non-fiction

December 2019 – On Writing…Or Not

On Writing…Or Not by Sarah Shuttleworth

 

Sometimes you just need a moment to watch the sunset to calm your mind. This past weekend I took a trip with a few other writers up to Alpine to stay in a cabin while we finished the last couple days of NaNoWriMo. If you are unaware NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge that happens every November and the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel within the 30 days of November. This is my 10th year to participate in the challenge and my 8th year to be a Municipal Liaison for the organization and run events for my local group and virtually for other writers across Texas who don’t have their own groups.

Some years I win and some years I lose. This was a losing year for me but as I sat there in the cabin in the final hours of the day writing I was at peace with it. I don’t consider it a loss because I have a pretty good chunk of a story that I didn’t have before I started.

This year has been an interesting one for me. Lots of ups and lots of downs. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone more and more. I’ve dealt with loss and grief. I’ve grown in a lot of new areas and feel like I’ve come closer to God in this past year.

The month of November is always busy for me ever since I started participating in NaNoWriMo and this month was no exception. With several other events and things going on, numerous kids activities, and a few winter blues days I just found it harder and harder to get words on the page.

I was looking forward to our retreat weekend though when I might hopefully catch up. While I did write quite a lot it just wasn’t in the cards for me to reach 50,000 this year. The cabin we rented had a nice hill in the back with a picnic table on it. On the last day of the challenge I embraced the cold and made my way to the top to get some writing in.

As I reached the top I was taken by the beauty of the skies around me. I sat and looked around the valley and every direction offered a breathtaking view. One direction held cotton candy clouds of pinks, blues, and purples. Every time I looked away and came back I was met with a different view of colors. As the sun set and the colors faded I felt a deep sense of peace. I sat for a long time just watching the clouds and listening to the birds, crickets, and dogs.

For the first time in awhile I just sat. I wasn’t worried about what events I had to get to or prepare for, I wasn’t worried about reaching my writing goal, and I wasn’t worried about the million other things that have plagued my mind lately. Instead I sat and enjoyed the quiet of the moment. I thanked God for painting me such a beautiful picture. My mind emptied and my soul lightened. I breathed out the stress and breathed in the peace of the moment.

I could have written and increased my word count getting closer to the challenge goal but I would have missed out on that moment. Sometimes you need to stop and take a breath, admire the world around you, and watch the clouds go by. Though when you hear a coyote howling close to you, it might be time to go inside.

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non-fiction

November Newsletter: What Not to serve West Texans on Thanksgiving

What Not to serve West Texans on Thanksgiving By Glenda Bonham

Item #1 and the most important-Do not try to serve ‘Tofurkey’. We don’t want tofu anything, on an average day. Even starving hurricane victims in Texas won’t touch the goods on tofu shelves. That fact has been proven on live TV before.

Don’t put mussels, clams, or oysters in our dressing. We’re land locked desert folks, not beach combers. Thanksgiving is reserved for a variety of dressings made with cornbread. Don’t try to trick us with box dressing, either. If you can’t make homemade dressing, or if you are just too lazy to try, go buy a decent cornbread dressing from a restaurant or a caterer. There is no excuse for serving bad dressing on Thanksgiving. The family might forgive, but we will never forget bad dressing.

Don’t mess around with the mashed potatoes. It’s not a day to get creative and dump garlic, mayo, chives, or horseradish in the mashed potatoes. It’s a day for less-is-best. Just for heaven’s sake, don’t try to trick us with instant mashed potatoes, either. West Texans have an antenna that can smell the difference between real potatoes and the goo from a box from 20 paces.

Never serve less than two varieties of cranberries. Older folks never had the opportunity to eat anything but the jelly flavor from a can. We want it to maintain that can shape when it glops onto a serving dish. You, younger folk enjoy your wholesome fresh-cooked cranberries, and the rest of us will admire it when we pass it to someone else.

Don’t serve dry roasted green beans. We didn’t come to Thanksgiving dinner to eat by any fad diet plan. Keep your dry veggie salad in a separate bowl. We want green beans that backstroke in bacon, butter, onions, and plenty of black pepper. If you didn’t sneeze when you added the black pepper, the beans aren’t fit for the table.

Now, it’s time to talk gravy. Real gravy made of broth, drippings, and milk. Don’t even think about the slime in a package-that’s not gravy; that’s machine oil.

Do not make a reference to the pie as a ‘pee-can’. It makes the mental image of the interior of a smelly Port-a-Potty come to mind. That image will make the pie taste funny. Just set the pie on the table without any comment and back away. It’s not as if the family won’t recognize it.

And on the topic of pie- If you serve pumpkin make sure you have four times the amount of whipping cream you would expect to need. We want to submerge a single slice of pumpkin pie in whipping cream like Captain Nemo diving the Nautilus to the bottom of the sea.

I’m glad we had this little talk. We’ll see you on Thanksgiving Day. Until then- no pressure; no pressure at all.

Sincerely,
Your Thanksgiving dinner guests

non-fiction

November Newsletter: Veterans Day

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 3.02.47 PMVeterans Day is observed every year on November 11th. Veterans Day evolved from Armistice Day, which was proclaimed in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. Armistice is when warring parties agree to stop fighting; Armistice Day recognizes the end of World War One when hostilities ceased on November 11th at 11 A.M, 1918 (11th hour, of the 11th, of the 11th month).

Unlike Memorial Day which pays respect to the war dead, Veterans Day is dedicated to the living men and women who have served in the military, as well as to the fallen.

Veterans contribute to American society in many ways; not just during their time in active duty. Throughout our history, military service members have put on their uniforms to protect the values and liberties that this nation was built on. But that doesn’t stop once the uniform comes off and their time in active duty has ended. Veterans take the lessons they have learned and the experiences they’ve gained and continue their service to our nation by strengthening our communities. They become our nation’s leaders, scientists, entrepreneurs. Veterans are the most active volunteers working to improve communities across our country. Service goes beyond the uniform. This Veteran’s Day, we honor the men and women who have worn their uniform who continue to serve our country.

Glenda Bonham

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September Newsletter: Writers Are Different

Writers Are Different By Richard McGee

Writers are always trying to improve their craft. They listen differently than other people; listening to a conversation often has little to do with the subject of the conversation but noting the ebb and flow of words so they can write better and more natural dialog themselves. They like to watch people perform routine tasks so their fictional characters will behave more realistically.

Writers even watch movies and tv shows a little differently. They are watching the interaction of characters, listening to dialog, and identifying plot points. My wife and I recently watched Grantchester, a Masterpiece series on PBS. We have enjoyed this series the last two years and looked forward to watching the third season. The show is a murder mystery with a police detective and church vicar cooperating to solve crimes.

The main character of the series, a church vicar, was replaced in this latest season. In the fourth episode, the new vicar asked the detective to accompany him to visit his family. Of course, a murder occurs, and they work together to solve the case. My wife loves murder mysteries and enjoyed the episode. Watching it as a writer, I was ecstatic. The show’s writer had revealed the new character’s backstory to his partner and to the viewers. It made me more empathetic to the character and it provided the depth to him that would provide many more story ideas in the future.

A good writer must build a good backstory for his characters and often struggles with how to share it with the reader. As a writer, I watched this show, fully appreciating how it was accomplished.

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August Newsletter: Audio on the Go

Audio on the Go

Glenda Bonham

Many won’t be able to remember when driving while reading a newspaper was actually a fad. In the pre-audio days of the 70’s it was common to meet drivers on the highways in West Texas with a newspaper spread over the steering wheel. I used to stay on alert for a width of white, visible through the windshield of oncoming vehicles. The distracted reading-while-driving motorists would be cruising at speeds between 70-85 MPH on two lane highways reading the local news on the steering wheel. These were the days before seat belts, air bags, child safety seats, and electronic warnings in cars. If there was a state law on the books prohibiting reading-while-driving, I was never aware of it.

Fast forward to present day, and be thankful for the technology that delivers entire books on audio for drivers. Not only can you listen to a new book on a long drive, you can study a second language, dictate a letter, listen to a text message, get driving directions, and a score of other topics, without taking your eyes off the highway.

Downloads from the internet are inexpensive and many libraries offer audio books for check-out free of cost. There are new laws in place against texting and driving for good reasons. If you tend to get lonely on long drives, take along a better form of entertainment than your phone. You will be much safer and you might even learn something.

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