The Mission of Texas High Plains Writers
To bring together writers of the Panhandle of Texas and surrounding regions; to help them in attaining higher writing standards; to encourage them toward their goals of publication; and to help published writers promote their work.
We're a diverse group of writers with a common purpose, as put forth in our mission statement above. Among our membership are some nationally-known novelists and quite a few beginners who are cautiously feeling their way. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
We often encounter hesitation by prospective members who think our name means that members must be published. That's far from true.
In the earliest years, requirements were indeed strict: to sustain active membership, one had to publish 30,000 words a year. Those who didn't were associate members.
Today there are no such rules; beginners are welcomed if actively writing or have a desire to learn. And unpublished writers are no longer relegated to associate status.
Some of our most successful members had not published a thing when they first joined us. From the start, the stated objective in our bylaws has been to bring together the "writers of the Panhandle of Texas and surrounding regions to encourage them and others in attaining professional writing standards."
Obviously the key word here is "attaining," and all of us, from the beginner to the most-published writer, are continually trying to "attain" higher standards.
We vow never to discourage our beginning writers. One of them might be a future winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Texas High Plains Writers began in 1921 as Panhandle Pen Women. Founded by Laura V. Hamner, she is hailed as the group's first historian. As a twenty-year-old, fresh out of Peabody College in Nashville, she stepped down from the train in Claude, Texas, one day in 1891. Simply eager to see her parents and her sister, she had no notion that before she died she would exert her influence on the cultural awareness of Panhandle people as few others have done.
She was a spinster, cared for her parents (and a nephew who died at age four), taught school, served as postmistress and Potter County school superintendent. She delayed her full-fledged writing career until she was past sixty.
In 1935, she published The No Gun Man of Texas about pioneer rancher, Charles Goodnight. It was the first self-published book to be adopted by the State Board of Education. She also had four other books published.
Miss Hamner wrote and recorded at least 430 "Light N Hitch" radio programs on KGNC, in Amarillo, Texas, telling the stories of the Panhandle pioneers. And she wrote two columns for the Amarillo News-Globe -- "Talk to Teens" and "Spinster on the Prowl" -- for about thirty years.
She served as Panhandle Pen Women's president four times, 1921-1922, 1931, 1941 and finally in 1950.
She received many honors -- culminating with the Texas Heritage Foundation National Medal presented at a Panhandle Pen Women meeting on her 92nd birthday. She died in 1968 at age ninety-seven.
Miss Hamner has been memorialized in a mini opera, "Laura V," written by Gene Murray, under the auspices of the Amarillo Opera. A number of grateful modern-day PPW members were in the audience for the premiere production at the Gem Theater in Claude,TX, in June of 1998.
Amarillo, incorporated in 1899, is younger than any of the fifty largest cities in the continental United States. Yet Panhandle Professional Writers, a still-growing organization based here, is one of the oldest continuously run groups of its kind in the country.
In the early years, Panhandle Pen Women meetings, in members' homes, were quite the hoity-toity social occasions. Many members came by train and stayed in hotels. Sixty years later, times had changed. Most women writers now also held down other jobs.
In January 1983, the Panhandle Professional Writers membership approved a change in meeting dates from Tuesdays to Saturdays -- and right away our attendance increased.
Men have always been welcome in Panhandle Pen Women, but, understandably, very few ever joined. Realizing the organization would be much stronger if it included everyone, a name change was proposed in in 1987. Since everyone usually referred to the club by its initials, the board wanted to keep the same acronym. W was changed to Writers, but no one could come up with better change for the second P than Professional, and that was proposed to the membership. As President Doris Meredith editorialized in the PPW Window, "What was once appropriate and proper becomes limiting. . . . I suspect Laura Hamner was farsighted enough to recognize that times would change." She noted that PPW's constitution had never restricted membership on the basis of gender, or anything else. But "its name, Panhandle Pen Women; did, and does."
At the regular meeting in September 1987, members approved the bylaws change to "Panhandle Professional Writers, originally Panhandle Pen Women." Our male membership has steadily increased, much to our benefit. We pride ourselves on our diversity.
In 2016, in an effort to position the group as an aid to both professional and beginning writers, another name change was proposed. The board decided to drop Professional from the name and settled on the new name of Texas High Plains Writers. In the spirit of our new name, we seek to promote writing and support writers all across the Texas panhandle and surrounding areas.