Our Stories

“Storycatchers know that the mixture of wisdom and wit and wonder that spills into the room in story space will reconnect us.” – Christina Baldwin 

I read this and immediately thought it a perfect definition for a writing group. But then, I realized it applies to every one of us. I am learning this in a class I am currently taking. The instructor stresses we all are storytellers and storycatchers. Family legacies, history, inspiration, who we are, our beliefs, etc. are derived from connection with one another by our stories, be they oral or written. Life, ours, is the story we carry.

After discussion in class and driving home, I thought of how often I was and am taken by communicating with others. As far as being a storycatcher, I am so curious about people that I’ve been accused of asking “too many darn questions.” I just can’t help it. By listening to experiences of others and their personal narratives, it helps me find my way through this life and I bet there isn’t a person out there who wouldn’t agree navigating the world isn’t easy. As far as being a storyteller, don’t we all want to be heard? Be seen? I know I do. It’s human nature to want to share our own story, be it laughter, tears, information and more. 

For me, storytelling, true and not so true has a balance. That’s because someone else’s truth may not be yours, nor yours theirs. I’ve been known to exaggerate, or should I say, possess a touch of drama? Maybe more than a touch? Dad used to say that as a child, I would look him square in the eye and lie. He said it drove him nuts. I always figured, why tell the truth if you know the consequences?  Who even does that – tell the truth, when they know a negative consequence lays waiting? I just know for me; telling the truth my way was a driving force. I admit, there were some things I did growing up that may have deserved reprimanding. (By the way, as an adult, I think I lean on the telling-the-truth side, although you might have to check with my family).

On my father’s side, I heard story after story from my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even cousins. I knew who I was, who they were and where I fit into the world. On my mother’s side, I only heard bits and pieces of her life, her stories. Her mother died when she was only two and her father just wasn’t able emotionally to care for my mother and her three siblings. As the saying goes, “He just never was the same after she died.” We learned little about our mother’s legacy, her narrative. My question being, why do we sometimes wait until a loved one is gone before we learn about them – all their experiences, their history navigating this world? 

Just imagine if everyone’s personal story was valued. It’s reaching for the stars to expect, but as Louis Armstrong sings, “What a wonderful world.”

Thursday Writing Prompt 9.21.23

This prompt ties in a bit with yesterday’s blog post regarding painting and writing, how they coincide in artistic conduct.

Paint Chips are a favorite of mine to begin a write, a warmup, something that can lead to a bigger piece. Names of paints are fabulous. I can spend a long time in a hardware store in the paint section. These names can lead to a story or poem, or just a title for either. Over the years, this exercise was used numerous times with our writing group.

I have randomly pulled four chips from my stash. If you can work all four into your poem or story, great, or one may catch your eye and may be the only name you need. Perhaps something recently happened in your world that you can tie the name(s) to your experience or memory that might represent an emotion, or action.

Cowgirl Blue, Summer Harvest, Sky Glass, Candy Floss,

An example from a writers group evening follows:

Sand Dollar                Perfume Haze           Breakfast Biscuit                   Mist Spirit

Cliffs, stones and dunes reflect miles of

   weathered and worn shores.

Mists of spirits rise tall over a shape of a sand dollar

  and perfumes of haze tuck tight against cottages.

Breakfast biscuits warm, the whistle of wind taps gently,

  a field mouse skitters into a hole.

Let’s see what you can do!

Brushing with Word Paints

What fun! I had not been to this art class since February of 2020, and our March class had to be canceled. Guess why? No one has to say why because much of everything didn’t happen in 2020.

In May 2016 when I discovered the media of Alcohol Inks, I was severely intrigued. Never heard of it. I did a bit of research on the artist, Sharen AK Harris, and found out loads. http://sharenakharris.com/   

During the Covid Conjuncture, I began painting and making bookmarks for the many book lovers I know and sold several. I have a huge cache of antique buttons and used some of those on the ribbons. Painting on a very small scale (sort of like writing flash fiction) induced the comfortability of trying various techniques and color combinations without covering a lot of ground.

On this past Monday morning, I woke in a very frumpy mood–no reason, I simply felt out of sorts. Perfect timing because a thoughtful friend, Jane, who we shared classes together prior to covid had made arrangements to go to Sharen’s in the afternoon now that she had opened up her studio again to smaller groups. Maybe this is what I needed. Jane reminded me to bring snacks. Oh yeah, I forgot about that. I whipped up some treats because this is also part of the fun. 

Later that Monday in the early afternoon, four of us met at Sharen’s quaint small studio set up in her home west of Tucson, very close, if not bumped up to, the Tucson Mountains. Natural desert beauty surrounds her home for miles and miles. No tall buildings, only jagged mountains, cacti and a few city lights to the northwest. This landscape showcases sunrise and sunsets, and an array of wildlife which can be found threaded throughout some of her artwork. Even though I have painted in watercolor since very young, learned oils and acrylics, and pastels in my thirties, this freestyle media is incredible.

Alcohol ink is typically made of a mixture of alcohol, pigment, and a binder to help the ink adhere to surfaces. It’s a clear colorless liquid and the pigment provides the color and the binder helps the ink stick to surfaces such as glass, tile, metal, and certain types of paper such as YUPO.

The ink colors move on their own, add more drops of the ink to allow them to drip, or you can blow through a straw to assist further movement to create a wispier and feathery affect. The weight, or lack of it, can easily be manipulated with a brush dipped in the alcohol inks to pat, tap, dot, swirl, and sometimes areas will form sort of a ‘crust’ edge. Powerful.

One of Sharen’s classes pre-covid

Sharen continues to reiterate, “There is no wrong way, if you don’t like it, smear over it and start again. Never throw anything away.” She says to ‘squint’ at your painting because this will help you see a greater definition of values and shapes. Got it, I learned to squint. At one class she grabbed a small white tile, you know the kind, used in bathrooms, backsplashes, and the like, and said, “I am going to show you how to paint a sunflower in sixty seconds.”  Amazing. I can do that…its so effortless. The next day (by now I had bought, ordered, and set up my little studio), I laid out a small white tile, paints, and forty minutes later I was still fussing. So much for my one-minute sunflower. Maybe I didn’t squint.

Back to Monday afternoon, the four of us who attended this class decided we wanted to try pumpkins and leaves since autumn is knocking. Sharen gave us each three different sizes of photo paper (we use the back side; ink will not adhere to the slick side) and all the tools necessary. “Pick one and we’ll do a warm-up.” She showed us one of her paintings and we began. Sharen picks up a blank piece and reminds us how to engage shadows, the look of petals bursting out of the center of the sunflower by pressing lightly and then pulling back the brush, the light and dark on a pumpkin, (lifting off color) and values to give dimension. Two hours later we were all about satisfied with our ‘warm-up’. Warm-up! What will a real painting take us…two non-stop days? We had a good laugh while eating our snacks. But we all had a finished piece and were pleased. 

Alcohol Ink by Sally

In paints, you live with color, make forms, movements, and swirls, to capture images from A to Z. This line of thought segues me into the realm of writing. You paint with words. You paint images, scenery, smells, and emotions with words filled with color using the five senses. (A good resource to learn more about this particular relationship is Rebecca McClanahan’s book, Word Painting) which describes how writing is much like art. Both stimulate and feed off one another to illustrate the vision you have in your mind to capture the eye, whether it be the media of paint or the words of a writer. (More on this topic in a future post.)

Meantime, rid yourself of any morning blues by finding something new to try or something you haven’t done in a very long time, to bring light to your sometimes chaotic moments. And as I am reminded, to find value, ‘squint’. 

(Alcohol Ink on white tile by Sally)

New in the Writing Corner

Please see this place to submit and my piece that was accepted.


Thank you for reading.

Poetry Words

I just finished reading Joy Harjo’s two memoirs: Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and was the 2019 United States Poet Laureate, her home being Tulsa, Oklahoma. One day this summer, while searching in a bookstore for my next read, I landed upon one of the books mentioned above, and two months later, purchased the next. Such wonderful writing and wisdom.

Don’t take offense poets, but it’s often I just don’t “get it.” By that, I mean I don’t understand the certain meaning of poems, although I find the words beautiful. Powerful descriptions and rhythms. I have to admit, I struggled with a few poems in our own book, written by Sally and Diana. Luckily, they were okay with that.

Joy Harjo’s poetry holds honest personal messages, not only for her, but for all of us. Admittedly, there were a few poems I struggled to understand, but that’s not unusual for me. I found her story and those of the indigenous as reading I couldn’t put down.

Years ago, while living in western Nebraska, my curiosity was sparked and I became enamored with Indian culture, especially their art and jewelry. This was long before we lived in Tucson for twelve years, influenced by the Tohono O’odham and the Pascua Yaqui Indians. The ironic part is Mari Sandoz lived in western Nebraska, in the Sandhills. I may have heard of her, but never read one of her books until much later in life. She authored books like These Were the Sioux and Sandhill Sundays, describing her relationship with the Natives there.

I’m not sure why I was so interested in the indigenous. Living in central Nebraska, I had little exposure to Indians. Derived from our school readings, I viewed them as warriors from the past, makers of arrowheads. Nothing else.

In the seventies and eighties, my husband and I and our children lived 79 miles from the Pine Ridge Reservation. It was the first time I’d heard of it. However, I liked the name “Pine Ridge” and thought it sounded cool but was totally unaware of their lives, the vast poverty (check re-member.org) until I had a young Indian student around age nine, bused from Pine Ridge to a close school I was serving as a speech therapist. I was told he had language problems. I could never discern if he did because he spoke very little and lowered his eyes, not participating in any spontaneous conversation. I didn’t understand the reason. I only saw him a few times before he stopped coming. I never asked why.

More than any history book or novel, Harjo’s recounting of tribal myth, ancestry, music and poetry has educated me. That’s what writing can do. That’s what reading can do. There are so many books with authentic voices, like Harjo’s. So many books to help us see a world besides our own. I’m looking forward to reading Joy Harjo’s American Sunrise as soon as I get to the bookstore. I want to know so much more.

Thursday Writing Prompt 9.7.23

When writing about place, one can often unknowingly assume the reader is aware of its description because we ourselves are so familiar with the location. Instead, write about where you live, using vivid geographic details, describe the people, the events that occur there, etc. Read what you’ve written more than once and decide if a stranger would be able to visualize your “place.”

Time to Turn…

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven- The Byrds, 1965

Autumn seems to be on many minds, and others are saying adieu to the dog days of summer, the long sunny days now shortening up, missing the lighter evenings that gather into soft late evening twilight. Autumn remains a favorite thus far. A change of season, a change-up coming forthwith. As a season moves aside, it allows a new approach, and we as people also move and prepare in various ways.

This past July was the first anniversary of A Way With Words and we are thrilled with the success due to our readers. It gave us gals a commitment to write every week for you readers, and behind the scenes, we clicked on Zoom for discussions of our writing ideas and styles, our moving forward, or goals, and encouraging one another not to give up on the many avenues we love to do in the space of the writing world.

Beginning this month, our postings will change from three times per week to once a week, and the writing prompts will be bi-monthly instead of each week. In our twenty-plus years of writing group experience, we met on a bi-monthly basis unless a catastrophe took us all to the moon in a paper cup, but alas, it didn’t. We found writing takes elbow room.

As of September 1, Diana opened her new website where she plants many thoughts and ideas whenever and wherever her creative notion takes her. Please be sure to continue to follow her reflections at wonkagranny.  Jackie and I will continue on our group website with lessons learned, to entertain, refresh our memories as well as yours, sharpen thinking skills, and encourage writing. As for Jackie’s other goals, she has a finished memoir that we deeply hope she will submit. She also has a burning desire to write children’s books that include her love of animals. Myself, I am actively working on individual pieces for literary magazines and anthology collections. I do have a serious piece of longer fiction that I will mold into a novella to submit, and segmented memoir pieces to be put in order…and I cloud watch. (see blog post May 17, 2023)


Stacks Book Club

Bookstore & Coffee Bar

Fall-inspired drinks.

Check out these dreamy flavors at this new place! Diana and I will be trying one of these yummy lattes on Thursday morning while we meet with the proprietor to further discuss a book signing event for our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets…a perfect read alongside one of these foamy cups.  

Upcoming: Green Valley Writers Book Fair presented by the Society of Southwestern Authors (SSA) will be on November 25, 2023. (Details to follow) Diana and I hope to see you there!

Thank you always for being a part of our journey.

Home Sweet Home

Adjustments for a New Season

August is about to wave ‘bye’. This month can be up and down and it has. I always look for the speck of autumn that is waiting on the other side of the Catalina Mountain range. I have written about this before, either in poems or essay. On Monday, the 21st when I let my kitties out early, the air was slight. Not heavy with the humidity that the recent half-hearted rains brought in. The impression was like a light step, bouncy almost. These mountains rise willfully to the northeast above the neighbor’s wall and a large Mesquite tree. This early Monday I noticed clouds were barely visible, snuggling up against the lower ridges of the mountain base.

I track this first sighting each year because, in my book, this is a simple ‘remark’ from Mother Nature that autumn is tossing us an invitation. High heat will roll back in for a few days, then wave ‘bye’.  Temperatures begin to edge down, the light begins to change, and the character of fall picks up its step. The sky is no longer blanched looking like faded talcum powder. Blue begins to bite back.

Fall has been my favorite season since the very first time I can remember, perhaps at the age of four when my brother and I first sat on the front step of our parent’s tiny house in the country after a long summer of play and other activities. Mom pulled either a sweater or lightweight jacket over us to go outside.  

Dark-weighted maple trees began their shedding one or two at a time and shortly by bucketful’s. Our collie was alongside my brother and me wherever we explored.  

Down the hill, across a small ‘branch’, up another hill sat mom’s youngest sisters’ two-story farmhouse. Mom forbade me to go alone or at all without her, but guess what? I went alone, climbing over barbwire fences, splashed across the ‘branch’, up through a few of my uncles’ beehives, and into their big flat grassy yard. Their leaves were falling also, trees taller than ours and much more to rake up or blow away. All five cousins were bunched together in a room reading, and napping, or the three oldest ones outside running wild. I spent many hours while we lived side by side at that house, upstairs, and downstairs, laying under the large oak trees reading books on a blanket, sneaking across the gravel road to the barn, stained to the neck picking blackberries and the laughter of our folks playing cards in the kitchen.   

Another sign that fall had landed is when mom moved the double wash tubs back onto the tiny back porch. There went our ‘poor man’s swimming pool.’

Our heat in Tucson is having its last hurrah and knows it. I have begun to sort out the empty pots where plants could not keep up with our summer heat, ordered a Home Depot reward points card to use at their nursery, and made a list to ‘re-do’ for the upcoming autumn parade. Once I jotted down my ‘cloud watching’, it motivates me to begin a big switch-up of cooking styles. I immediately pulled out my autumn recipes because I just can’t wait to filter through the flavors of fall to put on the table. I jumped the gun and decided to begin early.

Apples! – a must in fall cooking. Apple Hash is a superb accompaniment to a citrus herb glazed porkchop in cast iron.

2 Tbs grapeseed oil

2 cups thinly sliced Gold potatoes

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

Salt and pepper

2 cups cored and sliced Granny Smith

1 tsp Tabasco

Heat a large skillet (I use cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add potatoes, and cook, stirring, 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Add onion, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion begins to caramelize. Remove, and keep warm. Add oil if needed, then apples. Cook for 4 minutes, until apples are cooked. Add potatoes and onion back in, add Tabasco, and stir.

Thank you for reading the last post for our month of August and thinking about your autumn ideas. Would love for you to share.




As my dear husband reminds me whenever I am flummoxed by events that modify my circumstances, “The only constant is change”. The world is always in flux. Change is life. We are not the same, day in and day out, because our lives are not static. We live in an ever-modifying world, shifting conditions and changing views. As we get older our bodies transform as do our wants and needs. Change brings growth even when we don’t immediately realize it. Change is a catalyst for learning about ourselves, others, and our world.

What I’m getting at is there is a change on the horizon with me and the A Way with Words blog. This is my last post as a regular blogger. With the permission of Sally and Jackie, I will occasionally be a contributor. Our friendship remains intact. I will always be grateful for their generous friendship and their mentorship. We spent many years learning to write together and now we are going separate ways as writers.

I deeply appreciate all those who read and comment on our mutual website and I hope you will join me on my personal journey with words.

Learning to Cook

Every so often, Sally sends me a picture of a recent dish she has made, like huevos rancheros dressed up, plated on bright flowered dishes or her crepes with chicken, covered with a white sauce and roasted peaches. Never mind her desserts. Then, there’s her husband, a connoisseur of grilling. Visiting my sisters recently, I ate a filet grilled just right by my brother-in-law to a perfect medium. It tasted as rich as a large serving of butter melting on corn on the cob. Even better.

I too, cook and consistently make our meals for my husband and I. On a restricted diet, I really don’t have a choice. Have you ever tried to find a recipe that eliminates onion and garlic? Luckily, desserts don’t require it. However, I do have a sophisticated technique for snapping fresh green beans while watching the news, pulling frozen hamburger from the freezer to thaw so my husband can brown it for spaghetti, quickly beating eggs for a nice, quick evening breakfast, or buying 85% chocolate bars for dessert. In reality, I’m a little more creative than that and don’t mind cooking. It’s just I don’t spend enough time perusing cookbooks or fine-tuning that special recipe that makes taste buds laugh gleefully, begging for more. 

I also didn’t take the time to cook with my children, unlike my son-in-law. He is the main meal-maker in the household and allows our grandchildren to work in flour until the kitchen is white as a ski slope. He helps his son and daughter with recipes and techniques. Our granddaughter began experimenting as young as age ten, discovering she loved baking. Now age fourteen, she has fine-tuned a vanilla frosting, pleased that my husband asks her to make it so he can eat it straight out of the bowl, unconcerned it’s for her cake. I haven’t been foolish enough to ask how high his cholesterol is. 

Once, while our kids were in high school, I decided it was time I had help in the kitchen. I came up with the senseless idea they would be responsible for planning the evening meal, preparing it with no help from me. No suggestions, no giving them a cookbook, no recipe from my recipe box. These lack of instructions from a teacher, no less.

That evening, the girls began their new adventure as chefs. Arriving home from school, I was anxious to see what they’d prepared. I quickly changed clothes and joined the family for our evening meal. Two bowls sat in the center of the table, one filled with barely warm, lumpy mashed potatoes. The other bowl held thick, undiluted tomato soup to serve as gravy. Of course, it stayed untouched as I quickly figured out something to serve as a meal. Frustrated, and yes, a little angry, I stared at the blobs of tomato soup and pieces of potatoes covering the kitchen counter, nixing the idea of turning our children into chefs. It never crossed my mind they needed guidance, which meant allowing some messes in the kitchen as they learned. 

Luckily, our children eventually learned to cook and years later, looking back, the girls and I laugh about that meal they concocted while I search our pantry, trying to figure out the evening meal.