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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The Wyndham Hotel in Austin kindly turned the men's room into a women's room this past weekend when over 100 female writers took over the premises.

The Wyndham Hotel in Austin kindly turned the men’s room into a women’s room this past weekend when over 100 female writers took over the premises.

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West (I know I’ve shared this quote before, but it is my favorite writing quote because it explains why I’m so glad I can call myself writer, a title which took way too many years of writing before I gave myself permission to use it.)

Doing It With Sisters

I’m just hours away from spending four days surrounded by my writing sisters, where we gathered in Austin this past weekend for the Stories from the Heart Contest.  It was a fantastic experience, and for way many more reasons than – can I hear a drum roll – that  I won the flash fiction prize for my story “The Heart of a Dog.”*

And someone was kind enough to turn the urinals into unique vases.

And someone was kind enough to turn the urinals into unique vases.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because one of the presenters, awesome Debra Winegarten, encouraged us  to put ourselves out there to the world without apology, and that was just one of the many pieces of wisdom I came away with.

Now laugh if you will, but the biggest note of things to do that I wrote to myself was to put a note pad by the toilet. Doing just that I realized would better help me to clasp that net over the butterfly of words.

Bean Pat: Live to Write – Write to Live http://tinyurl.com/gpkwxyv This is one of my favorite writing blogs, and today its author, Lisa Jackson, encourages writers to enter contests.

*If you, men included, want to read my 600-word story, “The Heart of a Dog,” send me your email (mine is patbean@msn.com) and I will send you a copy.

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“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” – Bil Keane

This is the kind of landscape I was living in when Texas changed to Daylight Saving Time back in 1967.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is the kind of landscape I was living in when Texas changed to Daylight Saving Time back in 1967. — Photo by Pat Bean

A Memory from the Past

            When the change to Daylight Saving Time rolls around each year, my memory bank gets a jolt of fresh power that takes me back to my days as a reporter on a small Texas Gulf Coast newspaper.  Texas began its annual clock manipulation, as a way to save on energy costs, the same year that I walked into my first newspaper.

And this is the Arizona landscape where I live now, and which does not participate in Daylight Saving Time. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And this is the Arizona landscape where I live now, and which does not participate in Daylight Saving Time. — Photo by Pat Bean

While the benefits of Daylight Savings Time have been much questioned, there’s no question in my mind that this event was a first step on my road to a 37-year journalism career. You see, that 1967 newspaper story about the time change carried my first-ever byline.

I remember the managing editor lecturing me afterwards on how I could have made the article better, like not starting every sentence almost the same way.  A few years later, I reread the story and cringed. While it was grammatically correct, it lacked grace. It read like a toddler taking their first step. But then that’s exactly what I had been doing at the time.

It took many, many years after that first story before I could comfortably call myself a writer. And some days, I still question the title.

Meanwhile, I’ll never forget that first timely baby step.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: On Growing a Spine http://tinyurl.com/jrn97k4 Some people are born with one, and some, like me, have to grow them. This blog reminded me that I, too, was almost 40 before the growth began.

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The Blahs

      “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” James Oppenheim

While it's been sunny outside, the past two weeks have been dark and overcast in my head. -- By Pat Bean

While it’s been sunny outside, the past two weeks have been dark and overcast in my head. — By Pat Bean

I have a Case

I have always been a high-energy kind of person, one who thrives on ending a day with a feeling of accomplishment. A good day for me has always been one in which I have completed a project or activity and learned something new.

But perhaps the sun came out today. -- By Pat Bean

But perhaps the sun came out today. — By Pat Bean

Of course I’ve had days that have been eaten up by computer games, non-stop reading or television (more the first two than the latter), but they have mostly been singular in nature with better days in between. And I don’t begrudge the reading days because I count them as learning days.

This blah episode, however, has stretched into two weeks, which accounts for the absence of recent blogs.

I’ve been sitting here this morning, curled up in a blanket in my recliner with my morning coffee and my laptop, searching for answers to the dilemma — because accomplishing nothing for days on end does not make me a happy person.

First I gave myself credit for things I did accomplish just before this case of the blahs set in. I finished my fourth rewrite of Travels with Maggie, submitted a flash fiction piece to a contest and took on a new doggie baby-sitting client. The latter means I now have three dogs to walk every day. While that uses up an extra bit of time and energy it’s not that much. And besides, the extra walking is good for me. So scratch that excuse.

Perhaps I’m dawdling because I’m anxious about taking the next step on my travel book? That actually sounds possible.

And then, there’s the unrelated fact that today is St. Patrick’s Day – the time of year when my mother died. She actually died on a Friday the 13th, with her memorial service on St. Patrick’s Day. I still miss her, but I don’t think she’s the cause of my blahs. I mean I didn’t realize it was this time of year until today.

Perhaps I just needed some time off — and perhaps writing this blog means I’m ready to get back to being myself. I certainly hope so.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: My Beautiful Things http://tinyurl.com/jvf5h8e Relax and take a walk through the woods to the beach from your armchair.

 

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“ G**D**! How magnificently, intricate, interwoven and complex this all is. How can we make ourselves worthy of our limited comprehensions of such magnificence?” — George Sibley

Taking on Henry David Thoreau

The complexity of nature means when the water level is low here, wading birds are the prominent species. When it's not so shallow, ducks claim it as their habitat. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The complexity of nature means when the water level is low here, wading birds are the prominent species. When it’s not so shallow, ducks claim it as their habitat. — Photo by Pat Bean

            I’ve long been a fan of Henry David Thoreau, whose quote,- “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” has long been a personal mantra. But after reading his famed book, Walden, I was left with a nagging thought that parts of it were like Jell-O that never set.

It's not a simple thing becoming a plant from a seed. Everything has to work just right. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It’s not a simple thing becoming a plant from a seed. Everything has to work just right. — Photo by Pat Bean

Now I’m all for living a simple life. My daughters sometimes even chastise me because my kitchen gadgets are few and my can opener a manual one. And I’m truly against buying stuff – that lesson was doubly taught me when I got rid of everything to move all my possessions, plus me and my canine companion into a 21-foot motor home. I was amazed at how many things I had two of – and didn’t even know it.

But I don’t want to live in the woods without a bathtub and eat beans. I want to enjoy at least some of the benefits the human race has accomplished in its lifetime.

Even nature is not simple. It’s complex, as I learned as a reporter covering environmental issues.  You try to save one plant or species and you impact another. You practice conservation and you take away somebody’s livelihood. A tragic flood or fire also comes with benefits.

And when it comes to relationships, each one has so many different complexities that you couldn’t even began to count them.

Nope, life is not simple. So we might just as well embrace it, as Sibley pointed out in his essay, featured in the anthology, When in Doubt, Go Higher.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: On thin Ice http://tinyurl.com/gl4wgbh My kind of outdoor adventure, especially at my age.

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My writing often starts out like this night's sky. While I'm kind of moonstruck, heading toward the light, the magical way to get there is light years away. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My writing often starts out like this night’s sky. While I’m kind of moonstruck, heading toward the light, the magical way to get there is light years away. — Photo by Pat Bean

“We are the only ones who can tell our stories because we are the only ones who have lived them.” – Susan Wittig Albert*

Words Whisper in my Ear – Or Scream in my Head

The first words I read this morning, as I sipped my cream-laced coffee after taking Pepper out for her first walk of the day, were:

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a writer’s pick, a wood carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.”     

       This is the first paragraph in Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Her words felt as if they had picked a line in my brain, as if she had read my mind before writing them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat down to write about one thing and ended up writing about something else entirely; then on editing and rewriting my words, I discover it’s the very first, often well-thought out, sentence that requires the deepest knife cut.

Then suddenly the light I was aiming for disappears in a splash of brilliant color, and my writing path is lit by a magical brain wave that lets me know what I'm really writing about. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Then suddenly the light I was aiming for disappears in a splash of brilliant color, and my writing path is lit by a magical brain wave that lets me know what I’m really writing about. — Photo by Pat Bean

My brain thinks differently when I write. And I love it when I discover a writer who can explain the phenomena so well.

My favorite writing quote of all time is:

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.”  — Vita Sackville-West

What writer whispers in your ear, or screams in your head?

 

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: I am a member of Story Circle Network, which for the past five years has been a tremendous support to me in finding my own writing voice after 37 years of writing with the voice of a journalist. It’s a community of women who have taught me much and never failed to offer an encouraging word. In April, SCN is holding a Stories from the Heart Workshop in Austin, Texas, which is well worth today’s Bean Pat. Check out the details of the conference at: http://www.storycircle.org/Conference/  and if you decide to go, please look me up.

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Writing and Talking

“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.” — Charles Peguy

arches, 3 gossips

“We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” — Diogenes

Two Different Worlds for Me

Ann V. Klotz wrote an essay for the Brevity Blog that began with the sentence: “I write the way I speak.” It stopped me in my tracks and had me recalling what my newspaper colleagues often said to me. “It’s a good thing Pat Bean doesn’t write the way she speaks.”

I think it was partially because of my Texas accent, but I knew it was also true in other way a well. I actually don’t write the way I speak. My thoughts and verbal communication skills get tangled up when my tongue is moving. The truth is I started writing because I discovered it was the best way for me to communicate.

It is common for me to sit down in front of a blank page on my computer thinking I’m going to write one thing and my fingers actually type something else. While the words might actually be on the same subject I sat down to write about, they are often not what I thought I was going to say.

Writing clarifies my thoughts and pushes ideas much deeper and clearer into my head. I can’t imagine what my life would be without the written word. Perhaps that’s because things only seem real to me after I write about them, or more likely I only remember things as they were after they become words on a page.

So do you write like you talk, or are more like me? Do you know?

Bean Pat: Ann V. Klotz’ Brevity blog in case you’re interested. I find the process other writers employ fascinating. http://tinyurl.com/ozxkd9h  

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Palo Verde Trees

The trunk and branches of a Palo Verde at Sacaton Rest Area. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The trunk and branches of a Palo Verde at Sacaton Rest Area. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The more often we se the things around us — even the beautiful and wonderful things — the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds — even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” — Joseph B. Wirthin

In a Historical Setting

            My second stop of the day was at the Sacaton Rest Area at Mile Marker 183 on Interstate 10. I wasn’t tired, (Pepper and I were only about 75 miles from where we started our road trip) but I had discovered that Arizona Rest Stops are usually scenic and informational – and this one didn’t disappoint.

In remembrance of two Arizona police officers who died in the line of duty near Mile Marker 183 on Interstate  10. -- Photo y Pat Bean

In remembrance of two Arizona police officers who died in the line of duty near Mile Marker 183 on Interstate 10. — Photo y Pat Bean

A large bronze marker at the site informed me the rest area had been the site of the first Government Indian School for Pimas and Maricopas, as well as Pima villages that served as friendly resting places for travelers heading west during the Gold Rush. The site was also the birth place of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian who was one of the flag-raising Marines at Iwo Jima.

I remembered seeing the 1949 movie, “Sands of Iwo Jima,” in which Hayes actually portrayed himself.  It was one of those unexpected memory recalls that left me wondering what other trivia was  hidden in my brain that might never be brought into the light without a jolt to shake it loose.

Continuing its tribute to heroes, the rest area also contained grave markers of two Arizona police officers, Mark Dryer and Johnny Garcia, who had died in the line of duty.

A nice place for a road trip stop. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A nice place for a road trip stop. — Photo by Pat Bean

After reading all the honorary plaques and informational posters, and pondering their meanings, I finally let myself simply enjoy the landscaped picnic area and the Sacaton Mountains that formed the rest area’s backdrop. What I liked best were the Palo Verde trees with their green trunks and branches.

The Palo Verde is Arizona’s State Tree. Numerous of these trees grow around my Tucson apartment, where they turn the landscape into yellow eye-candy when they blossom in early spring.  Then, depending on the desert’s dicey water situation, they drop some or even all their leaves to conserve moisture. Their green bark can do everything that leaves do, making these trees one of the most drought-tolerant in nature. Appropriately, their name in Spanish simply means green stick.

This second stop of my road trip, where Pepper and I took a short walk taking in the views, reminded me, yet once again, just how amazing Mother Nature is. Don’t you agree? To be continued …

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Extraordinary http://tinyurl.com/pzc6svh Beautiful photographs, meaningful words.

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