Monday, November 24, 2008


Thanksgiving. Every year, Americans sit down with friends and family and, as a friend of mine recently said, stuff their turkeys. Always the dutiful daughter-in-law and son, my wife and I make an annual trip to see my family during one of the fall holidays, and this year we’ll spend our Thanksgiving weekend in Oklahoma. My parents will give me hugs. My children will run around, squeal and probably break something, for which I’ll have to apologize and my dad will say, “Don’t worry about it. I’m glad somebody finally broke that stupid thing.” My brother will give me grief over the beating the Texas Tech Red Raiders took from Oklahoma this last weekend. And I, of course, will point out that the University of Texas still outranks OU in the BCS, and most likely the Long Horns will go to the Conference instead of the Sooners (cheesy, I know, but you get your digs where you can).

So, the holiday season is now upon us, and this morning I wonder how many people actually stop to think about being thankful. For my part, before moving on to all things writing, I want to take a few lines and express my thankfulness. Today, I am thankful for:

1. My God and my Savior, who looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.
2. My wife, who loves me in spite of the idiot I can be at times.
3. My children, who bring me great joy
4. My parents and in-laws, who have given more to me than I could possibly return.
5. The rest of my family and friends, including my writing and singing buddies, who have laughed, rejoiced and cried with me.
6. America. I live in the greatest nation in the world.
7. The United States Military. Without our courageous men and women, America wouldn’t be what it is today.
8. Work. In this economy, I’m lucky to still have a job.
9. My reasonably good health. As I stand on the threshold of forty, my health can’t be overestimated.
10. Finding a true passion, though late in life. A life without passion/purpose is not a life worth living.

Now on to all things writing. Every once in a while, I grow a wild hair. This happened when I decided to pick up an Evanovich romance novel (written before she became a literary rock star with the Stephanie Plum series). I read the romance novel because I wanted some rounding to my knowledge and experience. To build upon Evanovich, then, I also read Nicholas Sparks and Susan Isaacs.

About a month ago, while visiting Austin on business, I walked into a Barnes and Noble bookstore and ventured over to the books for children. I had recently went to a Scholastic book fair at my son’s school, and I wanted to see who and what made the shelves of commercial retail. In the process, I discovered something interesting. Contrary to a preconceived notion, one based upon books my son brought home from school, I saw that writers used fairly sophisticated language considering their readership. I picked up Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux and found the use of French: "Mon Dieu!" I thumbed through other books and found engaging plots. Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

So, in an effort to broaden my scope some more, I have picked up The Tale of Despereaux from the public library. While in Austin, I also purchased Holes by Louis Sachar. Now that I have finished Steinbeck’s East of Eden, I plan to read these two Newbery Award winning authors and see what I can learn from them.

Finally, this last weekend was a good weekend. I finished a piece of flash fiction (about 850 words), which I will let sit for a few days and then go back and polish it up. I also pushed further into a second story for my commitment to the Holiday Story Exchange, an annual event now on the WD Forum, and I am on target for meeting the December 12th deadline. Even with everything else—the holidays and the commitments to family, work and church—I feel good that my writing life hasn’t languished. Sure, it could be better. It could be a whole lot worse, too.

I hope all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Here here on your 'gratitudes' - I posted mine today as well.

    I read quite a bit of my son's lit (he's 9 but quite sophisticated) and he reads mine. We're both reading LIFE OF PI and a couple of books by Pseudonymous Bosch which are fun.

    It's fun to stretch.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Stephen. Peace, Linda

  2. Stephen, you'll be all set to see Tale of Despereaux when it comes out in the theatres December 19. My daughter and I already have a date to go.

    I'm closing in on the final third of East of Eden. Wow.

    And why am I not surprised Linda's son is quite sophisticated? :)