Sunday, September 17, 2017

High School Football and the Age of Innocence

I try to keep this blog mostly about writing so I use it to share writing updates and news. But from time to time, I will also share pieces I have written. Today, I'm in the mood for autumn, so in the spirit of fall, here is a piece that I wrote several years ago. I posted it on my other blog last year and on a blog I contribute to the year before. Maybe next fall, I'll give it a rest but I do so love the memories of my high school cheerleading days and our AAA state football champions. It's titled

"High School Football and the Age of Innocence"

On a late August night, the temperature still sweltering and people still sweating even as the sun went down, I stood on the field with my fellow cheerleaders. A harvest moon rose over our heads and our hearts filled with hope as we eagerly awaited the opening game of what should be a great season. We had most of our starting players returning. I was the co-captain of the cheerleaders. The outlook for this season, my senior year, was promising.

It was the fall of 1975–many years ago. Much has happened since that warm August night. Karen, the captain of the cheerleaders, and my close friend, died just three years later in a double murder which is still unsolved. Her death shattered the innocence of the sleepy little mountain town in southern West Virginia where I lived. Other members of that team have passed away as well but we have a few success stories. Donnie, the offensive captain, played football at Wake Forest University. He is now the CFO of an Atlanta-based business. Wayne, a junior that year, also played football at Wake Forest, setting some Atlantic Coast Conference receiving records while there. Joey, the quarterback, is a tenured professor now. I married, moved to Louisville, raised four children and eventually became a writer. Those of my classmates who remain see each other once in a while at class reunions.


Reunion weekend always starts with tickets to the Beaver-Graham game. It is tradition for my high school, the Bluefield Beavers, to start their season playing cross-town rivals, the Graham G-Men. This annual match up in the same stadium we used in 1975 has much the same feel as it did back then. There is still the cracking of helmets, enthusiastic cheerleaders on the sidelines, excited fans, and the hot August night skies still boasts a harvest moon.

Young Again

As I sat in the stands on such an August evening a few years ago, my mind could not help but wander to bygone days and I was once again on the field next to my friend Karen cheering our team on. We lost only one game that year. But our hopes faded as our team dropped into fifth place in the statewide poll. Back then, only the top four teams in the state earned the privilege of moving on to post season play-offs.

But in the middle of the last game of the season, our luck changed. Over the public address system, the announcer loudly proclaimed that George Washington High School was beating Charleston in their season’s last game. A cheer rang out, first in a low rumble then building to a frenzy as the impact of the news sank in. If George Washington could pull out a win against #4 Charleston, it would change the ratings. Charleston would fall to fifth and we would move up into that much coveted fourth place position, gaining a right to post-season action.

As the second half of both games progressed, forgetting our own game which we were handily winning, we waited with bated breath for each update on the other game, several hours away. Finally, the last announcement came–Charleston lost! Our own win a few moments later was rather anticlimactic. We were flying high just the same because we knew we were headed to the state football play-offs!

Play-offs, Here We Come!

The semi-final game pitted my high school, fourth-ranked Bluefield, against first-ranked and unbeaten Buchannan–Upshur. The Buck–Ups had a player named Tinker Jackson, reputed to be the top running back in the sate. Our lead scorer’s name was Donnie Jackson. Someone in our fan club had made a huge sign that read, “Our Jackson is better then your Jackson.” The game ended with Bluefield routing Buchannan–Upshur 42-0! Donnie scored three touchdowns in that game. I guess our sign was right.

November 22, 1975 was the coldest ball game I have ever participated in. It would have been bad enough had I been sitting in the stands under a blanket, warming my hands around a cup of hot cocoa; but I was on the field in a cheerleader skirt that barely covered my bloomer clad butt. The layers of shirts under my thick white sweater and the gloves I wore did nothing for my exposed legs that had only a pair of sheer panty hose between them and the frigid air! I think that’s the coldest I have ever been in my life. But it was worth it. We came from behind at the half to claim the title with a 20-7 victory.

That was many years ago and much has happened since. But hidden away in my heart will always be the treasured experience of cheering for the 1975 West Virginia AAA High School Football Champions. Every fall when the leaves look festive, the air feels crisp, and harvest moons hang in the sky like giant pumpkins; America turns attention to its favorite pastime and my mind remembers days gone by, dear friends I have lost, and the glories of high school football in the age of innocence.








Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another Contract!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sittingWe're at it again!

My childhood friend, and co-writer in some of my other books, Shirley Crowder, and I are happy to announce that we have just signed another contract with PixNPens Publisher! This one is for an anthology of nonfiction stories about prayer. The working title is, "Prayer Warrior Confessions" and its tentative release date is summer 2018.

This book will complete our four-book series on the topic of prayer. The other books in the series are "Prayer: It's Not About You" written by me, "Study Guide on Prayer" written by Shirley, "Glimpses of Prayer", a devotional co-written by both of us due to be released in December 2017, and this book, "Prayer Warrior Confessions", also co-written, due out next summer.

We couldn't be more excited! Stay tuned and I'll keep you posted on the progress of both upcoming books. I've seen the tentative cover for the devotional and will do a cover reveal in the next few weeks. It's beautiful and I can't wait to share it with you! In the meantime, if you are looking for a fall Bible study about prayer, either personal or group, keep our book and study guide in mind.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Freelance Writing

Look what came in the mail today! A box of 10 copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul's, "The Dog Really Did That?" It releases August 8th but as a contributor I get 10 free copies a few weeks early.  No automatic alt text available.
I love freelance writing and have been a successful freelancer since 2010. I started freelancing before I ever had a book contract and have continued even as I also now write books.

For a snapshot of my writing work, right now, I am under a deadline for my newest book which is tentatively scheduled to release in early Dec . (So I should be working on that instead of blogging. lol!) But also in the last 30 days, I have received contracts for articles from 3 magazines--"War Cry", "SEEK", and "Thriving Family" and am waiting on payment from a devotional who contracted me last year for 10 devotions but pay on publication (meaning they pay at the time the work is published.) And today, my Chicken Soup contributor copies arrived. How I love freelancing!

I teach a workshop on freelancing, btw, if any writer's conference or group is looking for a faculty member / speaker.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Apples of Gold


"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."

This verse from Proverbs 25:11 paints such a good mental picture of the importance of words. Proverbs 15:33 says, "A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!"

Words. They can be so many things and bring out so many different reactions and emotions. Words can be harsh, ugly, demeaning, or discouraging. They can be frightening. Or they can be comforting, funny, encouraging, and uplifting. As these passages point out, words can bring joy and a word spoken in due season can be good.

This is why I write. I want my words to lift up, encourage, or entertain in a good way.

I may not always achieve my goal when I sit at my computer to write because that goal is a lofty one. I am hoping to carefully place those apples of gold in the silver pitchers and serve them to my readers.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Writing Updates

I have some big news to share! ...and some other not as big news to share too.

The big news? I have signed a new contract with Pix-N-Pens Publishing to co-write a devotional book focused on prayer. My co-writer is childhood friend, Shirley Crowder. We wrote a seasonal devotional together a couple of years ago and discovered that we make a good writing team.
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoor

This book, tentatively titled, "Glimpses of the Savior Through Prayer", will be the 3rd in our prayer series while also the 2nd in our Glimpses of the Savior devotional series.

Our prayer series includes:
"Prayer: It's Not About You" (by me)
"Study Guide on Prayer" (by Shirley)
"Glimpses of the Savior Through Prayer" (by both of us)
and one more book, to be announced later.

Our Glimpses series includes:
"Glimpses of the Savior" (by both)
"Glimpses of the Savior Through Prayer" (by both)
and hopefully a couple more that are currently in the planning stages.

As  you can see, I /we have a lot of writing to do! But I am not neglecting my freelance writing. Currently, I have a story coming out in Chicken Soup for the Soul's book, "The Dog Really Did That?" releasing August 8, a short article / parent tip just contracted by Focus on the Family's "Thriving Family" for the Oct./ Nov. 2017 issue, 5 devotions in the August/ Sept issue of Reflections, articles coming out in SEEK in August, Sept, and November, and devotions in The Secret Place's current and next issues.

Whew! And as if that's not enough, I have a few engagements to attend: I'm serving on the nonfiction panel at the KCWC (Kentucky Christian Writer's Conference) in a couple of weeks, and have a book signing at the Craft Memorial Library in Bluefield, WV August 3rd.

Our completed manuscript for the new Glimpses is due to our publisher no later than Sept 1! I've got my summer work cut our for me. Good thing I love being a writer!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Writing Quotes

A lot of people like to collect things--I collect quotes. Here are a few for the writers out there:


“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” --Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”  --George Orwell, “Why I Write”, 1947


"Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed." --P.G. Wodehouse


“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.” --Mel Brooks


“That’s what we story tellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”  --Walt Disney character in the movie, “Saving Mr. Banks”


"...once I began writing, it became clear to me: This is not a foreign language; this is my native tongue." --Elizabeth Gilbert 


"...don't demand that your art supports your life. Instead, make a promise that your life will always support your art." --Elizabeth Gilbert 















Thursday, April 6, 2017

On Mentors and Mentoring

In the last two days I have been impacted by both my writing mentor and a young writer I have mentored.

The one writer whom I credit with launching my writing career, Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress, has seen many sorrows in her life. Her first husband died many years ago from cancer, her only daughter (she has four sons) lived life handicapped and passed away quite young, and her second husband suffered a severe major stroke five years ago. Yesterday, he passed away. My heart has been heavy for Lettie and her family.

In 2009, when I was still unpublished, I attended a writer's conference where Lettie taught a workshop on freelancing small pieces like articles and devotions. I went home and successfully applied the information she taught in her very informative workshop. Without her willingness to share what she knew, I would have never known the basic how to's of freelancing. She opened up the world of writing to me.

Though my heart is heavy for my mentor, today it filled with joy over a young Nigerian writer I have mentored. Some years ago, a Nigerian man sent me a FB friend request. I am very selective in accepting friend request from people I do not know, especially men. I checked out his profile & saw that a) he was young enough to be my son, and b) his statuses we're very Christ honoring so I accepted his friend request.

His statuses kept grabbing my heart. At Christmas he wrote that he walked into work & all his coworkers were downcast & dejected because they had not been paid in two months, he told them, "This is the season that we celebrate the birth of our Savior! Be of good cheer!" 

That along with some other similar statuses prompted me to send him a private message telling him he would make a good devotional writer. Via email & FB, I mentored him in devotional writing. And I also sent email inquiries to the various devo magazine I write for. Sadly, the only one that could get a payment to Nigeria was The Upper Room. 

Today I received my complimentary copy of The Upper Room (because I am a contributor.) To my joy, not only was a devo in there by him but also by a young woman in his church whom he has mentored. 

On the heels of these two very different events, I am left pondering the joys and sorrows of connecting with others, of mentoring and being mentored.