PARAMOUNT


PARAMOUNT
 by Sharon Stevens
“Since it is likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”
C. S. Lewis
If I had been there…
Can you imagine how it would feel? What would I remember on the ride back home? How many memories would I carry within for the next day, and then the next, and for all the days after that? What songs would I sing after I returned? What stories would I tell and memories might I write?
On August 28, 2013 I thought all day long of what I would have remembered if I had been there in 1963 with the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. or on March 6, 2012 with Andrea Keller, a graduate of WTAMU.
At our Buffalo Bookstore we sell college textbooks for WTAMU and on this day I sold a book for History 1302 with the photo on the cover of Civil Rights Advocates singing in protest in front of the Washington Monument for the March on Washington.
Remember that in 1963 those returning home would have faced the same discrimination they had left behind. How much worse was it in their communities for those filled with the glory and inspiration they carried home? I can only imagine how angry their employers must have been for those attending in Washington to take time off to participate in something those in the rest of the country felt was an act of rebellion against the status quo. Those brave and courageous souls knew the backlash was going to be horrific but they were willing to take the leap of faith to feel moments of celebration. Of course they knew that things wouldn’t change over night, or over years, but they knew there WOULD be change and excitement to share with their children as well as their grandparents.
Andrea Keller was named as “20 Educators to Watch in the Nation” by the National School Board Association and was given this award in Washington DC. On the morning she received this honor she stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and skyped with her class back home at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas. She skyped with us first to make sure everything worked perfectly before she connected with her class. The substitute teacher said the excitement with her children with Autism was so special and the ultimate field trip for those who might never get the chance.
When Andrea returned home she didn’t face any discrimination or ugliness. She didn’t fear for her life as those attending the March on Washington. Andrea would go right back to teaching and living her life without a fear of reprisal for celebrating her God-Given Freedom. Her memories might not be as serious as those in 1963, but this doesn’t make them any less precious or meaningful because I know that Andrea doesn’t take this memory for granted.
How do I know this? I believe this deep down in my heart and soul because Andrea Keller is my daughter and I witnessed her skype from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I wish I could write the words for great speeches…stirring, moving, inspirational words to launch a movement. I can’t. EVER. But this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the words of others. I love to share and the greatest joy I celebrate in my life is to gather the stories and pass them on. For example, in the Amarillo Globe News on this day is a story about Lisa Lawrence and her memory of facing horrific ugliness when she and her friends, after finishing her first year of college wanted to go to the movies at the Paramount Theater in Amarillo Texas. They were denied because they were “colored” so they circled in front of the theater until they were arrested for disturbing the peace.
As writers we need to center ALL our gifts together and realize that however we connect or whatever we treasure is just as important and relevant whether in 1963, 2012 or August 28, 2013! They represent those “brave knights and heroic courage” for every generation! Can you imagine what Abraham Lincoln saw from His vantage point?
OH, I wished I could have been there!

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

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

SEUSS


SEUSS

by Sharon Stevens

 “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

 You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.

You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

 “Oh The Places You’ll Go”

                                                              Dr. Seuss


When our daughters were small I took them to the Canyon Public Library for storytelling every week. What an adventure it was to hear the stories and share the activities. As a young mother, (young is such a relative word), I had thirty minutes of peace to browse through the library as they were picking out their books.
We read every night, every naptime, and throughout the day. To me reading is such a treasure. In fact our girls tell me that this is one of their most precious memories growing up.
Everything was glorious in our little world. That is until they brought a Dr. Seuss book home. Try as I might I could not read his books aloud or even to myself. No matter which one it was I couldn’t make heads or tails of the way the sentences were supposed to go. I never admitted it to the girls and I still let them check his books out, but I just couldn’t make it make sense.
The next week at storytelling I admitted to Mary Huntington, the librarian, that I just couldn’t read his books to the kids.
She looked at me sweetly and kindly and said the words I carry with me to this day.
“You are trying to READ his stories and with Dr. Seuss you don’t read them, but let them take you where you need to go.”
Of course! Something so simple!
From then on I relished his stories and celebrated his gift. Seuss could take any word and pair it with another word and make it sing and dance to celebrate life, or the life of whatever creatures he conjured up in his imagination. Thing One and Thing Two come to mind.
I admit I still have troubles with the behavior of “The Cat in the Hat”, and can barely stomach “Green Eggs and Ham” as well. Nevertheless I love, “Horton Hears A Who” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. And I can’t wait to see “The Lorax” on the big screen at the Varsity Theater in Canyon, Texas.
Thank goodness I never let on to my girls my struggles, and they enjoy Dr. Seuss to this day. In fact our daughter, Andrea Keller, will Skype with her classroom at Sally Elliott Elementary school together with Dyane Smokorowski in Kansas  for a worldwide celebration of his birthday March 2, 2012. What fun!
One of Dr. Seuss’ favorite quotes is: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I think admitting to Mary Huntington about my struggles helped me to understand one of my dilemmas in writing up to that point. Since then I have taken HER words to heart. We don’t have to be poets or make our work rhyme. Of course it should make some sort of sense, but not in the fashion of fitting a square peg into a round hole.
So many times as writers we try to make our words fit into the mold we have pictured in our minds. If we would just step back and let our story find the rhythm on its own, taking a leap of faith, never doubting that the next step will be there beneath our feet…in our shoes.
In that way our READERS will treasure when they READ our writing.
“Oh The Places You’ll Go”!
Sharon Stevens