March Newsletter: Celebrating Ste. Paddy

Celebrating Ste. Paddy

by Glenda Bonham

Ste. Patrick’s Day celebrates the Roman Catholic feast day of the patron saint of Ireland. (Yes, there are two abbreviations for the word ‘saint’ in the English language.) St. Paddy’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This “Feast Day” always takes place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD.

Born in Roman occupied Britain in the late 4th century, his birth name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat. He was kidnapped at the age of 16, taken across the Irish Sea and sold into slavery by pirates. He wrote in his ‘Confessio’ that he was “humbled every day by hunger and nakedness.” during his six years tending cattle in the Irish wilderness. He escaped by stowing away on a ship and returned to his family in England.

Far behind his peers in education and religious studies, Maewyn set about becoming a Catholic priest, then a bishop and took the name Patrick. Acting as a missionary he returned to Ireland about 432 AD to convert the Irish to Christianity, to abolish slavery, and to end the practice of human sacrifices among the Celtic tribes. By the time of his death he had established monasteries, churches, and schools across Ireland.

Myths and legends abound to this day about the English saint. The truths are: St. Patrick did not banish the snakes from Ireland. After the last Ice Age, snakes never returned to the Emerald Isle. Neither is there proof that Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock to impart the doctrine of the Trinity to the 5th-century pagans. The first such reference is from a botanical catalogue published in 1726. There is no evidence that it was Patrick who combined pagan and Christian imagery into the Celtic cross. He was not actually Irish, he was never canonized by a Pope, and his real name wasn’t Patrick.

Irish immigrants brought the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to the New World. Parades, feasts, and celebrations started in Boston and then New York City. The Chicago River has been dyed green annually since 1962. Some enterprising American pub owner started dyeing his cheap beer green to increase sales in 1914; it became tradition.

“Drinking green beer doesn’t make you Irish, it just makes you pee,” said Rev. Jack Ward, a Baltimore Irish-American priest, with a laugh. “But, real Irish men and women have a place in their heart for St. Patrick.”


Member Spotlight

March Newsletter Member Spotlight: Sarah Shuttleworth

Member Spotlight: Sarah Shuttleworth



In November of 2010 Sarah saw someone post on facebook about a writing challenge they were participating in called NaNoWriMo. On a whim she looked up the site, made an account, and unknowingly started a journey that would change her life. That year she started writing with no plot and no idea how to even write a novel. She met up with friends in Fort Stockton who were also participating. They had a great time that first November but once it was done they missed those writing sessions and wanted to do something to progress their writing all year round. Critique Cafe was born from that.

Sarah participates in Critique Cafe all year long but November is one of her favorite times of the year. She is a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month and loves when she gets to help encourage others to write their own novels during the challenge. She loves the NaNoWriMo organization and how much they do to encourage young story tellers.

When she isn’t writing she may be found participating in her other hobbies which include painting, reading, and tabletop gaming. That is when she isn’t busy chasing down her two little boys and shuttling them to various activities of their own!


Spotlight Feature Article by Sarah Shuttleworth

It was a dark and stormy night. Of course it was, that’s how all of these things seem to start isn’t it. I was waiting at the bus stop, wrapped up in my jacket, huddling underneath the small covering when I saw her. A flash of lightning lit up the street and there she was, walking with no umbrella. I watched her walking in the darkness for a moment wondering why someone would be out in weather like this with no umbrella.

Another flash of lightning lit the sky and I noticed a person following a good distance behind her. He had a large hat on and a trench coat with the collar up. The woman crossed the street at the cross walk and turned towards the bus stop. I tried to nonchalantly look around, trying to keep an eye on the man. He was leaning in a doorway watching the woman. Lightning flashed. I tried to try to get a better look at him but even with the lightning, darkness seemed to cling to him, completely covering his face so I couldn’t make out a single detail. His head followed her as she walked into the bus stop. She sat on the other end of the bench, closed her eyes, and leaned against the dirty plexiglass. She had short blonde hair plastered to her face and her red jacket was dripping it was so soaked. Should I say something about the man?

“Hey.” I managed to say.

“Oh, uh hello.” She said with a nervous glance. The smell of vanilla and brown sugar tickled my nose.

“Crazy weather huh”

“Yeah, I didn’t know it was going to rain, otherwise I’d have grabbed an umbrella.”

“Here, take mine.” I held out my umbrella.

“Oh I couldn’t. You need it, besides I’m already soaked anyway.”

“I’ll just be jumping on and off the bus. I don’t need it. I insist.” I gave her a smile. She returned one as she grabbed the umbrella.

“Thanks.” She said.

I chanced a look across the street to see if the man was still there. He was staring at her. An 18 wheeler passed in front of me and when it was gone, so was he. I quickly looked around but there was no trace of him. Maybe I was imagining things. I looked back over to her and saw that the man was now on our side of the street and walking this way. I could feel my heart pounding faster and my mouth going dry. I could see him blurred beyond the plexiglass. I didn’t know what to do. My palms were getting sweaty. I had an intense feeling that something terrible was about to happen. I opened and closed my mouth several times but no words seemed to come out. I swallowed the lump in my throat and refused to take my eyes off the menacing man. Thankfully the bus pulled in. Safety was a few steps away. I jumped to my feet.

“Ladies first” I said as I gestured to the door, hoping she would enter quickly so we could leav

e. She smiled as she half opened the umbrella and darted onto the bus. She stood on the top step as she closed the umbrella. I went to step onto the bus when a hand grasped my arm.

“Don’t get on the bus.” It was the man from across the street. I tried to pull away but he was remarkably strong.

“Let me go!” I pulled and pulled, but his grip never slackened.

“Trust me. You don’t want to get on that bus.” I looked him in the face. He was an old man, covered with scars.

“Don’t get on that bus.” He emphasized each of those last words.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m trying to help you kid.”

“Doesn’t seem that way” I tugged my arm again.

“Look at her again.” He whispered, his lips barely moving.

I looked up onto the bus and saw the woman staring at us. She had a pleading look on her face and held out her hand like she wanted me to join her. The man suddenly pulled something out of his coat with his other hand and held it up to her. Her face immediately changed from a sweet, demure, young woman to a raging snarl. I stepped backwards and he let me go. The door of the bus closed as she was still snarling at him. The bus began to pull away and I looked at the old man.

“Did I just see what I think I saw?”

“What did you see?” He asked as he tucked the item away.

“Did she have fangs?”

He chuckled.

“You thought I was the threat didn’t you.” He said with a wry smile.

“You’re not answering the question. What’s going on?”

He looked me over.

“Come with me and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.” He stepped out into the rain and began walking away.

What should I do? It’d be crazy to follow him, right? Confused, a little scared, and without an umbrella, I jogged into the night to follow him and unknowingly start a
crazy journey that would change everything about my life and what I knew.

Fun Tidbits and Facts

February Newsletter Fun Tidbits and Facts

Top Ten Romance Authors of All Time

  1. Jane Austen (1775-1817) Pride and Prejudice (1813), Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Persuasion (1818).
  2. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) Jane Eyre (1847)
  3. Emily Brontë (1818-1848) Wuthering Heights (1847)
  4. Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) Gone With the Wind (1937)
  5. Audrey Niffenegger (1963 – ) The Time Travel- er’s Wife (2003)
  6. Nicholas Sparks (1965 – ) The Notebook (1996), A Walk to Remember (1999), Dear John (2006) and Safe Haven (2010)
  7. Nora Roberts (1950- ) She has written 209 romance novels
  8. Jude Deveraux (1947 – ) A Knight and Shining Armour (2002)
  9. Julie Garwood (1944 – ) The Wedding (2011)
  10. Judith McNaught (1944 – ) Whitney My Love (1985)

    (From Famous Authors.org)


Did You Know?

Davy Crockett was an American frontiersman, soldier and politician

who served as a US Congressman for the state of Tennessee.

After being defeated, he was quoted as saying,

“You may all go to Hell and I will go to Texas.”

Afterwards, he joined in the Texas Revolution and died in the Battle of the Alamo.



February 2019 Calendar of Events

Feb. 4—Regular Meeting

All Submissions for the Texas Issue of Best of Critique Café due by meeting time.

Feb. 25(Tuesday)RegularMeeting


Mission Statement – The mission of Critique Café Chatter is to spotlight the talents and writing efforts of the members of Critique Café Fort Stockton Area Writers Group. Contributing members of this newsletter hope to reach out to others within the community who enjoy creative writing and the literary arts. In the spirit of our sponsor H. Edward Petsch Arts and Music Memorial Fund, we are striving to stimulate the arts within the Fort Stockton, TX area.


February Newsletter: I Meet my First Tarantella

I Meet my First Tarantella by Vea Anna Hooker

My husband grew up in New Zealand, moving to the states when he was eighteen and living in California for twelve years. I was raised in the Midwest, and only moved to California after marrying. My husband and I moved to Texas late in the year of 1992. Since Texas was the fifth state I made my home, I was unprepared for the culture shock I experienced.

When they speak of things being bigger in Texas, I didn’t realize they meant the creepy crawly things that bite and sting. Now, I have to interject a thought here. Most things in West Texas bite, sting, prick, cling or in one way or another, hurt you. Even the dry, thirsty earth blows into your eyes and other crevices, driven by the explosive wind.

I must also let you know of my unreasonable fear of spiders. Without knowing that, the following story lacks its edge. When I was an adorable toddler of two-ish to three, I was discovered at the gate from next door, shrieking “A pider, Mommy, a pider!”, my hand tightly clutching a mangled caterpillar I had been bringing to show my Mommy. The best she could tell, I had started to open the gate and been scared by a spider jumping at me.

Fast forward, thirty years, we had been living in Fort Stockton for a few months. We were in the midst of remodeling some small cottages on our property. I had been to our truck after a hammer and was on my way back to the cottage when a hideous black shape attracted my attention. The blob was bigger than my hand with eight legs and eight scary eyes that never wavered from my face. I stopped in my tracks and could feel the blood drain from my face. I looked at the tarantula. The taran- tula looked at me. I swallowed, convulsively.

I closed my eyes, but only for a split second. My gaze snapped back to the immense spider, making sure it hadn’t gotten any closer. In a panic, I glanced carefully around, attempting to find a defensive weapon. I remembered the hammer in my hand and looked from it to the spider and back again.

Now, anyone who has been in the grip of intense fear will tell you, time slows down. In my mind, I saw myself swing the hammer toward the terrifying creature. I also saw the enormous spider take it from my hand and hit me with it, right before biting me with its enormous fangs. I shook my head and gazed at the monster in terror.

In desperation, I looked for something that might save me. My mind ran calculations at the speed of light – I felt like a super computer, analyzing and discarding potential solutions for my life-threatening situation.

Finally, I narrowed my options to a cement paver sitting on the tailgate of our old work truck. Carefully, without taking my eyes from the menacing arachnid, I laid my hammer down, replacing it with the paver. I held it at chest level, using both hands. I was still gazing into the depths of the soulless creepy crawly’s eyes as I moved the paver cautiously until it was over the still body of my worst nightmare. I drew a shallow breath and narrowed my eyes, steeling my nerve. As I let that breath out, I dropped my weapon, prepared to run if I missed or the tarantula jumped.

Since I saw no evidence of an escape, I jumped onto the cement square with both feet and bounced up and down for what seemed a very long time. Finally, I stepped off and gingerly touched one corner of the paver. With my courage screwed as tightly as possible, I flipped the block over quickly.

A still scary black blob lay there, legs curled into itself. I sank to the ground, nearly sobbing in relief. The spiders were plentiful that spring.

~ Vea Anna’s story will appear in the Best of Critique Café/Texas Edition coming March 2019