Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


I Know the Big Guy!

I know the real Santa.

Don’t raise your eyebrows. It’s true, I do know him.

I met him a long time ago, back when my kids were small.

Here’s how I know him. Every year, St. Nick visited C-Town. When my kids were little, even though we lived in Pryor Creek and had our own parade there, the boys insisted we had to come home to C-Town because that was the only place where the real Santa made it for the parade.

So we’d come home. We watched the bands and floats and Shriners entertain, and even though there was a wonderful show going on, the boys only wanted one thing. Okay, two things. Candy and to see Santa riding on the big red fire engine.

And when Santa cruised past, he always waved his hand at our corner of the parade route and shouted, “Hi Danny! Hi Kyle! Hi Matt! Hi Brad! Hi Grant! Hi Melanie!  Merry Christmas.” For him to know their names, he had to be the authentic Kris Kringle, didn’t he?

Santa also took time to come to our church to visit with the kids after the Christmas program. He not only knew their names, he gave them  each a bag of candy, too.

So #1 son deducted that he HAD to be the only real Santa.

Who was I to argue?

SHAY KIDS DO NOT READ THIS!!! (I mean it. You’ve been warned.)

PS:  Don’t tell my kiddos, but the Big Guy was represented by a Christian man in our church. His suit was made by one of the wonderfully talented women in our church. (Don’t you love people who donate their time and talent so freely?)

This man was kind and loving to the kids in town and very, very patient. (With the length of some of the lists and the crying the babies did, he had to have a ton of patience!)

Not only was he a member of the church we went to most of my life, but he was also a neighbor. They make the best Santas, don’t they?

Way back when I was a kid and one of my sibs recognized the Santa we visited or noticed his beard wasn’t real, Mama always explained it by telling them the man was Santa’s helper. He had to have helpers like that because the Big Guy was so busy at the North Pole getting ready to fill up that sleigh and make his whirl-wind trip to all the boys and girls in the world.

Wow. Remember believing that? What a sweet time it was when we really believed that all the world received gifts. Back before we knew about hate, unhappiness, prejudice and my-way-or-the-highway kinds of life. And before we knew about poverty in parts of the world that make you cry to think about.

I still believe in Santa. (Even though Paula told me the truth when I was four. BTW–it’s okay, Paula. I enjoyed knowing and helping Mom keep the secret all those years.)

Besides, Santa is the Spirit of giving and Christmas and forgetting old hurts and loving one another. So of course, I BELIEVE!

Do you?


Contest Winners!

A couple of days ago, I promised you some exciting news. Today, I can share it with you!

A few months ago, I entered my WIP (work in progress) in my chapter’s unpublished contest. I’m published, but the rules allowed me to enter in a category in which I haven’t published. So I did. 🙂

My story is Christian Women’s Fiction. I’m new at writing it and since my fantastic critique partners don’t read a lot of it, I thought this would be a good way to get some feedback. And (fingers crossed) get the story out of the slush pile and into an editor’s hands.

While we were at the romance writers retreat, the contest’s finalists were announced.



Wherever You Roam by Kimberly Keys
Lady Catherine’s Secret by Sheridan Edmondson
The Madonna of Pisano by MaryAnn Diorio


Deception by Jennifer Beane
Don’t Look by Susanne Frost
Legally Mastered by Sarah Rose Ahmad


Silk by Louise Cusack
Dark Bringer by Brenda Nelson-Davis
* The Hunt for Home by Lorenda Christensen *


Medusa, A Love Story by Sasha Summers
Precious Jewels by Mary Behre
* Tears of the Sun by Jackie Kramer *


* The Slipper Fits by Sandra Wagner *
* Sex, Lies and Apple Pie by Lynn Somerville *
* The Last Refuge by Kathy Hix *


A Little Bit Crazy by Faye Hughes
Balancing Act by Pamela Gibson
Captivating Ella by Jennie Jones


Love in Bitterroot Valley by Jessica Keller
Built to Last by Sherri G. Early
* Dragonfly by Susan Shay *

 * Denotes RWI Member *

Did you make it all the way to the end? That’s my story. Dragonfly. (WOOHOO!)

BTW: RWI has one hard and fast rule, which has no exceptions. One member of RWI cannot judge another member’s entry. That way we protect ourselves against whispers that we might be less than honest.

You know, though, that everyone who entered is a winner. They got three (at least) great critiques of their work. They got their toe wet in the submission pool. And they started toughening their hide for a future in the publishing world, which just about any writer will tell you ain’t easy.

So congratulations to everyone who entered! And best of luck to all who finalled. We’re all winners!

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Discovered Treasure

Sister #3 sent several boxes of Dad’s books to the office the other day. (Book hoarding runs in my family.) He has some wonderful books–professional, religious and even a few fiction–and the first one I grabbed was called, “The Flying Jenny and Other Voices.”

It’s amazing to learn what talented people live in our Small Town Worlds, isn’t it?

I dove in as soon as I got home and was surprised to find it was a book of poems. Interestingly enough, they’re written about the world near The Ford. On page two and three are two poems about the Flying Jenny.

I heard about the Jenny when I was a kid from Grandmother Ruby. She said they used it to cross the river when she was a girl. I imagined it as something like a fair ride. A crank was used by the passenger(s) to move them across the river to the other side.

I’m not sure why it’s called a Jenny, except you could “really get to ginning” when you were in it.

There’s a picture of the Jenny in this book. You climbed aboard from a platform, high in a tree and from the pic, it looks like a chair on a ski lift.

Jenny poem #1 was written  by Sandra S. Austin. Here’s how it begins–

The Flying Jenny

She danced on a chain, across
the river bed,
swaying to winds
running through her steel,
iron threads.

The other poem is by Norma Ross and has a light-hearted feel to it.

We’ve Got a Flying Jenny

We’ve got a jenny that flies–
Betcha it’ll knock out your eyes.

and ends–

But in the wind the jenny bucks and pitches
If you do’t hold on tight
You’ll lose your britches.

One poem is called “Jesse Smelser,” about an eighteen year old boy who got “typhoid and pneumonia fever.”

Home doctoring failed.
His parents pinned one last hope
On sending for a Jennings doctor.
A neighbor’s son, Fred Spess,
Volunteered for the desperate ride.

That caught my interest because Fred Spess was my Granddad Ray’s older brother, and my great-uncle. Nice to read something good about Uncle Fred. 🙂 Even though Uncle Fred went for a doc, by the time they got back, Jesse had died. The poem even tells the name of the man who built the casket for him.

I’ve saved the best poem for last, and I’m sharing it with permission from its author. She said she had written it about her childhood, when she’d gone out in the evening to bring in the cows.

What a tender spirit that young girl must have had. And for the adult to remember it with such clarity so many years later speaks to the strength of those emotions.

My Heart Stood Still  

Across the moon-drenched valley
lengthening shadows dipped
in and out, among the branches of
the silent, sturdy trees.
A chance breeze sent a million ripples
across the lake.
And fanned the brow of one who had
sought the quiet solitude
To meditate in peace, in close comunion
with God and nature.

I gazed in silent reverence on the
simple works of God.
Forgetting for a while, the clamoring
reality of the human touch
Which had held me closely bound within its grasp
Until that moment, with the gripping
fear expelled.
I breathed the clean and Holy atmosphere
into my quivering being.

It was then my heart stood still.

                                                                                    –Wilma Marvella Spess

I love reading new books, “hot off the presses,” but finding old books like this excites me as if I’ve happened on a treasure, hidden away for safe keeping.

Have you ever found an old book you loved reading? Want to share?


I’ve Got the Fever

I’m reading a new book. Actually, it’s not a new book. It was published in 1976, and the inside cover looks as if it sold for $14.95.

I paid nearly twice that, and so far it’s worth every penny!

To be honest, I’ve scanned it before. I didn’t own it and wanted to get it back to the owner. But this one is mine, so I’m going to take my time and squeeze every drop of goodness out of it.

“Cherokee Strip Fever” by Zola Sample.

From the jacket flap:

Young, terrified but resolute, Charity Bellis, with three small children, leaves the security of her Iowa home in March 1895 to join her husband in Indian Territory in their search for a new homestead. The long train trip ends at “Tulsey Town,” where a hectic night is spent in a clapboard hotel. The next day, Charity and the children arrive a the inland village of Sinnett, which they reach only after a near disastrous fording of the flood-swollen Arkansas River aboard the only conveyance available, a mail hack.

I’m at the part where they’re going on the mail wagon with Jim Sinnett. We haven’t forded the river yet (I’m on page 35. This is my downstairs book so I don’t have a lot of time to read it) but already I’ve read about several very exciting things.

The town of Sinnett, which was just down the road from C-Town on the Cimarron River (I think) was named for that mailman. The Dalton Boys’ cave is near Sinnett.

I wonder if I haven’t seen pictures and heard something about it on the Spit and Whittle site on Facebook. 😉

I learned from Zola (who was a teacher, you know) that the town of Chouteau, just south of Pryor Creek where the Shay crew used to live, was named for Jean Pierre Chouteau. In 1796, he established a fur trade industry that stretched across the entire state. He even got 3000 Osage Indians to move their permanent villages from west of St. Louis in 1802 to this post. (I met more Cherokee Indians than Osage when we lived there, so they must have moved on.)

Jean Pierre brought a paradise tree from France–the first tree ever planted in Oklahoma. It grew to be a historical marker at the home of Col. A. P. Chouteau, and I’ve never heard of it before this book.

I thought I hated history when I was in school. Having to memorize dates made me crazy! Still would if someone tried to make me do it. But I love knowing about the people who lived and loved back then. I enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations they suffered and learning how they made it through.

Because they did. They did everything that had to be done and still found time to be good friends and good neighbors.

Back when they had no electricity, no running water, no bathroom and, often, not even an outhouse, these people were happy. Joyful and spirit filled! How in the world did they do it?

I have no idea.

I get cranky if the air conditioner isn’t cool enough. Was the weather cooler back then? Was less expected of people? Was it easier to fit everything in that needed to be done?

I’ll keep reading and let you know if I find out.