Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year -- by KittyCat


“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Flabby Tabby in the flesh—very fleshy flesh specially the round abby.”
I rehearsed that for three days and could finally say it without an ab laugh. An ab laugh is like a belly laugh, except if you don’t have flabby abbies, your middle doesn’t jiggle like jelly.

I decided to save it for another time, cuz it was almost Christmas, and we're sposed to be kind at Christmas. Besides, I was excited for Snookie to spend Christmas with us. She spat at me in October cuz she thought I said she was fat. Instead of making funny jokes that hurt her feelings, I told myself ten thousand times, I'd be nice to her. 

And I was. She came here on December 11th. Showing my nice side, I touched noses with Snookie to welcome her–a bad move, cuz Snook the Snot was in a bad mood.

When she hissed one of those words you could win a game of Hangman with, and slapped at me, I just moved back a bit. I remembered how I felt when Mom and Dad went to Arkansas. Even though Karina stayed with me most the time, I was upset over being left behind. 

To give Snook space, I went into to office, and she wandered in later. Half snoozing on the guest bed, I told Snook she could join me or have the office chair if she wanted it. She did want it, and has hogged it for two weeks. I got the office now because Snook’s snuggling by Mom who’s watching TV with Dad.

It was kinda nice to have Snook here—in fact, real nice to have company when Mom and Dad went out. But like those Christmas lights that blink off and on, and change colors, and chase each other around the roof, real nice can get real tiring. I’ll bet that’s how Aunt Pen feels about being around all her relatives about now. I’ve even heard her call them blinkety-blink something. Maybe it was blankety-blank.

Anyhow, tomorrow is a brand new year. Aunt Pen will come and take Snookie home. That will be a happy new year start.

Hey, I hope yours gets off to a happy start, too, and is super great all year long.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Leadership of the Small Writing Group , Part I


Support for one another is the common thread that holds small writing groups together. And that’s good. But even small critique groups, writing circles, clubs, or guilds, need leadership. Without it, friendships that develop can cause a writing circle to degenerate into a writers’ social. Serious writers drop out, and the group folds.

In its advice on how to organize a writing group, the book CRAFT: Create, Rewrite, and Fine Tune*, tells how to prevent a break-up by putting guidelines in place when the group is first formed. Basic guidelines in writing give prospective members a clear idea of what to expect when joining the group. A leader’s simple statement, “Remember, we do it this way,” is usually all it takes to head off conflict, a members’ press for change, or overly disruptive chatter.

That does not mean dynamics will not change. With fundamental elements in place, however, it’s easy enough to tweak ground rules as necessary. CRAFT suggests an annual review of its structure and the direction it is taking, regardless of an association’s size. The following are among dozens of questions leadership may want to consider:

·          Are members satisfied with the meeting day and time, and meeting length?
·          What about the meeting place? How well is the present arrangement working?
·          Variations in meeting structure are endless. Of importance is how well your present structure is working for your group. Members who suggest changes should be ready with ideas on how to implement the changes, and, if adopted, to then be responsible for putting new procedures in place.
·          Do policies require redefining? For example, what is: “too steamy” in romance novels; unacceptable language; overly violent scenes, and so forth?
·          Is the work load fair and effective? While large groups tend to elect annual officers, the leadership in small groups often falls to its original organizer(s). The book CRAFT lists a number of positions with duties, if there are sufficient volunteers to take on extra responsibility. Those are the subject of another article. The primary leadership role belongs to the facilitator.

A writing Group’s Facilitator

This is the group’s main leader. Duties will vary from group to group, but will typically include the following:

·          Makes leadership decisions between meetings, often in consultation with key members who make a point of keeping up with group concerns and activities, attend meetings as regularly as they can, and act as advisors to the facilitator.
·          Opens, and later closes the meeting, conducts the business session, if applicable, and makes necessary announcements, including welcoming of guests and introduction of guest speakers.
·          Keeps activities on track in order to complete the meeting’s agenda.
·          Facilitates discussion, aiming for a balance between encouraging participation of all in attendance while discouraging discussion from turning into desultory chat.
·          Direct the critique session if it is on the agenda. Typical priorities for the critique leader is to keep the session moving, and remind members, when necessary, to not interrupt the critique, to critique the writing and not content, phrase comments in a positive manner, and so forth. In short, the person who facilitates a critique session should be aware of the group’s standards for the giving and receipt of critique, and with diplomacy, encourage those standards to be followed.

In large groups, members' contribution to their organization may be limited to their annual dues. The smaller the group, the more each member should accept responsibilities. Learn how to add spark to the small writing group through teamwork in Leadership of the Small Writing Group, Part II.    

*CRAFT: Create, Rewrite, and Fine Tune is still in an editing stage, with a unit or two not finished.

I am indebted to my friend, Diane Mowery, for help with this article. 

© Bernice W. Simpson 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Meet Helen Luecke

January 9th, 2013. If you live in the Amarillo, Texas area, mark your calendar to attend Helen Luecke’s book signing at the Senior Citizen’s Center (exact time TBA).

Hopefully she’ll begin the session with a reading. Listeners who don’t understand a word of English could still be mesmerized by Helen’s reading her stories. Is it cadence or syntax?

When I mentioned Helen’s pleasant voice modulation, she was unaware of that talent. She credits writing skill development to inspirational writer, Doris Crandall—“a very good editor who helped lots of people,” Helen said.

Helen is the surviving member of the like-minded trio (Helen Luecke, Doris Crandall and Sylvia Camp) that started an Amarillo chapter of “Inspirational Writers Alive.” In the main, this group writes to encourage their readers to direct themselves to Christian living, something Mrs. Luecke accomplishes with her touching family-life stories.

One of those tales, A Gift of Love, submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul: the Gift of Christmas, 2010 edition, made the cut of the 101 chosen from 6,000 other entries. Then, on December 16th this year, The Amarillo Globe News featured Helen Luecke’s back story to A Gift of Love, in a spread in its “Lifestyles” section.

The timing, less than a month before the release of her own book, “Life’s Journeys Become Twilight Memories.” was perfect. But Helen Luecke did not solicit the attention. Chicken Soup’s Amy Newmark notified the paper. Chip Chandler interviewed Helen, and the paper sent a photographer to take a picture of her with the gift of love—a tri-colored afghan Helen had crocheted for her mother.

It’s appropriate, but ironic that a writer not motivated by money should be the subject of a newspaper spread. Mrs. Luecke appreciates the publicity, however, because she does have a mission. She wants to use her stories to inspire others to write theirs and give their children a sense of family history. “Maybe they’d write for their kids or at least tell their kids about their lives,” Helen said.

 Also, she discovered years ago that her stories “touch people’s hearts.” The Smile behind the Tears, published in a collection prompted a young reader to write Mrs. Luecke. Referring to Helen Luecke’s mother, and the central character in the story, the child said, “I wish I could’ve had a mother like Miss Bessie.” Helen “didn’t realize there were that many” who grew up in dysfunctional homes.

Thanks to Chip Chandler’s article, Helen Luecke’s inspirational stories will reach a larger audience. Some who hear the sincerity in her voice, purchase her book, and allow themselves to be guided by stories beautifully told, will surely wish to be a mother like Miss Bessie. Relating to true life examples, they will follow and grow.

© 2012 Bernice W. Simpson


Monday, December 24, 2012

A recipe: Crustless Quiche

Christmas time can be a little over-busy. Yesterday's blog about leadership in critique groups is still in the draft stage--and that is an understatement.

Several people have asked me for this recipe, originally in one of those recipe books Southwestern Public Service Company (electric company) used to give away. I'm told a set of them is now collectible and "fetches a good price." Don't call and ask about mine--I loaned out a few which were never returned, and the ones I kept are dog-eared and dotted with an assortment of liquid food stuffs.

Crustless Quiche

Blend thoroughly (recipe calls for food processor or blender, but I use a mixer)

  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. margarine (I use butter)
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 c. plain yogurt
Add and blend:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
Pour into pan. Swirl in:
  • 1 (4 oz.) can green chilies 
  • 2 c. Colby/Jack cheese, grated.
Can bake immediately or put in fridge overnight.
Bake at 350 degrees F approx 45 min or until set.

Can freeze

PS: I just put a casserole dish of it in the oven, and realized I used 4 cups of cheese. When mixing it I wondered why it seemed to take so long to grate the cheese. Anyhow, I'll bet it makes little difference. If it turns out disastrous, I'll make a note of it on Face Book.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Dresser in Earth

Thursday--the day Cat in the Corner is designated for notes about or by others. I'm still trying to catch up after a two-month setback. Nonetheless, I have something to share. My niece sent me to a rant too funny to miss, but I don't have permission to copy it. Find it quick before the writer takes it down.

Go to Amarillo's Craigslist (, I believe). Click on furniture. Scroll until you are on items listed under December 13, and find a dresser for sale listed by a man from Earth, TX. Click on his ad.

If love for his girlfriend resembled heaven on earth, it appears to now be the opposite.

Maybe some readers will at least wish the guy a Merry Christmas, and who knows--someone may even want the dresser.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Visit to Pens and Pages Writers Guild


Do you need to crank up your muse? If you live in a city, revive your creativity and activate fresh inspiration with a field trip away from the congested city’s concrete buildings, traffic and noise. The expansive rural landscape will open you, free the clutter from your mind, and excite your senses.

On October 29, during my excursion from Amarillo to Friona, the countryside delighted me and heightened my sense of observation. In the bar ditches tiny plants wore fall colors, brightened by the sun, and sparkled with silver where fallen leaves left twigs exposed. Varicolored fields changed from brown earth speckled with stubble to crops tinted in shades of straw yellow, gold, and bronze in an ever-changing panorama.

Yesterday, a new office chair allowed longer sessions at my computer, and despite boxed Christmas decorations stacked on the sofa, I decided to mentally return to Friona, and write about The Pens and Pages Writers Guild that meets every fourth Tuesday morning at Friona’s library and on one Monday per month in members’ homes.

Pens and Pages Writers Guild had asked me to present the program, Critique Acumen. Considering what a challenge it is to draw members to meetings in Amarillo, the demographics of this group surprised me. Members drove to Friona from their homes in or near the towns of Bovina, Farwell, and Hereford, as well as the community of Rhea. You can learn more about the area and its history at and

I always enjoy learning how a group conducts their meetings, and it’s a special treat to meet members face to face. For their evening meetings, Pens and Pages starts in the kitchen where everyone contributes to a feast of finger foods, including Amanda Embry’s home-made bread. Find bread recipes on her blog, as well as thoughtful articles. Read while it’s free. Her unique concept paired with outstanding writing will surely catch a publisher’s attention.

At the meeting, chatter stops and work begins on time. Unlike city folks, certain members have a long drive home. Diane Mowery’s drive to Rhea is 20 miles from Friona; Clovis is 30, and Hereford 35. Pens and Pages stick to their purpose—writing, and does not let their meeting degenerate into an evening social. 

I noticed how members encouraged one another, yet were not shy about offering suggestions—always stated with diplomatic professionalism.

As a program presenter, I scan the audience for reactions, but never know how effective my suggestions are. Since this group was small and informal, the presentation was interactive—much more fun for me than standing behind a podium. I hope they absorbed points, but also enjoyed the evening as much as I did.

There’s ample room in the Friona library for guests at 10 AM on fourth Tuesdays. Visit the library’s website for its address and phone number. Remember to “Like” it. I know you’ll like the enthusiastic people you’ll meet there, and the drive to Friona will energize your muse.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trailblazer Mary Kate Tripp Died

Nice work on the obit, Chip. But why didn't the paper throw a bouquet to Mary Kate Tripp while she was living? Was it because after unceremoniously killing the book page, accolades might have appeared to be an apology?

The above is part of an angry letter I'll never send. It's venting. Anger somehow suppresses tears ready to spill on my keyboard and short out the computer.

Everyone I've met who knew Mary Kate--Katie to her many associates--praised her work ethic, her writing and editing ability, organizational skills, and more. Some of us who shared a pot of coffee with her, and soaked in her stories, not only admired the career journalist, but also grew to love her.

Mary Kate Tripp, the extraordinary career woman, was love personified. Perhaps that's the dimension missing from the newspaper's obituary. It's words are fine enough. But years ago I copied a farmer's wisdom into my Writing Worth Citing notebook: "Fine words butter no turnips."

The last time I called on Mary Kate, I took flowers--not in recognition of her brilliant mind or accomplishments. A giant heart beat inside her tiny frame. That was the essence of Mary Kate, and I hope she knew how wonderfully she had shared it.