September Newsletter | “Log of the Trail”

Meeting Announcement: Our September meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 18, 2012, from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. at the home of Reba and David Seals in Alpine. (See more info below in the President Ramblings.)

Format for Meeting: Potluck Party and Writing Round-Table (See more info below in the President Ramblings.)

President Ramblings

Welcome Texas Mountain Trail Writers to a new year of honing our craft while encouraging and enjoying each other from your new president, Reba Cross Seals. Food and writing, two staples in the life of writers, are openers for the first meeting of the new season. A Potluck Party will be at the home of David and Reba Seals in Sunny Glen, Alpine, September 18 at 6:30. All members, guests, and area writers interested in the organization are invited.

A writing round-table game is planned under the oak trees, along with great food. Please notify Reba at 432-837-2919 as to what you would like to bring in your pot and how many guests on your arm. There will be no business meeting, but there will be some fun announcements.

As your new president, I’m wearing a hat other than the one you’ve seen me in the last few years. I traded the retreat/conference responsibilities to two wonderfully capable women, Janith Stephenson and Aleta Belcher. In return I accepted the presidency and will do my best for you. Darrel White is our v.p. in charge of programs and almost has his slate completed. Secretary is Jackie Siglin; treasurer is Anne Van Loon. Kip Piper agreed to continue her job as webmaster and editor of Log of the Trail. Marian Frueh will be our Chaos West of the Pecos editor for another year. These are all big jobs and I’m proud of the quality people we have filling the slots.

A reminder to send me the best first lines (or the worst!) you find in any book or even your own WIP. (See “Fun Contest for This Year Announced” below.) Thanks, Marian, for starting us off with one. We will announce current entries in the First Lines Contest at the party, then we’ll publish them all in the Log of the Trail. Be sure to site where you found it and the author. We’ll be sure to give you credit for the find. ">  See you soon.

Reba Cross Seals

Fun Contest for This Year Announced!

The first thing writers are taught is to make your first sentence of a story, article, or book hook ’em and grab ’em so firmly that agents, editors, and all readers will be immediately engaged. This year we are going to have some fun with that. Each month in the Log of the Trail we will publish some of the best (and worst) first lines you can find. They may come from your own WIP (work in progress) or from something you’ve read, current or ancient. Fiction or non-fiction are both fair game.

This will be enjoyable as you search and jot down the first sentence, name of the story or book, and the author. Tell if you think it should be nominated under the best or worst category. The difference might not be as obvious as we think, and some might disagree. We will publish several each time for your pleasure. Please send them to me at

Here is, perhaps, the best known classic for our beginning. I thought you might enjoy reading the history. (And no, Snoopy did not originate it.)

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Author was novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1803-1873. The following information is copied from Wikipedia.

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873), was an English politician, poet, playwright, and novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling dime-novels which earned him a considerable fortune. He coined several phrases that would become clichés, especially “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, as well as the famous opening line “It was a dark and stormy night”.

Marian Frueh and Frank Carden have send me a couple of good ones. The rest of you, start digging!


Trail Bits

Top Punctuation Howlers – Quotation Marks
From Kip Piper

I really like this site. Thought I would share with you. Lots of good ideas in it. I get this newsletter free once a month or so. – Aleta Belcher
HomeMadeSimple <>

As seen on Facebook – from Reba Cross Seals

From Doris Rangel (as shared by Donna Greene)

Dear All

Today is the first day of school and I am not there.

Well, actually, it’s the second day of school.  The first was Saturday, September 1.  Here school begins September 1 whether it’s Saturday or not.  First Bell, it’s called.  All very ceremonial but, to my mind, wonderful, a genuine appreciation and respect for the forthcoming educational journey.  Everyone dresses.  I mean, DRESSES!  The teachers always dress (I’ve had to spiff up my look), even on workdays, but for First Bell they dressed as we would dress for a wedding.  Anything that could shine, shone; anything that could glitter, glittered; anything that could frill, frilled.  Heels were high, nails, toe and finger, polished, jewelry ornate.  Then there were the students, dressed as nicely as their parents could dress them.  Suits for the boys, or at least shirt and ties, or their very best tee shirts if that’s all they had; girls in nicest dresses, the young ones in white tights with their rhinestoned mary janes, white gauzy rosettes in their hair.

First Bell is when the first graders are welcomed into the school.  The seven 9th graders, the top class in my school, did the honors. They were on the stage to begin with, a few of them had pieces to say, mostly about how important education is.  Then the 10 first graders marched out, each carrying a trio of red, white, and orangy-gold balloons – the colors of the Armenian flag.  A tape of the Armenian national anthem played as we all stood.  A few more remarks by the 9th graders, still on stage, and a remark or two by the incoming first graders, now on the stage with them.  Then the principal welcomed everyone and also had a few remarks about the benefits of education, the pride of Armenia in its scholars, etc.

And then, those of you teaching or who are former teachers will love this, each 1st grader had to swear in a memorized piece that essentially he or she would do all their school work, listen to their teachers, and in general be well behaved boys and girls till they graduated from high school.  One little one, almost swallowed by his 3 piece suit, said his piece at the top of his lungs; the little girl beside him rolled the hem of her dress up and down as she swore her promises in a slightly quieter tone of voice. (Call me cynical but it’s a good thing no tiny hands had to rest on a Bible.)  Then the 9th graders gave each of the young ones a gift bag with a few school supplies in it – notebooks, pencils, eraser, ruler.  After which, the 1st graders gave each of the 9th graders a gift bag.  It had a picture frame in it, but I don’t know what else.

The school buzzer buzzed and everyone cheered.  Then one of the first graders was given a beribboned ceremonial handbell.  A 9th grade boy picked her up and held her high so she could ring it, then pass it on; every new 1st grader was held aloft and rang the bell for all they were worth as everyone clapped; then the 9th graders took each by the hand and led them to the first grade classroom.  No wonder everyone I’ve talked to remembers this day in their own school careers.  And though the ceremony clearly centered around the oldest and the youngest students, the whole school was there to witness the occasion.  Quite a few parents, too, but I imagine mostly the 1st and 9th grade parents.

As I said, it was wonderful and I was teary-eyed.  Certainly the message was clear, in a way I feel we don’t make it clear as a society in the US:  education is one of the most important aspects of anyone’s life – of a nation’s life.  A time to be treasured; a gift.  Perhaps Armenia is more cognizant of this because they have had their freedom as a modern nation only for about 20 years and still have an awareness and an eagerness for things they want to accomplish; no sense yet of ‘been there, done that’ boredom that can undercut a nation’s flow.

And now it’s Monday, the first real day of classes, and I’m not there.  All prepped and excited and ready to be a real PCV, and here I sit at home.  Seems the teachers at my school – I don’t know about the rest of Armenia – only work 4 days a week.  The students go Monday through Friday, but each teacher has a day off in that span.  Turns out my counterpart’s, the English teacher’s, day off is Monday.  Well, rats!  My hostess’ day off – she’s the Russian teacher – is Tuesday, so I’ll go tomorrow for my first day all by myself.  I won’t even know what class to head to first because my counterpart hasn’t yet given me her schedule – I’ve asked twice.  That’s a problem because it’s the teachers who travel.  The students stay in their respective classrooms as the teachers rotate.  It will all work out, I know, but I HATE looking as lost as I really am in front of everyone.  All the little things one picks up or knows enough to ask from the conversations going on around you, I don’t hear; and my counterpart often doesn’t realize I don’t get about 90% of the information everyone else is getting on the fly.  And I know, it’s up to me to get it.  I can hardly wait to get settled and get a language tutor.  For one thing, I’m missing all the gossip, and definitely all the subtleties.

No word on housing yet.  I was shown a perfectly lovely place, just one street beyond my hostess’ house, but they wanted 80,000 dram for it.  That’s a little over $300 for a fantastic 2 bedroom house.  Flush toilet, hot water, a WASHING MACHINE, central heating, the works!  Great if I were on American money.  Unfortunately, I’m on the PCV Armenian dram.  The Peace Corps tops me out rent wise at around 25,000 dram.  It is looking more and more as if I will have to live in Spitak proper and commute.  I’ve even begun considering staying where I am for the winter, if my hostess will have me, just so I won’t have to learn a new living area all over again.  There’s a lot to be said for someone leading you around by the hand – sometimes literally – and showing you how things work.  My bedroom is just so darned crowded, however, with other people’s things, and I hate not being able to spread.  So we’ll see.

Even in my laborless state, I hope all of you are having a wonderful 3 day holiday.  I keep up with the national headlines via internet (yahoo and msnbc for what that’s worth) and the occasional English language Russian TV (for what THAT’S worth), but so enjoy hearing your news.  Thanks for writing.


 Demystifying Writers’ Demons One at a Time

One by One –  by Joan Upton Hall


Frequently mixed up depending on whether its past tense is transitive  (has a direct object to receive the action) or intransitive (does not have a direct object)

Shined (past tense/transitive) – Amy shined the silver.  (has a direct object)
Shone (past tense/intransitive) – The silver shone from her effort. (no direct object)
Shined (past tense/transitive) – Bob shined his car to a high polish. (has a direct object)

Shone (past tense/intransitive) – The moon shone brightly. (no direct object)
Shined (past tense/transitive) – Bob shined his flashlight at the house.  (has a direct object)
Shone (past tense/intransitive) – From the window, a mysterious light shone back. (no direct object)

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: moc.loa@llaHumj. More problems like the above are demystified in the booklet, 50 Writers’ Tips. Find more at

Final Note from the Editor:

Have news? 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 .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.