Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

What would you ask from the Writing Fairy? (12/15/11)



Featured writer: Claudia Larson



Contributors this month:
Arlene L. Mandell
Becky Povich
Catherine Crawford
Claudia Larson
Don Edgers
Sara Baker
Susan Bono
Theresa Sanders


Reality

by Claudia Larson

My Writing Fairy was sitting on my left shoulder, eating crackers, the kind you get at Trader Joe's, the ones that are all buttery and crisp.

"It's been a long time since I've seen you," she said. She didn't exactly say it clearly, given the cracker crumbs and saliva and chewing and all, but I got the gist.

"Oh. Yeah. Well. Yeah, it's been awhile. I've been busy."

She paused, then gave a quiet "ack." It sounded like there were a few crumbs needing dislodging. "Oh, I know what you mean! Aren't those online cat videos just hilarious? And that baby bat video? Who knew that baby bats were so teensy and cute? I was just checking them out on my iPad."

I gave a little "ack", minus the food crumbs. "What? You have an iPad?"

"Well sure. I like to keep up with what's new." She opened a new box of crackers.

"But you're magical."

She shoved off from my shoulder, then hovered somewhere above my forehead. "That's true. But have you SEEN an iPad? I mean. Wow. Those people sure know how to make technology fun. What about Angry Birds? Ever played it?"

I didn't know what to say. This was my Writing Fairy after all, the one who's supposed to be all twinkly with stardust and grant me my fondest writing wishes. I heard that familiar Angry Birds wah-hee-haw call. I didn't know that iPads came in size teensy.

"Well, now that you're all wired for technology and shop at some wizardy Trader Joe's, can I still ask you to do me a few favors?" I was feeling a bit nervous with this change in fairyland. She was sitting on my right shoulder by this time, focused on destroying green porcine heads with a few angry birds.

"Um. Just a sec. Oh man. They just came out with an Angry Birds solstice version and I'm having trouble making it past the fifth level. OK. Got it. What was it you said?"

I wondered if I'd ever write another word.

"Hey. Don't worry." Now she was on top of my head, doing some sort of tap dance. Maybe it was Zumba. I felt a little better. "So, what can I do for you?" It felt like she was building a nest. I didn't know what to say.

She interrupted my silence. "Here's what I'm gonna do for you." I felt mild fizzing in my brain. It was slightly familiar. Images slid across my mind: Velveeta cheese, baby toes, haying the prairie, meadowlark songs, Botticelli's Venus. I couldn't keep up. Now she was doing some sort of tuck and roll down my spine. I wondered what this had to do with writing."There."

I had the odd sensation that I was looking at myself, all gift wrapped in crinkly clear cellophane and skewed translucent pink bows. I could still move. I could hear her munching on crackers again. I felt hungry.

"Just be curious," she whispered in my left ear. A few cracker crumbs landed on my ear lobe. "No matter what."


Claudia Larson regularly talks with her goats and sheep in Sebastopol, CA.


A Short List

  by Arlene L. Mandell

Dear Writing Fairy,

Please send the following:

1. Chef - to prepare delectable zero calorie meals.
2. Dog trainer - to stop Maxwell from barking at invisible predators and teach Ringo not to dig trenches in the garden.
3. Editor in a spray can - to delete adverbs, cliches, and boring paragraphs.
4. Time reversal machine - in which I become sixteen again, complete with long ponytail, and possess the profundity of Joan Didion and the wit of Nora Ephron.

I promise to list you prominently on the acknowledgments page of my next epic.

Your devoted friend,
Arlene

Arlene Mandell is working very hard (oops–is “very” an adverb?) revising her second novel. Don’t even ask about the first one.

If Only

  by Becky Povich

Would this Writing Fairy be able to grant any and all wishes? Similar to Samantha on Bewitched? Such as a simple twitch of the nose, and voila! I'd get what I most wanted?

If that's how it worked, I wouldn't ask for a finished manuscript. I wouldn't feel as if it were my own writing if I did that. Instead, I'd ask for motivation, talent, and perseverance. I'd ask for energy to keep on going when I feel as if I'll fall asleep at my laptop. I'd ask to have faith in myself and believe that my dreams are within reach. I'd ask to enjoy the journey. Earn my success. Live the dream.

While answering this month's question, Becky once again experienced the realization that she alone is in control of her destiny. She just needs to follow her own path and stay focused. (But if there was a Writing Fairy, Becky knows her name would be Susan Bono.)



When Wishes Were Horses

  by Catherine Crawford

This morning, I put up my Christmas lights and hung a wreath on the front door. As I swept pine needles off the steps, I thought of brooms and remembered the stick horses I rode as a child. Cardboard heads. Kite-string bridles. Manes and tails from torn bed sheets. Prancing and dancing in my six year-old head, my broomstick horses were more alive than the real thing.

When I was a child, my father built me a horse from a cast-off barrel. Its wooden head looked like a capybara's, but I didn't care. I hauled this creature around in my Radio Flyer and gave rides to friends. It didn't look much like its namesake from Troy; however, armies of kids rode it and loved it.

What would I ask the Writing Fairy for-—buckets of praise and assured publication, or something pulled from a deeper well? What I'd like most is the creative vitality I had as a child. The genii of imagination that roared through the house where I grew up. The freedom to play with words as toys, and no brain of judgment butting in.

Catherine the adult has had to lay hobby horses aside. But the prospect of becoming a lively witch, riding a broom in old age, absolutely delights her. Email:greenwriter@gmail.com

Reality

  by Claudia Larson

My Writing Fairy was sitting on my left shoulder, eating crackers, the kind you get at Trader Joe's, the ones that are all buttery and crisp.

"It's been a long time since I've seen you," she said. She didn't exactly say it clearly, given the cracker crumbs and saliva and chewing and all, but I got the gist.

"Oh. Yeah. Well. Yeah, it's been awhile. I've been busy."

She paused, then gave a quiet "ack." It sounded like there were a few crumbs needing dislodging. "Oh, I know what you mean! Aren't those online cat videos just hilarious? And that baby bat video? Who knew that baby bats were so teensy and cute? I was just checking them out on my iPad."

I gave a little "ack", minus the food crumbs. "What? You have an iPad?"

"Well sure. I like to keep up with what's new." She opened a new box of crackers.

"But you're magical."

She shoved off from my shoulder, then hovered somewhere above my forehead. "That's true. But have you SEEN an iPad? I mean. Wow. Those people sure know how to make technology fun. What about Angry Birds? Ever played it?"

I didn't know what to say. This was my Writing Fairy after all, the one who's supposed to be all twinkly with stardust and grant me my fondest writing wishes. I heard that familiar Angry Birds wah-hee-haw call. I didn't know that iPads came in size teensy.

"Well, now that you're all wired for technology and shop at some wizardy Trader Joe's, can I still ask you to do me a few favors?" I was feeling a bit nervous with this change in fairyland. She was sitting on my right shoulder by this time, focused on destroying green porcine heads with a few angry birds.

"Um. Just a sec. Oh man. They just came out with an Angry Birds solstice version and I'm having trouble making it past the fifth level. OK. Got it. What was it you said?"

I wondered if I'd ever write another word.

"Hey. Don't worry." Now she was on top of my head, doing some sort of tap dance. Maybe it was Zumba. I felt a little better. "So, what can I do for you?" It felt like she was building a nest. I didn't know what to say.

She interrupted my silence. "Here's what I'm gonna do for you." I felt mild fizzing in my brain. It was slightly familiar. Images slid across my mind: Velveeta cheese, baby toes, haying the prairie, meadowlark songs, Botticelli's Venus. I couldn't keep up. Now she was doing some sort of tuck and roll down my spine. I wondered what this had to do with writing."There."

I had the odd sensation that I was looking at myself, all gift wrapped in crinkly clear cellophane and skewed translucent pink bows. I could still move. I could hear her munching on crackers again. I felt hungry.

"Just be curious," she whispered in my left ear. A few cracker crumbs landed on my ear lobe. "No matter what."


Claudia Larson regularly talks with her goats and sheep in Sebastopol, CA.


Fat Chance

  by Don Edgers

The following tale started when several of my teeth became loose. As I generally experienced good health, nutrition and brushed my teeth, I ruled out beriberi, scurvy or pellagra for the cause of their looseness.

Also, at this time in my life, several of my six-year-old schoolmates also seemed to be losing teeth not caused by schoolyard combat. When I checked with my dentist, my father, about the plague, I was assured that it was a normal occurrence. New teeth would grow in, and the old teeth could be placed in a glass of water for the Tooth Fairy who would take the teeth (to make a necklace?), leaving money in their place.

Armed with the idea of making money with teeth in a glass of water, my greedy, six-year-old capitalistic mind was set in motion to quickly swap the silver for tooth enamel. I wiggled the loose teeth to the point of almost falling out at bedtime and asked for a glass of water to place next to my bed. I worked to no avail in removing the teeth. But wait! I had some old enamel-colored teeth samples. Why I had these teeth isn't clear to this day, and they were about the size of my teeth. I'd simply put a couple of the fake teeth in the glass and fool the fairy.

The following day my loose teeth still hung precariously to gum-skin. What to my greedy eyes should appear in the glass of water? Two silver dimes! (four apples or two toy soldiers or a fishing line and a popsicle). I'd fooled the fairy, still had my real teeth, and eight more fake teeth! I was going to be rich!

I reported my good fortune to my parents who raised their eyebrows as they exchanged glances.

Pop said, "I guess you fooled the tooth fairy, didn't you?"

"I'm going to do it again tonight, too," I said .

My dangling teeth held on throughout the day as if life depended on it right up until I put two more false teeth into the glass. I gave the hangers-on decisive tugs and miracle of miracles, I extracted them! Four teeth in a glass of water promised a nice payday in the morning.

Upon awakening, I scanned the glass. The teeth were still there!

Carrying the glass of water with its four teeth to my mom and dad, I whined, "The Toof Fairy didn't leave me any money."

"I guess the Tooth Fairy doesn't like to be fooled, and figures you already got paid for your real teeth. Fairies have a union, and unions have a blacklist. You're on the list now," explained my father.

I've been told blacklists last forever!

I can get an ambassadorship to Cuba easier than get on a wish list of the Writing Fairy.

Don lives and writes in Port Orchard, WA.
His website:www.anislandintime.com


THE MAGIC PEN—A FAIRY TALE FOR WRITERS

  by Sara Baker

Once upon a time there lived a gifted princess named Rizan who wrote and spun stories into gold. Now it happened that she opened the mail one day and discovered a rejection letter; she sat at her computer and cried, fearing her gift was gone.

Then Rizan looked out the window of her condo and thought to herself, "The sunset is so beautiful; I think I'll take a stroll along the trails near the creek."

However, darkness quickly fell, and she suddenly found herself lost and alone--deep inside the dark, urban wilderness not knowing what to do. So, Rizan decided to follow the moonlight, hoping it would guide her safely back home. She crossed a small wooden bridge, but all at once an ugly hunchback gnome jumped over the edge, startling poor Rizan.

"Sorry me startled you," the gnome replied, "Yfel's me name. Who might ‘cha be?" he inquired.

"My name's Rizan," the princess hesitantly answered.

"What brings you out alone into the cold on this wintery evening?" Yfel asked.

"I took a stroll to clear my head hoping to renew my gift of creativity. Now, I seem to have lost my way home."

"Ah, I see…well…tonight's your lucky night, for I have just the thing for you. It's a magic pen. It will bring back your gift. Would ‘cha like to see it?"

"Sure," the princess innocently responded.

Then Yfel handed Rizan the pen, and she ran back to her condo eager to try the new pen. All at once, the point pricked the palm of her hand releasing a paralyzing poison; Rizan fell to the floor where she slumbered until sunrise. The sunbeams woke her, but, alas, she was still paralyzed.

Soon, a delicately-winged fairy named Gignere slid down a sunbeam onto Rizan's shoulder and said, "I see the evil Yfel tempted you with his magic pen and cast a spell on you."

Then, Gignere waved her magic wand saying, "Be gone paralyzing poison."

With that, the numbness slowly left Rizan's body; she stood up and said, "Thank you, gentle Gignere, for rescuing me from Yfel's evil spell! What about my gift? Is there nothing you can do to rescue it?" Rizan blurted.

Gignere answered, "There's nothing more I can do, for your gift always dwells inside of you."
With that, Gignere smiled and flitted away climbing upon a sunbeam as it floated into the sunrise.

And from that day on, Rizan wrote happily ever after.

Sara Baker is a contented retiree who joyfully works part-time as an editor/proofreader and freelance writer. Her favorite past time, however, is spending time with her soul mate, Bill, with whom she has been married for 28 years.

We All Fall Down

  by Susan Bono

When sitting at my computer at a loss for words, I often hear Ray Bolger singing to Judy Garland, "If I only had a brain. . ."

I was the scarecrow in our high school's production of "The Wizard of Oz"—a pretty good fit, considering I was one of the tallest, skinniest kids on campus. Put me in overalls with straw sticking out from under my hat and I was pretty much good to go.

The hardest part, aside from actually singing, was learning to fall down. There were many opportunities for a supposedly spineless scarecrow to perfect this skill, but I never managed to really get the hang of it. I remember the drama teacher's puzzlement. "Can't you just do this?" he'd ask as he collapsed neatly into an unbruised pile on the dusty stage. But it took more than a few demonstrations to teach me the art of the pratfall. I ended up mostly wobbling around with knee pads under my baggy clothes and yelping the lyrics with gusto. I took only enough tumbles to satisfy my audience. I feel like that blend of cautious enthusiasm describes my approach to just about everything.

I used to think Ray Bolger was trying to tell me that if given the opportunity, I should ask the Writing Fairy for a brain. But anyone who's familiar with "The Wizard of Oz" knows what a scarecrow really needs is the confidence to use the brain he already has. Maybe what I should be asking for is enough self-assurance to let me take a fall for art every now and then. Missteps and tripups are inevitable in this line of work. So Writing Fairy, grant me the belief that no matter how many times I'm down, I've got what it takes to get up and writing again.


Susan Bono is checking for bruises in Petaluma, CA.

Teeter-Tottering

  by Theresa Sanders

When my sons were young, they loved the playground seesaws. This was fine, of course, except that when you are four and your brother is eight, you don't normally possess the necessary finesse to make teeter-tottering an equal-opportunity adventure. Just the difference in body weight alone throws everything out of balance. To resolve this inequity, I would stand near the middle of the seesaw, pushing down on the board to add a little extra weight to my younger son's side while my older son soared skyward. My hands were ever at the ready to provide balance or nurture in case either boy smacked the ground too hard and hurt himself. I suspect that most parents take this kind of preventive action, whether physically or emotionally, so that their children won't fall.

When things aren't going well in my writing life—or in my life overall, for that matter—I return to that fond playground memory and try to visualize a place of perfect balance. I can't always conjure it, since balance is elusive and perfection is, well, nonexistent. Still, it is my heart's desire, my one true goal. It is what I most pray for, a life in balance, the ability to find equilibrium between all of life's opposites: courage over fear, confidence over doubt, discipline over procrastination, clarity and focus over confusion and blurred vision.

Needless to say, achieving balance does not imply that life is always easy or happy. In fact, as my dear friend Lisa points out, when you meditate on something, courage, for example, you often find fearful things delivered to you, which thereby tests your courage. The more your courage is tested, the more able you are to thwart fear. Likewise, regarding clarity, I know I'll be a mess if I try to focus on all of the seemingly disparate pieces of my life at once, whether my personal life or writing life, and then within writing, the immersion my novel requires versus the smaller stories and essays I long to compose. Keeping the world of the novel inside my head is, in itself, some days an impossible task, yet I know that the only way to reach "the end" is to travel page by page, one word at a time.

So I revisit that seesaw. I breathe in the concept of balance, breathe out the accumulated stress, and put it all into Hands that are greater than mine, comforted by the knowledge that no matter what happens in my hectic life, I'm not going to fall.

Theresa Sanders has four grown children: two sons and twin daughters. She lives with her husband near St. Louis, Missouri, where she is forever trying to perfect her balancing act. She can be reached via email at: TheresaLSanders@charter.net.


Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

C. Larson, B. Povich, M. Petty, C. Crawford, T. Sanders

Columnists Emeriti: Christine Falcone, David S. Johnson, Betty Rodgers, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Betty Winslow


Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer living in Petaluma, CA. She has published Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. She conducts creative writing classes in Petaluma and Santa Rosa and co-hosts the quarterly Speakeasy Literary Saloon at the Aqus Café in Petaluma. She's on the boards of Petaluma Readers Theatre and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. She is still writing a postcard a day. Her most recent publishing credits include Petaluma Readers Theatre, KRCB’s Mouthful, Milk and Ink, and Passager Magazine.

Marilyn Petty is a dyed-in-the wool Midwesterner, a long-ago émigré to California and a fortunate resident of Sonoma County, CA. She taught weaving through the SRJC for 8 years and was the reporter, essayist, editor and publisher of the Redwood Empire Handweavers and Spinners Guild for 10 years. When not tangling with yarns, she is unknotting words, writing poetry and personal essays. She putters in the garden when words fail her.

Catherine Crawford is a former technical writer, editor, and course materials developer for high tech industries. She has taught college English at the four-year degree level, published two award winning chapbooks of poetry, and written articles for 52perfectdays.com, a Portland, Oregon online travel magazine. She works as an editor in Vancouver, Washington. Her email: greenwriter1960@gmail.com

Claudia Larson, in her childhood, wrote long letters to her best-friend cousin and enthralled herself by writing a heart-rending story of two orphans. She writes fewer letters nowadays and prefers writing poetry and memoirs of her North Dakotan farm girl days. She is not yet an orphan, has six siblings and lives in Sebastopol, CA.

Becky Povich lives near St. Louis, Missouri. Although not young in "people years," she's only been writing for ten of those. Getting her first book completed, a memoir, is her current short-term goal. She can be reached at Writergal53@aol.com, or visit her blog at www.beckypovich.blogspot.com.

Theresa Sanders lives in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, where she is completing a novel. A former award-winning technical writer and consultant, she managed a Documentation and Training department before turning to her first love, creative writing. Her stories appear regularly in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Theresa welcomes email and would love to hear from you. Contact her at: TheresaLSanders@charter.net

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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