September Newsletter | “Log of the Trail”

Meeting Announcement: Our September meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 22, 2009, in the Fiesta Room at the Hallmark Apartments in Alpine from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.

Refreshments will be provided by Donna Greene. Edy Elfring will talk about her book. And Reba will give first talk about her trip to China.
Writing Asssignment by Darrell White: What I Did For Summer Vacation and Why

From the Atelier of Our Prez:

Hello, gang…time for us to herd up again!  We’re gathering on September 22, 7 PM, at the Hallmark Apartments in Alpine.  Our normal meeting date is the third Tuesday of the month; but this first fall meeting will be held the 4th Tuesday.  We look forward to seeing all your smiling faces again; please remember to invite your neighbors or interested parties to attend.  It’s my turn to provide refreshments; I promise not to kill anybody.

I know you’ve all been busy with traveling, visiting, working, and I hope some writing.

Darrell White, our worthy Vice Prez, was one of the authors featured at the WOW Texas Book Festival this summer held at Sul Ross and I asked him to send a synopsis of his experience there not realizing that it was not a good one.   The event was held upstairs in the University Center on the Sul Ross University campus.  Some of the vendor tables were set up in the rotunda area on the second floor; and some were set up in a “special writers’ room” off the main area.  Darrell was set up in that room and reported that he hardly saw anyone come into that room and he, along with several other writers in there, sold no books after paying $50 to have a table in there.  The frustrations Darrell expresses were similarly expressed by the other authors in that side room.

I was on the planning committee for the WOW Texas Book Festival.  The original idea, of course, was to give the authors a special place; in reality, the place was so special no one could find it!  That oversight will be corrected next year when all the authors will be on display in the rotunda area.  This was only the second year of the WOW Texas Book Festival and there’s still a large learning curve.  Those of us who work on the Texas Mountain Trail Writers Spring Conference (which is ALL of us) have had to learn through the years what works and what doesn’t by making mistakes and correcting them the following year.   And we know we have to “learn” something new every year!  The WOW Texas Book Festival is still in its infancy, but is a very worthy project which collects monies to benefit the building of the new Alpine Public Library.

The good news is that much money was raised to support the library in spite of this time of recession.

I want to thank all of you for your contributions to our group this past year and I look forward to seeing you as we face another fun and challenging year.  Good writing!

Donna Greene

From the Desk of Our Vice President

Heads up for the October Writing Assignment. This is to give you plenty of time. Encounters with Ghosts. All of us have a ghost in our past or someone in the family has seen one, or a friend. Like this story: a customer in the paint department told me that her first encounter with a ghost was one night when she woke and someone or something was sitting on her bed. She couldn’t see anything but she felt its presence. That gave me the shivers. So no making it up. It must be something that you seen or felt. Have fun!

Darrell White


Seeking high quality haiku poetry pertaining to fall/winter. Deadline September 15, 2009.
1st Place Prize –  $110 (US) & Certificate
2nd Place Prize –  $ 50
3rd Place Prize –  $ 20

The Permian Basin Chapter, Poetry Society of Texas announces:

Saturday, November 14, 2009, 1:00-5:00 P.M.
Click here for more info.

Deadline OCTOBER 1, 2009
Click here for more info.

Braggin’ Rights

From Reba and her Ch*na Adventure

August 10, 2009                            Ch*na Adventure

Dearest Family and Friends,

I’ve been back from Ch*na for a week now, and in some ways it seems like a dream. I’m still trying to get my sleep patterns back in line with this side of the world. In Asia even after taking 58 hours getting there it didn’t seem to bother me, as we hit the ground running. But returning is another matter. I awake at 3 a.m. eyes wide open, yet fall asleep in my chair by 6 p.m. Many of you have called or written to ask me about my trip so I will try to tell a little about it without writing a book.

It was an awesome experience and one that I’ll remember the rest of my life. It was a teaching/mission/cultural-exchange trip and well worth the tremendous work, heat, and money it cost to go. There were 33 of us from all over the U.S. from Virginia to Oregon, from Florida to California. I made many good, firm friends from working with other dedicated people closely for one month. We also had about 8 university students from all over the country, and their character and earnestness was awesome and gave us adults great hope for our future.

I taught conversational English and American customs to a group of 3rd through 6th grade students six days a week. We had not expected to have any students so young and some in our group were upset that we did. But not I. I think they are the reason I was supposed to come! I totally related to them and they to me. I used ESL (English as a Second Language) techniques as their English was very limited, and I taught American values (like truth telling, honesty, loyalty, kindness, love for all people, etc.), American customs (like our holidays, occupations, sports, recognizing patriotic places (like Statue of Liberty, etc.), and Chr*st*an values like one true G*d, as most are Buddhists or Shintoists. I did not teach anything denominational as that was not our purpose, as well as being illegal (especially against the law teaching any values at all to anyone under 18.) I tried to be very careful, but still accomplish our purpose for going.

I spent a couple of hours every afternoon rewriting the lesson plans that I had prepared at home for a much older group than I was assigned when I arrived. It took time to think up and prepare younger activities to still teach the same overall objectives that were our goal. The students were quiet and reluctant to participate at first as they are usually disciplined by shaming and yelling in their regular classrooms due to the overworked teachers having classes of 40 to 60 students. But they learned to respond well to encouragement and smiles. They are used to 3 hours of homework every evening, and enjoyed not having that with us. They also have only 1 month of summer vacation, which we were using. We learned to love each other and they showered me with gifts when I left and promised to come visit me in America!

We all worked hard, and the heat was the biggest problem for me. It is extremely humid, and the sun is very hot so much closer to the equator than we are in Texas. Even my head perspired! All the women and many of the men carry umbrellas all day every day, rain or shine. We walked nearly everywhere. If we needed to go to a meeting across the city which we did frequently, it was ½ mile just to the bus stop. We walked 2 to 3 miles a day.

The food was good because I like Ch*nese food, but it was unlike what we get in Asian restaurants here. For one thing, nothing is fried. It is all boiled or stewed, and usually in a tasty sauce. Very little beef, mostly pork and chicken and dog (I did not try that!). All meat and vegetables are cut into bite size pieces for chopsticks use, at which we got very good. But occasionally a piece of something slick like cantaloupe would fly across the room! All bowls of food are for the whole table and are put on a lazy Susan in the center and people help themselves with their chopsticks as the center turns around. All meat pieces have bone in them as the animals are chopped from the feet to the heads, usually leaving the heads and feet on the serving plate (chicken feet are tasty!). The fish have the eyes looking up at you. The vegetables are primarily eggplant, cucumbers, green beans, and a hollow stem vegetable like spinach. And lots of rice and some noodles (more noodles and less rice in northern Ch*na.). Of course we drank lots of tea, but it was usually luke-warm, not hot as I like it best. There were many, many restaurants on different floors of tall buildings, and the people seemed to eat out a lot at every meal, but the prices were cheap. Desserts were mostly fruit, primarily watermelon, some cantaloupe, pineapple, and Asian pears. No cakes, cookies, pies, and pastries like we fat Americans like. No wonder they are small, lean, and strong.

The people were warm and friendly. All the co-teachers, administrators and older students at our schools wanted to take us out to museums, parks, massages (called mas sag nes), shopping, and to karaoke bars (they love karaoke!). One night a friend and I were taken on a riverboat tour that was beautiful. And they insist on paying for everything, which we tried not to allow as their salaries are so low. But they are warm and giving. The government may be tough, evil, and hate America, but the people were extremely friendly and helpful. I never felt afraid or threatened, even at night or in crowded shops or buses.

My city was huge, about 2 mil, and crowded, with most people not having cars. If we had to go across the city for something which we frequently did, we took a taxi if we were in a hurry, or a bus if not. I liked the bus better because you got to be among the people, and smile at them, and they smile back. If they know any English at all, they want to talk to you. So you talk above the live chicken they are holding onto with one hand while their other hand holds the fresh vegetables they buy at the market every day. And frequently they ask to have their pictures taken with us, especially their children. I guess one day they will say to their son, “Look at that funny looking foreigner we had your picture taken with one time when you were little!”

Ch*na has a love/hate relationship with America. They want our expertise, our technology, the results of our free enterprise w/out the freedom that it requires, our facility with English language, our world progress, but want no part of our religion, our openness to creative ideas, our tendency to vote or tendency to criticize our leaders. In fact the latter actions can still cause you to lose your job at best, or be jailed at worst. We were heavily cautioned to be careful with our speech and books we gave out. It reminded me of mother telling that during WWII a saying was “Loose lips sink ships!” And that is still true in Ch*na.

One evening I was invited to the home of a woman I met on the bus. In the city everyone lives in an apartment in tall 30 to 40 story buildings. She and her sister and brother-in-law fixed me a lovely, modest dinner with many dishes. And the one they were most proud of was a loaf of store-bought white bread they found somewhere to put right in the middle of the table, sure that all Americans love that best! I never saw any bread in restaurants, only rice and noodles, so cannot imagine where they got it. And I never eat white bread at home!

We had very little time for sight-seeing, but did one weekend. It was only after we got out of the city on a bus that we saw the Ch*na we know from National Geographics! There we saw the terraced farming on the mountains, the men and women in coolie hats wading in the water planting or threshing rice, and the water buffalo pulling the plows. The countryside is extremely beautiful, green with many rivers and sharp mountains.

This is enough for now…you’re probably bored with my stories of Ch*na. I thank each of you for your support that you gave in many different ways, but especially holding us up in prayer. We know it made a difference. The window of admitting foreign visitors kept opening and closing this summer due to the swine flu, and we were blessed to be able to get in and out at the end of the month with out being quarantined. It would have been terrible to be quarantined in a hotel somewhere without language skills and no extra money to pay for it. It is now closed up again. We also dodged a typhoon and an earthquake in a not too distant place from where we were. So we know we were watched and protected while we were planting seeds among the people. Thank you.

Much love and thanks,

Ch*na, July, 2009

Trail Bits

From Kat Stephenson Copeland, President, The Permian Basin Chapter, Poetry Society of Texas 432-697-4205: Thank you for sending Mr. Kelton’s obit. My Uncle Ben Kelton and Aunt Vern Kelton were part of the family. In fact, when I was doing studio photography, I was taking photographs of a Kelton family, unknown to me, who remarked that I looked like their Aunt Vern! Turned out to be same aunt! Aunt Vern was my dad’s sister (T. D. “Dude” Stephenson (DOD 2004 at 96 years old). My dad was a cowboy back in the 20s and 30s. My mom went to school with Mr. Kelton’s sister – Clara Bell.

From Eleanor Taylor: Writers’ League of Texas Summer Workshop I count myself most fortunate to have received a scholarship from TMTW to attend the Writers’ League of Texas Summer Retreat at Sul Ross State University. Between Sunday evening, July 26, and Friday afternoon, July 31, I labored with an intensity that, I must admit, I am not used to. But the instructor of the Narrative Voice Workshop I participated in, Carol Dawson, inspired me to generate more creative juices in one week than I’ve generated in the last six months. The woman offered us her magic combination of heart and knowledge, and I accepted with deep gratitude to produce a strong, distinct voice in the writing of the first chapter of my new novel. I will be sharing my experience with the group in one of our meetings this fall.

Demystifying Writers’ Demons One at a Time    by Joan Upton Hall

Counts or amounts – fewer/ less

o Fewer refers to plural (countable) nouns.
“The obedience class instructor insists on fewer than six dogs per session.”
“Writers need more editing skills, not fewer.”

o Less refers to singular nouns or measurable substances.
“I prefer less salt.”
“Clear guidelines can lead to less trouble later on.”

Exception: Garner states that modern usage is blurring the distinction between “count nouns” (things that can be counted and are therefore plural) and a “mass noun” that is considered singular. Some count nouns may not be thought of in individual items, especially references to time and money, causing the word “less” to replace “fewer,” as in these examples:

“He built a million-dollar business in less than five years.”
“For less than $10 a day, you can rent this chartreuse sofa.”

Do demons bedevil your writing? Similar, confusing words? Grammar, punctuation, or capitalization rules? “The Demystifier” will clear up the mystery (primary reference unless otherwise noted: Garner, Bryan A. Dictionary of Modern American Usage. N.Y.: Oxford University Press). Address questions and comments to freelance editor, Joan Upton Hall at: . More problems like the above are demystified in the booklet, 50 Writers’ Tips. Find more at

Final Note from the Editor:

As you can see from this month’s newsletter, during the summer, great things can happen! Toot your horn, clang your bell, raise your roof! Tell us your news and stories – or writing news in general, such as publications you would recommend, contests, book events, etc. Send your Braggin’ Rights and Trail Bits to .

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