with being a living American and breathing free, I wholeheartedly agree! I can go anywhere and pick up whatever suits my fancy at any moment to coincide with my mood at the time. I am then free to put it back down if it doesn’t suit my fancy, (as in studying about the Hamiltonian Circuit) and pursue my passion somewhere else.

Each book to me is a treasure shared from the author directly to my heart. I celebrate each letter, sentence and chapter. Being involved in a writers critique group and a member of Panhandle Professional Writers I know what it takes to put words down on paper and pursue ideas to publication.

I found a chapter on literacy for children, “Many people seem to think that reading is pronouncing the sounds of letters and that writing is about copying print or putting sounds together. These people have forgotten that the purpose of reading is to make meaning.”

And I guess this is what I treasure the most in reading is to “make meaning”. Everything I read connects to some part of my life, my heart, and my soul. I read for pleasure, I read to learn, I read to relish, but I also read to share. What else is a good book for but to pass on to others. On that note, it is amazing how one of my favorite authors always seems to put words together meant just for me, “The silence seemed to stretch miles between them.”(5)

I have a Webster’s Dictionary from 1890, and the fifth sentence down on page 56 is written, “ANTIQUITIES-The remains of ancient times. In this sense it is usually plural.”

The next sentence goes on to relate that “Antiquities comprehend all the remains of ancient times; all the monuments, coins, inscriptions, edifices, history, and fragments of literature, offices, habiliments, weapons, manners, ceremonies; in short whatever respects any of the ancient nations of the earth.”

Thanks Jennifer Archer, as an author, for reminding me to celebrate everything I hold most dear. I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Sharon Stevens

1. Royal Stud, by Stuart Jason

2. Let’s Begin Reading Right,by Marjorie Fields, Lois A. Groth, Katherine L. Spangler

3. Sociology The New Millennium, by Jenifer Kunz & Claudia Stuart professors at WTAMU

4. For All Practical Purposes, Mathematical Literacy in Today’s World by Comap

5. Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas