PERSPICACITY


PERSPICACITY

by Sharon Stevens

I just hate research. I hate it, HATE it, HATE IT!! Can I tell you how much I hate it. Let me count the ways.

I just start out with one note, one page, one idea and before you know it I am thrown in a million different directions. Take today for instance. We had a gentleman come into our Buffalo Bookstore. He and his wife are retired professors from Buffalo New York. They were in Ireland visiting the national park of the Adair family. They came across information about the Adairs and the connection to the Goodnights, and then found where they could research at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. Voila, they were here.

You cannot imagine the journeys our conversation traveled. We talked about the town, the heritage, books, the community here and there. We discussed their passions, our passions and everything in between and found connections with every connection. Unbelievable!

So this evening I was researching in the book “The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum” by Joseph Hill and came across the word “perspicacity”. I had never heard or seen this word and had no clue what it pertained to. I read it in the context of the sentence but unsure of the true meaning. So of course I had to look it up. And then I had to look it up with the next definition and the next. You know how they have Wikipedia and free this and free that. Well you know the rest of this story. No one needs a rocket scientist to tell you the name of that tune. This means I had to spend the better part of an hour or more going back and forth searching for the perfect definition for my blog that would make the most sense. I AM a writer you know. Well actually I was working on my story for the Llano Cemetery Walk hosted by the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum on October 19, 2013 from 3-7:30pm, but that’s another story.

Back to my original thought,… nope,… can’t go there yet until I copy, paste, and file away for future reference something interesting that I found in the book that surely I can use someday, somewhere, in my next endeavor. So proud of me. That time it only took thirty minutes out of my lifetime. And if you are really dying to read, this is what I came across. I can’t help but to share. I know you will find it just as interesting as I did. So sad you can’t make it to the library to look it up yourself so I will do it for you. Glad to do it. Ask me anytime. Glad to be of service. This is what I live for. No trouble at all … “And here we have the pattern that really built the institution-a clear vision of the possibilities, a strong conviction as to its merit, unselfish devotion to a challenging undertaking, a good public relations program, a co-operative spirit on the part of all interested people, an annual fellowship meeting around a banquet table, and a sound and aggressive leadership.”

Before I knew it the evening was over and I hadn’t written the body of the text, just the definition at the top of the page. There is nothing I can accomplish with just one word. It takes all of them put together to make a functioning, viable statement. Or so they tell me.

Anyway, back to research. If there is one thing I need to change in my writing career is that I need to take a topic, follow just one thread, or one connection, for a focused amount of time and immediately get back to the basis of the article. I cannot spend all my time with “research” and neglect what brought me to this idea in the first place. Oh well, I’ll try to do better. I just wish DeWanna Pace and Jodi Thomas had shared how to limit my research time years ago when I took creative writing from them. My life would have been so much simpler.

But in all honesty, I so love research. It brings me such joy! I just wish I could control it more.

And the definition of the word perspicacity…you will have to look it up yourself and choose your own definition. I have too much writing to do.

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PERSPICACITY


PERSPICACITY

by Sharon Stevens

I just hate research. I hate it, HATE it, HATE IT!! Can I tell you how much I hate it. Let me count the ways.

I just start out with one note, one page, one idea and before you know it I am thrown in a million different directions. Take today for instance. We had a gentleman come into our Buffalo Bookstore. He and his wife are retired professors from Buffalo New York. They were in Ireland visiting the national park of the Adair family. They came across information about the Adairs and the connection to the Goodnights, and then found where they could research at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. Voila, they were here.

You cannot imagine the journeys our conversation traveled. We talked about the town, the heritage, books, the community here and there. We discussed their passions, our passions and everything in between and found connections with every connection. Unbelievable!

So this evening I was researching in the book “The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum” by Joseph Hill and came across the word “perspicacity”. I had never heard or seen this word and had no clue what it pertained to. I read it in the context of the sentence but unsure of the true meaning. So of course I had to look it up. And then I had to look it up with the next definition and the next. You know how they have Wikipedia and free this and free that. Well you know the rest of this story. No one needs a rocket scientist to tell you the name of that tune. This means I had to spend the better part of an hour or more going back and forth searching for the perfect definition for my blog that would make the most sense. I AM a writer you know. Well actually I was working on my story for the Llano Cemetery Walk hosted by the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum on October 19, 2013 from 3-7:30pm, but that’s another story.

Back to my original thought,… nope,… can’t go there yet until I copy, paste, and file away for future reference something interesting that I found in the book that surely I can use someday, somewhere, in my next endeavor. So proud of me. That time it only took thirty minutes out of my lifetime. And if you are really dying to read, this is what I came across. I can’t help but to share. I know you will find it just as interesting as I did. So sad you can’t make it to the library to look it up yourself so I will do it for you. Glad to do it. Ask me anytime. Glad to be of service. This is what I live for. No trouble at all … “And here we have the pattern that really built the institution-a clear vision of the possibilities, a strong conviction as to its merit, unselfish devotion to a challenging undertaking, a good public relations program, a co-operative spirit on the part of all interested people, an annual fellowship meeting around a banquet table, and a sound and aggressive leadership.”

Before I knew it the evening was over and I hadn’t written the body of the text, just the definition at the top of the page. There is nothing I can accomplish with just one word. It takes all of them put together to make a functioning, viable statement. Or so they tell me.

Anyway, back to research. If there is one thing I need to change in my writing career is that I need to take a topic, follow just one thread, or one connection, for a focused amount of time and immediately get back to the basis of the article. I cannot spend all my time with “research” and neglect what brought me to this idea in the first place. Oh well, I’ll try to do better. I just wish DeWanna Pace and Jodi Thomas had shared how to limit my research time years ago when I took creative writing from them. My life would have been so much simpler.

But in all honesty, I so love research. It brings me such joy! I just wish I could control it more.

And the definition of the word perspicacity…you will have to look it up yourself and choose your own definition. I have too much writing to do.

PERSPICACITY


PERSPICACITY

by Sharon Stevens

 

I just hate research. I hate it, HATE it, HATE IT!! Can I tell you how much I hate it. Let me count the ways.

I just start out with one note, one page, one idea and before you know it I am thrown in a million different directions. Take today for instance. We had a gentleman come into our Buffalo Bookstore. He and his wife are retired professors from Buffalo New York. They were in Ireland visiting the national park of the Adair family. They came across information about the Adairs and the connection to the Goodnights, and then found where they could research at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. Voila, they were here.

You cannot imagine the journeys our conversation traveled. We talked about the town, the heritage, books, the community here and there. We discussed their passions, our passions and everything in between and found connections with every connection. Unbelievable!

So this evening I was researching in the book “The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum” by Joseph Hill and came across the word “perspicacity”. I had never heard or seen this word and had no clue what it pertained to. I read it in the context of the sentence but unsure of the true meaning. So of course I had to look it up. And then I had to look it up with the next definition and the next. You know how they have Wikipedia and free this and free that. Well you know the rest of this story. No one needs a rocket scientist to tell you the name of that tune. This means I had to spend the better part of an hour or more going back and forth searching for the perfect definition for my blog that would make the most sense. I AM a writer you know. Well actually I was working on my story for the Llano Cemetery Walk hosted by the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum on October 19, 2013 from 3-7:30pm, but that’s another story.

Back to my original thought,… nope,… can’t go there yet until I copy, paste, and file away for future reference something interesting that I found in the book that surely I can use someday, somewhere, in my next endeavor. So proud of me. That time it only took thirty minutes out of my lifetime. And if you are really dying to read, this is what I came across. I can’t help but to share. I know you will find it just as interesting as I did. So sad you can’t make it to the library to look it up yourself so I will do it for you. Glad to do it. Ask me anytime. Glad to be of service. This is what I live for. No trouble at all … “And here we have the pattern that really built the institution-a clear vision of the possibilities, a strong conviction as to its merit, unselfish devotion to a challenging undertaking, a good public relations program, a co-operative spirit on the part of all interested people, an annual fellowship meeting around a banquet table, and a sound and aggressive leadership.”

Before I knew it the evening was over and I hadn’t written the body of the text, just the definition at the top of the page. There is nothing I can accomplish with just one word. It takes all of them put together to make a functioning, viable statement. Or so they tell me.

Anyway, back to research. If there is one thing I need to change in my writing career is that I need to take a topic, follow just one thread, or one connection, for a focused amount of time and immediately get back to the basis of the article. I cannot spend all my time with “research” and neglect what brought me to this idea in the first place. Oh well, I’ll try to do better. I just wish DeWanna Pace and Jodi Thomas had shared how to limit my research time years ago when I took creative writing from them. My life would have been so much simpler.

But in all honesty, I so love research. It brings me such joy! I just wish I could control it more.

And the definition of the word perspicacity…you will have to look it up yourself and choose your own definition. I have too much writing to do.

TEXAS


TEXAS

by Sharon Stevens

While going through used paperbacks at our bookstore I came across a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a bookmark I had tucked between one of the pages long ago. My memories instantly took me back. I remembered watching this version, the production by Franco Zeffirelli’s, at the movies on my fifteen birthday. Something stirred in my tender soul that night and it wasn’t just the scene where a naked Leonard Whiting (Romeo) rises from Juliet’s bed and greets the morning sunlight. I was overwhelmed not only with the words of Shakespeare, but the poetry, the settings, the costumes, and the way the dawn filtered through the sheer curtains of the bedchamber. All of it connecting me from that day to this moment, celebrating cinema and live theatre through the centuries. The story is timeless of two families struggling, torn with their beliefs ripping each other apart while destroying the very heart of the youth until all come together in grief.

The notes in this Scholastic book mentioned that Shakespeare borrowed the plot and characters from a long poem by Arthur Brooke called, “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, but the ancient story came from an Italian tale very much older than that.

Jennifer Yirak Ryen directed “Romeo and Juliet” this past year at Shakespeare in the Park at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t tell you what this meant for me to hear “A curse on both your houses” echo against the canyon walls, and to see the lights glint off the swords as they battled each other to the death. I think this is truly what Shakespeare envisioned as he read the “historye” and set his images to resound through the centuries. He wrote this play to be performed on a bare stage with minimal distractions from the periphery of our vision. In Palo Duro Canyon Jennifer did just that as Paul Green did over fifty years ago with TEXAS and Dave Yirak continues to this day. The play is the thing and the world is our stage.

Shakespeare never wasted a tragedy and as writers neither do we. We collect every thought, every scent, every memory, every pain, and every joy in between. We don’t celebrate misfortune, but we do rejoice in the friends and families that stood beside us as we struggle…those who brought us to the brink as well as those who held us back.

We can never know what someone may glean from something we had written. An image may come to mind that we weren’t anticipating, tugging at our hearts or gnawing at our soul. So many times I burst with excitement over a phrase and burst into tears with the next one. Who are we to judge what stirs a soul or drains a heart?

We can only write and hope that someday our writings will touch either a passion or a nerve and ignite a flame.

The musical drama TEXAS begins their season on June 2, 2012. Much has changed from year to year, but the passions remain the same. Dave Yirak, the artistic director, will again be guiding the cast and crew to perform for millions from around the world. Paul Green’s message as a writer of man against man, man against nature and man against himself has never gotten lost amid the controversies trying to divide the very foundation of our heritage. Even though the names of the actors, hospitality, front of the house and those behind the scenes may be different, Shakespeare will be front and center with the best seats in the house.

Sometime in the past I had tucked a quote in between the pages of “Romeo and Juliet” to hold my place. Where ever that place was I have forgotten long ago.  I wondered why in the world I had marked that certain spot. What did I notice, what caught my eye, what was in my heart? The quote was from “The Lost Colony”, a symphonic drama and the accompanying article written in the July 1960 Reader’s Digest by Alan Rankin about Paul Green.  Margaret Harper was moved by the words and she and her husband Ples visited with Margaret and William Moore about asking Green to come to Palo Duro Canyon to see if he would write a play to be performed with the spirit of our heritage.

Green asked for a packet of material to be sent to him so he could get a feel of the legacy that surrounds us. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum gathered material from all his sources and sent it on. The museum will be holding their, “Night At The Museum” on June 1 & 2nd from 9:00-10:30pm. All the lights are turned down and everyone brings a flashlight to explore the museum in all its glory.

I treasure TEXAS and all it stands for. I marvel at the majesty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rejoice in the men, women and children that encompass the cast and crew past and future. I know that each time I walk the grounds leading to the entrance to the amphitheater, as God and John Wayne are my witness I know without a doubt that there will be something that will touch my soul and bring back a memory.

Maybe I will use it in a story or maybe I will store it in my heart, and come across it sometime in the future when I open the page of a book and turn to the placed I marked so long ago.

I truly think Shakespeare will be proud.

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

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

DISCOVER THE PROMISE


DISCOVER THE PROMISE

by Sharon Stevens

I don’t know what I feel each time I watch the viral video of Karen Klein being bullied on the school bus. There are no words. None! Of course there is disgust and there is anger, and there is dismay, and there is outrage, and there are tears, so many, many tears.

It was so hard to distance myself from the words of horror I had witnessed so I approached it from a different angle. I decided to Google Greece Town New York, the city where the incident occurred. It seemed like such a pleasant place filled with a cross section of humanity. Who knew the town with the motto of “discover the promise” would harbor families that raised such ugliness. Sort of like our own Tulia Texas who faced a tragedy of its own a few years ago.

Still there were no words.

I can only imagine the pain Karen went through listening as they taunted her. What gave her the grace to not lash out at the kids? How many times did she face this in the past? What words did she carry in her heart and soul that brought her peace with each mile she rode?

No one knows, no one can fathom…ever, forever!

And then there is Sandusky!

Everyone needs inspiration! We face unspeakable horrors, pain, and tragedies, but also tremendous joys and celebrations. No matter the media we still need to discover the words that keep us whole and sane and center our soul.

Those of us who love to write try to find words in everything that crosses our path. When I put pen to paper or fingers to computer I want to set down all thoughts and every feeling. It is important for me to make sure each and every person understands what I am trying to say whether they want to or not. I know I need to focus, and tighten. There is no question I have a problem, but I need this. I live for this. I cherish this. In all the terrible destruction in the world with writing I can find a solace in my soul.

And I think this is why attending writing conferences like Frontiers in Writing matter so much to me. As I sit in a room with others I soak up inspiration from not only the speaker, but each person in the room. The questions they ask and even the way they frame their queries gives me a glimmer of hope. At the very least I find a quote phrased in-between the ideas. I can study the characters around me at the same time. Names, plots, settings, emotions, all find their way into my psyche and my notes.

But you don’t always need to share just with written words. Take for example Delbert Trew’s column in the Amarillo Globe News about his family’s mercantile store. When I read the article I knew the words would be perfect for Biffle and Cross Mercantile for the opening of the new Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I made copies and carried them over and placed them in the store. On the way back to the Buffalo Bookstore I just had to stop under the shadow of the American and Texas Flag at the entrance to the museum and take pictures of the flowers planted there. Sunflowers are always special as they bring up memories of my daughter. Her words are that you always have to smile whenever you see sunflowers. There are no bad memories associated when you share the beauty of these bright, yellow treasures.

This weekend hosts many different events in our area. The Frontiers in Writing Conference will be held at Amarillo College and sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers hosted with PPW president Matt Sherley, and chaired by Natalie Bright with guest speakers of Candace Havens, Jodi Thomas, John Erickson, Jeff Campbell, Hilary Sares, Craig and Nancy Keel, Chris Stewart, Mary Lou Cheatham, Joe Trent, and so many others. Jim Gleason at Barnes and Nobles also will give a presentation about publishing.

And the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum will be hosting the grand opening of Pioneer Town-a long awaited celebration. WTAMU will be sharing along with the English Department, The Legacy with selected readings and open mic at the Palace Coffee House on the courthouse square in Canyon Texas.  The musical drama TEXAS continues in Palo Duro Canyon, and Canyon is gearing up for July 4th.

How can anyone choose?

I urge everyone to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities in our community. We have so much facing us in the future and need to take these moments to heart. Don’t miss a single moment to celebrate the rich legacy and heritage that surrounds us. As a writer, Frontiers in Writing meets every need for those who love to write and share.

Just as in the case of Karen Klein, it will help us to find the write words.

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

TEXAS


TEXAS

by Sharon Stevens

While going through used paperbacks at our bookstore I came across a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a bookmark I had tucked between one of the pages long ago. My memories instantly took me back. I remembered watching this version, the production by Franco Zeffirelli’s, at the movies on my fifteen birthday. Something stirred in my tender soul that night and it wasn’t just the scene where a naked Leonard Whiting (Romeo) rises from Juliet’s bed and greets the morning sunlight. I was overwhelmed not only with the words of Shakespeare, but the poetry, the settings, the costumes, and the way the dawn filtered through the sheer curtains of the bedchamber. All of it connecting me from that day to this moment, celebrating cinema and live theatre through the centuries. The story is timeless of two families struggling, torn with their beliefs ripping each other apart while destroying the very heart of the youth until all come together in grief.

The notes in this Scholastic book mentioned that Shakespeare borrowed the plot and characters from a long poem by Arthur Brooke called, “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, but the ancient story came from an Italian tale very much older than that.

Jennifer Yirak Ryen directed “Romeo and Juliet” this past year at Shakespeare in the Park at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t tell you what this meant for me to hear “A curse on both your houses” echo against the canyon walls, and to see the lights glint off the swords as they battled each other to the death. I think this is truly what Shakespeare envisioned as he read the “historye” and set his images to resound through the centuries. He wrote this play to be performed on a bare stage with minimal distractions from the periphery of our vision. In Palo Duro Canyon Jennifer did just that as Paul Green did over fifty years ago with TEXAS and Dave Yirak continues to this day. The play is the thing and the world is our stage.

Shakespeare never wasted a tragedy and as writers neither do we. We collect every thought, every scent, every memory, every pain, and every joy in between. We don’t celebrate misfortune, but we do rejoice in the friends and families that stood beside us as we struggle…those who brought us to the brink as well as those who held us back.

We can never know what someone may glean from something we had written. An image may come to mind that we weren’t anticipating, tugging at our hearts or gnawing at our soul. So many times I burst with excitement over a phrase and burst into tears with the next one. Who are we to judge what stirs a soul or drains a heart?

We can only write and hope that someday our writings will touch either a passion or a nerve and ignite a flame.

The musical drama TEXAS begins their season on June 2, 2012. Much has changed from year to year, but the passions remain the same. Dave Yirak, the artistic director, will again be guiding the cast and crew to perform for millions from around the world. Paul Green’s message as a writer of man against man, man against nature and man against himself has never gotten lost amid the controversies trying to divide the very foundation of our heritage. Even though the names of the actors, hospitality, front of the house and those behind the scenes may be different, Shakespeare will be front and center with the best seats in the house.

Sometime in the past I had tucked a quote in between the pages of “Romeo and Juliet” to hold my place. Where ever that place was I have forgotten long ago.  I wondered why in the world I had marked that certain spot. What did I notice, what caught my eye, what was in my heart? The quote was from “The Lost Colony”, a symphonic drama and the accompanying article written in the July 1960 Reader’s Digest by Alan Rankin about Paul Green.  Margaret Harper was moved by the words and she and her husband Ples visited with Margaret and William Moore about asking Green to come to Palo Duro Canyon to see if he would write a play to be performed with the spirit of our heritage.

Green asked for a packet of material to be sent to him so he could get a feel of the legacy that surrounds us. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum gathered material from all his sources and sent it on. The museum will be holding their, “Night At The Museum” on June 1 & 2nd from 9:00-10:30pm. All the lights are turned down and everyone brings a flashlight to explore the museum in all its glory.

I treasure TEXAS and all it stands for. I marvel at the majesty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rejoice in the men, women and children that encompass the cast and crew past and future. I know that each time I walk the grounds leading to the entrance to the amphitheater, as God and John Wayne are my witness I know without a doubt that there will be something that will touch my soul and bring back a memory.

Maybe I will use it in a story or maybe I will store it in my heart, and come across it sometime in the future when I open the page of a book and turn to the placed I marked so long ago.

I truly think Shakespeare will be proud.

Sharon Stevens

GRAFFITI


GRAFFITI

by Sharon Stevens

I tried to write graffiti today…No, not the kind tagged with gang signs that mar the landscape of public buildings or the bubble letters written on the side of rail cars. I am not even referring to the colors spray painted on the fins of Stanley Marsh’s cars at Cadillac Ranch.

What I attempted to scribble could never be seen, never be shared, never see the glow of my computer screen. I would never let it get that far.

Let me explain. When you think of graffiti you imagine a punk using illegal paint, defacing to their hearts content until they hear the sound of someone approaching. They immediately ditch the evidence and run as fast as their pants dragging legs will carry them. What they leave behind is bits and pieces of what they consider a masterpiece of their soul soon to be destroyed by people employed for just that purpose.

I tried to paint my masterpiece this week, tried to create with simple graphics my homey’s world. (It’s disturbing my computer spell check didn’t highlight homey.) No go. Every thought I attempted would bring the word police and I would run away with fear pounding in my heart. Or even worse, just when I thought my etchings were beautiful, and focused, and strong enough to remain, others would come along and whitewash every thought and every dream, deeming it ugly, stupid, and representative of a culture they wouldn’t tolerate in their fair city.

There were so many joys I wanted to write this week. WTAMU as part of their Distinguished Lecture series hosted former president Bill Clinton as well as Robert Ballard who found the Titanic, The Wounded Warriors would ride with George W. Bush in Palo Duro Canyon and the Palace Coffee House in Canyon would host Shawn Smucker and Jason Boyett on writing and blogging. The list goes on and on.

I even wanted to write about going to the funeral of kinfolk and hearing the memories of the “Hershey burger”, then afterwards visiting the Muleshoe Heritage Center, and being given a personal tour of the John N. Janes Home. To top it all off, at the end of the day I wanted to write about the visitors at the Buffalo Bookstore from England who shared their memories of home, as well as the kindness they had found in the panhandle of Texas. They were the ones who asked me what I thought about graffiti.

Each time I set down at the computer to write that perfect phrase, that glowing intro, I got distracted by another thought, another story, another reminder I couldn’t wait to share, and instantly I would run away and hide.

I think the worst of my fears was that I imagined who would be reading this blog. I wasn’t so afraid that they would critique my writing, as I was petrified they would deem it as a story that shouldn’t be told, thus destroying the essence of my memories and therefore my joys.

And this is my dilemma. Every story I write I feel is a message to future generations. I know that once it is written, and goes into cyberspace it can be retrieved forever. Would the writing police a hundred years from now judge my memories as silly and irrelevant? Would they determine when they read the words of my fellow Wordsmith Six bloggers that mine was the misfit graffiti defacing the beauty of THEIR efforts.

I guess what I am trying to say is that is that I want to write the words and paint the picture that will endure for eternity of all that is good and wonderful in our community. Even though there are others who feel I shouldn’t write such trivia. I envisioned that I was the one who believed, and could see how artistry was on every surface as well as every nook and cranny as far as the heart could see. Joseph A. Hill wrote on coming to the panhandle in, The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum, “Never before had I seen such cloudless skies, such blue Heavens, nor so many stars. Nor had I witnessed such displays of Heavenly beauty as when, ever and anon, the Master Artist dipped His brush in Nature’s richest colors and gave us a canvas of sun and cloud on the western horizon.”

Graffiti artists will never have a venue without the fear of exposure, and their artwork can never stand. They know it will be destroyed as soon as someone comes along and recognizes it as unacceptable in their minds. This is a given. And no doubt about it, there is nothing glamorous about punks who will deface property that doesn’t belong to them. This is a crime and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. The millions of dollars spent each year to wash away gang signs and profanity could be spent in thousands of different ways to help their fellow man.

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE!

But then again, they could go out and paint the cars at Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch or have a photo shoot like Vogue Magazine. Marsh welcomes that kind of exposure for the world to see and this is why he created his masterpiece in the first place. He would never wash it away!

So maybe this is what I need to do, imagine it is people like Marsh or O’Keefe or Joseph Hill OR the Master Artist that are giving me a canvas that encompasses every avenue in the universe. I can write or paint to my heart’s content and celebrate receiving “postcards from the inner muse.”

And as far as the couple from England asking me what I thought about graffiti…? In their small town she is a secretary at the tiny church and he is the caretaker of the graves. He told us that there are 1,500 inhabitants in the city and 26,000 buried in the churchyard. On the stonework of their church someone had carved a sailing ship as proof they were once there. He shared that it was the Vikings that had left the mark of their “gang” about 800 A.D., still visible to this day. I can only imagine who the “homeys” chose as their artist for this effort. And not only that, how fast did they have to run ahead of the villagers to make it to their ship to sail away to the next destination to find another means of expression.

Next week I promise to not run away after I paint the picture of the “Hershey Burger.” I hope and pray it won’t be graffiti that you want to wash away.

Sharon Stevens