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Archive for the ‘The Write Words’ Category

 

Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Polifax in the 1999 TV movie The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax. Other actors have also played this character, but Angela is how I always pictured the character when I read Dorothy Gilman’s books.Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us. – Boris Pasternak

The Write Words

One of my favorite authors back when I was trying to figure out life, which of course I still am, was Dorothy Gilman and her Mrs. Polifax series. For those of you who haven’t read any of the books, Mrs. Emily Polifax is a white-haired widow who adored hats, had a brown belt in karate and worked for the CIA as a spy.

Life”s surprises are a gift, like a butterfly that unexpectedly appears. — Art by Pat Besn.

What I liked about Gilman’s heroine was that no matter how difficult a situation she found herself in, she was always hopeful she would find a surprising way out of her difficulties.

Reading back journals, I discovered I often used the character’s dialog as quotes. The gist of the one I remember best is that life is not like setting a table where everything can be placed exactly like you want. I thought about this on reading this month’s prompt from my online writing circle, which is:  Write about a journey you’ve been on where you got sidetracked and ended up with a much more fulfilling outcome.

My second thought was: just my whole life.  

            Dreams I had of how my life would go – to quote one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings – went to hell in a handbasket. Other dreams turned out better than I could ever have imagined, even though they bumped forward on a rocky path with many detours along the way.

Looking back, I’m glad life didn’t go the way I had planned. It wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

Bean Pat:  https://lithub.com/alice-walker-on-writing-dancing-and-bursting-into-song/  I  loved this.

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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“There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil: Remain detached from the great.” – Walter Lippmann.

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I was just playing around with some new watercolors when I painted this. It looks a bit befuddled, just as I was as a fledgling reporter.

            “As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: ‘And that’s the way it is.’ To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.” — Walter Cronkite

When Nixon Ran for President

            I was a daily newspaper journalist for 37 years, and proud of it. I slipped in the back door of a small Texas Gulf Coast newspaper in 1967 and spent the next four years going from a darkroom flunky to the paper’s top reporter. That experience, in both my eyes and that of future employers, was worthy of any college degree.

 

I finally got the hang of reporting, but not sure about my watercoloring.

I subscribed to the ethics of truth and fair presentation of both sides of an issue to the degree that some of my colleagues labeled me the conscience of the newsroom. I believed it was my duty to report the goings on of the world, not to change it.

But before I gained this lofty attitude, I was a naïve, green-behind-the-ears woman who had spent the previous 11 years of her life-changing diapers and seeing the world through Pollyanna’s rose-colored classes, which led to me doing something that in some eyes today might be called Fake News.

It was a writing prompt – Write about something that most people don’t know about yourself – for the Writer2Writer online forum that I moderate, which revived the memory. And remembering horrified me, but also made me almost pee myself laughing.

Richard Nixon was running for president back then, and a rally for him was held in my home town of Lake Jackson, Texas. People turned out with tall vertical banners with Nixon’s name spelled from top to bottom. There were a lot of these look-alike signs, which I’m sure some supporter had made and handed out.

I was both reporter and photographer for the event, and would both write up the story and develop and print the picture to run with it when I got back to the office. Lo and behold, I was crushed when I saw the photograph I had taken. The prominent banner in the picture had been put together upside down. Instead of NIXON, it read NOXIN.

A few years later in my career, I would have been delighted to have caught such a boo-boo, and have it published, too. But back then, I felt as if it was my personal mistake for not taking a better photograph. So, I printed the picture, cut the sign out, turned it right side up, and pasted it back on. And that’s the version that ran in the newspaper. I never told anyone this story until now.

Some years later, in the late 1970s, when I was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and after Nixon had resigned, the former president made a public appearance at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. I covered that story, and the piece I wrote ran above the fold in the newspaper. Thankfully, the paper sent a photographer along with me for the story.

Bean Pat: The promise of fall https://maccandace.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/the-promise-of-fall/?wref=pil

Now available on Amazon

 

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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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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