Pen On Fire: Teaching Your Pen To Listen

by Sandra Foyt on June 24, 2008

in Freelance Writing

harp Did you think I’d given up on my quest to “ignite the writer within” through the Pen On Fire writing assignments?

Well, I haven’t.  I’ve just been stuck on one particular section – teaching my pen to listen.  This is one of those Arabian Nights situations, where there are stories within stories, and distractions leading the unsuspecting on multiple tangents.

For example, one challenge asked, “What played when your child was born?”  Simple enough, except that I ended up writing a series of posts describing each of my daughter’s birthday parties.

Now, I’m ready to move on, so I’m just going to plough through this one, with just minimal You Tube interruptions.


What is your earliest musical memory?

Early musical memories are hazy, at best.  I moved between Washington, DC and Buenos Aires, Argentina a couple of times, finally settling in Buenos Aires until age seven.

Most of my early years, I was primarily a Spanish-speaker.  I dimly remember singing Arróz con leche with my Tia Nelly.  We sang that a lot.

Now, I cringe to read the song’s lyrics. 

They are all about how a young man wants to marry a young lady who will sew and embroider, and in return, he will give her brown socks.  Children are being indoctrinated into the notion that girls will take on domestic chores, and the guys will provide material goods.   

Well, you can see how this could lead to a series of articles and a research project, right?  Ploughing on.

During the Argentine period of my life, my brother and I also liked to practice being “American.”  We jumped on our beds, singing (screaming), “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, No, No, No” over and over again.  We were heavily influenced by the Beatles, as seen on a tiny black and white TV. The multimedia experience was a little different way back when in the late 1960s.


Is there a song that stands out from when you were sixteen? Who were you with?  What were you doing?

This picture was taken when I first started going out dancing with the girls – on a European vacation at the end of 9th Grade.  I was just fifteen, dancing to The Spanish Hustle and Abba’s Dancing Queen (still a shared mother/daughter favorite.)  Yes, that is Diana – just not Diana Ross.  Uncanny resemblance, isn’t it?

By the time I turned sixteen, I was totally into the Disco scene.  Many weekends, I danced the night away at Studio 54 (in St. Thomas, USVI) with my BFF Kim and assorted cast members.

A lot of time and energy went into selecting our outfits – purple knickers shot with gold thread, jungle prints, high heels, matching make up, nothing subtle.  We thought we were so sophisticated.

The songs that stand out from those days are Kool and the Gang’s Celebration and the Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight.  Oh, yes.  I was cool.

Too cool to bother walking around the corner to Emancipation Garden Park to hear a free Bob Marley concert, one of his last.  That’s my teen regret.


What about when you were twenty-one?

At twenty-one, I was on the scenic college track – taking many long years to finish a BA at Columbia University.  I worked hard to earn my degree, but I also enjoyed every minute of this experience.

I even joined a co-ed fraternity, Iota Epsilon Pi.  We might have been a tad nerdy, maybe, but we knew how to party.  Some of our roof top parties were legendary.  At least that’s how I remember those times.

One night, in particular, is so very vivid.  Some of my frat friends followed me home to St. Thomas for Spring Break.  Lots of beach fun and sun (too much for some.)  But it wasn’t enough. 

It might have been 10 PM when we decided that we had to have a beach party.  So, we carted the boom box and a pitcher of frozen daiquiris to Brewers Bay. 

Under the glittering light of a heavy-set moon, we danced to UB40′s Red Red Wine while running through the foamy water’s edge.  Unforgettable.


Music? What music?  This is just a blur of early mommyhood.


My fortieth birthday was awesome.  My sisters came to visit with all their kids.  It was loud, too loud for music.

What played at your wedding?

wedding3 Some of our songs: A Kiss To Build A Dream On; You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby; Stardust; Chicken Dance; Electric Slide

I went a little overboard planning a traditional wedding, complete with ivory lace dress and a morning coat for Dave.  So it would’ve been silly to just have a DJ.  No, we hired the Manhattan Sound Big Band with Robert Derke on Saxophone.

It was so beautiful, so elegant, even though we totally failed the Arthur Murray dance lessons.  Dave only stepped on my toes a few times.

Actually, I couldn’t remember our songs at all.  Fortunately, I still have our wedding binder that I’ll use to someday create a wedding album – any day now.

I do remember one memorable song.  Barry, one of Dave’s resident buddies, sang a duet with Dave of his favorite song, Moon River.  Dave has wisely decided not to pursue a singing career.


More Musical Writing Assignments

That’s it.  I’m done.  Now that I’m in my mid-forties, after a life-time of loud music, I can’t write while under the influence of songs.  I need Sweet, Golden Silence.  ahhh …

More Pen On Fire Writing Assignments:

Resolve To Write

A Writing Late Bloomer?

Stealing Time

Travel Learning: The Art of Observation

Winter Wonder: Through a Child’s Eyes

Regarding Research

Would you like to join me on this Pen On Fire Quest?  Do you write and homeschool? Join our home educator’s writer’s group at

Book Resource:

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.” ~~ Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) 

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