Posted by: patriciamar | November 20, 2017

A short, short story about the minds of #Readers and #Artists

Two strangers sit silently on a park bench. One is engrossed in a book, the other is sketching–drawing the scene in front of them. There is a couple on a blanket and a man walking his great dane. Two friends play chess on a picnic table and some bros barbeque.  There is also a man feeding a group of quacking ducks.  In real life,  it’s a lovely fall scene,  except on the sketchpad, everyone is naked.  The artist is smiling.
After a few minutes the reader slams the book shut and exclaims delightedly, “Oh! I can’t believe it!” then shoves the book roughly into a bag and walks away in a state.
The artist continues to sketch, undisturbed.
#nanowrimo inspired
Posted by: patriciamar | October 14, 2017

Taiwan: Time in Taipei & Taichung

In Taiwan I learned about generosity.  I have taught a pretty good number of students, even in my relatively brief (so far) teaching career of seven years.  In Taiwan, I got to see five of my previous students.  In Korea I got to see nearly a dozen, and in China I saw almost twenty.  When you teach English, you act as a linguistic and cultural guide, whether you do it consciously or not.  Students see your city, you recommend the sights, you teach them the words to say your favorite foods (double double animal style!) and you use examples that demonstrate how you grew up in this culture and country.  

Flipping that classroom and travelling to spend a few days in their territory is an absolute treat.  

In the three days that I spent in Taiwan, I was taken care of in such a way that this time will always be remembered like a family vacation.  I was never alone, I saw unbelievable sights, and I was constantly sharing laughter, memories, dreams and goals, and of course so- much- street- food!  

It took me days to recover from the amount of fried chicken, octopus balls, glazed strawberries, tea, boba, goosefat with rice (Yeah, huh?), grilled stinky tofu, pomelo, mooncakes, suncakes, pineapple cake, white pepper snails, cold and hot mochi, sweet potato doughnuts, freshly wrapped and cooked spring rolls, Asian sausage, wild boar sausage, wax apples, fish balls, egg and oyster pancakes and red bean paste smoosh that I ate.  

I feel like I forgot something.  Ha!

I had a lot of favorites, but the glazed strawberries were amazing, as were the octopus balls and the grilled stinky tofu with crushed peanut.  Asian sausage was very strange but also delicious.  It is a sausage in a “bun” of rice sausage.  It’s hard to describe, but the flavor and texture was great!  I love snails, too.

From Taichung, I went to Sun Moon lake, which I’ve been dreaming of doing.  My friend and I drove around the lake at dusk, and then continued around the south side back toward Taichung through a thunderstorm that made the trip all the more exciting.

In Taipei, I travelled to the coast with another friend, where I drank a can of Taiwan’s finest while dripping sweat onto the beautiful sculptures of wind and water eroded sandstone that decorate the coast.  I think it was 11 a.m.  I was too sweaty to understand time.

We also visited a little town on the tracks near Pingxi, best known for its sky lantern festival.  I got to do the whole shebang, choosing a lantern by the colors, hoping for happiness or love or health or wealth.  I took the lantern into the little store, and it was hung in a spot where I could paint or write all my wishes and dreams.

In words.

(or pictures)

At just a moment’s notice.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked to write all my wishes and dreams down, on command.  I began, and wrote a few words and thoughts.  However, I hadn’t put enough, so I was sent back to my lantern immediately.  More!  More!  Fill it up!  Everything that you could ever want!  It made me laugh and think more deeply.  Is it possible to write all that you could ever want onto a tissue paper lantern?

I gave it my best shot.  Now, three weeks later, I guarantee that a few of my line items are still floating around in my head.  What do I want most out of my life?

Then I took my lantern outside to the train tracks running through the green valley.  My friend helped me hold my lantern up, the flame was lit, and it floated up into the sky, soon to ignite in flames with my dreams.

What I will remember most from Taiwan is a feeling (and not just feeling full).  I will remember how kind and friendly the people were and how generous and welcoming my students were.  I had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to get back to circle the island on my bike!

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Taiwan  –  September 18-21, 2017  –   Taipei and Taichung


Posted by: patriciamar | October 13, 2017

Korea Part 2 → Busan

Busan freaked me out and then sucked me in.  It’s the type of beachside spot that someone apparently called Thailand in the front, Afghanistan in the back.  I’m not sure why this is… I think I’m missing an integral part of the joke.

I took the KTX train from Seoul, which cost about $50 for economy class.  The train was full, almost every seat in the car was filled the whole 2 ½ hours. It was a Sunday afternoon, so I’m not sure if that mattered or increased the number of travellers. The train ride to Busan was a run through beautiful deep green-blue hills, then slipping through constant tunnels.  There are so many train tunnels in Korea.  They clearly did the math and found that going through the hill was faster and more economical than building tracks over or around them.  The ride was fast, something like 300 km/h and comfortable, with constant wifi.

There were many trains going from Seoul to Busan each hour, some fast and some Mugunghwa, which must be the Korean way of saying stoptrein.  I went to get a ticket for the next train about 15 minutes ahead of time, and was informed that economy class was fully booked.  I got a ticket for the train after that, which was only another half hour wait.  It was interesting to find how busy the KTX Busan trains were.

I’m not sure that there was a cafe car. What I found was a hot/cold vending machine that looked antique. I think it worked. Dunno.  

In Busan, I was greeted by a rainbow and a view of a bridge that I cannot for the life of me find an English name for.  Still, the rainbow was a welcome smile to the area after splitting off from Matt in Seoul to continue my journey solo.  I got a coffee, went out to admire the view and spilled a lot of hot coffee down my legs almost immediately.  At least I had a sip left.  Plus, I was outside, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.  Some children laughed at me.

After circling the train station about 4 times, I found signs for the metro. I could take a bus to my hotel in Songjeong, but I was sure I could also take the metro. I just couldn’t find it.

And then I did!  It isn’t in the train station.  You have to leave the station, heading away from the tracks, and you’ll soon find a stream of people heading in one direction–that’s it!  

The metro was gloriously simple.  The signs, the tickets, the machines, the trains, everything was exactly the same as it was in Seoul.  I relaxed.  

Finding the Haeundae Line was tricky, particularly because of the current state of construction at the Haeundae station.  It’s a pretty modern and classy spot, actually.  But again, I found it!  I followed a very old man and a college girl.  Together we made our way through the mud from the freshly finished afternoon rain.  

Thanks to numerous screenshots and the constant free wifi of Korea, I easily found my sex hotel.  

Yup.  I had booked myself some type of love hotel for couples, right in the heart of the motel district.  This means something.  You can figure out for yourself what that is.  

The lights were red.

There were mirrors everywhere.

The jacuzzi tub was awesome and big enough for two.

There were condoms and tissues by the bedside.

In my welcome pouch (fairly typical for a Korean hotel), there was a toothbrush, razor, toothpaste, lube, douche… hahaha and something liquidy for a man that I’m going to bring back and gift to someone.  I’m sure they will be unsuspecting.

The hotel was great in the end, but for the first few minutes, I was so embarrassed that I could hardly make myself leave and find Songjeong Beach.

Ahhh, the beach.  This particular Korean beach is mild, with surfers, children playing, and windsurfers in the afternoon.  There’s a beautiful breeze that cools the beach and the coast well, so at 27℃, it was an idyllic day.  The water was warm and at least where I was at, there was hardly any undertow or strong current.  I could sit on the smooth sand in about two feet of water and let the incoming waves rock me back and forth.  

The waves looked nice for baby surfing.  There were many surfers–dozens- maybe 40 or 50, but for most of the time, they were gliding around without paying much attention to the idea of getting up on a wave.

When I finally made my way out of my seductionist hotel, I went on a big search for food and a beer.  To my great surprise, on this evening just after dark, I found a little streetside trailer that sold coffee and toast.  

And another that sold coffee and toast.  And another that sold…. coffee and toast.  There were no fewer than 12 of these little trailers. They sold coffee drinks, hot and cold, and breakfast sammies in a cup, basically.  

The one I got was cheese, ham and egg, cut in half, then each half folded in half and shoved in a small paper cup with a 4” wooden skewer shoved through them. Clearly this was a thing.

For a few minutes there on the beach eating my toast, I thought I might be in Ocean Beach, California and not Korea.  For a one-night stop, it was a relaxing beach moment on a long trip.  And like Ocean Beach, Busan is the type of place you might visit and never leave.  Maybe next year I’ll try again.

Busan, Korea  –  September 10-11, 2017



Posted by: patriciamar | May 10, 2017

Tea Time Poetry #3

Bicycles racing

hot sun shining

down the purple

street fair with

baubles and taco trucks

peddling hot sauce

to children sliding

down a sliding slide

of silver stars

burning through the

atmosphere of hot

sauce after a long

day of bicycle riding.


Posted by: patriciamar | May 1, 2017

Tea Time Poetry #2

tea time poetry 2

Art on Storybird by Cat-alogue.

Posted by: patriciamar | April 15, 2017

Tea Time Poetry #1

tea time poetry 1

Posted by: patriciamar | April 8, 2017

Regina’s songs & a good soaking

Tonight my list of top concerts may have been reshuffled. Until this moment, the best concerts of my lifetime included Fleetwood Mac (with Stevie, Lindsay and Mick, but no Christine), Tony Bennett at the Mondavi Center, and Sheryl Crow at a county fair in South Dakota. This evening I spent two hours with Regina Spektor at the Greek Theater, on the UC Berkeley campus, and I can tell you that she is just as lovely and wonderful and heartwarming as I thought she would be.

I cried for almost half the concert.


She came on stage–it wasn’t really raining at that point, and she waved, and then I started to cry. She was exactly how I had pictured her, and I had been looking forward to this concert for sooooo loooooong. She is nice and so darling and sweet, and her hair is a little wild, and she said thank you every time someone yelled something from the audience, which was a frequent.

She played “On the Radio,” “Après Moi” and “Older and Taller” and “Blue Lips.” She played old songs and new songs and she even played Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel,” which was a wonderful comparison to her own, “Grand Hotel.” I do love swanky old hotel stories.

The seats at the Greek were pretty full, despite the dire prospects of rain, which proved true even after Regina thanked nature for holding off. Ha.

I cried again when she talked about immigrating to the U.S. as a child. I forgot that she came as a refugee. Of course, she hopes the next generation will welcome a few more children like her. I hope so too.

It started to rain at some point, and I added almost all of my layers, fairly happy that I had gone with the biking rain jacket rather than a light rain jacket.

The rain got worse, but no worries! It fueled the crowd. Regina kept apologizing and we kept cheering. At one point she dumped a bottle of water on her head, out of solidarity.

On the Greek Theater site, they suggest waterproof shoes. I didn’t understand at the time how it could get that bad, but now I understand.

When she played “Bleeding Heart” the rain was dumping down so furiously that I wondered if they were actually collaborating. (She and the rain, that is.) The woman next to me on the lawn stood up and I saw that her entire backside was soaked, ribcage to kneepits. The plastic blanket she was sitting on had been creating a fantastic effect that ensured that all the rainwater streaming down the hill pooled right around her buttocks. Poor thing.

At “Small Bill$,” it was pouring so heavily that I could feel the rain running through the side zippers on my ski pants. Yes, I was wearing ski pants* and the water was streaming off of my rain jacket and back onto my legs as I hugged my knees in a tiny please don’t destroy me Berkeley weather ball on the ground on the lawn in general admission seating. I’m telling you, this concert was amazing.

*as well as jeans, tall socks, a tank top, t-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt, biking rain jacket, three scarves, glittens and a stocking cap.

And the rain kept coming down, and Regina kept mopping off her Steinway and warming her hands on one of those ridiculously weak fans with the heater glowing in the middle.

I think it was also at this point that I realized that my hands were cold too. I took off my glittens and wrung them out.

About a quarter cup of water came out. Really. I decided not to put them back on.

Regina kept apologizing and asking us if we were ok, and we kept cheering, a little maniacally, if you ask me–part cheerful enthusiasm, part laughter, part tears.

Suddenly, at the end of a song, she was basically rushed off the stage. She returned for a second to tell us that for safety reasons, they needed to stop playing for ten minutes.

We were doomed.

People starting flooding out, but I didn’t disagree. It was the obvious choice. She’d played for aaaalmost two hours. I stood still and waited, hoping for one more.

Sure enough! Even though they had covered everything with the plastic sheets, after just a few minutes, she came back out to the mic for one more.

“Samson,” of course. Then she said we were best rain friends.

It will make my top 3 for sure, and I think #2. I might keep Stevie at #1 until I get the chance to see Joni Mitchell or Billy Joel. What an insane concert experience. If I could do it all again tomorrow, I would.
Without question.





(Other songs played included “Sailor Song,” “Silly Eye Color Generalizations,” “Eet,” “The Trapper and the Furrier,” among others) Ones that I was hoping for but didn’t hear (it’s ok) included “Fidelity,” “Us” and “Laughing with.”


Thanks, Regina. I had a lovely evening.

Posted by: patriciamar | March 1, 2017

A new Storybird Challenge!

This month the Storybird Challenge was to write a tale of star-crossed lovers.  I finished up just in time for March to begin, and here it is, a piece entitled, “So Very Cross.”

Unfortunately, the challenge ended February 23.  Oh, well.  Apparently I can only work on a month by month writing schedule.

The challenge was extra special this month because my Writing Laboratory class did it along with me!  I read some amazing stories from some amazing international students.

I can’t wait to see where these students will go in the future!



Posted by: patriciamar | February 9, 2017


As I writer, I often think about what makes me write what I write.

Let’s go ahead and call it the muse.

The idea of a muse has always been very romanticized, (I’m going to go ahead and shout, Mistresses! Booze!)  With the modern age, this has begun to change.  I use begin because I think there is still a wealth of people that believe in the power of writing #afewdrinksin. It could be the varied types of writing that have inspired this change, or maybe technology, or the modern day lifestyle, the platform for writing, how and where we commute, live, publish…

Whatever, the reason, it’s clear that there are many more possibilities.  Depending on when and how and where and what you write, your inspiration, your muse, can come from anywhere.

And there it is– In my opinion, there are now endless possibilities, and more writers should take full advantage of this.

Every writer needs a way to get started, and every writer faces writer’s block at times.  The idea of a muse goes back a long time to the artists, painters, and writers of old.  However, the modern day muse is incredibly intriguing.  There are apps to use that generate word choices, character traits, and exciting events.  The NaNoWriMo Plot machine can help you build any story. Even Google can be used.  I’d recommend typing, “I’m curious.”

You can find Plot Generators on Pinterest.  I have a ton of pins relating to paintings, beautiful food pics, etc.  You know what you write, so create a world of ideas where you can come and go whenever you like.

On Writeometer, a goal oriented writing app, the idea machine is included right there within the app.  Serious numbers of people use these online devices, and they can really help.  (Feel free to disagree, & tell me so!)

I hate to state the overly obvious, but there are also books upon books of plot ideas.

Another surely obvious option is to read.  I have always maintained that reading causes writing.  I, myself, have to find a balance and choose carefully.  I can’t read anything tooooo engaging–new series are out of the question, and the news is never a good idea.  Shorter pieces are nice, short stories are perfect, and random journals or writing zines are perfect.  In fact, I believe that “The Believer” is one of my very favorite inspirational muses.  I’ve never made it through a whole issue without stopping to write.  Honestly, never.

Another of my favorite muses is the library.  I take my keyboard and a blank document or a story that’s stuck and start my writing session by walking around.  I do not check out books at this time.  That is prohibited.  I look at book covers, go to the reference section, open the massive dictionary to a random page, check out the librarians’ suggested reads, and dream about my books sitting on those very shelves (one already is!), and then I write.  It always works.


Now I’d like to mention a few modern muses, namely the possibilities provided to writers by Twitter hashtags, YouTube, Reddit, and the very general, but not unmagnificent Internet.

Twitter is my absolute writing go-to.  When I am writing, I often have Twitter open and my Tweetdeck has #amwriting permanently installed as a column.  I admit that this particular column is not necessarily always helpful as a muse.  Sometimes when I tweet with #amwriting, I am not actually writing.  Yes, this is an admission, and a sort of public shaming of myself.  I sometimes encourage or push myself to #startwriting by tweeting #amwriting and some sort of an idea.  For me, this.  Actually.  Works.

Surprised?   Maybe not.

Moving on to an even better use of Twitter…

The hashtag #muse, which I’ve personaly been working to get going, can lead you to quotes, music and pictures. You should also try #quote and #newtome, or go random with hashtags like #weather or #why.

I Love @historicalpics .

Although random Twitter hashtags  can lead to some weird tweets, Hold on!  Back up, I said weird, but what I meant is quirky, odd, strange, freak, queer!  Just the type of things that might help your main character get out of the stronghold of that wizened green ogre.

#weird– Another great anti-writer’s block hashtag.

If you want to write something new, intriguing and unique, then you should write and be inspired in the same way.

One piece of advice, don’t click on articles.  Prohibit it; make it off limits.  Pictures are fine, short videos even, but quotes and comments are the best option, from my experience.

Before I bring this to a close, I’d like to mention a few more ideas that I like.

When you’re working on a specific project, a long grueling novel especially, set the scene and return to it every time you work on that project.  I drink the same beverage, use the same tea mug, play the same scary music YouTube playlist, and keep the same token object by my side.  It will be retired when the project is done.

All the senses matter.

As a writer, you should keep all five close to your heart.

Posted by: patriciamar | February 6, 2017

Anne vs Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite heroines.  A fictional female writer who is questionably as weird as I am!?   Yes.

I have read every Green Gables book (my favorites being the first and Rainbow Valley).  I plan to work my way through the Emily books during my next break.  I hear they are also excellent–more on that later.

I always let my adoration of Anne extend to the writer of this beloved series, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Having recently finished reading a bio of L.M. Montgomery, Maud, I’m getting a taste of what parts of Anne are Maud, and which are Maud’s aunts, mother, and more.

I’ve always thought that L.M. Montgomery played a role in my eventual life as a writer, but I am now further convinced.  Maud was weird in such a strangmazing way!  Flowers quarreling and romantic lanes that have names and souls– I almost think that through Anne, Maud made me me.

It adds to the charm that most all of Maud’s (& Anne’s) life takes place on Prince Edward Island.  This is the type of island that a writer can typically only dream about. (By the way, did you hear about the essay contest that ends with someone winning a lakeside cabin in the Catskills!?  I am very tempted– just 200 words away from a life of writing by the lake in the morning and reading in the evening by the fire, but I digress.)

I chose to read this bio because my parents recently endeavored on a fairytale trip to Prince Edward Island.  Fairly tale, because it’s a road trip that most certainly includes windswept Canadian sand dunes–the most romantic of sand dunes–and a walk through The Haunted Wood! (Cavendish Road Woods).  How very thrilling!

About Maud

“Writing was Maud’s most reliable friend.  It was her escape from everything that troubled her.”

(Bruce, pg 16 )

Author Harry Bruce puts together a striking picture of Maud.  She wrote throughout life and had her reasons for doing so.  She loved PEI and this and her strange and somewhat sad upbringing made her the woman who created Anne, Emily, Rilla, Marilla and Matthew.  Bruce organizes the book nicely.  You start by reading a caricature of the Anne, ahem, the Maud that you could imagine living the life as a teacher/writer.

“She was an offspring of storytellers–and of headstrong women.”

Then you shift back to childhood, where she claims her first memory occurred at just 22 months of age.

As he works through the book, you must endure sad moments along with the happy.  Imagine what life would have been like if Marilla had never softened and Matthew had never existed?  Life was hard for Maud, but through it all, she wrote.

Anne & Emily


From the movie, “Anne of Green Gables” (Sullivan Entertainment)

Anne was one of Maud’s most well-known characters, but the life of Emily, it seems, was also very representative of what Maud went through in her life.

“To young Maud Montgomery, whose fantasies were every bit as powerful as those of Emily, Anne, or any of the other girls should create, nineteenth-century Cavendish was full of flashes, hints of heaven, and magic.”

Maud’s life as a female writer wasn’t easy, but she had the work ethic of an ox.  Women and writing during this time period was an unlikely combination, and was not accepted.  Thus, many of her submissions and efforts were carried out entirely in secret.

In some ways, I can commiserate.  Failure or a lack of success is easier to take in private, in my opinion.  However, I chose this path, and I don’t believe that Maud had that choice.  She was born a woman, and she was born a writer.

Life Lessons

“I do not think the majority of grown-ups have any real conception of the tortures sensitive children suffer over any marked difference between themselves and the other small denizens of their small world.”  (Montgomery)

The above statement, in a nutshell, is the feeling that caused Rachel Lynde to be called fat, and which had at least a little to do with a slate being broken over Gilbert Blythe’s head.  Why insult children!?  They have feelings too!  And do you not remember puberty?

The dark days

At one point in her story, just before she wrote Anne of Green Gables, and perhaps hinting at the reason for creating the series, Maud said that she thought the best years of her life were behind her.

This statement made my heart feel real pain.  Imagine it.  Have you thought it yourself?  Perhaps you have, but I hope not.  Either you considered it while you were in the depths of despair, or you really, truly feel that way.

But oh, Maud.  You poor thing.

She was nineteen.

A few other notable pieces of information that you’ll learn about through Bruce’s book?  Anne’s love of spare rooms, the real Katie in the glass, and the homestead after which Green Gables was modeled.

This book is chock full of Maud quotes that are just so Anne.  I highly recommend it.

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