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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

 

“Writing is an exploration. You start with nothing and learn as you go.”  — E.L. Doctorow

 

 

 

Some days when the butt doesn’t want to sit in the chair,, I doodle around with art while standing in front of a tall table. Art by Pat Bean 

The First Rule of Writing

I’ve sat in front of a typewriter, or a computer, almost every day now for over half a century. Sometimes my fingers fly across the keyboard in an effort to keep up with words bursting with eagerness to get out of my brain. Other times, the words come at the rate of a dying clock.

As long as the words keep coming, I feel good. It’s the days when I forget the first rule of writing that leaves me in the dumps.  A writer needs to write, so that first rule of writing is simple Butt in Chair.

But some days I have to trick myself into getting it there. So, I tell myself to simply write one sentence, and then go walk the dog. Then, write a second sentence and water the plants. Usually by the third or fourth sentence my butt actually stays in the chair for a few more sentences, and the essay, blog or book review that is my current work in progress eventually gets done.

Thank gawd!

Bean Pat: Flamingos in Bolivia https://bellaremyphotography.com/2018/05/14/flamingos-in-bolivia/#like-15644 A great arm-chair travel treat.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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            “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” – Maya Angelou

Fence and blue flowers … Painting by Pat Bean

It Wasn’t Easy Finding Mine

When I wrote the first draft of Travels with Maggie, I was inflicted with 37 years of personal journalism ethics that required me to keep my opinions out of any newspaper story I wrote.  But the book I was writing was all about me, and my RV travels as a lone woman living on the road with only a small canine companion.

Now available on Amazon

I believed my writing was good, but I knew something was not quite right. Still, after the draft was completed, I entered it into a Mayborn non-fiction competition, where it came in as one of the best top 10 entries. The ranking entitled me to be part of a workshop with nine other writers who would all critique each of the book proposals. I received excellent comments from the other writers on mine — with one exception. They almost all said my proposed book lacked voice.

I immediately knew they were right. I also realized that the few times I had tried to interject voice into the writing, I had tried to deny that I was the old broad I had become, and not the sexier hiker and white-water rafter I once had been. Now I’ve discovered that being an old broad is still sexy – in a way that has nothing to do with actual sex.

Anyway, it took me four more drafts before I sufficiently found my voice. Along the way, I did a lot of soul-searching that also let me realize that the voice of an old broad, who had fully experienced life, was the much better choice for the narration of Travels with Maggie.

Bean Pat: Silence https://bebloggerofficial.com/2018/04/23/the-lost-art-of-silence/ I share this blog today because I have come to enjoy silence’s rare moments, and have learned how much those moments enrich my life.

Blog pick of the day.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

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            “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” – Mark Twain

A peaceful evening at the pond. — Art by Pat Bean

Good Writing is Rewriting

It took me eight years and five complete rewrites before Travels with Maggie was ready to be published, and at the end, I found it hard to let go because I worried about mistakes. But I finally did, and when that 75,000-word book went up on Amazon, I immediately started my next book, which is about my late-blooming birding adventures. I didn’t start seeing all the amazing birds around us until I was 60. This new passion bit into my soul at the perfect time, as my body was beginning to tell me it should take up a less strenuous hobby than backpacking and white-water rafting.

Tri-colored heron along the Texas Gulf Coast’s Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m tentatively titled my new book in progress, Bird Droppings, although one writer friend has suggested the connotation might turn readers off. I thought it might intrigue them. It’s a collection of short essays and anecdotes and my idea is that the title fit these scenarios perfectly. “Just something to think about,” my supportive friend said. “Titles can make or break books.”

What do you think? I would really like to know if you share mine or my friend’s viewpoint.

Meanwhile, when I was 10,000 words into the book, I lost my focus, and for the next few weeks I always had an excuse when it was time to add more words to it. If you’re a writer and haven’t yet faced this setback, please tell me how you avoided it.

Anyway, I finally decided to simply start at the beginning and edit what I had written. Mostly, I decided it wasn’t good.  I had forgotten to leave out the boring parts. That is author Leonard Elmore’s advice to writers.

So, I’m rewriting, because that’s what dozens of quite successful authors say writing is all about. It’s working.  Writing has become exciting and fun once again, and the book is going forward – but this time my focus is more on making each word count, then on the number of words written each day.

Travels with Maggie, meanwhile, has earned good rankings on Amazon from 12 reviewers. Yes, I’m bragging.  If you’ve read the book, perhaps you would like to add a review. If you belong to Kindle Unlimited, you can even download the book for free. Someone said you need at least 89 reviews to get noticed.

Sigh!

I guess Bird Droppings and Travels with Maggie both still have a long way to go.

Bean Pat: My beautiful things  https://mybeautfulthings.com/2018/04/04/scarf-maya-angelou-and-martin-luther-king/ Scarf,, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com.

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Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.” – James Russell Lowell

I well remember my day on Espanola Island with my new sea lion friends. 

A Journal Page from a Non-Wandering Wanderer

As I’m reading my journal from 2005, when I was more active as a wanderer, I came across an entry of a day I had forgotten. It came at the end of an 11-day trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and while these days of wondrous sights are still etched in my brain, this last day slipped by without leaving much of an imprint.

Here is what I wrote about it in my journal the next day:

And I will never forget the blue-footed boobies. — Photo by Pat Bean

Yesterday was “interesting.” It took us from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make a short flight from San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands to Quito, Ecuador. Our plane was hit by lighting, and when we finally landed, our luggage was placed on the top of the van that drove us to our hotel.

A sudden heavy rain drenched everything in my luggage, and that of the other passengers as well.  Luckily a pair of my clean underwear dried out overnight.

And what a night it was. About 1 a.m. the hotel shook and I was almost tossed out of bed. A 6.1 earthquake had hit near Quito. Then at 4 a.m., without much more sleep, I got up and got dressed for the early morning flight back to Houston.

As I said, and “interesting” day.

I can’t help but wonder if I might have had a bit more to say about that July 13, 2005, day I I wasn’t still enjoying my memories of the Galapagos Islands.

Bean Pat: https://cheerstotraveling.com/2018/03/28/add-westman-islands-to-iceland-itinerary/  More Islands to visit. And Heimeay, too, just to see the colorful puffin statue if for no other reason.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Art by Pat Bean

“Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” – Paulo Coelho

About My Foibles

            I have a tendency, when given advice, to immediately utter: “Nope, not for me.” It’s a phrase that usually annoys my friend Jean, who often sits with me on my balcony in the evening for a Happy Hour – and is always free with her advice and suggestions.

Jean, who calls me a stubborn old broad, is a year or so younger than my youngest daughter, and last night she said I was the teacher she needed to get through the daily chaos of being a teacher.

“The unteachable teacher mentoring a teacher,” I said, and laughed, a bit embarrassed a bit by her kind words. Then we both laughed.

“It’s good to be able to laugh at our foibles,” she said.

And it was.

The next morning, I wrote about the incident and the comradely laughter in my journal, which got me thinking about how long it took me to accept that I was not ever going to be perfect, and longer still to accept that not being perfect was not only acceptable, but preferable.

Daily writing in my journal helped me come to that conclusion. Writing, which I originally took up as a way to express myself, has also helped me discover myself, a treasure that is as golden as having a good friend who laughs at my foibles.

Bean Pat: Trent’s World https://trentsworldblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/if-we-were-having-coffee-on-the-17th-of-march-2018/?wref=pil Just an ordinary morning, like most of us have, written by a blogger I just started following.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

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“In my later years, I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.” — Ray Bradbury

The Yellow Flower — Art by Pat Bean

A Little Yellow Flower

I was 25, with five children that ranged in age from a few months to nine years old. Yes, the math is correct. It was just a few days before I turned 17 when my first child was born. It was all legitimate, as I had dropped out of high school and gotten married when I was barely 16. This wasn’t a rare occurrence back in the 1950s.

My life up to this point was one of changing diapers, cleaning house, cooking meals, catering to a demanding husband and going to church. I wasn’t exactly unhappy — that wasn’t in my nature and still isn’t – but I did do a lot of crying and a lot of escaping from daily life in my mind.

That all changed on a day that was a mother’s nightmare. My oldest son had taught his younger brothers how to climb the backyard fence. One of his younger brothers had gotten into the sugar bowl and traipsed the sweet granules all over the house … and that was just the beginning of the children’s shenanigans.

I was close to despair when my middle son, Lewis, presented me with an almost stemless yellow flower, which he had picked from the neighbor’s flowerbed, and which I was sure to hear about. But the sweet smile on his face, and the love that shone in his eyes for me, his mother, made everything I had gone through that day pale in comparison.

I had wanted each of my children, and I loved each of them, even if sometimes they were almost too much for me to handle.  At that day’s end, when all five of the rascally darlings were finally down for the night, I fell into my bed and was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.

But at 2 a.m., I was wide awake and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was impelled to get up, find some paper and a pen. I needed to capture that moment in which I had been presented that yellow flower. I wrote a crude poem about the incident before I was able to go back to bed and fall asleep.

That poem was the first thing I had ever written, except for a school assignment or letters. It changed my entire life. I suddenly knew my future was to be a writer. And I made it happen, beginning with a 37-year newspaper journalism career in which I wrote almost every day.  I’ve been writing, in one form or another, now for over half a century. I suspect the day I stop writing will be the day I die, because not writing is like not breathing to my soul.

Bean Pat: Barbets https://adityasbirdingblog.com/2018/03/01/the-colorful-world-of-barbets-4-blue-throated-barbet-great-barbet/?wref=pil This one’s for the bird lovers.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“I think we consider too much of the early bird, and not enough of the bad luck of the early worm.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I hope you already have had breakfast when you view this photo of the first California condor born in captivity. — From my 1983 scrapbook memories.

A Historic First

I was regional editor at the Time-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1983, when the first California condor was hatched in captivity from an egg taken from the wild. It was a Saturday night, and the Associated Press sent out a news release of the birth, along with color separations for a photo that could be used with the story. This was before digital capabilities and when color in a newspaper, except for the comics, was not an everyday occurrence.

A bit less bloody photo of a young California condor and a parent. — Wikimedia photo

I was in charge of putting out the Sunday front page, and since it was a slow news night, I decided to use the condor wire piece as the lead story above the fold. It wasn’t hard to convince myself of the story’s significance, as it included the information that there were then less than 30 of the birds known to exist in the world.

California condors are North America’s largest bird, having a wing span of almost five feet, and weighing up to 25 pounds. The near extinction of these birds in the 20th century was caused by hunting, lead poisoning, loss of habitat, and the prolific use of DDT before it was banned.  The pesticide caused the condor’s eggs to have soft shells, which then didn’t survive to hatching.

And this is what they grow up to look like. — Wikimedia photo

Anyway, I assigned the story to the front page, wrote a headline, and informed the press room that I wanted the condor chick photo to be in color, a task they weren’t too happy to fulfill. I knew getting the color separations coordinated exactly right was tricky, but I had fallen in love with that tiny ball of ugly fluff that was the newborn condor. He was so ugly he was beautiful – at least in my mind.

I should have listened to the pressmen.

The image that greeted Sunday morning Times-News readers was anything but pretty. The color plates had dumped out an image that looked like it had been soaked in witch’s blood. Even I was appalled. And readers sent a barrage of letters to the paper complaining that the photo had spoiled their Sunday morning breakfasts.

I had barely stepped inside the newsroom on Monday morning when I was told to report to the managing editor’s office, where I found a displeased boss. I defended my choice of story as being historic – and my use of the color photo as a bad mistake.

Thankfully I kept my job. But it was too late to stop the damage to my soul – I had fallen in love with the carrion scavenging condors, and their good-news, survival story, which I have been following ever since. We humans, who almost destroyed the condors, helped made it up to these birds.

As of 2012, there were 405 known condors; in 1987, there were only 27.  Today, more than 200 of these condors are once again flying free, mostly over Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico.

I was privileged to see two of them flying wild and free near the east entrance to Zion National Park in the 1990s.

Bean Pat: The way forward https://thewhyaboutthis.com/2018/02/18/the-way-forward/#like-26548 Yes, yes and yes!

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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