“TEXAS”


“TEXAS”

“Some people find themselves closer to God in church,

but some people find themselves closer to God telling stories,

and I’m one of these people.”

Julian Arrendondo IV

Amarillo Magazine April 2012

photo

PATCHWORK

by Sharon Stevens

So many years ago when I was a little girl my parents bought us a set of “The Children’s Hour” books. I loved to read and pored over these time after time. One of the most treasured was “Favorite Fairy Tales” and one of the stories within was “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde.

Sunday evening I remembered this story but wasn’t sure which book it was in. I googled the one phrase that came to mind which had to do with plucking out the jewel in the statue’s eye and sharing it with another who was poor. It didn’t take me long to locate the book and then to find the pages and then to read the words out loud that Wilde had written so very long ago. I wept with the beauty and the memory as my heart was so full.

On Monday morning I was looking through some old magazines and came across the Amarillo Magazine with the cover story of the Lone Star Ballet titled, “FULL CIRCLE” and I wept with joy of all these kids. How was I to know?

I wept again when I heard of the tragedy of the loss and destruction of the wonderful kids of the “TEXAS” cast and crew! I had just attended “TEXAS ORIGINALS” and saw these kids perform. In fact I congratulated Eric Harrison as he made his way up the aisle after receiving his scholarship that night. And to think that I witnessed these kids who choreographed and performed with Tim Johnson, Clint Diaz, Amanda Starz, Andrew Duncan, Julian Arrendondo IV. I also can’t tell you the number of performances I witnessed at the Branding Iron Theater under the direction of Royal R.Brantley and Stephen Crandall. “Anatomy of Grey” will always be one of my favorites.

For those of you who have read my Wordsmith six blog over the past year know that I hold a precious place in my heart for memories of “TEXAS”. There are so many wonderful people to numerous to name, but my thoughts and prayers are with all of you not only in the cast and crew this year, but since the beginning of time that this dream began. The Dowlen’s, Gene Murray, Lois Hull, HR and Thelma Fulton, Claudia and Mike Wilson, the entire Brantley, Raillard, Moore, family..the list goes on and on and I remember each and every one.

And the canyons themselves. I hear the echos, and see the flashes, celebrating the music that resounds against the walls and through our hearts. I marvel each time I go to see a performance at the names engraved in stone in the front wall of the Phebe Warner’s and those on the back wall of all those who gave their time and their very soul to this endeavor.

And Jerry Williams. Kris Miller does an awesome job, always, but I still miss Jerry and always will.

Jerry and Ruth Holladay performed together as “Patchwork” storytellers. Jerry wore a silk patchwork top hat and Ruth wore a patchwork vest with pockets. In fact the last time I saw Jerry was at “TEXAS” when he would walk up and down the line of visitors waiting to buy tickets and visit and share stories. You could always see his colorful top hat as he moved from one guest to the next. Ruth never knew what story she would tell until she got on stage. She would put her hand in her pocket and pull out an item and what ever she held in her hand would be the story she would share.

There are no words for the grief we all share together! How can the Kunherts and the Hernandez and the Bertrands families bear it? And Christie Spring, how many lives have touched hers as these kids came through. I know Vickie McLean has an ache deep in her heart. And David Yirak, what a tremendous man to feel such loss!

I know Timothy Johnson will carry the pain forever, but I wish for him such peace. And Theron McSay…I pray has comfort for him and his family and friends as he heals from his injuries.

After the death of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana I wrote a letter to the editor of the Canyon News that there were so many wonderful people among us that didn’t make great speeches or hold office but they touched our lives just the same. I wrote of David Schutte who rode the Canyon rim night after night with the Texas flag unfurled. I will always miss David.

Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Harry Haines and their family as they mourn the loss of wife Shirley. She will be missed as well. Shirley was the one who invited me to join the Friends of the Fine Arts Club as she knew I so loved the fine arts. She was very precious to me. So much loss for our community.

The final words of “The Happy Prince” are so simple, but so touching and I hope that sharing these will bring a tinge of comfort to anyone who reads them.

“What a strange thing!” said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. “This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away.” So they threw it on a dustheap where the dead Swallow was also lying.

“Bring me the two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. “You have rightly chosen,” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing forevermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince will praise me.”

I have no doubt in my mind that these kids are singing and dancing forevermore on the streets of the city of gold, and they will always have the best seats in the house. Break a leg to all! The performances you will all have to give in the coming years on the world stage will be the hardest to bear.

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“TEXAS”


“TEXAS”

“Some people find themselves closer to God in church,

but some people find themselves closer to God telling stories,

and I’m one of these people.”

Julian Arrendondo IV

Amarillo Magazine April 2012

photo

PATCHWORK

by Sharon Stevens

So many years ago when I was a little girl my parents bought us a set of “The Children’s Hour” books. I loved to read and pored over these time after time. One of the most treasured was “Favorite Fairy Tales” and one of the stories within was “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde.

Sunday evening I remembered this story but wasn’t sure which book it was in. I googled the one phrase that came to mind which had to do with plucking out the jewel in the statue’s eye and sharing it with another who was poor. It didn’t take me long to locate the book and then to find the pages and then to read the words out loud that Wilde had written so very long ago. I wept with the beauty and the memory as my heart was so full.

On Monday morning I was looking through some old magazines and came across the Amarillo Magazine with the cover story of the Lone Star Ballet titled, “FULL CIRCLE” and I wept with joy of all these kids. How was I to know?

I wept again when I heard of the tragedy of the loss and destruction of the wonderful kids of the “TEXAS” cast and crew! I had just attended “TEXAS ORIGINALS” and saw these kids perform. In fact I congratulated Eric Harrison as he made his way up the aisle after receiving his scholarship that night. And to think that I witnessed these kids who choreographed and performed with Tim Johnson, Clint Diaz, Amanda Starz, Andrew Duncan, Julian Arrendondo IV. I also can’t tell you the number of performances I witnessed at the Branding Iron Theater under the direction of Royal R.Brantley and Stephen Crandall. “Anatomy of Grey” will always be one of my favorites.

For those of you who have read my Wordsmith six blog over the past year know that I hold a precious place in my heart for memories of “TEXAS”. There are so many wonderful people to numerous to name, but my thoughts and prayers are with all of you not only in the cast and crew this year, but since the beginning of time that this dream began. The Dowlen’s, Gene Murray, Lois Hull, HR and Thelma Fulton, Claudia and Mike Wilson, the entire Brantley, Raillard, Moore, family..the list goes on and on and I remember each and every one.

And the canyons themselves. I hear the echos, and see the flashes, celebrating the music that resounds against the walls and through our hearts. I marvel each time I go to see a performance at the names engraved in stone in the front wall of the Phebe Warner’s and those on the back wall of all those who gave their time and their very soul to this endeavor.

And Jerry Williams. Kris Miller does an awesome job, always, but I still miss Jerry and always will.

Jerry and Ruth Holladay performed together as “Patchwork” storytellers. Jerry wore a silk patchwork top hat and Ruth wore a patchwork vest with pockets. In fact the last time I saw Jerry was at “TEXAS” when he would walk up and down the line of visitors waiting to buy tickets and visit and share stories. You could always see his colorful top hat as he moved from one guest to the next. Ruth never knew what story she would tell until she got on stage. She would put her hand in her pocket and pull out an item and what ever she held in her hand would be the story she would share.

There are no words for the grief we all share together! How can the Kunherts and the Hernandez and the Bertrands families bear it? And Christie Spring, how many lives have touched hers as these kids came through. I know Vickie McLean has an ache deep in her heart. And David Yirak, what a tremendous man to feel such loss!

I know Timothy Johnson will carry the pain forever, but I wish for him such peace. And Theron McSay…I pray has comfort for him and his family and friends as he heals from his injuries.

After the death of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana I wrote a letter to the editor of the Canyon News that there were so many wonderful people among us that didn’t make great speeches or hold office but they touched our lives just the same. I wrote of David Schutte who rode the Canyon rim night after night with the Texas flag unfurled. I will always miss David.

Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Harry Haines and their family as they mourn the loss of wife Shirley. She will be missed as well. Shirley was the one who invited me to join the Friends of the Fine Arts Club as she knew I so loved the fine arts. She was very precious to me. So much loss for our community.

The final words of “The Happy Prince” are so simple, but so touching and I hope that sharing these will bring a tinge of comfort to anyone who reads them.

“What a strange thing!” said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. “This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away.” So they threw it on a dustheap where the dead Swallow was also lying.

“Bring me the two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. “You have rightly chosen,” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing forevermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince will praise me.”

I have no doubt in my mind that these kids are singing and dancing forevermore on the streets of the city of gold, and they will always have the best seats in the house. Break a leg to all! The performances you will all have to give in the coming years on the world stage will be the hardest to bear.

MIRACLES


MIRACLES

By Sharon Stevens

As I am writing this tomorrow will celebrate the 4th of July. Amazing that it comes around every year at the same time of the month, year after year. Each cycle falls on a different day, but the meaning is the same regardless whether it occurs during a week day or weekend. Red, white and blue are the same colors through centuries and generations. Uncle Sam never ages.

I read General Colin Powell’s Fourth of July wish, and was caught by something he wrote. “Wishing you all a safe and happy 4th of July as we once again celebrate the MIRACLE of our democracy, and the WISDOM of our founding fathers.

Miracle…Wisdom…Two words that you wouldn’t associate with fireworks and festivities. But then again these expressions are the perfect reminder of why we celebrate our American Flag and our Freedom. I was rereading the Bill of Rights and Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and by jove, these are miracles. When you think of what it took for a group of men to come together for the Common Good, and then to write the first draft, and the second, and the third until they got it right, you can appreciate what a miracle this truly is. These people left the comforts of their home and the love of their families to travel, and then to argue together to find the wisdom shared together. This must have been monumental even for them. I can’t imagine the fireworks of these spirited souls.

Tomorrow I will watch the parade from the vantage point of our local business, the Buffalo Bookstore, surrounded by friends, neighbors, family, tourists, visitors, WTAMU students, and everyone in the community. There is no doubt in my mind that I will cherish the MIRACLE that is my Freedom, and treasure the memory of the WISDOM of the founding fathers.

As a writer, AND as a citizen, they are NEVER just words to me.

I can’t leave this blog post without celebrating the life of Margaret and Ples Harper, and Margaret and William Moore, the founders of the musical drama TEXAS. Both of these families were veterans of World War II and professors at WTSU, now WTAMU. Margaret Harper read an article about Paul Green in the July 1960 edition of Reader’s Digest. She invited the Moore’s over for supper and they discussed if it would be possible to do an outdoor drama in Palo Duro Canyon. They decided to write to Green and ask him to come to see what he could do. The date of the original letter was July 3rd 1960. I can only imagine the pageantry that they were anticipating as Canyon prepared for the next day festivities. They must have agonized over their correspondence until the mail went out after the fourth. I wonder what date Paul Green received this simple note at his mailbox, and if he knew where Canyon Texas was?

Truly a MIRACLE any way you look at it!

Happy July 4th everyone. Celebrate family and community, please be safe!

EASTER


EASTER

By Sharon Stevens

 

Carla Stewart recently blogged with Susan Reinhardt about writing, and also about her book, “The Moses Conspiracy”. Reinhardt said something that truly touched my heart. Her words… “The novel was born from an experience I had while standing in Gettysburg Square on December 2004. Surrounded by old buildings, I “heard” the forefathers voices, but they were like fading echoes.”

Can you imagine standing in Gettysburg Square? What did Susan feel, sense, smell, hear, or touch with the echoes of the forefathers? Who was there to tug at her thoughts? I am sure she didn’t hear laughter, but then again, what if she sensed the families that strolled through the town at better times.

How many of us stop and actually listen to the voices of our characters? How does the setting change if we turn in this direction? How can we write our stories if we can’t hear what they are saying? So many times we are so afraid of losing the terrific thoughts running through our brain that we forget to forge the story within. We are petrified that if we stop for even just a moment in time, all will be lost and we will have to start all over again. But the opposite is so true. Sometimes, if we breathe with the heart of our character, OUR heart will carry on to complete the scene.

I remember how Natalie Bright told our critique group that her character would wake her up at night urging her to tell the story. Jodi Thomas spent nights at the computer only to hear the alarm go off the next morning just in time to get ready to teach school. Paul Green, who wrote the musical drama TEXAS, said that the panhandle was his thinking day and night.

Without a doubt we need to listen to our characters, but then again, not to forget they also took time out of their busy lives to celebrate life itself.

Someone left behind a desk diary from 2002, “On Writers & Writing” by Helen Sheehy & Leslie Stainton. Each page listed an author and the story of their life. To me, this was a true treasure on every level. The calendar itself had spaces to write thoughts and memories. The birth or death dates of authors were inserted at the bottom of each entry. But it was the stories of all the authors that caused my heart to leap for joy!

The March notation is the life story of Olaudah Equiano who was born sometime in 1745 and died March 31, 1797. Equiano’s life story began when he was kidnapped at age 11 and shipped to America for a life of slavery, “in a state of distraction not to be described.” He wrote an autobiography recounting the violence of being branded and beaten, but also of being taken in by an officer of the Royal Navy who taught him to read. He writes, “I had a great curiosity to talk to the books as I thought they did.” Equiano recalled. “for that purpose I have often taken up a book and have talked to it and then put my ears to it, when in hopes it would answer me.”

As writers, may you always take a moment to listen to your books as they tell their story! And may your books have a story to tell.

Happy Easter!

MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

DSC02922

MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

DSC02922

MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

TEACHING CREATIVITY


TEACHING CREATIVITY

by Sharon Stevens

“Teach kids to understand everything but to fear nothing.”

Kevin Honeycutt

Almost twenty years ago I sat next to Kathy Gist at the Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College. She had submitted a story for the contest and all of us in attendance were waiting for the results. Kathy won in not only her category, but the best of all the writings that year. The judges for her wrote magazine articles and their talk was about getting your work published. They loved her story! She had taken a sweet memory of her father, and after his death she had taken fabric from his old shirts and quilted them into a wall hanging for her and her family. She wrote that she gathered them up and buried herself within the folds and grieved with each cut but healed with each stitch.

The look on Kathy’s face was priceless as the presenters listed all the publications and magazines that would be interested to carry her story. They told her to submit it now, as quick as she could and to as many as she dared. And she did. She sent her work to Guidepost and Country magazine among others. It was published in Country and then she found out she had won the Guidepost Short Story Award. The prize for this was a week in New York City with five other winners who would spend their time visiting with agents, publishers, other writers, and teachers of the craft of writing.

I thought of Kathy today as I watched Natalie Bright finish up power points for her own presentation. How blessed I was to be beside her as she went over each graphic chosen especially for this talk. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, a teacher at the Sally B. Elliott Elementary School in Irving Texas, had invited Kevin Honeycutt to Skype, and Natalie to speak at their special author’s event. Natalie teaches creative writing for children at various workshops in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, She is also the Program Chair for the Frontier in Writing Conference and a blogger for Wordsmith Six Blog. Natalie and Jodi Thomas would be traveling to Dallas for the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Conference this weekend and had graciously consented to give a talk to the kids over writing and a connection to oil. Natalie and her husband Chris have Sunlight Exploration, as a geologist with an oil and gas business, and she had written the book “Oil People” as a middle reader.

My husband, Joe Stevens was the photographer for the book. He has such a gift in photography, where did he tap into this talent?

Jodi Thomas is a guest speaker at the DFW Writers Conference and her topic is, “To Teach Creativity, Writing Deeper.” And this brings me to the inspiration for this blog.

How do you teach creativity, how do you ingrain writing? To inspire, sure, to instruct, ditto. You can do all of these things. But to be able to take those lessons and create a story is something that comes from within. As I watched Natalie I was overwhelmed with all the emotions exploding in my heart. The colors, the graphics, the whole kit and caboodle came alive and sang to my soul.

I felt the same way when I took Creative Writing classes from Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace at the urging of my good friend Connie Hirsch. Jodi taught each of us in the class to write from our own heart. They taught us the craft of writing and the mechanics, but it went so much deeper than that or higher above. They inspired us to tap into ourselves and find a way to transfer that onto print. I also am touched in so many ways with each guest speaker at Panhandle Professional Writers like Barbara Brannon from Texas Tech University Press as they share their passion and gifts. In just a couple of hours they take a simple subject and weave a connection that we can use to our own benefit.

And then again my heart is so full as I watch my daughter gather ideas using all she learned with her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, but also with Podstock, Follett Higher Education, Destination Imagination, BrainPop, Girl Scouts and on and on. And then there are the people who have touched her life such as Dr. Alice Owen, Dr. Elaine Roberts, and Elaine Plybon. Who was their teacher that gave them their gifts? Andrea has volunteered for years every which way she can, and stores tidbits everywhere she goes. Teaching children with Autism keeps her sharp in all the ways she can give them a voice. Her creativity knows no bounds. Where did she find this spark? How does she transfer it to others? It boggles the mind. My husband and I may have given her life, but the extras she created on her own.

Each and every person connected together share the essence of their creativity. Some exude through their very soul. The definition in my 1890 Webster’s dictionary only describes creativity as related to creation as in birth. And maybe it is nothing more than that. But I believe creativity is what takes a scene or an idea and gives it life, and helps it to explode with vivid colors bright with everything that gives us spirit.

I won’t be there to watch Andrea shine, or as Natalie gives her talk or Kevin Skypes, but I will be blessed to hear them as they share their excitement when they return home, or watch their postings on facebook or email. As God and John Wayne are my witness I know with their creativity they will touch the life of a child, or a parent, or a teacher. And each of those will return to their own homes and their own families and pass these moments on to their siblings and to their friends, AND this will perpetuate an endless cycle of heritage and legacy for eternity. What a treasure!

I think words taken from the musical drama “TEXAS” says it best. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things. And here where you once followed the Buffalo, a kind and happy people will build their homes and cities in joy and Thanksgiving-trusting in one another, friends to one another. Yes, that’s what I mean, honored warrior and chief. And we will remember your suffering and the suffering and sacrifice of your people and of my own Mother who sleeps in this ground where you will sleep, and so will the better and more beautiful make this land because of you. And our children, and children’s children will remember. WILL REMEMBER!”

Sharon Stevens

ADDRESS UNKNOWN


ADDRESS UNKNOWN

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.

GAN


GAN

by Sharon Stevens

“Gan-A contraction of began, or rather the original simple word.”

1890 Webster’s Dictionary

I BEGAN Tuesday morning with the news of the murder of a man in Lubbock with the involvement of a local doctor here in Amarillo. I ended the day with a news interview on Pro News 7 about Dr. Warner at Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. In between I checked my facebook account, and clicked on the picture of my daughter, Andrea Keller and her friend and colleague Elaine Plybon, both teachers, on their way to a conference in Wichita Kansas for Podstock.

Whew! What a ride!

In words taken from the musical drama TEXAS. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things.”

The whole day I celebrated good news. Not news of puppies, bunnies and rainbows by any means. I rejoiced in the fact that each of these stories were shared and could be shared on every level and all mediums. As a writer I can write, or share, or click to my heart’s content. Any one of us can read Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe, or Harry Potter. Not only that, we could read anything at any hour of the day and night. And just think of it, I only have my husband to tell me to turn out the light and go to bed.

I can sing, even though there are those who wished I wouldn’t. But I can hum and rejoice and worship to any Almighty Power that leads my soul. No one can force me, coerce me, drag me, or guilt me into believing against my beliefs. On the other hand, they can guide me and lead me and stand beside me wherever I go.

To me it is so important for each of us as writers to take a moment every once in a while to give thanks for the Freedom TO write. I believe there is no greater gift we cherish than to be able to put words to paper or into cyberspace with only the worry of rejection to guide us. How rich are we in our society that we don’t face retaliation against all we hold most dear. Not only can we write, but we can read whatever anyone else writes about such things as vampires or murder or ugliness, as well as whatever sugary sweet confection that appeals to some palates, mine included.

Each and every morning as I BEGIN my day I remember the very basic and simple privilege given to me by those who protect that freedom. Celebrating the ability to write means the world. With this good news I am given the universe, all because I write.

Sharon Stevens

TEACHING CREATIVITY


TEACHING CREATIVITY

by Sharon Stevens

“Teach kids to understand everything but to fear nothing.”

Kevin Honeycutt

Almost twenty years ago I sat next to Kathy Gist at the Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College. She had submitted a story for the contest and all of us in attendance were waiting for the results. Kathy won in not only her category, but the best of all the writings that year. The judges for her wrote magazine articles and their talk was about getting your work published. They loved her story! She had taken a sweet memory of her father, and after his death she had taken fabric from his old shirts and quilted them into a wall hanging for her and her family. She wrote that she gathered them up and buried herself within the folds and grieved with each cut but healed with each stitch.

The look on Kathy’s face was priceless as the presenters listed all the publications and magazines that would be interested to carry her story. They told her to submit it now, as quick as she could and to as many as she dared. And she did. She sent her work to Guidepost and Country magazine among others. It was published in Country and then she found out she had won the Guidepost Short Story Award. The prize for this was a week in New York City with five other winners who would spend their time visiting with agents, publishers, other writers, and teachers of the craft of writing.

I thought of Kathy today as I watched Natalie Bright finish up power points for her own presentation. How blessed I was to be beside her as she went over each graphic chosen especially for this talk. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, a teacher at the Sally B. Elliott Elementary School in Irving Texas, had invited Kevin Honeycutt to Skype, and Natalie to speak at their special author’s event. Natalie teaches creative writing for children at various workshops in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, She is also the Program Chair for the Frontier in Writing Conference and a blogger for Wordsmith Six Blog. Natalie and Jodi Thomas would be traveling to Dallas for the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Conference this weekend and had graciously consented to give a talk to the kids over writing and a connection to oil. Natalie and her husband Chris have Sunlight Exploration, as a geologist with an oil and gas business, and she had written the book “Oil People” as a middle reader.

My husband, Joe Stevens was the photographer for the book. He has such a gift in photography, where did he tap into this talent?

Jodi Thomas is a guest speaker at the DFW Writers Conference and her topic is, “To Teach Creativity, Writing Deeper.” And this brings me to the inspiration for this blog.

How do you teach creativity, how do you ingrain writing? To inspire, sure, to instruct, ditto. You can do all of these things. But to be able to take those lessons and create a story is something that comes from within. As I watched Natalie I was overwhelmed with all the emotions exploding in my heart. The colors, the graphics, the whole kit and caboodle came alive and sang to my soul.

I felt the same way when I took Creative Writing classes from Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace at the urging of my good friend Connie Hirsch. Jodi taught each of us in the class to write from our own heart. They taught us the craft of writing and the mechanics, but it went so much deeper than that or higher above. They inspired us to tap into ourselves and find a way to transfer that onto print. I also am touched in so many ways with each guest speaker at Panhandle Professional Writers like Barbara Brannon from Texas Tech University Press as they share their passion and gifts. In just a couple of hours they take a simple subject and weave a connection that we can use to our own benefit.

And then again my heart is so full as I watch my daughter gather ideas using all she learned with her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, but also with Podstock, Follett Higher Education, Destination Imagination, BrainPop, Girl Scouts and on and on. And then there are the people who have touched her life such as Dr. Alice Owen, Dr. Elaine Roberts, and Elaine Plybon. Who was their teacher that gave them their gifts? Andrea has volunteered for years every which way she can, and stores tidbits everywhere she goes. Teaching children with Autism keeps her sharp in all the ways she can give them a voice. Her creativity knows no bounds. Where did she find this spark? How does she transfer it to others? It boggles the mind. My husband and I may have given her life, but the extras she created on her own.

Each and every person connected together share the essence of their creativity. Some exude through their very soul. The definition in my 1890 Webster’s dictionary only describes creativity as related to creation as in birth. And maybe it is nothing more than that. But I believe creativity is what takes a scene or an idea and gives it life, and helps it to explode with vivid colors bright with everything that gives us spirit.

I won’t be there to watch Andrea shine, or as Natalie gives her talk or Kevin Skypes, but I will be blessed to hear them as they share their excitement when they return home, or watch their postings on facebook or email. As God and John Wayne are my witness I know with their creativity they will touch the life of a child, or a parent, or a teacher. And each of those will return to their own homes and their own families and pass these moments on to their siblings and to their friends, AND this will perpetuate an endless cycle of heritage and legacy for eternity. What a treasure!

I think words taken from the musical drama “TEXAS” says it best. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things. And here where you once followed the Buffalo, a kind and happy people will build their homes and cities in joy and Thanksgiving-trusting in one another, friends to one another. Yes, that’s what I mean, honored warrior and chief. And we will remember your suffering and the suffering and sacrifice of your people and of my own Mother who sleeps in this ground where you will sleep, and so will the better and more beautiful make this land because of you. And our children, and children’s children will remember. WILL REMEMBER!”

Sharon Stevens