The Magic Words


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

 

The Magic Words

By Nandy Ekle

 

I was born a word person. I don’t remember the age I started reading, but I don’t know that I was a prodigy. But no matter what age I started reading, I’ve always loved stories.

The first stories I loved were bible stories, then the early readers from school. My parents were avid fans of the library and I grew up thinking the library was an enchanted place.

I always had lots of words to say, and said them as often as they came into my head, much to my dad’s dismay. I guess the thing I heard him say more than anything else was, “Don’t your jaws ever get tired of talking?” And of course, the words did slow down, except when I am able to let go and write. And in those moments, I really truly do visit the land of enchantment.

But as much as I love to talk and write my own words, I love reading others’ words just as much. I’ve only ever started about four books I simply could not finish. All the other book I’ve read are the most wonderful dessert in the world.

I said there were only about four books I simply could not finish. The opposite of that is there are about four writers who are the most powerful wizards on the earth.

All this introduction to say I am reading a book now by one of these very talented authors. I know I should not have been so surprised because nearly everything this writer does is pure genius. But I read the first paragraph of the prologue and immediately felt the air shimmer and electrify. The world around me disappeared and I felt like I was being sucked through a vortex to another world. All from the first paragraph.

That is talent.

Your assignment: get your favorite book by your favorite author and analyze it. When do you find yourself grabbed and pulled in to the world? How did they do it? Does the story you’re writing do that? Can you fix it?

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

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THE DOT


THE DOT

By Sharon Stevens

“But if you really want to read everything, you’ve got to convince them to open up all the way. Not until then will you be able to read the fine print of the soul.” Advice of Mary Grace in THE NOTE by Angela Hunt

Today was a whopper as far as the roller coaster of emotions goes. One minute I was so up, the next slightly down, and the next crashing to the bottom, and the next soaring above the clouds.

Well, of course at first was the grieving as well as the celebration for those lost and honored with 9/11. So many memorials, so many flags. And then there was the worry about Syria, oh and small town politics. Usual run of the mill stuff. Our daughter called and then our other daughter called. One pair close in miles and the other separated by distance but not by love. Oh how it warms my heart and soul when they call if even for just moments. I need that tangible touch even if they really don’t. When they’re finished even though I‘m not …“Got to go mom, really mom, I’ve truly got to go. Please mom, I need to get off the phone. I love you mom, but my husband is on the other line, or a friend, or my boss, or dad. Hate to cut you off but I got to go. Talk to you soon. Bye, bye again, bye-bye again.” Why do cell phones no longer click to announce they are gone. It would be so much easier.

I had just finished reading Angela Hunt’s, “The Note” and was shaken that she got the inspiration for the book about a plane crash in September 2000. Another roller coaster.

This evening I was watching the semi-finals of “America’s Got Talent”. The son of our own home grown Billy and Judy Carpenter Howell is the producer. Houston Howell went to WTAMU and made it across country to New York Radio City Music Hall to produce everything for this event. What a wonderful way to celebrate the pure beauty of those souls and their families from 9/11! Roller coaster!

But in between this morning and this evening I thought I was handling everything fairly well UNTIL. A young girl walked into our bookstore and asked if we had any children’s books. Well, I asked her, why was she asking. She didn’t seem shy, but just hesitant. The ladies down at the Canyon Public Library sent me here when I asked them the same question, she said. But WHY are you asking I asked again. She said she was looking for donations for their business for the kids to set up a little library, and needed books to stock it. But who is it for, I asked.

It’s for the children, she said.

She worked for Specialized Therapy Services in Amarillo where they provide exercise, speech, and therapy for all kinds of needs. They thought it would be wonderful to have a little children’s library for the kids to have books, but also so that they could read to the kids as they underwent their sessions.

“The thing that impresses me the most about our kids is that our kids own that school emotionally. They know they belong here and they are 100 percent accepted and loved and challenged. Loving them is not enough. “Karen Day, Specialized Therapy Services

Overwhelmed with emotions wasn’t the words I was looking for as I stared at her across the counter, but there were no words to do justice either. So I would just have to go with those sounds that tumbled straight out of my mouth. And then I began to gather a book here and a book there. Lynn Brown and her daughter Jamie Allan from the Playhouse Day Care had left off some books, one was even Eric Carle’s, something about Kangaroos I believe. That would do I would think. I told this young girl in front of me that our stock was so low as we had sent so many cases last year donated by Jan Henson Dickerson and her family that were sent down to our daughter, Andrea Keller. She teaches in Irving Texas, and one of their kids at Sally B. Elliott Elementary School had started a program, THE GIFT OF READING, to give every kid in the school three books for Christmas.

As I gathered up the meager hodge-podge of books around our play area I thought and thought. “Do I dare?” My next thought, “Of course”. My final thought. “No question!”

The evening before I had purchased Peter Reynold’s book, “The Dot” from Barnes and Nobles in Amarillo. Andrea had called making sure I was getting ready for International Dot Day on September 15, 2013 and I wanted to be prepared. I had already talked with Lynn at the Playhouse, Nikki and Debbie at Stevens Flowers, the Paper Crane Art Shop just to pass the word so they could be involved as well on dot day. Even though I knew what the book was about I had never seen a copy or read the text. When I bought this book I carried it lovingly in my arms until I got into the truck to have a moment to read to my hearts content. I read it once, another, and yet another, and over and over again. I brushed my hand across the pages, touched the artwork and made my mark. My plans had been to take it by the shops I had listed above so that they could read the book, and pass it on to the next business so we could all celebrate Dot Day in any way we choose or chose. What a grand idea!

But alas, here in front of me was a young girl gathering donations for special kids at her work. No brainer. I retrieved the book from the store bag with the receipt still inside. “The Dot” would have another home. I turned it to her and opened the pages one after the other so she could read the words and see the art and feel the story itself. And when she was finished I slipped my brand spanking new copy inside her bag (the Buffalo Bookstore bag), and told her it was a gift. I shared about Dot Day, and Peter Reynolds, and Andrea Keller, and the Gift of Reading, and how this was the same sort of project my daughter would volunteer for and be involved in God bless her very wonderful and sweet soul. But I had forgotten something. I removed the book again and opened the front page. Such a beautiful, and empty front page. So very many possibilities. I started to write, but my hands were so shaky and my heart was so full I was making a mess. “I couldn’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.”

I turned the book and asked her to “make her mark”. She had such beautiful handwriting. And this is what I inspired her to write, my favorite quote from Helen Hayes, “From your parents you learn love and laughter,” (she wrote it laughter and love, doesn’t make a hill of beans) “and how to put one foot before another, but when books are opened you discover you have wings.” How apropos.

We made our marks in these moments. Her generation and mine. We stood across the counter from each other and shared our passions in one fell swoop. In our family, in our business, in our city, in our university of WTAMU, in our county, in our state (the Great state of Texas I might add), in our country, in our world, internationally, globally, in every way, shape or form we made our mark. And it was pure, it was grand, and it was stupendous! On every level with every emotion we shared, connected, and linked our heritage, our legacies. No stone was left unturned. On this remembrance of 9/11 we remembered and honored in such a way that I knew the Angels in the Heavens above were celebrating. How could they not.

Oh the emotions that were flowing in those moments. She was going to take the books and share the message and tell the story and read to the kids over and over again. But something more important. She would remember how she felt and what she would treasure. She just might carry this in her heart and pass it on at church, or camp, or college or where ever she may travel. If she marries and has children she might buy her own copy to read to her kids or share it with her husband so he can read it as well.

Andrea shared with me that she gave it as a baby shower gift for a good friend that she taught with in Amarillo that was even signed by the author. Now this copy has made it from one side of the nation to the other. What a gift this is now and will be in years to come. And just think when these children are struggling with whatever brings them pain no matter the age, they can bring out this book and remember the love of a parent or a guidance of a teacher to just make their mark and see where it takes them.

Peter and Kerith Buckingham stopped in our bookstore on their journey around the world. This leg was traveling on Route 66 and they dipped down so they could visit the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and Palo Duro Canyon. They got their latte next door at Vince’s Vinyl, but he didn’t have any “biscuits” (cookies) so they came next door as we always have cookies in the cooky jar. I found out they were from Australia and driving from country to country in their bright, canary yellow MG. Such delightful people they were. They loved book shops which meant they had come to the right place.

I just happened to have a copy of Canyon’s 100th  anniversary Canyon News edition that I slipped into their bag. I had one of Jodi Thomas’ books that found its way into the mix. Jodi is my favorite author and friend celebrating 25 years of writing and 10 years of her fan club. I, along with Connie Hirsch and Natalie Bright are founding members, just so you know.

I had just picked up a book by Elmore Leonard who had passed away that day, and put it into their bag. The book, not Elmore.

As always I made up a bag about our area with the Amarillo Magazine and Texas Highways and Canyon News and everything else. As THEY, Peter and Kerith (Don’t you just love that name?) as they shared of their travels I was reminded of the book, “After You Marco Polo” by Jean Bowie Shor. I dug through my collection (translation-hoarding) of materials until I found a quote from the book about Jean’s travels and slipped it into the bag as well. I then sent them on their way having NO idea where they could put anything more into their tiny car or how, but they made it fit. Thank goodness they weren’t Texas sized people or they would have been in real trouble. I snapped their picture and they were on their way never to be seen again. Well actually, Craig Keel, a fellow blogger spotted them in Colorado at a gas station. He said no one could miss their bright yellow car.

I will be the first to admit I can’t draw. Never have been able to and never want to try. This isn’t my thing. I don’t want to write the great American novel either. I don’t want to hold office or make great speeches. Nope, that isn’t my style. But as a writer of sorts I want to share the stories and remember the memories. Why is that so wrong? I want to see polar bears in snow storms on a blank piece of white paper because the image of a polar bear reminds me of my grandmother and makes me smile, and I want to tell HER story.

But what I truly want to do is to make my mark, and see where it goes, even with something as simple as writing a blog.

Thanks Andrea Keller and Peter Reynolds for making your mark so I could share your story even all the way down to the fine print.

POSTCARDS


POSTCARDS
by Sharon Stevens

This week I came across a postcard from Colorado that a dear friend and neighbor sent me a couple of years ago. We were watching their home for them while they were gone on vacation. They knew our neighborhood had been having a skunk problem, so the postcard they sent us had the cutest baby skunks on the front. The note they wrote on the back was personal and timely about the fun they were having and the sights they were seeing. The title on the card was, “It stinks when you’re not here…”

Our Buffalo Bookstore will be hosting a book signing for Tim Lewis and his book, “Forever Friday” at WTAMU Homecoming on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 9-12:am. Lewis’ wonderful story celebrates the life and love of a Gabe and Puck, and connects with postcards in a unique way.

You wouldn’t believe the number of tourists from around the world that come through asking for postcards with a little piece of Texas. We have teachers following with students, grandparents with “Flat Stanley’s”, business people sending cards home, and those with loved ones in the military for a reminder of all they treasure on the home front. Even though the premise of these cards has not changed in over a hundred years, the picture postcards are not dead by any means.

As writers we have to write so many things. Along with the body of our story there are also dedication pages, acknowledgments, blurbs, reviews, and also those we write for others. Tough gigs all across the board. But what if we had to write our entire life in the tiny space allowed on one side, and the address of our friend or beloved family on the other. How can we ever focus so simply? What words will fit or what will you discard? How many thoughts are empty? What will your heart share when it is full?

Today when I picked up this particular postcard from two years ago, I was instantly transported back to the skunk problem and the smell that accompanied it. I remembered a dear friend that shared this particular memory and how we laughed together when they returned home. It may only have been a cheap card, but to me it meant the world stretching across the miles.

So please take a moment and think of what you will write in a couple of sentences on your own postcard. Use it not only as a writing exercise, but as a reminder of why we love what we do.

Tim Lewis’ book signing will be a simple affair as we are a simple book store. His book is not gang buster’s and violence. You won’t find horror or blood within the pages. What you will find is a great love story, but not a sugar sweet concoction either. Gabe and Puck are real, as well as Adam Colby. They live in a reality of life with trials as well as treasures stretching across the war years to a time right here and now. I loved Tim’s story and connected to it in so many ways. There is also some nursing home shenanigans I chuckled with that I remembered when I was a young nurses aid at our local home. Watch the trailers for the book and listen to the music as this is a song that Tim wrote and performed for his wife Dinah.

We welcome everyone to stop by and visit with Tim about his book and celebrate the legacy of a postcard and a love that withstands the “long division”. The WTAMU Homecoming parade is always stupendous and we have great viewing in front of our business. We will be having cookies and lemonade, and Tim even shared “Gabe’s” favorite chocolate cake recipe. We hope that “Puck” will be proud and that it tastes as good as what they remember.

And let this be a reminder to never forget of the love you truly share with a simple memory, even on something as the words on a postcard.

And on another sweet note…Natalie Bright just returned from a book signing at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. Her story, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” was included in the anthology “West Texas Christmas Stories”. According to Natalie’s web site, “this is a collection of heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories all set in West Texas by West Texas writers.”

Wonderful story and what a way to share a simple gift of the holidays.

Natalie is a good friend and fellow blogger at Wordsmithsix. She is also one of our founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club now celebrating 10 years. Natalie took her first writing class from Jodi and has been writing ever since. Her book, “Oil People” has been published. Also “Gone Never Forgotten’ is on e-books and soon will be in print. She has several more in the works. Natalie has been a guest speaker around the country on writing and feels it is so important to donate her books in school and public libraries everywhere she speaks.

And on a final note I want to take a moment for reflection on the passing of Tom Clancy. Here at our Buffalo Bookstore Clancy is one of those authors whose books are ones traded most often. They never go out of style, and his unique genre is the most popular through the cycles of readers. He will be missed, but he will always be remembered as long as books exist on this earth. And I think that will be for eternity. New readers are being born every day.

POSTCARDS


POSTCARDS
by Sharon Stevens

This week I came across a postcard from Colorado that a dear friend and neighbor sent me a couple of years ago. We were watching their home for them while they were gone on vacation. They knew our neighborhood had been having a skunk problem, so the postcard they sent us had the cutest baby skunks on the front. The note they wrote on the back was personal and timely about the fun they were having and the sights they were seeing. The title on the card was, “It stinks when you’re not here…”

Our Buffalo Bookstore will be hosting a book signing for Tim Lewis and his book, “Forever Friday” at WTAMU Homecoming on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 9-12:am. Lewis’ wonderful story celebrates the life and love of a Gabe and Puck, and connects with postcards in a unique way.

You wouldn’t believe the number of tourists from around the world that come through asking for postcards with a little piece of Texas. We have teachers following with students, grandparents with “Flat Stanley’s”, business people sending cards home, and those with loved ones in the military for a reminder of all they treasure on the home front. Even though the premise of these cards has not changed in over a hundred years, the picture postcards are not dead by any means.

As writers we have to write so many things. Along with the body of our story there are also dedication pages, acknowledgments, blurbs, reviews, and also those we write for others. Tough gigs all across the board. But what if we had to write our entire life in the tiny space allowed on one side, and the address of our friend or beloved family on the other. How can we ever focus so simply? What words will fit or what will you discard? How many thoughts are empty? What will your heart share when it is full?

Today when I picked up this particular postcard from two years ago, I was instantly transported back to the skunk problem and the smell that accompanied it. I remembered a dear friend that shared this particular memory and how we laughed together when they returned home. It may only have been a cheap card, but to me it meant the world stretching across the miles.

So please take a moment and think of what you will write in a couple of sentences on your own postcard. Use it not only as a writing exercise, but as a reminder of why we love what we do.

Tim Lewis’ book signing will be a simple affair as we are a simple book store. His book is not gang buster’s and violence. You won’t find horror or blood within the pages. What you will find is a great love story, but not a sugar sweet concoction either. Gabe and Puck are real, as well as Adam Colby. They live in a reality of life with trials as well as treasures stretching across the war years to a time right here and now. I loved Tim’s story and connected to it in so many ways. There is also some nursing home shenanigans I chuckled with that I remembered when I was a young nurses aid at our local home. Watch the trailers for the book and listen to the music as this is a song that Tim wrote and performed for his wife Dinah.

We welcome everyone to stop by and visit with Tim about his book and celebrate the legacy of a postcard and a love that withstands the “long division”. The WTAMU Homecoming parade is always stupendous and we have great viewing in front of our business. We will be having cookies and lemonade, and Tim even shared “Gabe’s” favorite chocolate cake recipe. We hope that “Puck” will be proud and that it tastes as good as what they remember.

And let this be a reminder to never forget of the love you truly share with a simple memory, even on something as the words on a postcard.

And on another sweet note…Natalie Bright just returned from a book signing at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. Her story, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” was included in the anthology “West Texas Christmas Stories”. According to Natalie’s web site, “this is a collection of heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories all set in West Texas by West Texas writers.”

Wonderful story and what a way to share a simple gift of the holidays.

Natalie is a good friend and fellow blogger at Wordsmithsix. She is also one of our founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club now celebrating 10 years. Natalie took her first writing class from Jodi and has been writing ever since. Her book, “Oil People” has been published. Also “Gone Never Forgotten’ is on e-books and soon will be in print. She has several more in the works. Natalie has been a guest speaker around the country on writing and feels it is so important to donate her books in school and public libraries everywhere she speaks.

And on a final note I want to take a moment for reflection on the passing of Tom Clancy. Here at our Buffalo Bookstore Clancy is one of those authors whose books are ones traded most often. They never go out of style, and his unique genre is the most popular through the cycles of readers. He will be missed, but he will always be remembered as long as books exist on this earth. And I think that will be for eternity. New readers are being born every day.

THE DOT


THE DOT

By Sharon Stevens

“But if you really want to read everything, you’ve got to convince them to open up all the way. Not until then will you be able to read the fine print of the soul.” Advice of Mary Grace in THE NOTE by Angela Hunt

Today was a whopper as far as the roller coaster of emotions goes. One minute I was so up, the next slightly down, and the next crashing to the bottom, and the next soaring above the clouds.

Well, of course at first was the grieving as well as the celebration for those lost and honored with 9/11. So many memorials, so many flags. And then there was the worry about Syria, oh and small town politics. Usual run of the mill stuff. Our daughter called and then our other daughter called. One pair close in miles and the other separated by distance but not by love. Oh how it warms my heart and soul when they call if even for just moments. I need that tangible touch even if they really don’t. When they’re finished even though I‘m not …“Got to go mom, really mom, I’ve truly got to go. Please mom, I need to get off the phone. I love you mom, but my husband is on the other line, or a friend, or my boss, or dad. Hate to cut you off but I got to go. Talk to you soon. Bye, bye again, bye-bye again.” Why do cell phones no longer click to announce they are gone. It would be so much easier.

I had just finished reading Angela Hunt’s, “The Note” and was shaken that she got the inspiration for the book about a plane crash in September 2000. Another roller coaster.

This evening I was watching the semi-finals of “America’s Got Talent”. The son of our own home grown Billy and Judy Carpenter Howell is the producer. Houston Howell went to WTAMU and made it across country to New York Radio City Music Hall to produce everything for this event. What a wonderful way to celebrate the pure beauty of those souls and their families from 9/11! Roller coaster!

But in between this morning and this evening I thought I was handling everything fairly well UNTIL. A young girl walked into our bookstore and asked if we had any children’s books. Well, I asked her, why was she asking. She didn’t seem shy, but just hesitant. The ladies down at the Canyon Public Library sent me here when I asked them the same question, she said. But WHY are you asking I asked again. She said she was looking for donations for their business for the kids to set up a little library, and needed books to stock it. But who is it for, I asked.

It’s for the children, she said.

She worked for Specialized Therapy Services in Amarillo where they provide exercise, speech, and therapy for all kinds of needs. They thought it would be wonderful to have a little children’s library for the kids to have books, but also so that they could read to the kids as they underwent their sessions.

“The thing that impresses me the most about our kids is that our kids own that school emotionally. They know they belong here and they are 100 percent accepted and loved and challenged. Loving them is not enough. “Karen Day, Specialized Therapy Services

Overwhelmed with emotions wasn’t the words I was looking for as I stared at her across the counter, but there were no words to do justice either. So I would just have to go with those sounds that tumbled straight out of my mouth. And then I began to gather a book here and a book there. Lynn Brown and her daughter Jamie Allan from the Playhouse Day Care had left off some books, one was even Eric Carle’s, something about Kangaroos I believe. That would do I would think. I told this young girl in front of me that our stock was so low as we had sent so many cases last year donated by Jan Henson Dickerson and her family that were sent down to our daughter, Andrea Keller. She teaches in Irving Texas, and one of their kids at Sally B. Elliott Elementary School had started a program, THE GIFT OF READING, to give every kid in the school three books for Christmas.

As I gathered up the meager hodge-podge of books around our play area I thought and thought. “Do I dare?” My next thought, “Of course”. My final thought. “No question!”

The evening before I had purchased Peter Reynold’s book, “The Dot” from Barnes and Nobles in Amarillo. Andrea had called making sure I was getting ready for International Dot Day on September 15, 2013 and I wanted to be prepared. I had already talked with Lynn at the Playhouse, Nikki and Debbie at Stevens Flowers, the Paper Crane Art Shop just to pass the word so they could be involved as well on dot day. Even though I knew what the book was about I had never seen a copy or read the text. When I bought this book I carried it lovingly in my arms until I got into the truck to have a moment to read to my hearts content. I read it once, another, and yet another, and over and over again. I brushed my hand across the pages, touched the artwork and made my mark. My plans had been to take it by the shops I had listed above so that they could read the book, and pass it on to the next business so we could all celebrate Dot Day in any way we choose or chose. What a grand idea!

But alas, here in front of me was a young girl gathering donations for special kids at her work. No brainer. I retrieved the book from the store bag with the receipt still inside. “The Dot” would have another home. I turned it to her and opened the pages one after the other so she could read the words and see the art and feel the story itself. And when she was finished I slipped my brand spanking new copy inside her bag (the Buffalo Bookstore bag), and told her it was a gift. I shared about Dot Day, and Peter Reynolds, and Andrea Keller, and the Gift of Reading, and how this was the same sort of project my daughter would volunteer for and be involved in God bless her very wonderful and sweet soul. But I had forgotten something. I removed the book again and opened the front page. Such a beautiful, and empty front page. So very many possibilities. I started to write, but my hands were so shaky and my heart was so full I was making a mess. “I couldn’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.”

I turned the book and asked her to “make her mark”. She had such beautiful handwriting. And this is what I inspired her to write, my favorite quote from Helen Hayes, “From your parents you learn love and laughter,” (she wrote it laughter and love, doesn’t make a hill of beans) “and how to put one foot before another, but when books are opened you discover you have wings.” How apropos.

We made our marks in these moments. Her generation and mine. We stood across the counter from each other and shared our passions in one fell swoop. In our family, in our business, in our city, in our university of WTAMU, in our county, in our state (the Great state of Texas I might add), in our country, in our world, internationally, globally, in every way, shape or form we made our mark. And it was pure, it was grand, and it was stupendous! On every level with every emotion we shared, connected, and linked our heritage, our legacies. No stone was left unturned. On this remembrance of 9/11 we remembered and honored in such a way that I knew the Angels in the Heavens above were celebrating. How could they not.

Oh the emotions that were flowing in those moments. She was going to take the books and share the message and tell the story and read to the kids over and over again. But something more important. She would remember how she felt and what she would treasure. She just might carry this in her heart and pass it on at church, or camp, or college or where ever she may travel. If she marries and has children she might buy her own copy to read to her kids or share it with her husband so he can read it as well.

Andrea shared with me that she gave it as a baby shower gift for a good friend that she taught with in Amarillo that was even signed by the author. Now this copy has made it from one side of the nation to the other. What a gift this is now and will be in years to come. And just think when these children are struggling with whatever brings them pain no matter the age, they can bring out this book and remember the love of a parent or a guidance of a teacher to just make their mark and see where it takes them.

Peter and Kerith Buckingham stopped in our bookstore on their journey around the world. This leg was traveling on Route 66 and they dipped down so they could visit the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and Palo Duro Canyon. They got their latte next door at Vince’s Vinyl, but he didn’t have any “biscuits” (cookies) so they came next door as we always have cookies in the cooky jar. I found out they were from Australia and driving from country to country in their bright, canary yellow MG. Such delightful people they were. They loved book shops which meant they had come to the right place.

I just happened to have a copy of Canyon’s 100th  anniversary Canyon News edition that I slipped into their bag. I had one of Jodi Thomas’ books that found its way into the mix. Jodi is my favorite author and friend celebrating 25 years of writing and 10 years of her fan club. I, along with Connie Hirsch and Natalie Bright are founding members, just so you know.

I had just picked up a book by Elmore Leonard who had passed away that day, and put it into their bag. The book, not Elmore.

As always I made up a bag about our area with the Amarillo Magazine and Texas Highways and Canyon News and everything else. As THEY, Peter and Kerith (Don’t you just love that name?) as they shared of their travels I was reminded of the book, “After You Marco Polo” by Jean Bowie Shor. I dug through my collection (translation-hoarding) of materials until I found a quote from the book about Jean’s travels and slipped it into the bag as well. I then sent them on their way having NO idea where they could put anything more into their tiny car or how, but they made it fit. Thank goodness they weren’t Texas sized people or they would have been in real trouble. I snapped their picture and they were on their way never to be seen again. Well actually, Craig Keel, a fellow blogger spotted them in Colorado at a gas station. He said no one could miss their bright yellow car.

I will be the first to admit I can’t draw. Never have been able to and never want to try. This isn’t my thing. I don’t want to write the great American novel either. I don’t want to hold office or make great speeches. Nope, that isn’t my style. But as a writer of sorts I want to share the stories and remember the memories. Why is that so wrong? I want to see polar bears in snow storms on a blank piece of white paper because the image of a polar bear reminds me of my grandmother and makes me smile, and I want to tell HER story.

But what I truly want to do is to make my mark, and see where it goes, even with something as simple as writing a blog.

Thanks Andrea Keller and Peter Reynolds for making your mark so I could share your story even all the way down to the fine print.

GEMS


GEMS

 by Sharon Stevens

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought

into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.

George MacDonald

 

William, our son-in-law who is a classically trained executive chef at Blaze Sports Grill in Arlington Texas loaned what was to me a priceless gem… “MOTHER’S RECEIPT BOOK”. He had received this book from one of his colleagues, and immediately thought of me. Imagine, holding in your hand a book from 1906 filled with hundreds of “receipts”, and chapter upon chapters of household hints. Each page helpful advice for the busy wife. Even though this book wasn’t from around this area I could still relate. The year was 1906, after the city of Canyon was founded in 1888, and already a thriving city. The college, which would later become WTAMU was a dream in the minds of the city fathers, and in four short years would become a reality. At this time many of the residents of the city were still living in dugouts.

I wonder how many newlyweds carried these kinds of books over the plains in a covered wagon or on a train, packed in trunks in the baggage car along with the household goods. Can you believe how frightened a young bride was of making a happy home hundreds of miles away from the nearest neighbor. Who could she ask? Who would be there for her? Who would hear her cry? How in the world could she know what foods her husband liked, or what favorites HIS mother made especially for HIM. And what would become a family gem through the years for the family and the children.

I remember reading in Loula Grace Erdman’s book, “The Wind Blows Free” of a young woman coming out to start a life with her husband. As their team pulled up to the dugout she told her husband that the first item she wanted to put inside was the cloth calendar her mother sent with her where everything had been marked as to when to plant or to set the hens. She wrote that this was the one thing that she knew would make the earthen walls pretty in her new home reminding her of the treasures left behind.

My grandmother was a cook at the old Neblett Hospital and every time I saw Dr. Nester he would give his stomach a pat and tell me that his expanding belly was due to my grandmother’s creamed eggs on toast. He loved her cooking and she was the only one who could make them.

As writers we come across these “gems” day in and day out. We can use them as prompts, or as writing exercises or character analysis. With each sentence we can imagine the setting, the rooms, the colors, the mood. We can either celebrate the life contained in the book, or delve deeper into the sentiment expressed within. Imagine the loneliness with only a book to keep you company, or the joy of remembering family as you turn each page. And how in the world did so many woman find time to write when faced with all that they had to do? Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of Panhandle Professional Writers, were indeed miraculous women!

The “receipt” I found in this book was for “Gems” or otherwise known as muffins and I just had to include it in my blog as well as the instructions below for washing. And I am sharing it simply so that all of us can count our blessings! Thanks Chef Williams for sharing such a “gem”!

Enjoy!

I cannot leave this weeks blog without honoring the memory of George Koumalots and James L. ”Bunk” Brashears. Both veterans, both served in World War II. Koumalots was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne that jumped on D-Day into Normandy. Brashears served in Japan and the Philippines and was on a ship parallel to where the Japanese commander was signing the end of the war. He got to watch it through binoculars. I took creative writing classes from George’s daughter-in-law Jodi Thomas and I was able to write this blog with the gifts she shared with me and her inspiration. May all of the families celebrating the life of these brave men have such sweet peace as they share memories together.

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”Few know how necessary care is in the making and baking of gems, and that often the recipes which they find unreliable would prove very different, if they were rightly used….Make a hotter fire for baking gems than for anything. If the oven is right, the gems will rise until about three times as large as when put into the oven, and but a few minutes will be required for baking them.”

 

BANANA GEMS

1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup water, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder

Make batter and stir in 2 bananas sliced thin. Fill cups half full and steam an hour.

 Eat with thin cream.

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“To Wash With Kerosene-Soak white clothes over night, or an hour or two in the morning, in hard water. Fill a No.9 boiler two-thirds full of soft water. Slice one and one-half bars of soap into a basin of warm water; let it dissolve and come to a boil. Wring the soaked clothes dry. If the water is boiling in the boiler, and the soap ready, pour a little more than half of the liquid into the boiler, and immediately add three tablespoonfuls of kerosene; one tablespoonful of kerosene to one-quarter of a pound of soap is a fair proportion. Shake out the clothes, and put them into the boiler, leaving the coarse articles for the next boiling. Let the clothes boil ten minutes, stirring them almost all the time. If the water looks milky, greasy, or a little scum rises, pour in enough soap water to remove any such appearances. Take the clothes out from the boiler into the tub. and cover them with plenty of fresh water. Dip out part of the water from the boiler, add more hot water, soap and kerosene, and boil the rest of the clothes. Wring the clothes from the suds into plenty of clear water, rinse well, put them through the bluing water, and hang them smoothly upon the lines. Calicoes may be washed in the suds water, as enough of the soap and kerosene remain there to cleanse them well. Rinse, blue, starch, and hang them to dry. Plenty of soap and water with the kerosene, if these directions are followed, will give clear, white clothes with very little of the hard work necessary in rubbing clothes according to the usual manner of washing.”

“If time and strength are to be saved, be careful to shake out the clothes well, and see that sheets, pillowcases, towels, etc., hang smoothly from the line. When perfectly dry take down the sheets, fold and roll them into a smooth, tight roll, and pin down the hems. They will be without a wrinkle on the beds, though they may lack the gloss the iron gives. If there is time to iron pillowcases, treat them in the same way. Take the towels, snap them, fold them in the usual manner, and crease them with an iron. They will take less room on the shelf or in the drawer. Roll the nightgowns like the sheets. It is better to iron tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs, but they look fairly well if rolled like the sheets. Turn, shake, stretch, in shape stockings and flannels, and fold them ready for use. The starched clothes alone remain to be ironed. Let busy women try this plan of ironing.”

DORIC


DORIC

by Sharon Stevens

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doric’s will still stand.

KEYNOTE


KEYNOTE

 “A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom,

But never for lack of courage.”Gene Howe

By Sharon Stevens

In memory of Don Teague

 

What an amazing day that was!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TUMBLEWEEDS


TUMBLEWEEDS

By Sharon Stevens

 

Tonight I watch as tumbleweed after tumbleweed blows across my path. Hundreds, no thousands seemed to tear themselves away from their earthly home desperately seeking a place to grab onto. Sadly they only found themselves buried against barbed wire fences with countless others of their species. The wind continues to howl and moan around me, pounding and pelting me with grit and dirt every which way I turn.

My first thought was that the world was coming to an end, but I knew this wasn’t supposed to happen until Friday. What a relief to realize that until then I am apparently safe. My second thought is that with so much darkness and desperation I would have never been able to live during the “dirty thirties” of Ken Burn’s Dust Bowl days. And I very much doubt that I could have survived as a pioneer woman living in a dugout out on the desolate plains hundreds of miles away from any neighbor.

All other thoughts turned to the tumbleweeds themselves. Several years ago I read a Louis L’Amour story about a lonely widow out on the plains that would tie notes to tumbleweeds just to try to connect to another human being. She never knew if anyone would ever see her notes. It was enough that she could put her thoughts down into something tangible, and send them on their way. “Conagher” found one of these with the writing attached, and looked for more clues to try to find the writer.

So many people predict that books are on their last legs, believing that technology will take their place.  And we are faced with the belief of the Mayans predicting that the world will be destroyed on December 21, 2012. Just like the horrific tragedy in Connecticut there will always be those who seek to drain our dreams and extinguish our passion, destroying our way of life, along with everything we believe in. Personally I prefer to hold in my heart a future that includes all that is wonderful and passionate. My thoughts are that even if we…humankind…blast to eternity in a ball of fire our ashes will remain behind to be reconstituted at a later date. There is no doubt in my mind that the message will still be there, readable and clear for future generations to follow. Like the sweet cockroach in “Wall E” I think that tumbleweeds, as books will survive any holocaust.

As writers we have to write as though our thoughts and desires will continue to survive. If we believed that our stories would never reach outside the ideas we hold in our hearts, or if we fail to find our “spark” as in Natalie Bright’s blog post, then we should never begin in the first place.

So just in case the Mayan’s are correct I want to get my Wordsmith six blog out of this plastic computer box as soon as possible. Hopefully I can get it printed onto a medium even if it is something as simple as copy paper. I hope and pray from the very bottom of my heart and soul all my words can come alive again. I so want to be reassured that it will be there for others to share for the future. At that time, how wonderful would it be if whoever controls the universe, whether it is the Good Lord or any other Higher Power, that He will see fit to rebuild a world with Hanukah as well as Christmas, and tumbleweeds as well as books.

As God and John Wayne are my witness, I know the message will be perfectly clear.

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