Happy Little Writer Sarah, Journey

Beahans on a Journey Home

Team Beahan is taking a grand leap this summer. We are selling Casa Beahan in Seattle, putting all our worldly possessions in storage and going on the road for the foreseeable future. We are on a creative quest to find our new home. IMG_1156

Why? Why would we leave a house we love, a neighborhood we totally jive with, a community of friends that are our family in a part of the country that could simply not be more beautiful? That’s crazy.

Well, no one said we weren’t a little crazy.

We have been digging in and re-evaluating our philosophy on living and working for many months. We want, more than anything, for our life and our work to be fused, to achieve the ultimate work/life balance. I grew up watching my dad work day and night at his craft. I believe he did it because a) he is a hard worker by nature b) he had a family to support but more importantly, c) because he loved it and he couldn’t not do it. It was so integral to his life that while it was grueling and wore him down, it also fed his soul. And, frankly, he was really successful–a nationally known furniture maker. 

Mr. B and I want that too. I have gotten a big, beautiful taste of that in the last few months. I left my career in the nonprofit world to pursue writing, and it is similarly something I feel like I never stop doing. I never stop writing. I wake up and read to push my writing further. I write all day–sometimes it’s all day in my head, working out a scene or motivation. Sometimes I get out of bed to put the ideas that were churning through my head as I drift off to sleep on paper. My vocation is my avocation.

Anyone who knows us at all knows that we have been dreaming of opening up our own business. Mr. B has been day-dreaming about this since I’ve known him, and I’ve just gotten in on the action. The idea has morphed through the years, but the plan is pretty simple to start: a community arts center, a place where people gather to do, learn, show and see creative work. A place where we can write and paint and support others to do the same.

As all this discussion simmered and the creative energy burbled we began to see this plan emerge–sell our house, pay off everything we owe, minimize our expenses, nest-egg some away and invest in a trip across the continent to find our next home. I can feel all of our collective creative energy burbling to the top. It’s like in the process of searching, we are creating something as well. I am going to write this into a book. What makes all these places different? Similar? How do we react, both individually and as a couple? How does our art change?

Our quest over the next six months is actually quite simple. It’s a quest to find the place where we can build this life. Our criteria is pretty basic:

  1. Low cost of living–the less we spend on housing and transportation the less revenue we have to generate for ourselves.
  2. Community of creatives. It does’t have to be big, but one that we can contribute too and build our own life within.
  3. I want something smaller. I miss the quietness of the Ireland country roads, the simplicity of not having so much to choose from (I realize this is decidedly NOT the American way), wide open spaces and a community where people know each other.
  4. We love to be outside. When I am outside I do not want to sweat profusely all the time. I did my time in the Missouri humid summers, it’s miserable and I am not interested.
  5. Mr. B must be close to a movie theatre–not just the big box flicks, but the indies as well.

It’s a journey to find our place. It’s a game changer. It might lead us right back where we started here in the PNW, and that wouldn’t shock me. I’ve certainly returned before. But the decision to create a new life in the process, that feels big. To have a chance to soar above the mundane, to take a risk to live our life differently–that feels huge.

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Happy Little Writer Sarah, Words for Food

War of Words

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Rainier Valley Lit Crawl at Flying Lion Brewery–community and words in action!

I started a whole bucketload of new stuff in the last 90 days, because why change one thing when you can change EVERYTHING? In January I started wrangling the marketing and social media for my terrific friends at Team Diva Real Estate–I thought I was pretty hip to the social media but WHOA. Much to learn. On the opposite end of the writing spectrum, I also started an MFA program in Creative Writing. Talk about two very different types of writing–but the awesome, stupendous, high-fiving, ass-slapping amazing thing about it is that I am writing all. the. damn. time. Words are coming out of my ears and I could not be happier about that.

Getting adjusted to letting go of the non-profit world was both as easy as breathing and complicated. I have a bit of a save-the-world complex, so I’m still working on how to save the world from where I now sit. After a few months of letting the dust settle, I’m realizing this–the intersection of words and community and learning and social change is where I find fulfillment. The power of language to impact and change the status quo in our neighborhoods, our communities and beyond is magnificent.

Which brings me to this little article that’s made a lot of noise lately. A writer in Seattle wrote an article that essentially shames MFA programs and the participants in them and read sort of like a two-year-old in the grocery aisle throwing a tantrum that you can’t look away from. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes:

  • If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re not a real writer and will probably fail.
  • If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.
  • If you aren’t a serious reader (and this is qualified by those who have read The Great Gatsby and those who haven’t), don’t expect anyone to read what you write.
  • Memoirists are narcissists who are simply using writing as therapy.
  • Stop trying to sound smart.
  • It’s important to woodshed.

There were a whole bunch of responses posted. I’m linking the ones I think are worth reading herehere, here and here. This guy, Ryan Boudinot, is also the Executive Director of the Seattle City of Literature, and since his article stirred the pot so much, he’s been asked to step down from his post, which he declined to do (does anyone else think that this on it’s own is indicative of something about his character?), stating that the organization’s Board of Directors and the community as a whole was imposing a dangerous censorship upon his opinion and writing.

I have thought a great deal about this article and the subsequent responses over the last few weeks. I agree with a lot of what he said. I also roll my eyes at self-absorbed narcissistic memoirs that seem to be a dime a dozen these days. I also want to shake anyone that complains about “too much reading” or “not having time to write.” It is absolutely true that something like 1% of us will actually be remembered as writers fifty years from now. (Incidentally, that’s not why I’m in an MFA program or why I write. I am there because I can’t NOT write and I want to do it better, be around more people that are better than me and soak up as much concentrated writing knowledge as I possibly can. Will I be paying off my student loans until I die? Yes. The investment is worth it). All that said, I still ultimately think he’s both a pretentious asshole and not very good at being the leader of an organization that is supposed to represent a major metropolitan area.

But here’s why I ultimately feel compelled to comment.

I am a self-described rabble-rouser. To not address this would be shirking my obligation as such. I believe in the power of language to both divide and unite. This a call to action for myself.

Writing, like so many of the arts, has long been an elite activity reserved for those who had enough money and power and leisure to enjoy it. And yet, when the arts–writing, music, storytelling–was/is engaged in by those who are disempowered, it is incredibly, deliciously world-changing.

Ryan Boudinot’s article smacks of that elitism. IMG_3313

I want to be the kind of writer, educator and community member who does not put up walls, but breaks them down. I want my community to be conducive to all the writers. I want my little blocks of Hillman City, my beloved Seattle, and the rest of the world to lift up the use of words to tell a killer story, to have the openness to forever learning how to do it better, and that will bit by bit change the world.

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Home Sweet Missouri, St. Louis

Home Not So Sweet

I think about place a lot. I write about it a lot. I studied it a bit in my sociology grad program. Specifically the idea of the third place, or a place that people find comfort  and connection that is not home or work. See, we know that humans are really attached to their environment, it’s a very particular need. And it is one of those things that is so subject to socio-economic class, it’s so ultimately out of our control from the get-go and that conflict between the importance and utter lack of control is fascinating. north city church

We don’t get to pick what or where we are born into. And yet it is so critical in how we develop as people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the only thing, but it’s big. Place impacts how we acclimate to climate, what we are exposed to politically, culturally and socially, what sports teams we root for. Would I be a Seahawks fan if I hadn’t moved to Seattle? Highly unlikely. And sometimes this can be a cause of real pain.

I was brought up in a rural community in the middle of Missouri. It was small, pretty white, agricultural, conservative. My parents were liberal artists (though my dad would balk at that term–he’d say craftsperson) from St. Louis. They raised me in a very liberal home, made diversity (race, culture and otherwise) a priority to teach. My hometown’s second religion was football, high school and college. My parents could give two shits about the MU Tigers or how the team fared.

I acclimated. I grew up a pretty well-adjusted kid. I didn’t cause too much trouble (read: I didn’t get pregnant or thrown in rehab before I was of age. Or ever, actually.). I am an arguably well-adjusted adult. But I would say that the conflict between how my parents raised me and how my town raised me was challenging at best. As a result, I both have warm, comforting memories of my hometown and often a visceral negative reaction to it.

When my dad got diagnosed with cancer, I’d just moved back to the area from the West Coast to help out. He’d been through a round of radiation, a round of chemo, two surgeries and was on his second round of chemo when I dragged my mom out for the evening for a drink. We went to a historic hotel in town and had a glass of wine. We knew almost everyone in the bar. My boss from the video store AND the copy shop I worked at in high school were both there. And they remembered me, more than ten years (and several pounds and hairstyles) later. I was overwhelmed by the kind words, and that was just one night.

A few years ago, my dad’s best friend passed away. It was tragic and unexpected. It wrecked my parents, but my dad especially. Just finally recovered from a brutal illness, everyone worried the news of Marty’s death would quite literally take him out at the knees. The way the community took care of each other, like family–it chokes me up a little even now.

And I remember going to a party in high school at an older kid’s house. It was a drunken pool party. Country music blaring, lots of booze. Probably not a lot of clothes (I don’t remember). This kid was a pretty good kid–football player, honor roll, you know the type. Posted to the fence was a sign scrawled: “No drugs, no whores, no niggers.” Everyone thought it was hilarious.

At thirty-five I have made peace with the fact that those memories can exist in the same place and not necessarily be entirely contradictory. I’m getting more comfortable with the dichotomy and the fact that it isn’t resolvable. It just is. But damn, it is hard. And it doesn’t get easier the older I get and the more I see the consequences of both sides of those memories.

I just read this incredible article about St. Louis written by a successful black man who grew up there. He has written extensively about Ferguson and it’s impact on the national stage, but has been less inclined to write about his own experience growing up there. I totally understand.

Ultimately, I think McKissack writes really honestly and vulnerably (which is arguably more challenging) about place and our human connection to place. His depiction of St. Louis is incredibly visual and I can picture this kid running around Union Market or listening to his folks talk about the Cards football (yes, football) team. And I can imagine what it would be like to hear your parents crying about a neighbor kid getting soaked in urine by a bunch of white rednecks (this really broke my heart).

I don’t necessarily think this is a grand political statement–he isn’t saying anything groundbreaking here or anything we haven’t heard a hundred times from various pundits, writers, protesters, etc. I put myself in this guy’s shoes–a successful, black writer from St. Louis, MO. Everyone’s asking you to write about Ferguson and what’s happening with race relations around the country. And so you write your story…I can only imagine this might be one of the hardest things for him to write.

Please read it. It’s important writing, it’s real and authentic. It’s important in the context of the racial issues permeating urban centers across the country. But it’s also echoes so many of our own experiences–and isn’t that what makes writing and art so incredibly important? Because it strikes a chord and links us.

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Happy Little Writer Sarah, Journey, menagerie, Uncategorized, Words for Food

Culture Shock.  

It’s taken me two weeks to really get readjusted. Yet another thing I’ve never done before, this adjustment back–like grieving where you’ve been, its uniqueness and how impossible it is to both explain and replicate.

I returned from my month-long writing retreat in Ireland to a whole new ballgame. Really, it’s like I was playing golf and now I’m playing cricket.

I left my nonprofit work with a hard stop, spent four quiet weeks hibernating in the hills with the cows and kitties and fairies. And then I returned and within a week had a new gig as a social media/marketing wrangler, a new professional identity as a freelance writer, said the words “I’m working on my novel” out loud, put finishing touches on MFA applications, re-budgeted, reassessed, reconsidered…recovered from a kick ass headcold…

Here’s what I miss about my Ireland adventure:

Peppers--the writing annex, where everyone knew my name and what I was working on.

Peppers–the writing annex, where everyone knew my name and what I was working on.

  •  Druid Cottage
  • Brown bread
  • 2 hour-long walks in the country
  • Peat fires, specifically mine.
  • Silence
  • Simplicity—from food to routine, everything was barebones, accoutrement free
  • Walking into Peppers and feeling like I belong
  • Wind howling around the eves of my cottage making me feel strangely secure and cozy inside.
  • Not ever knowing what day it was or what time it was.

Here’s what I am so glad to come home to:

Here goes...

Here goes…

  • My menagerie
  • My new (fully functioning!) oven and it’s various culinary adventures (which may or may n to include baking brown bread).
  • OAK! The best burgers in Seattle. The best cozy winter bar. Happiness abounds.
  • Public transit (yes, really—it’s nice to not have to drive everywhere)
  • The right side of the road.
  • My new gig with these fun, creative, shit-kicking folks, Team Diva Real Estate. Taking buying, selling and renting to a whole new level. I love their commitment to relationships, neighborhoods, to knowing the quirkiest spots, to snark and pink.
  • IPA’s, especially this one. Guinness is oh, so good, but I’m a Northwesterner at heart.
  • Esquin and the Saturday wine tasting—what you’ve never been to Esquin? Best wine shop in Seattle. Nicest staff. Best back room with phenomenal deals.
  • A new adventure as a freelance writer (stay tuned)

 

 

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