Writing 101:Hone your Point of View: Staying in Focus: A Case of the Shabbies

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years. Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

A Case of the Shabbies

Our neighborhood has a bad case of the shabbies.  Our street is not only a dead end that is its name, Dead End. Well, they sure got that right. We all pay our rent, mostly on time, yet Mr. Dregg refuses to paint or repair anything. Leaking roofs and sagging porches abound, and the tired grey paint is mostly peeled away. Inside, however, we keep our houses neat and clean, with what pride we have left after life has taken its due, says Mama. Mrs. Pauley’s is the neatest, She is a quilter and a master at all needlework. Her beds are draped in the most colorful quilts I have ever seen, and pictures in embroidery and cross stitch cover the walls like paintings in an art museum. Best of all, she makes clothes for my doll, Sally Mae. I know I’m getting a little old for dolls, but Sally Mae has seen me through some tough times and I’m not ready to move on without her yet.

Right now, I’m sitting on the front stoop, watching for an unfamiliar car to, wait, here it comes. I hide behind a nearby hedge. A sleek black car is turning onto our street. The car moves slowly down the street and stops in front of Mrs. Pauley‘s house. Mrs. Pauley is the nicest, kindest person I know. She brought up six boys, all who have moved to faraway places like Sitka, Alaska and the Philippines. They never come to visit, they just send e-mails asking for money. Now that Mr. Pauley has passed awa,y they are knocking at the wrong door if they want money. Mrs. Pauley doesn’t know an e-mail from an elephant and until today she was short the rent money. The front car door opens and a man steps out – it is despicable Dregg. The driver comes out next. He is wearing  a three piece suit with a silk hankie in the jacket pocket and not a drop of sweat on his brow, unlike Dregg whose face glistens with sweat, not to mention his armpits. Phew! Gotta stay downwind of him.  My guess, Dregg brought a police lieutenant to frighten Mrs. Pauly even more. Lastly, a grim-faced lady in an ill-fitted business suit joins the two men. Social Services for sure. They approach the house and Mrs. Pauley answers the door. I can’t hear their exact words but I’m not an idiot. I know they have come to take Mrs. Pauley away to some awful place. Well, not on my watch.

As they enter the house I jump from the hedge. I run into my bedroom. I push my unruly red hair into a wide-brimmed straw hat and pull on a pair of white gloves. I glance at myself in the mirror.  Instead of my usual summer shorts and a tee-shirt, I’m wearing the full-skirted summer dress that Mrs. Pauley made for just this occasion, socks and patent leather shoes. I’m pretty sure I look nothing like the real me, Tallulah Banks. Mr. Dregg may have seen me maybe twice in his life. I just hope Mrs. Pauley remembers her lines.

I pick up an envelope from my dresser and Sally Mae, dressed in an outfit identical to mine. I leave the house and skip happily down the street. I enter the house allowing the door to bang loudly. That is Mrs. Pauley’s cue.

“Sally Mae,” she says, “I’ve told you not to let the door slam when you come in.”

“Sorry, Granny,” I say keeping my face turned away from Mr. Dregg. If he recognizes me, the jig is up.

“Just try to remember next time, dear. This is my granddaughter. She and my son are moving back here to live with me.”

I catch the look of surprise in Dregg’s eyes. “Your rent is behind 2 months, lady.” he says. “You’re out of here today.”

“Oh, Granny, I almost forgot. Daddy says here is your money from grandpa’s insurance”. I turn to look at Lieutenant Suit and try my best to look sad.  “I miss grandpa so much. Daddy says he’s tied up with paper work but will be home for dinner.”

Mrs. Pauley hands Mr. Dregg the envelope. This should cover the last two months plus two in advance so you know I can pay now.”

“Well, Mr. Dregg, let’s leave these two ladies to their visit,” says Lieutenant Suit. “I see no cause for eviction.  She has not only paid up but paid ahead as a gesture of goodwill. I suggest you accept it in like manner.”

Mr. Dregg scowls at us as he leaves the room and we hold our breath until the car turns off our street.

“We did it, Mrs. Pauley!”

“But what about three months from now? How will I pay?”

“Mrs. Pauley, you have enough quilts and needlework in this house to pay your rent for at least a year and, in the meantime, all the girls at school want Sally Mae clothes for their dolls. So, where do you keep that sewing basket?”


Daily Prompt:Staying in Focus: Writing Regrets

Daily Prompt  :Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

I entered the classroom, palms wet with sweat and stomach in knots.  I took my seat and glanced at the enemy, the overhead projector, standing ready to aid in my total humiliation. The teacher entered the room without a word, and flipped the switch. The enemy sprang to life.

“Today we begin with a short story by Pat…”

A loud buzzing filled my ears, blocking the drone of her voice.  I closed my eyes, too, so I could not see my paper, projected in what seemed like letters ten feet high, slashed and savaged by the ruthless attack of her red pencil.  I only wished the ground to open up and swallow me.  My anxiety about sharing my writing began that day.

My biggest regret is letting the comments of a high school English teacher keep me from writing seriously for such a long time. Her unkind comments and the slash of her vicious red pencil alone were enough to make me swear off writing for life. Then when she started using an overhead projector to beam my savaged papers on the classroom wall, I wanted nothing more than being as far away from this killer of dreams as I could get.

There are ways to critique and there are ways to cripple and this person embraced the latter approach. Happy was the day I graduated from high school and pushed her into the farthest reaches of my mind, but so insistent was her voice, and so deep the trauma, that even though I received an A on every paper I wrote in college, the niggling feeling that I could never be a  real writer persisted.

I wrote for myself. Even my nemesis could not still my need to write. I wrote poetry, and kept travel journals, and a personal journal, and then, one day, when my children were young, my husband and I were discussing his ideas on politics, the space program, life in outer space, and being science fiction fans, we decided to take some of his ideas and write a science fiction novel. We sketched out an outline and I was ready to go.

The next day I dropped my son off at preschool, drove to the library, pulled out my newly sharpened pencils and a legal pad and began to write. The floodgates opened then, and when I left the library I had a prologue and the first chapter completed. When I gave them to my husband to read, he was pretty amazed. I wrote that entire book out in longhand. I initially planned to include the book in a trilogy but life intervened and I never did finish the saga. We had various people read the book when it was finished, all of whom really enjoyed it, but still that niggling voice would break through now and again. I sent out a few queries and sample chapters, but lost my momentum after a while as work and motherhood took over my time.

Where I did find my niche as a writer is in writing essays.  I have had several published over the years in newspapers and magazines. My first published piece is on my blog, listed on the right side of the heading. And now, with this essay, I will have published 184 posts on WordPress. I think I’ve finally silenced the voice, but I still regret not finishing that trilogy. The book needs a lot of revising now, as science has progressed and theories come and go, and the Soviet Union in no more, but I really should finish it, if nothing more than for closure, not for me so much as for my poor characters, left battling aliens in space for all these years…

In the end, however, I really  have no time for regrets because I’m too busy writing!

Staying in Focus: Creative Writing : Watching Jess

Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Love in the 21st century

                                                                                                                                                                                      Watching Jess

There’s a funny thing about love. It has a wicked sense of humor.  Sometimes you can sense it speeding toward you with the power of a supersonic jet, and sometimes it slips into your heart with the deftness of a stealth bomber. Which is how it happened for me – appropriate, I suppose, as I am an Air Force pilot and I fly a stealth bomber.

It was a chance encounter on a sultry summer night in New York City. I had a three-day pass to relax and have a little fun before we were sent back to the desert. I was walking down a busy street when I first noticed Jess, sitting on the edge of a fountain, just watching the crowd go by.  I stood for a while watching Jess  watching the crowd. Then Jess turned my way and smiled. Waved a hand, beckoning me forward.  I don’t remember moving, but then there I was, sitting next to Jess, watching the crowd go by.

Eventually, we moved on. Started a conversation, laughed at each other’s silly jokes, and shared a dinner of hot dogs and soft pretzels on the steps of the Met. Found our way to Jess’s place, and didn’t budge until the hour of departure approached. When we were hungry we sent out for food, and Jess was a wiz at whipping up interesting concoctions from the white boxes of leftover meals stacked inside the fridge.

Why now? I thought. as I reluctantly dressed to go. I didn’t have time to fall in love.  We didn’t have time to know if it was love. We walked slowly toward the bus depot, each lost in our own thoughts. What was there left to say? Words of promise we could not keep?  Jess kissed me, and strolled casually away, as I stood alone, in the crowd of soldiers lining up to board the bus.  I turned to join them and suddenly Jess was there, sweeping me off my feet and kissing me, long and hard.  I dimly heard the catcalls and whistles of my comrades. “Kat Mitchell” he said in a quiet whisper, “Stay safe. And come back. I’ll be waiting.” I hefted my duffel bag and boarded the bus.

There would be a lot of time and burning desert sands before I could  see Jess again. Maybe he would wait for me. But in this women’s army, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  And the more things change,  it seems, the more they stay the same.

Focus On: Writing in All its Forms


dancing drops of sunlight
 splatter on the ground,
 leaves cast elfin shadows
 scattered all around,
 above the trees, the sky is blue
 nearby a brook runs clean,
 the air is slightly scented       
 with a trace of evergreen,
 the music of a robin
 floats gently on the breeze,
 a doe and fawn stand silent
 to hear the melodies,
 upon the ground, the flowers bloom
the earth holds everything,
as once more we are blessed
with the coming of the spring!  
                             –  pc 1971 

I have been enjoying this opportunity  to share my interests and ideas through this blog.  I have been interested in writing for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I kept diaries, and travel journals of the summer vacations I took with my family. This entry from a travel journal reflects my perceptions of the Rocky Mountains:

the Rockies…ridden with glaciers…washed with waterfalls…rugged peaks covered with snow…decorated with the lace of trickling water…rushing life…(1975)

When not actually writing,  I’d make up stories in my mind, often while walking home from the bus stop in the afternoon, or while riding along with my Aunt Blanche who would take us for a ride in the evenings  before she left for her midnight shift job at the DuPont Company.  Riding along in the car, gazing out the window at the trees slipping by, my mind would inevitably begin to churn tales.

I began writing poetry in my teen years. Nature, then and now, has always been one of my major inspirations for writing poetry.  The earliest poem I have a record of is the one presented above, entitled Spring!

Once I married and had my children, they, and my husband also became the inspiration for my poetry. I began to realize that deep emotion, whether negative or positive, would prompt my muse into sending me poems.  For that is how it feels when I write.  It’s as if an unconscious part of me has something to say to the world, and sends me a poem to express it.  I like this one I wrote about Kevin, my bundle of energy boy:

to Kevin

you race through the day in perpetual motion
approaching life with a zest and a drive
that leaves me quite breathless and often uncertain
as to whether or not I will ever survive
yet you’ve given me back all the joy and the wonder
of splashing in water and climbing  a tree
and in seeing the world through the eyes of my child
I’ve gotten in touch with the child in me;
so it’s off to the beach where we’ll build a sandcastle,
and watch as the waves come and wash it away
then it’s home and to bed, where  I’ll need lots of sleep
to keep up with you for another whole day!

Deep emotion engulfed the nation on 9/11.  I remember going out to the large deck we had  on our house at the time, sweeping the deck and thinking about the terrible events that had just occurred  This poem came to me while I was sweeping::

Freedom’s Light

The towers fell as evil rained
   destruction from the sky,

Our nation roused to anger 
  as we counted those who‘d died,
But the spirit of our people
  would not falter or dissolve
To eliminate this evil would
  become our firm resolve.
So we stand as one, united,
 as we turn to face the night
And dispel the evil shadows
 with the beam of freedom’s light
 We will not forget the fallen
 nor the families left to mourn
  We will heal the cratered cities
 and the symbols, once reborn,
Will illuminate the future with
 the message of our time:
 We stand fast against the darkness,
    let the bells of freedom chime!
                                              –  pc ‘01

So as one can see there is no limit to the words churning around in my mind.  And every now and then they coalesce into thoughts and sentences that convey my unique view of the world.

To that end I am launching a second blog,, which will focus on my fiction writing.  As I have said, I’ve always enjoyed writing, but for many years would not share it with anyone.  I had a teacher in high school who obviously did not know how to nurture and encourage emergent writers and her constant  negative feedback, while it did not stop me from writing, did cause me to doubt myself and my abilities and convince me my writing would never be good enough.

But following my marriage, I did share my writing with my supportive husband who encourage me to continue writing and share it with others.  I took a couple of creative writing classes with a very honest, yet supportive group of classmates, and as a result I have had several articles published in the small press arena.

The other day I was cleaning out some files when I came across several short stories, children’s books and a science fiction novel I had written over the years.  I decided to dust them off and put them in a second blog.  I believe they have merit and will be enjoyed by those who read them.  In doing so, I am silencing forever that inner critic placed in my head by a teacher whose abilities I have probably surpassed a long time ago.

Too many of us are hesitant to pursue our dreams as a result of a traumatic incidence in our youth.  We must work to rid ourselves of these hesitations, to heal what was injured and allow ourselves to enjoy pursuing whatever we want to do.  I say, if you believe in it, if you have poured your heart and soul into it and made it the best it can be,surely someone, somewhere will read it and be affected by it.  And that’s what  a true wordsmith craves — to see his/her words have an impact on someone else. So I am freeing my fiction from its dusty drawer and exposing it to the light of day and the eyes of the world. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have had writing them.

So check out for my first entry, The Storyteller.  Chapter one begins with the line “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

This is my first step.