Posts Tagged ‘Story Circle Network’

Good-Bye 2020

A Few of Story Circle Network’s Writing Sisters during conference in Austin, Texas

In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips.” (I dedicate this blog to my writing sisters.)

Sisters of My Heart, If Not My Blood

I’ve belonged to Story Circle Network for 11 years now. It’s an international writing organization that supports female writers in many ways, like giving me the voice I needed to publish my book, Travels With Maggie.

I met a half dozen of the women in my circle at an SCN writing conference held in Austin, Texas back in 2010, when I was still traveling around the country in my small RV. Over the past decade these same women have become the sisters I never had.

SCN members range from prolific writers like Susan Wittig Albert, who founded the organization, to women who are trying to get published, to women who write only for themselves. Most feel the same about writing as I do: To write is as important as to breathe.

The prompt for my writing circle this month was the question: How has Covid changed your life during the past year?

I answered that question in my previous post, noting that because I was retired, didn’t lose my income and was already nesting, the changes to my life were few.

While I’m still puzzling over what to write for the circle, others in the group responded immediately. The piece submitted by Nancilynn Saylor, whose memory of hugs I hold dear from attending five SCN writing conferences with her, delighted me so much that I wanted to share it with others.

So, here goes.

End of the Line

By Nancilynn Saylor

A cold snort from old man winter

Today, does not deter

This aging woman holding

Her broom. No

Quite the contrary

She props the front door open with

Deliberation, determined to finish

Her task with

No dust pan needed.

Each speck and loathsome particle

Sails with precision across threshold into the blustery abyss.

Au Revoir

Auf Wiedersehen





Then, remembering a phrase from her long ago youth:

“Make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here!”

She wiped her hands together, then slammed the door

Firmly against the jamb.

The scent of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove,

Enticed her back to the kitchen.

Good riddance,2020!

           Nancilynn is a Texas girl who knows that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck for the coming year. I had mine. Did you?

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Road Trip: Austin   

‘Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” – Ann Landers

Photo from 2016 Stories from the Heart Conference with vivacious Debra Weingarten at the head of the table cheering us on. Sadly, she was missing this year.

My road trip to Texas, so far, had been a family thing, reconnecting with distant loved ones, and spending cherished time together with lots of hugs. My four-day stay in Austin to attend Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart Writing Conference was just as full of love and hugs.

Though not related by blood, I considered the other female participants – from  SCN  founder and award-winning author Susan Wittig Albert, whose published books are almost too many to count, to writers who were still hoping to be published – my sisters.

Without many of these women in attendance here in Austin, and other members scattered across the world, my own book, Travels with Maggie, would never have been published.

I first discovered Story Circle Network in 2010 when I saw an ad in Writer’s Digest for the Stories from the Heart Conference. I have not missed one of the conferences, which is held every other year, since.

I was on my second draft of Travels with Maggie when I first joined the organization for women writers, and was trying to give my book the voice which critiques said it lacked. In the first draft, I had tried to disguise that I was an old broad. Story Circle gave me the confidence to realize that being an old broad, and still having a zest for life, was the unique voice the book needed. And then when the book was finally finished to my satisfaction, and with the very generous help of SCN member Sherry Wachter, it was my SCN sisters who lent me their confidence to publish it.

To be among these women, my sisters, was every bit as heartfelt as being with my blood relatives.  The only thing missing was my marketing mentor, the vivacious Debra Weingarten, who sadly was in the hospital with terminal cancer. This award-winning author and publisher’s high energy, overwhelming love and always-upbeat attitude were missed by everyone at the conference who knew her.

It was important for me to hold Debra’s hand, and SCN’s beautiful new president, Jeanne Guy, made it happen. Together we skipped out of the conference to visit Debra, who was weak and soft-spoken as she lay in her hospital bed — but smiling through the pain.

Even as I write this, I can still feel Debra’s hand in mind, and her love and support for me, and for all of my other Story Circle sisters.

Thankfulness fills my heart for having found Story Circle Network, and such wonderful women as Susan, and Jeanne and Sherry and Debra, and all the many other wonderful women whom I now consider sisters.

I now serve on the board for the organization, and during a board meeting that had me staying over an extra day after the conference ended, I learned my worth.

According to Susan Albert, SCN had paid $450 for the Writer’s Digest ad that had caught my attention – and I was the only person who responded.

“It was a worthwhile investment,” Susan said. Of course, that made me feel good, but then that’s how I felt from the first to the last sisterly hug I got at the conference – and there were many.

Bean Pat: A Cat Story: https://windagainstcurrent.com/2018/08/18/the-cat-that-found-me/?wref=pil

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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Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. -- Wikimedia photo

Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. — Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. -- Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. — Wikimedia photo

   “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

            “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

It was a day of lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, glades of scarlet fireweed, birds – and beauty that stirred the soul everywhere.

Page from my jouranl. noting my bald eagle sighting. .

Page from my journal noting my bald eagle sighting. .

`           The first stop of the day was the Vermillion Lakes just outside of Banff, where the first bird of the day was a bald eagle. It doesn’t get much better for a birder – but it did. I got a lifer, a common loon. I was excited at seeing this bird for the first time, but later learned I didn’t have to go so far away from home to see them. Common loons could be seen in winter on Causey Lake in Ogden Valley, Utah, just minutes away from my home.

Also on the lakes were mallards with baby chicks, always a treat to see, as were the darting killdeer that were running around near the shorelines.

A red-breasted nuthatch showed itself at Cascade Pond; barn swallows swarmed around a bridge; lots of prairie dogs stood sentry along the route; and at Two-Jack Lake, I got another lifer, a red-breasted merganser.

I added the feather of a Clark's nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

I added the feather of a Clark’s nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

And the day was just getting started.

At Lake Louise, the next stop of the day, I did a bit of hiking, ate lunch, and marveled at a flock of Clark’s Nutcrackers, another lifer, and one that seemed to be everywhere around the lake. Although not nearly as crowded as the town of Banff, the lake resort, and its Chateau Lake Louis, are also quite popular Canadian attractions.

The turquoise/emerald color of Lake Louise, which pleasantly aroused my sense of sight, is the result of rock flour carried into it by glacier melt. The lake was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the marquess of Lorne, who was the governor-general of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my ournal

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my journal.

But as awesome as Lake Louise was to my sight-seeing day, it was the nearby smaller Lake Moraine that stole my heart. The isolation and serenity of the scene before me stirred a longing in me to visit again n the future — when I could stay awhile. Doing so is still on my bucket list.

My day ended in Jasper, where I found a place to do laundry and ate a steak dinner. It was the last day of July – and Alaska still lay ahead. .

Bean Pat: 20 Minutes a Day http://tinyurl.com/z9vcrwq Comfort food. Len is a dear friend, one who teaches writers, and whose major thesis is that all writers should write for at least 20 minutes a day. I adhere to her philosophy. She and I are in the same Story Circle Network online writing group. SCN is the best writing support I’ve had in my life. It’s helped me find the personal voice I needed to replace the journalism voice I used for 37 years. The circle is for women only. If you’re interested, check it out at: http://www.storycircle.org/frmjoinscn.php (more…)

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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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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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“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Oprah Winfrey

My friend Kim sent me this recently on my Facebook timeline. Oh how I wish I could. -- Unknown source

My friend Kim sent me this recently on my Facebook timeline. Oh how I wish I could. — Unknown source

My Female Soul Mates

While I have no biological sisters, I am blessed to have women friends who fill the lack.

First there is Kim, the one who personally knows all the skeletons in my closet, and with whom I’ve shared many an outdoor adventure. We met as work colleagues who had nothing in common. It took a few after work drinks and a crazy, wild rafting trip for us to bond, but then it was us against the world.

Some of my writing sisters during the recent Story Circle Network. -- Smart Phone photo taken by another sister.

Some of my writing sisters during the recent Story Circle Network. — Smart Phone photo taken by another sister.

While I never seemed to choose a male who completed me, Kim was the perfect fit for all my flaws. We’re as different as lemons and chocolate, and each of our strengths cover the other’s flaws.

It was she who sent me the above poster, and if I lived closer now than 800 miles from her, you better believe I would have taken her up on the request. Instead I’m just remembering such escapes as getting lost in Nine Mile Canyon, coming eyeball to eyeball with an elephant, conquering Lunch Counter Rapid in high water, and making it to the top of Angel’s Landing during a snowstorm.

Then there is my friend, Kris, whom I met and played with during the two years I lived in Twin Falls. She and I sometimes go five years between visits, but easily pick up right where we left off when we do get together.

And in recent years, I have found online sisters who share my writing passion through Story Circle Network. I recently got to get together with them in Austin.

Could I be any more blessed?

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Indian Wells Canyon http://tinyurl.com/qby2ped Texas has her bluebonnets, but awesome wildflowers at this time of year are not confined to the Lone Star state. Thanks to this blogger I get to see some of them.

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream Discover.” – Mark Twain.

A Safe Refuge is an Impossible Dream 

Yesterday’s sunrise here at Lake Walcott taken from my camp site. Smoke from Idaho’s wildfires has turned the sun quite red. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve been asked three times this morning if I’m safe from the wildfires that are currently ravaging Idaho. I am. Lake Walcott is an oasis surrounded by a very dry high desert.

But the fires are on everyone’s mind. The park’s flags flew at half-mast Saturday for the 20-year-old female firefighter who was killed by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire near Orofino.  And the news this morning was that the small town of Featherville, Idaho, which sits between the Boise and Sawtooth national forests, is being evacuated because a wildfire there is out of control.

I’ve watched a fire-fighting helicopter fill up its water bucket out of the lake here to fight some nearby fires started by lightning strikes, while firefighters turned the park’s boat dock area into a staging front for those earlier fires.

But so far, no wildfires have threatened the park. Lake Walcott has even attracted campers whose favorite camping spots elsewhere have burned or been evacuated.

The same sunrise a few minutes later. — Photo by Pat Bean

Meanwhile the morning sunrises and sunsets here at the lake have been red because of all the smoke in the air. I captured the two photos included here of yesterday’s sunrise.

As much as I love Mother Nature, I must say she is not playing nice right now. High temperatures and little moisture have left the landscapes a sitting target for lightning strikes. Idaho has been hit extremely hard, with over one million acres burned so far this year.

I long ago realized that safety is a fantasy. Hurricanes strike those who live next to the oceans, tornadoes strike those who live on the plains, avalanches strike those who live in the mountains, fires, earthquakes and evil humans can cause havoc everywhere. While it’s wise to take precautions to protect oneself from both nature and evil, it’s also foolish not to continue living life to the fullness of one’s dreams.

Book Report: Travels with Maggie, 36,372 words. Lot of editing and cutting here, so this is more impressive than it looks, since at last report I was up to 35,726 words. Besides which, I worked in the visitor kiosk here at Lake Walcott on Saturday and Sunday, and had very enjoyable company Saturday evening. The good news is that the rewrite of my travel book is still progressing.

Bean’s Pat: Turtles at Dawn http://tinyurl.com/cn34ftj Despite the fires, life goes on, and these tiny turtles headed out to sea cheer me.

This new illustration for Bean’s Pat is courtesy of Laura Hulka, who like me is a member of Story Circle Network, an organization of female writers which has enriched my life. Check it out at: www.storycircle.org Thank you Laura.

I encourage recipients of the Bean’s Pat to copy and paste it on their blogs. The Pat is this wondering wanderer’s choice for best blog of the day. I created it to play it back for the awards readers have given me.

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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

Among My Writing Soul Mates 

So many things I want to tell my writer friends out there about the tremendous amount of energy and good advice going on at the Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart Conference being held in Austin this weekend.

Austin skyline from Lady Bird Lake -- Wikipedia photo

Much of what I’ve learned, however, still needs to be digested, and practiced, before I feel I can write about it.

But Gail Straub’s keynote Friday night  presentation “My Mythic Memoir Journey,”  had a secondary significance for me. She spoke about her memoir, “Returning to My Mother’s House,” which is about her relationship with her mother.

 Sitting next to me was my own daughter, Deborah. Gail hit a few familiar notes with her talk and it seemed as if I weren’t  nudging my daughter, she was nudging me. 

University of Texas fountain, a familiar sight to Austin residents. -- Wikipedia photo

Gail’s talk was full of interesting insights, and came at a time when my daughter and I could both recognize them — and most importantly laugh about them.

The best thing about the conference for me is being in the midst of a circle of supportive female writers. It’s not that any of us, well among the many circle members I know, have anything against men. It’s just that our voices are different and it’s nice to be among people who understand female quirks, and the difficulty women often have in finding their voices.

I can say with 100 percent accuracy that this writing circle is the most supportive group I’ve ever encountered in my years on this planet. I can’t think of any place I would rather be this weekend than right where I am — deep in the heart of Texas with writing soul mates.

Bean’s Pat: Darla Writes  http://tomurl.com/77xu6pf  13 Tips From Writers. It seems only fair that today I should give a thumbs up to a blogger who writes about writing,

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“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes.” – Unknown

The Coronado Museum in Liberal Kansas today. It began life as a Sears and Roebuck mail order home. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

On my way to Idaho to escape the Texas heat for the summer, I visited the Coronado Museum in Liberal, Kansas. It was so named because Vasquez de Coronado traveled through the area in 1541 in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. He and his band of soldiers left behind a few trinkets, which are now on display at the museum

While the exhibits were interesting, the tidbit that intrigued me was the fact that the 1918 building housing the museum was ordered from a Sears and Roebuck Catalog. The popular mail-order business sold hundreds of these between 1908-1940, offering 150 different models to choose from.

It was the second such building I had encountered in my travels. The first was a historic farm house in Battle Ground, Indiana, adjacent to Prophetstown State Park.

That Indiana home, the Hillrose model, came complete with all electrical and plumbing fixtures, and had been shipped by rail to the site, at a cost of $6,880. For tourist purposes, meaning dollars, that house had been recreated at a cost much exceeding the original.

What got me thinking about these homes were two things. First, the main topic of conversation on my Story Circle Network chat group the past week has been the green benefits of smaller, older homes vs larger, newer ones.

One of the mail order homes offered by Sears and Roebuck between 1908 and 1940. -- Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia

Having once lived in a small home built in 1912 that had thick walls and real wood construction – and low utility bills, I weighed in on the side of smaller and older. While not exactly small, the Kansas mail-order former home and now a museum looked as if it had stood the test of time.

The second thing that got me thinking about Sears and Roebuck homes was a great mystery writer, Blaize Clement, whom I discovered a couple of weeks ago. Her heroine’s grandparents, and now her brother, lived in a Sears Roebuck mail-order home. The fictional home was mentioned in all five of her books, which I gobbled up the past two weeks.

It’s sort of funny how when once you learn something new, you come across it everywhere. It makes you wonder why it’s only now come to your attention.

Has that kind of thing ever happened to you?

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Murphy’s Laws: If something can go wrong, it will; The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet; Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand….

It's cold and rainy here at Lake Walcott this morning, but Maggie, who cares nothing about computer problems, sleeps the morning away. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

A quirky problem with my Verizon air card the first week of May suddenly blocked me from accessing the online home pages of Story Circle Network, the women’s writing support group to which I belong.

It took a couple of weeks, and over an hour on the phone with a Verizon techie, to determine it was a service provider blip. That was confirmed when the techie duplicated my air card set up and he, too, couldn’t access the Story Circle pages.

Verizon is still working on a fix, or so they say.

In the meantime, my four-year-old laptop died on me. I decided, since I had to purchase a new computer, why not just upgrade my air card at the same time. Surely that would solve the problem.

I patted myself on the back for thinking of it, then shelled out $129 for a new card because I didn’t yet qualify for an upgrade.

All the time that trouble-maker, Murphy, whom my grandmother really believed existed, was laughing at me. The upgrade card wouldn’t access the site either. Grrrr…..

Well, she did wake up from her snooze on the couch long enough to give me a dirty look after the camera flash woke her. -- Photo by Pat Bean

There was still some warm sunshine on my shoulder, however. With the help of my geeky Ogden friend, and a couple of Jack and Cokes to ease the transition, all the files on my old computer were transferred to the new one and it, at least, was working perfectly.

Of course I didn’t know then that Murphy was going to hitch a ride with me back to Lake Walcott.

While my old air card had four bars of connection to the world at the remote state park, the new one had half a bar. Not only could I just barely get connected, the connection almost immediately fizzled. The message, when things went awry, was “the remote computer is not responding.”

I suspected a Verizon tower might just be temporarily down, so I gave it 24 hours before I was back on the phone with another techie.

He tried numerous unsuccessful fixes – as I sat in front of my computer amazed at what they can do remotely these days. When nothing worked, the techie gave up and reactivated my old air card.

I immediately had four green bars of connectivity showing, which goes to show newer is not always better.

The techie said the antenna on the new card was probably a lemon, and he asked if I wanted him to send me a new one.

Nope, I said. I’ll just take a refund. As my grandmother said, when something’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Now if Murphy will just stop pestering those Verizon techies, maybe I’ll once again be able to connect to my Story Circle web sites.

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