Posted tagged ‘Texas’

Meet a Member: Sarah Cortez

July 26, 2017

This September Sarah Cortez will attend her first NFPW conference. She won a first place award for her efforts with her latest book, “Vanishing Points Poems and Photographs of Texas Roadside Memorials.” She is a new member of Press women of Texas and is already involved in the organization’s leadership. She is a unique and unbelievable new member I hope you enjoy getting to know a little better.

Name: Sarah Cortez

City and State: Houston, TX

Affiliate & Leadership Position: Press Women of Texas. Recently elected vice-president.

Years a NFPW Member:  Less than one year.

Sarah Cortez

Sarah Cortez

Tell Us A Little About Yourself:                    

I have been a freelance professional writer and editor for almost ten years.  I am 12 books into my career: eight are anthologies and three are authored by myself.  All are published by successful independent publishers.

There are three loves that define my professional life: a love of working with writers, a love of police work, and a love of poetry.  Just as so many others in our culture, I have been lucky enough to combine several career paths.  For me, a 24-year career in law enforcement has melded with both teaching/writing/editing poetry, fiction, memoir, etc., for both individuals and publishing houses.

The best thing I’ve done in my life is become a police officer.  In a way, it was an improbable decision because I already had a fast-track career in corporate America and two graduate degrees: a master’s in Classical Studies and a master’s in Accountancy. My decision to take a radical pay cut and go from white-collar work to blue-collar work has enabled me to stand up for crime victims as I also stand up for what is right based on the laws of the U.S.  The one thing I don’t fear is dying on the job as a cop.  Anyone who goes to the police academy had better make peace with this issue before he/she pays tuition and shows up with armfuls of new, scratchy uniforms and heavy equipment on the first day.

What book are you reading?

I always seem to be reading several books at once.  Right now, I’m going through a book of St. Mother Teresa’s meditations and advice, Pat Conroy’s “Prince of Tides,” and Dana Gioia’s monograph, “The Catholic Writer.”

Why is your affiliate important to you?

I have been intrigued by the Texas affiliate of NFPW because the people I’ve met are so professional, so smart, and have had such a variety of careers.  Perhaps, like me, they are women and men who’ve seen a lot of life yet still believe in the triumph of the human spirit.  As a recently elected vice-president, my goal is to increase membership and work with the present board for the good of our organization.

Any career advice you would give?

If I might offer career advice related to being a freelance writer and editor, I would say “Be patient and hard-working.”  I believe it is a natural human tendency to want everything to be easy.  I even see this tendency in myself every once in a while.  It creeps up on me and it is dreadfully depleting.  I think we writers/editors would be much better served if we expect every piece of writing/editing to be difficult.  You see, “difficult” is okay.  It helps each of us rise to better and higher standards or ways of thinking or vistas of understanding.   Difficulty pushes each of us to greater achievement.  “Easy” doesn’t do this.  We can’t allow our professional output to be a function of the attitude of minimalism that is endemic in today’s culture.  You know, that attitude of “what’s the least I can do to get by?”

Thoughts on attending your first NFPW conference?

Oh, yes, I wish to say that I am thrilled to have been granted a First Timer Grant to attend the annual conference in Birmingham, AL this year!  I am eager to meet everyone!  I feel strongly that this organization is where I should be right now to combine the many bright threads of my professional experience into the strong rope of the future.

Ways to follow you:
and her NFPW award winning book:

Meet a Member: Bonnie Arnold

April 3, 2017

She was one of the co-chairs of the 2009 NFPW conference in San Antonio, Texas and continues to be an active member of Press Women of Texas and NFPW. She is a talented writer and hard worker. Meet another unique and unbelievable NFPW member, Bonnie Arnold.

Bonnie Atwood

Bonnie Arnold

Name — Bonnie Arnold

City/state — Kerrville, Texas (“Hill Country” about an hour northwest of San Antonio)

Affiliate and any leadership positions – Press Women of Texas; over the years I have been a “district” officer when we had enough members to break up activities into smaller areas, to state president, co-coordinator of the 2009 NFPW conference in San Antonio, director of the High School Contest for Texas more than once, and currently secretary of the state group.

Years a member of NFPW – I joined Texas and NFPW in 1983, and continued membership each year since.

Tell us a little about you – I am a native Texan, though my husband’s military service and then former VA job took us to five other states to live briefly; we worked to stay “home” since then; wife for 48 years this year; mother to two grown daughters (who actually inherited and use the sewing/crafting skills I learned from my mother and grandmother); and grandmother of twin 5-year-olds, a girl and a boy. I like traveling but unrelenting work hours and too few vacation days make it hard to leave the job for the car or airport.

Career advice you would like to share?

I believed my professors in J-School when they said we’d never get rich. It was and still apparently is very true. I think I deserved more money over the years, but working for (relatively) small dailies and weekly community newspapers isn’t a money-maker. But I continued over the years since my first paying newspaper job in 1981, to be “hooked” on the variety of people contact, and the feeling that the readers, too, should be in seats in many of the same meetings I go to – even if I grit my teeth frequently over city council and county commissioner meetings. Otherwise, I guess a couple well-chosen internships or summer jobs would tell you if you really want to stick with it.

Bonnie Arnold, left, with Karla Estrada 2014 High School Communications Award of Excellence winner from Texas;  Judy Gharis, our current elected PWT president; and Angela Smith.

Bonnie Arnold, left, with Karla Estrada 2014 High School Communications Award of Excellence winner from Texas; Judy Gharis, current PWT president; and Angela Smith.

What talent would you like to have?

Not sure about a new untried one. I still sew for myself and grandchildren when I can. The time to try out classes in new things might be nice.

If you could live anywhere, it would be?

First, probably where I am, in a town of about 24,000 with a good community weekly newspaper (2 weeklies and 1 daily here) and being 10 minutes from my office and less than 20 minutes to almost anywhere else I get sent. We have a river to look at, no “rush hour” to speak of; and the big city is about 45-60 minutes away if wanted or needed. Equal second choice would be closer to my only two grandchildren in southeast Georgia, but we haven’t moved in 34 years and that’s a scary prospect.

What books have you recently read?

Who has time to sit and read for fun?! No, really, mysteries for “escape-ism,” especially women authors with women as main characters. I did indulge in a thick biography of Queen Victoria recently when PBS started their new TV series.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

This seems eons ago, when I was in college, I competed in an on-campus beauty (sorry, “scholarship”) pageant to pick a Miss Texas Woman’s University to try to advance to Miss Texas. I didn’t get far ….

Why are your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

My affiliate and NFPW are important to me because of moral support and networking. My Texas friends have been generous as sounding boards and with job advice when asked.

How can people connect and follow you on social media?

“Following me” is a NON-technology thing. I have a cell phone (not a smart phone – it just needs to make and take calls), and email at home and office; and my by-line on top of an average of 5,000-plus words per week at the Hill Country Community Journal newspaper. I’m a little tired now. Is there such a thing as part-time reporter/photographer?

Meet a Member: Kay Casey

April 28, 2015
Kay Casey

Kay Casey

The 2009 NFPW Conference in Texas was a success in part because of the strong leadership of then president Kay Casey. She is a dedicated member who volunteers her time and love for journalism to help others. She is another example of the amazing, unique and unbelievable NFPW members.

Name:  Kay Casey

City and State:  Denison, Texas

Affiliate and any leadership positions:  Press Women of Texas, currently serving as treasurer, and communications contest director. Past president, scholarship director, publications and web editor, contest director, high school contest director.

Years a member of NFPW: 38 years

Tell us a little about you.

I think I must have been born with ink in my blood.  My great grandfather was owner, publisher and editor of the Goliad (Texas) Guard. I recall helping his daughter, my grandmother, gather society and church news when I was in first grade. My other grandmother wrote poetry and I was tutored in news reporting for Brownie Scouts, one of many “reporter” offices I held through the years. In high school, I fell in love with “real” journalism as a member of the school paper staff and eventually pursued a 30-year career as a high school journalism teacher and publications adviser.  I have enjoyed success in various writing and design contests, but my best work “samples” are my former students, many of whom are now making major contributions in journalism, education and related fields. We continue to share support for high school students as contest judges and mentors.

Early retirement gave me an opportunity to assist my husband in a five-year journey through early onset Alzheimer’s disease until his death. After a 45-year partnership, the concept of “I” was completely new and led to a second career as a volunteer communicator for community and professional groups who support education and  occupational opportunities for women and girls, who assist those in need and who protect nature.

Any career advice you would give?

Be a lifelong learner and embrace change and challenges with grace and a positive attitude.

Kay Casey, center, with friends Elizabeth Johnson Fulce and Lynette George.

Kay Casey, center, with friends Elizabeth Johnson Fulce and Lynette George.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Music and art  are coveted talents.

 If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Pretty happy right here on our 46 acres growing hay and supporting wildlife in our woods and water.

 What book are you reading?

Always have a stack, but Jim Cramer’s Get Rich Carefully and Laura Hildebrand’s Unbroken are my current choices.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a pretty open book, but some might be surprised at how much I enjoy getting really dirty gardening and landscaping.

 Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

Kay Casey, left, and members of the Texas affiliate pose with Texas student Karla Estrada who was selected as the first-ever Award of Excellence recipient at the NFPW conference in South Carolina.

Kay Casey, left, and members of the Texas affiliate pose with Texas student Karla Estrada who was selected as the first-ever Award of Excellence recipient at the NFPW conference in South Carolina.

Originally, I joined Texas Press Women to have a connection to the real world to better prepare my students for journalism careers. Through the 38 years, they have become my extended family and best friends. Being president when Texas hosted NFPW in 2009 was one of the most rewarding challenges because we could bring so many of our dear friends to our great state.

My national network of friends and colleagues has enriched my life and work because they are so smart and willing to share knowledge and experiences.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

I don’t spend much time on social media for myself; too busy trying to keep up with professional groups.  Facebook: Kay Kinkler Casey and on the web.

Journalist, book author and manager shows leadership in Texas and national organization

November 4, 2014

A true Southern lady, Donna Hunt is always a friendly face at NFPW conferences. She is a dedicated member of both her Texas affiliate and the national organization. In her career as a journalist, she paved the way for women to follow. She is a gifted writer and editor. Her many skills and accomplishments led to her being as a national Communicator of Achievement in 1989 in Idaho. Meet this unique and unbelievable woman and friend.

Donna Hunt

Donna Hunt

Name: Donna Hunt

Hometown: Denison, Texas

Affiliate: I am affiliated with Press Women of Texas and have served as president twice and held most of the other offices. I was on the NFPW board and the Education Foundation board for a number of years and was chairman of POPPs for two years. I have been a member of NFPW and PWT since 1974 and received a 40 year certificate this year in South Carolina.

Tell us a little about you:

I am married to David Hunt, a retired brick contractor, and we have two sons, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. I began my career as a proofreader for the Sherman Democrat, then became “society” assistant, then society editor, then city editor in 1972, and promoted to editor, all of The Denison Herald in 1984. I was the first woman to hold that position. I resigned in 1994 to become manager of the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Park during an expansion period when a visitor center was added. I retired from the Birthplace in 2000 and have continued writing two columns a week for The Herald Democrat (the merged Sherman Democrat and Denison Herald), mostly history of my hometown and the area, since that time.

In 1989 I was named Communicator of Achievement by PWT and went on to NFPW to receive the National award in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In 2000 I was one of two Texas members to be named Women of the Millenium. I’ve lost count of the number of NFPW conferences I have attended, but my first was in Biloxi, MS. I am a Texas life member and an Ann Faragher Sweepstakes winner. I have co-authored two books and am working on a third book that hopefully will be published in 2015.

Any advice to share?

Donna Hunt, left, receives the Communicator of Achievement Award in 1989 from Jean Wiley Huyler, 1988 COA and former NFPW president.

Donna Hunt, left, receives the Communicator of Achievement Award in 1989 from Jean Wiley Huyler, 1988 COA and former NFPW president.

My advice for anyone starting a career in any field is to take every opportunity available to grow and learn all they can. NFPW is an excellent place to get involved.

I loved the career field that I have followed, but my only regret is that I didn’t continue my education and earn a degree. I was fortunate to be offered many opportunities for workshops, seminars and special courses to better prepare me. My mother always wanted me to be a lawyer like my uncle who was a long-time district judge, I didn’t have the desire to be a lawyer, but after he retired he became a writer like me. He was an amazing man.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

I have no thoughts of living anywhere except where I am today. My roots run deep here. My second choice would be Washington D.C. I love that city.

What book are you reading?

I am reading “A Place Called Harmony” by Jodi Thomas, a friend and a Texas writer who led a workshop at NFPW’s conference in Texas a few years ago.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?

It might surprise many to learn that if I was a little younger and could afford it, my sport of choice would be hot air ballooning. I went up one time and have been hooked ever since.

Why are NPFW and your affiliate important to you?

My affiliate and NFPW are important to me because of the wonderful friendships and the knowledge I have gained by attending conferences and seminars. I have been places and have seen things I never would have been or see without NFPW or PWT.

How can people follow you?

You can follow me on Facebook at History Gals of Denison,Texas (I am one of two “History Gals”), or by e-mail at

Storycatcher Dickey Smith uses words to communicate passion for life

March 10, 2014
Sylvia Dickey Smith

Sylvia Dickey Smith

She entered this world backwards and when Sylvia Dickey Smith gets bored she finds a way to reinvent herself. She is another unique and unbelievable NFPW member who takes life by the horns and finds a way to do things her way.

Name: Sylvia Dickey Smith

City and State: Hot Springs, Arkansas

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

My first experience with NFPW came by way of Ginger Mynatt who introduced me to Press Women of Texas. I had sought a journalist to write a newspaper article about WWII and to include information about my historical novel, “A War Of Her Own.” Ginger heard about my need, called me and agreed to write the article.  She urged me to not only join NFPW but to enter the book in the Communications Contest, and I did. It won 1st. place at state and went on to win 2nd place in the national contest.  Note: Ginger sold her article to a monthly magazine, but in order to save space, the editor slashed the paragraph about my book—and Ginger and I both gnashed our teeth.

Years a member of NFPW: Three gong on four years.

Tell us a little about you:

I tend to reinvent myself—over and over again. Read on and you will understand.

I entered this world backwards—feet first and left-handed—and have done most things backwards every since. (I have a list!) I married at 17 and spent the first half of my life as a stay-at-home mother and pastor’s wife. Six of those years were on the Caribbean island of Trinidad where we worked as missionaries. In the late 70s, we moved back to the states due to a health issue. Boredom overcame my fears of being too dumb to go to college and at the age of 40, I enrolled in my first freshman class at the University of Texas at El Paso. Over the next five years, I fought my way to a BA (Honors) in Sociology and a Masters in Educational Psychology, all while rearing four children, being a pastor’s wife, and a foreign missionary.

After graduation, my life took a different turn. I struck out on my own and began a career as a single mother working with non-profit and for-profit organizations within the human services field. I conducted private practice as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, and taught graduate school as an adjunct professor. Five years later I married My Bill, a full-bird Army Colonel, retired. We moved to the Austin, Texas area where I continued working in human services. After retirement, and bored again, I started writing novels—and haven’t looked up or stopped counting since.

A year ago, my husband and I fell in love with Hot Springs, Arkansas, sold our condo in Texas and headed east. After settling in, I took a real estate class and recently started working as a REALTOR®. Meanwhile, I hold my breath waiting for a call from my agent telling me she’s sold my latest novel.

Any career advice you would give? As my friend said to me, “Sylvia, I’m tired hearing you say you want to write a book. Put your derrière in the chair and write it.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish singing was in my wheelhouse. Folks say perhaps I am tone deaf. No, I’m not. I can hear when I am off key. I just can’t hit the notes. Music moves my soul. I long for the ability to belt out that passion. I guess that is why I write.  I am a born storycatcher, so I use words instead of music to communicate that passion.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Wow. Now that’s a tough question for me to answer. I love living in Hot Springs, but I also love Hawaii. Then again, I’d love to check out Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden …

What book are you reading?

Wired For Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, by Lisa Cron. An excellent book! I suggest every author read it. And no, I am not receiving royalties on this book.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I see and hear everything—I miss nothing. Seriously. Living in the present moment tends to result in opportunities to touch another person’s life in a positive way. I embrace those moments.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I love associating with strong women. It doesn’t take a person long to learn that NFPW is FULL of strong women—women who have been strong longer than I knew women could be. They inspire me, challenge me, honor my path, and encourage me to aspire for even greater accomplishments. When I attended my first national conference I was overwhelmed at the intentionality I witnessed by the women welcoming new members. In the midst of 400+ women, I felt home.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

Texas writer and drummer keeps reaching for the stars

January 22, 2014

Angela Smith

Another unique, unbelievable member of NFPW is a bundle of energy named Angela Smith. She is a talented musician, excellent writer and a fun addition to every meeting she attends. Once you meet Angela, you won’t forget this fun-loving member from Texas.

Name: Angela Smith

City and State: Austin, TX

Affiliate and leadership positions : Press Women of Texas, current President-Elect and past President; Co-Chair, 2009 NFPW Conference in San Antonio

NFPW member: Since 1978

Tell us a little about you:

I’m a rebel – always have been since I was expelled from Catechism at age 6. I’m a native Texan who went the University of Texas where I studied journalism and music.  I was the first female to be editor of the daily newspaper there but had to fight the Dean of Women to get a curfew waiver to hold that job.  I went to work for the Associated Press as a reporter in the Capitol Press Corps after receiving my BA and then followed that up with a long-time career in educational PR.  From there I went on to become Executive Director of the Writers’ League of Texas and am now proud to hold the title of Executive Director Emeritus of that organization.  Emeritus is definitely the more cushy job.

I spend most of my time these days as a freelance writer/editor; authoring books about steel drum history and badass lady drummers; playing lots of music on the steel drum, cello and piano; and gazing at the stars through telescopes I keep in New Mexico and Austin.  Did I mention my other passion along with writing and music is amateur astronomy?  I also love to travel, do things I’ve never done before, and get in the middle of a good political fight, especially when it comes to women’s rights.

Career advice:

Don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing what you feel is your calling.  Be willing to take risks and be willing to fail.  Look on life as one big learning experience.  Most of all, be open to all options.

Talent I’d like to have: 

I’d love to be able to discern the secrets of the pyramids, Stonehenge, and all the other exotic, mysterious places on earth, not to mention what’s beyond this galaxy.

Where I would most like to live:

In a cozy, little cottage by the sea, with mountains close by and an airport to get me anywhere else I want to go as quickly as possible.

What are you currently reading:

I’m currently reading Women & Music by Karin Pendle in preparation for a presentation I’m making to my local affiliate of National Federation of Music Clubs.  For fun, I’ve just finished Stephen King’s Sleep.  I’m a sucker for horror novels – especially well written ones.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

I wanted to be an only child and tried to kill my little brother by telling him he could fly if he jumped out a second story window.  I didn’t succeed, but he did have to get a few stitches in his head.

NFPW has been important to me since the day I joined.  As a young reporter working in the Capitol Press Corps, women such as Helen Thomas and Sarah McClendon were my mentors.  I’ve belonged to numerous communications organizations through the years, but NFPW is the only one in which I continue to be active.  The friendships I’ve made and the extraordinary members who are part of this organization make the yearly investment in dues priceless. (I’m ready to volunteer for one of those MasterCard commercials.)

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

I’m a Facebook and Twitter fool.  Follow me, please!