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From the time the sun came up in the morning until it set in the evening,, my thoughts were never far from thinking about potential newspaper stories. I often dreamed about being a reporter at night. — still do. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

Memories of a Journalist

In 2001, when I was city editor at the Standard-Examiner, then a 65,000-circulation daily newspaper, I began a weekly column called Heart Beat. This morning I came across a copy of the first piece I wrote for it.

Because I am proud of my journalism career, a field whose reputation is being seriously pummeled – both justified and unjustified – these days, reading it brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was worth sharing.

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            Editor shares heart beat with Top of Utah Community

I was city editor when the Standard-Examiner moved into its new home in Ogden, Utah. The newspaper crew occupied the entire building. Today the staff  barely occupies one large room. Since I retired in 2004, I’ve watched reporters and others go out the door one by one as the paper began dying, as are newspapers all over the country. Two of the newspapers I once worked for no longer exist. — Photo by Pat Bean.

“In 34 years as a working journalist, I have interviewed three presidents and covered a huge Texas chemical explosion in which I came across scattered body parts.

I have waded through floods, chased fire trucks, and even tried to catch up to a raging tornado.

I have petted pythons, ridden a horse down Ogden Canyon and held on tightly as one wild horse called Rainy carried me on the last cattle drive through Hagerman, Idaho – all for the sake of a story.

Rainy was supposed to be this very gentle horse ridden by very young children. Only later did I learn that this big and beautiful black stallion had thrown almost every cowboy who sat him. The joke was on the reporter.

“Once I was almost chomped by an alligator that had wandered into a residential backyard. I had been photographing the wayward reptile, using a long-range lens, when I suddenly couldn’t get the camera in focus. I looked up in time to see the alligator, a hungry grin on its face, dashing toward me.

But I’d face that alligator again rather than listen once more as a heartbroken mom reads me the last letter from her son, who had just been killed in Vietnam.

Or to once again type notes through tears as a daughter begs me to write something good about her mother, who had been killed in a car accident on her way to teach Vacation Bible School.

A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Refuge, whose restoration from Great Salt Lake flooding I covered for 20 years. — Photo by Pat Bean

That story, as did one I wrote on a fatal airplane crash up Ogden Canyon, won spot news awards. It’s the ironic nature of this crazy business.

In pursuit of stories, I have flown in a Blackhawk helicopter over the Great Salt Lake to the West Desert, watched in awe through a glass bay in a huge tanker as it fueled an F-16 high over the Grand Canyon, and walked the halls of the Pentagon during base closure negotiations.

I have been brow-beaten by politicians, and have pinched myself to stay awake through numerous governmental meetings – and an editor’s meeting or two.

I have been accused of being too liberal, too conservative, too uncaring and too prejudiced.

But then I’ve also seen the better and higher side of human nature shine through in times of adversity.

Matt “The Cat” Maw, the Weber State University mascot who injured his spine immediately comes to mind. The reporter who wrote his story shared Maw’s upbeat attitude that cheers others in adverse situations.

I’ve also watched time and again as people pulled together in disasters, such as the overwhelming community support I saw recently from my editor’s seat during the aftermath of a flooded Riverdale neighborhood. Or the outpouring of neighborly aid I saw during a Texas Gulf Coast hurricane back in my still-wet-behind-the-ears reporting days.

In thousands of ways, I’ve seen and heard the heart beat of daily news events for over a third of a century. The experiences have affected me, changed me – and both speeded up and slowed down my heart.

Now in this column, my hope is to share the heart beat with readers. It’s the heart beat of this Top of Utah community – and the heart beat of this writer.”

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This writer’s heart still beats – and the blood that flows through it still belongs to a journalist. And I’m proud of it.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Galveston Beach https://sfkfsfcfef.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/on-the-beach-in-galveston/  I couldn’t help myself in choosing this blog. In another couple of weeks, I will be walking on a Texas Gulf Coast beach about 25 miles south of this one. Simple things like this make my heart beat with pleasure.

            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 patbean@msn.com

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“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway.

The Good Old Days

So many writing quotes, like the one above by Hemingway, have become outdated. While I do know a few writers who still write their first drafts by hand, I know none who still use a typewriter. The computer has made that once miracle machine obsolete.

I vividly remember my first encounter with a computer. The year was 1978, and I was working as a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. One day I was typing my stories on a typewriter, and the next day I was told that I had to use a computer.

My first thought was I can’t write on a computer. So, I continued writing my stories on a typewriter — and then retyping them into that dang computer. This lasted for about two weeks before I finally caught on to the fact I was doubling my work load.

A couple of years later, I accepted a job as features editor at the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah, where I was introduced to a Mercenthaler computer system, which was always breaking down and eating my words. I blame it for teaching me how to cuss at the late-blooming age of 40.

During these years, I continued using my old Remington typewriter at home for my personal writing. By 1985, however, the difference in the feel of the two keyboards forced me to give in and buy my first home computer, one that didn’t have a hard drive, but ran on floppy disks. Every couple of years after that I upgraded to a newer computer.

I bought my first laptop, paying $2,300 for a top-of-the-line machine in 2004, the week I retired from journalism so I could continue to freelance while I traveled the country in my small RV with my canine companion Maggie. For two years, I used my phone as a modem to connect to the world, but then I got my own hot spot. Comcast is the provider of my current Wi-Fi system, and costs me $70 a month.

My current laptop, a Toshiba I bought in 2011 for $800, and which is the longest lasting computer I have ever had, is just about ready for replacement.

Today, I don’t just use a computer as a writing tool, but also to do research, stream movies and tv, play games, stay in contact with family and friends, read the news, and to export my freelance articles directly to magazines and publishers, which is what I did when I finished my book, Travels with Maggie.

I went from wondering what in the heck I was going to do with a computer, to wondering how I can live without one. Ditto for air conditioning — I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast in the 1950’s without it.

I also grew up knowing how to change a tire on my car because tires were not as reliable as they are today, and we didn’t have mobile phones.

Yup. My world has changed a lot. Perhaps the good old days are here and now — or waiting for us in the future.

Bean Pat: Pileated woodpecker https://belindagroverphotography.com/2018/06/03/young-pileated-woodpecker-three-photographs/

Now available on Amazon

One of my favorite photography blogs. And an amazing bird that catches my breath every time I see one.

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 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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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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