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“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” – Richard Wright

            “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

This is the view of the Catalina Mountains from my third-floor bedroom balcony. The sliver of rock between the two larger humps is called finger rock. I've adopted it as a finger pointing at me, asking: "So have you met your writing goal today."  -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is the view of the Catalina Mountains from my third-floor bedroom balcony. The sliver of rock between the two larger humps is called finger rock. I’ve adopted it as a finger pointing at me, asking: “So have you met your writing goal today?” — Photo by Pat Bean

Is it Good Enough?

            I’ve been a writer for half a century, although I didn’t call myself one for many years. It seems to be a failing with writers. Many of us think that unless we’ve written a best-selling book, we’re just a piddler of words.

I recently met such a person, a retired history professor who read a chapter of his book in progress. He started it by saying “I’m not a writer.” But he was. His words were richer and more readable than those of many a published author. I later told him he was a writer, and should call himself just that

The place where I spend many hours a week. Sometimes I simply open the shutters and gaze out the windows, wondering. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The place where I spend many hours a week. Sometimes I simply open the shutters and gaze out the windows, wondering. — Photo by Pat Bean

Yet, even as I accept that my book, “Travels with Maggie”  — which  is undergoing a final editing — contains some of my best work,  this Monday morning I found  myself asking: “Is it good enough” – good enough to throw out to the public and risk it not being good enough?

Perhaps I’m still thinking about the words contained in a blog I read this past week: “The fine line between creativity and crap.”

Why do writers have such a hard time admitting they are writers when asked their occupations?  What’s the proper usage of passed and past? Do I write my book in first or third person? Will what I write offend a loved one? What will someone think if they read my journals and learn my true feelings? Why can’t I find an agent for my book, is it not good enough?

The questions are endless, and writers seem to have too many of them rattling around in their heads, like a poisonous snake coiled and ready to kill their ability to write. Some call it writer’s block.

I’m learning to call it simply wondering.

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Lime Bird Writers http://tinyurl.com/nv7mrs6  One of the writing blogs I follow regularly. This day’s  blog offers some market opportunities.

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“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” — Kurt Vonnegut.

Writing Advice

My writing companion, Pepper. She lays on my bare feet when I'm sitting at my computer. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My writing companion, Pepper. She lays on my bare feet when I’m sitting at my computer. — Photo by Pat Bean

I just read an article that said it is better to write tired than not write, especially when working on a major project.  The author, I would give credit except I deleted the article and couldn’t find it again, said, if you don’t, then you often have to start at the beginning again.

That’s exactly where I am with my book, Travels with Maggie. I’ve left it untouched way too long, and I’ve got to at least read it again from the beginning.

I also know that writing tired sometimes even turns into really good writing because the brain lets go some of its control. But even if I have to rewrite the next day, the continuity hasn’t been lost.

Now all I need to do is take this advice.

Recent doodling by me. I make a connection between it and Vonnegut's quote.

Recent doodling by me. I make a connection between it and Vonnegut’s quote.

The truth is I’ve been doing plenty of writing, the past couple of months. Just not on Travels with Maggie. And I’m at the point that I need to finish it, because I can’t move on to all the other ideas bouncing around in my head until I do.

So what’s stopping me?

I keep trying, so far unsuccessfully, to figure it all out.

Bean’s Pat: I’m giving it to myself today.  One of the writing projects I have been working on faithfully is the blog I do for American Profile magazine called Discovering America. I’d love it if you would check it out at: http://blogs.americanprofile.com/author/patbean/

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Friday Quote 

            “It doesn’t matter if the class is half empty or half full. Be grateful that there is a glass and there is something in it.”  — unknown            

Friday Photo

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Did you ever lie on your back and look for castles and dragons disguised as clouds? Did you know you can also find hidden figures in rocks. These are full of heads and faces. What do you see? — Photo by Pat Bean

A Mind Gone Astray

            One of the bloggers I follow was asked if she had ever wanted to be a rock star. She said she would be happy if she could just sing on key. Then she said: “What I really want is to be a best-selling author … sigh.” I could have said exactly the same thing, and that made me laugh.

            Finding kindred souls in the blogging world is one of the best things I like about this new form of reading, which has invaded my life.  I don’t know about you, but I love this part of how the world has changed. 

            And by the way, have you ever wanted to be a rock star? If not, what have you wanted to be? This wondering-wanderer would really like to know.    

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

          Bean’s Pat: A Bridge Forward http://tinyurl.com/bf5lo78 Loved the quote, which gave me something else to ponder. I decided I really wasn’t fond of burning bridges.

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 “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

An Experiment in Self-Publication

Snowbasin is where I learned to ski at 40. It was also the venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics downhill events. Shown above is the finish line for the Super G. — Photo by Ken Lund

Back when I was all thumbs and big toes about blogging, I hooked up with Dani Greer and her group at the BBT Cafe and learned a lot. Now I’m learning a lot more as I follow her group as they write, e-publish and promote a short-story anthology called “The Corner Cafe.” It’s an experiment to see if the book, now selling for 99 cents on Amazon, will drive traffic to the writers other books.

Not to be totally left outside whining to get in, since I’m not one of the anthology authors, I volunteered to help them promote the book. And since my blog is primarily about travel, I thought it would be fun if I focused on story settings.

I mentioned this to Dani, and in reply she asked if I skied. I, in turn, went into my spiel about learning to ski at 40, then related my adventure walking the men’s 2002 Winter Olympics downhill course, when it was being put in, with current presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

At the time I was city editor at the Ogden Standard-Examiner and responsible for the paper’s Olympic coverage. Mitt back then was CEO of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee. Ogden’s Snowbasin ski resort, where I had learned to ski, had been chosen as the venue for all that year’s downhill events.

“Great,” Dani chortled. “That’s a great lead in for Helen Ginger’s story in the anthology. It takes place on a ski hill.

A poster from Helen Ginger’s days as a mermaid. She’s the tall girl on the bottom left. She said she didn’t have a picture of her in her tail. — Aquarena Springs poster

So I asked Helen about the setting in her latest book, “Angel Sometimes.” She told me that a big part of the book takes place in a bar/restaurant called The Aquarium, where Angel swims as a mermaid.

“Since I spent three years swimming as a mermaid at a resort park, I know how to swim in a mermaid tail, how to eat and drink underwater, how to do back flips and spinning dervishes,” Helen said.

I don’t know about you, but I found that fascinating.

Helen has two stories in “The Corner Cafe,” Gila Monster, which takes place in a high school, and “One Last Run,” which takes place on a ski slope. She said she left the high school and its town generic and that readers could imagine it as the one they attended.

But for the ski slope, she said she pictured it being somewhere in the Colorado mountains.

“I envisioned the tall trees that seem to whisper in the wind, the snow piled high along the trails, and the brilliant blue skies that can turn dark and cold so quickly,” said Helen.

“One Last Run” is one of the shorter stories in “The Corner Cafe,” and Helen wanted to share it with readers to entice them to buy the book. All proceeds from the sales, by the way, is being donated to a charity. 

One Last Run

By Helen Ginger 

Coming down a steep hill at Snowbasin. I wonder if this is the kind of setting Helen imagined for her story. — Photo by Scott Appleby

When soft flakes turned into a blinding storm, Roger veered off the ski path. A .black diamond skier, he led the way through dense trees.

He was gone now. I was alone, lying on my back staring up at a sky of stars blinking through wispy clouds. As soon as his gray jacket disappeared from sight, I’d packed snow over the gaping hole in my stomach to slow the blood flow.

How naïve I’d been to believe Roger when he said we had time for one more trip down. Now I was slowly bleeding out and freezing to death while Roger most likely sat by the fire pit at the Corner Café, drinking his favorite wine, watching his gloves burn – the ones he’d worn when he shot me. I wished I had a glass of Cabernet now. So many times I’d turned it down, worried it would send my blood sugar skyrocketing.

He’d get away with it. The snow would hide his ski tracks. After he shot me, he smiled. When he leaned over to kiss my lips, I scratched his face. He used a tree limb to break my leg then scraped my fingernails.

Kneeling close to my ear, he whispered, “Thanks. The scratches and any DNA on my clothes will add credibility to my grieving boyfriend act.”

He didn’t notice his own blood dripping on my forearm.

No one else would either. I eased my hand into my pocket and pulled out the blood sugar meter. His blood had started to congeal, so I pushed the stick into the tiny pool and let it soak in. Then I emptied my lip balm and driver’s license out of the zip bag and put the stick in. Clutching the sealed evidence in my palm, I stared up at the trees and sky.

Stars winked before sliding behind clouds as a cold quiet seeped into my bones. 

Helen Ginger is a partner/owner of Legends In Our Own Minds®, coordinator of Story Circle Network’s Editorial Services, writer, editor, teacher, and maker of a mean margarita. She cannot, however, ski worth a flip. If she ever dies on the slopes, it’ll be her own doing. Before that happens, stop by and say hi to her on her blog, Straight From Hel: http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/ .

You can purchase this book for 99 cents on Amazon

Other links: The Corner Cafe on Amazon http://amzn.to/KyQ2wv 

 https://www.amazon.com/author/helenginger

http://www.storycircleeditorialservice.org/

http://helenginger.com

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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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 “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

The Write Word

Watching a sunrise is my idea of a good ritual to start any day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Completing the rewrite of my book, “Travels With Maggie.” was high on my list of New Year’s Resolutions, yet I procrastinated doing it for the entire month of January.

February has been better because I finally turned on the light bulb in my brain and then took some advice from a famous dancer.

It dawned on me that the way I got through NANO (writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days) was by making it the No. 1 activity of my days, which have always been filled with many eggs to crack and enjoy. So, I decided “Travels With Maggie” would be my No. 1 priority.

Any sunset is the perfect time for the ritual of counting the day's blessings. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Then I started reading Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit,” in which she talks about the importance of ritual as a way to make sure she went to the gym daily so as to keep her body in shape for dancing. It’s the same, I thought, for writers. We must exercise our writing fingers and minds daily for the most benefits.

Twyla’s ritual was the taxi cab ride she took to the gym. She knew that once she got to the gym, she would both exercise and enjoy it.

“Some people might say,” Twyla wrote, “that simply stumbling out of bed and getting into a taxicab hardly rates the honorific ritual that anyone can perform. I disagree. First steps are hard; it’s no one’s idea of fun to wake up in the dark every day and haul one’s tired body to the gym … but the quasi–religious power I attach to this ritual keeps me from rolling over and going back to sleep.”

After reading that, I decided I needed my own ritual. I made it the simple one of  setting my alarm clock to signal the end of the writing time I had promised myself.

Believe it or not it worked yesterday when I woke up in the mood to do anything but write.  Just set the alarm clock, I told myself. And I did. And I wrote.

Bean’s Pat: Writing Though Life http://tinyurl.com/7r4wmez This is a great blog for anyone writing a memoir, keeping a journal or even just blogging regularly.

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  “Than indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

My travel book would include details about my search for Mother Nature in places like the New Hampshire woods where I came across this peaceful creek. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Too Many Unfinished Projects

Writing a first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days has given me confidence for the old-broad writing days that still remain to me. There’s no question that I will write, for doing so is for me the same as breathing. I was fortunate that I found a way as a journalist to do it almost daily and get paid for it for 37 years.

When I retired from the job, however, I never saw myself retiring as a writer. I thought I would continue as a free-lance writer of travel and birding articles.

The Internet changed all that, however. The sources I had, including writing for my own former newspaper, dried up after a couple of years.

Suddenly it was a whole new world out there, and I faced either changing or being satisfied with writing only for myself. But it’s never worked that way for me. I both want to be read and to be paid for my writing as a way of personal validation

 

The photo of this hippo I took while on my African safari appears in Fodor's recently released "African Safari Guidebook." -- Photo by Pat Bean

The other change in the world of writing has been that self-publication is no longer considered a vanity, as it was during earlier days. In fact, many writing guides and teachers are encouraging wanna-be authors to go this route.

I’m seriously considering the possibility.

My immediate problem, however, is which project should I tackle first. Until NaNo, I failed to complete any major projects that didn’t have a pay-off deadline. The reasons are many, beginning with my own self doubts about a project’s worth. As former NaNo winners predicted, this inner questioning hit during my second week of the novel challenge. Working past it felt great.

 

The bear at Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho -- Photo by Pat Bean

So, with this said, let me explain my options – at least as I see them. Actually, I think I’m writing this blog as a way to get my own head straight.

First, there is the NaNo novel, which my ego says has good possibilities. Ever since I was a teenager reading Nancy Drew, I’ve wanted to write a mystery. The NaNo one is my second. The first is one of those uncompleted projects that never went beyond the first draft.

Then there’s the travel book I’ve already written, which needs a bit of rewriting. It has been read by critics who gave it mostly thumbs up, although all said it needed my voice. I now think I’ve developed my voice.

It would be the quickest project to finish. It’s called “Travels With Maggie.” I said in an earlier hunt for an agent that I thought it would fit nicely on the book shelf between Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” and Kuralt’s “On the Road” with a little bit of Tim Cahill thrown in and written with a feminine voice. .

Then there is the African safari travel/picture book that I started and which now begs to be finished.

Then there is a commitment to put together a nature book about Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho, where I spent last summer as a campground host and where I will return again this coming summer.

And finally there is a the memoir that is beginning to demand I write. It would be a story of a high school honor roll student who dropped out of school at 16 to get married and who had four children by the time she was 21, and who went on to become a reporter, city editor and finally associate editor of a 66,000 circulation newspaper. There’s a lot of skeletons, heartache, joys and growing up in between.

I’m giving myself a break until Monday to come up with an answer, after which I’m counting on the discipline of NaNo to help keep me to whatever deadline I set for myself.

I’m leaning toward the travel book as my next project.. What do you think? I really want to know.

 

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