Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

How does fun factor into your writing? (11/15/12)



Featured writer: Becky Povich



Contributors this month:
Barbara Shine
Becky Povich
Catherine Crawford
Don Edgers
Marilyn Petty
Sara Etgen-Baker
Susan Bono


What Are Your Waiting For?

by Becky Povich

Years before I knew I wanted to be a writer I was a passionate reader. Books brought so much to my life. Grabbing an armful of hardbacks inside the Bookmobile was the highlight of a schoolday afternoon. Nothing was better than losing myself in the pages of someone else's life.

As most book lovers, I guess it occurred to me once or twice that I wanted to be a writer someday, but I never did anything about it. Well, except for that one short story I wrote the summer between fifth and sixth grades. That's a whole other story, but I'll just say that's probably why it took me almost 40 years to actually try it again.

Stay with me, please. I really am attempting to answer the above question.

In the late 1960s, I discovered Erma Bombeck when her column was included in our city's newspaper. Even though I was a teenager and not a married woman, I loved everything she wrote. I loved her sense of humor. When her books came out, I gobbled them up, too.

So, once again a few years after writing my grade school short story, I thought…Hmm, I think I'd like to be a writer, one like Erma. I could write funny stories, too.

But, I still didn't do a thing about it. I didn't think I was good enough to even try. Fast forward to 2001. That's the year I discovered I was a writer. I finally understood what it meant to be passionate about something. I loved to write. I had to write. There's no way I could live without writing.

So, just how does fun factor into my writing? Some of my memoir chapters are humorous, so writing them was obviously fun. But even when I wrote about sad events, I can still say I had fun because writing is what I love to do.

There's just something about the words flowing from brain to fingertips, and the way it feels to click on each letter and the noise it makes. Clickety click, clickety clack. If that's not fun, I don't know what is!

Becky Povich finally finished her memoir in November of 2012. Publication date has not been set as of this time but Becky will definitely shout it from the rooftops when the information is available. Until then, keep up with Becky on her blog:
www.beckypovich.blogspot.com
or e-mail her at: Writergal53@gmail.com


Let the Fun Begin

  by Barbara Shine

Let the fun begin with shameless doggerel

"Can your writing be fun?" you ask with a wink,
so I sit to consider, to ponder, to think.
What sort of an answer can I honestly give?
Is fun the real point, my reason to live?
Does fun have a role in this work I am doing?
Why else would I sit here at midnight, eschewing
the pleasures of baking, and good reads, and yarn,
the call of the Facebook (it's addicting, goldarn!).
But writing I am, and I'll put fun into it.
If the job weren't some fun, I might never do it.
I often write stories of sadness and pain,
then offer relief with some silly refrain.
I can't leave my readers with visions so gory
that they're sorry they ever dove into my story.
So fun factors into my writing, I guess,
to keep writer and story from being far less
than they must be, if all the truth be told.
It's one little way I make my writing bold.

Barbara Shine is clearly not a poet. She is a freelance writer-editor, mixed-media artist, and victim advocate who is always pleased to find a welcome at tiny-lights.com. You can reach Barbara for writing, coaching, or editorial assistance by email,barbarashine1204@yahoo.com and catch her weekly tips at
www.facebook.com/BarbaraShineWrites .


What Are Your Waiting For?

  by Becky Povich

Years before I knew I wanted to be a writer I was a passionate reader. Books brought so much to my life. Grabbing an armful of hardbacks inside the Bookmobile was the highlight of a schoolday afternoon. Nothing was better than losing myself in the pages of someone else's life.

As most book lovers, I guess it occurred to me once or twice that I wanted to be a writer someday, but I never did anything about it. Well, except for that one short story I wrote the summer between fifth and sixth grades. That's a whole other story, but I'll just say that's probably why it took me almost 40 years to actually try it again.

Stay with me, please. I really am attempting to answer the above question.

In the late 1960s, I discovered Erma Bombeck when her column was included in our city's newspaper. Even though I was a teenager and not a married woman, I loved everything she wrote. I loved her sense of humor. When her books came out, I gobbled them up, too.

So, once again a few years after writing my grade school short story, I thought…Hmm, I think I'd like to be a writer, one like Erma. I could write funny stories, too.

But, I still didn't do a thing about it. I didn't think I was good enough to even try. Fast forward to 2001. That's the year I discovered I was a writer. I finally understood what it meant to be passionate about something. I loved to write. I had to write. There's no way I could live without writing.

So, just how does fun factor into my writing? Some of my memoir chapters are humorous, so writing them was obviously fun. But even when I wrote about sad events, I can still say I had fun because writing is what I love to do.

There's just something about the words flowing from brain to fingertips, and the way it feels to click on each letter and the noise it makes. Clickety click, clickety clack. If that's not fun, I don't know what is!

Becky Povich finally finished her memoir in November of 2012. Publication date has not been set as of this time but Becky will definitely shout it from the rooftops when the information is available. Until then, keep up with Becky on her blog:
www.beckypovich.blogspot.com
or e-mail her at: Writergal53@gmail.com


Amuse Me

  by Catherine Crawford

Recently I talked to a cousin who baby-sat for me years ago. We were swapping stories about our family's voracious reading habits. She reminded me that my passion to write was born of my passion to read. My cousin said I had little interest, at two-and-a-half, in books for pre-schoolers. To have fun with me, she had to read from a dictionary.

I toot my own horn about this today. But I'll bet it was a pain for other people. Dad knew to plunge in where the sitters left off. He read me old-fashioned adventure stories like The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and Rolf in the Woods by Ernest Seton Thompson. Characters in these books with their topsy-turvy worlds caught my heart. From this I suppose I got my life-long idea that danger would pass and that novelty and challenge were fun.

Maybe that's why I've tried many different kinds of writing—-with varied results—-and still hope to do more. Today I experience little frissons of fear that come from new work and not knowing where I'm headed. But for me the fun is in the seeking and striving. I can't write any other way, even if I bomb. A failed assignment is just an invitation to repurpose material. In my head, literature's castaways like Robinson Crusoe sail on, absorbed in making tools from their salvaged ships.

Catherine, always in search of literary roads less traveled, lives in beautiful Washington State. Email her at greenwriter1960@gmail.com



Joie de Vivre

  by Don Edgers

When writing, my primary object is to cause the reader to enjoy what he/she reads, but the fun is in the telling.

I have fun recalling interesting, educational or enjoyable experiences and committing them to paper, e.g. in the summer of my eighth year when my seven and eleven-year-old companions and I would imitate the adventures of the local teenagers.

As I approached my buddies, 11-year-old Jimmy greeted me with: "We were thinkin' about going up to the pasture where Mr. Bloom keeps his bull. The big boys used ta go up there and play like they were bullfighters. Ya wanna do that?"

"Yeah" I replied, "I haven't ever seen him up close. Let's go!"

We trotted down the road, and stopped beside the Bloom's cow and chicken barn where the cows were separated from the bull. We faced the object of our adventure, which was pawing the ground in his pasture while emitting little snorts. I backed away from the monster even though he couldn't get me. "D'ya still think we oughtta play bull fighter?"

Seven-year-old Donnie blurted. "I'll go first, but you guys hafta get at one end of his pasture to distract him while I run across the other end."

"Criminy sakes," said Jimmy "you call that bull fightin'? I call it keep-away tag. But if you wanna get killed, I'll letcha. - D'ya got any last words?"

"I'm gonna get where I can run for the apple tree just in case I don't think I can make it all the way to the other side. You guys get his attention at this end, and I'll sorta sneak down to where I'm gonna go through the fence."

I took my position a few feet from where we had been planning, while Jimmy worked his way to the other side of the end of the bull's pasture, causing the bull to follow his progress until Donnie moved, distracting the bull from Jimmy. I whistled my loudest finger-in-the-mouth whistle, momentarily distracting the monster. Jimmy let go with a loud whistle at his fence corner, too. The bull trotted toward Jimmy until I let go with another whistle, which distracted him momentarily. At that moment, Donnie eased his way through the fence, then yelled at the bull, ran as fast as his bare feet would move, and the pasture's resident charged the little intruder.

Donnie realized he wasn't going to make it across enemy territory, and put the apple tree between the bull and himself. The little toreador was frantically circling the tree, playing a serious game of keep-away with the bull. Jimmy let out with another whistle, which distracted the monster just long enough for Donnie to quickly climb up the trunk of the tree into the branches out of the bull's reach. The monster looked up at the treed bullfighter, and let out a triumphant snort.

"I'm gettin' tired of playin' bull fighter," said Jimmy. "Whadaya say we go have a Popsicle!"



Don has fun remembering and writing in Port Orchard, WA. His website is
www.anislandintime.com



Factoring In Fun

  by Marilyn Petty

This isn't fun, sitting here in front of the computer, a blank screen glumly staring at me. Looks like rain any minute. The resident squirrel just scampered across the patio, climbed the fence and disappeared next door. The wind is blowing, too, and it is chilly outside.

Chilblains. Somewhere I just read about chilblains, the protagonist complaining about getting them in the winter when she was young. You don't hear about chilblains anymore. It's a 16th century word. We don't use a lot of 16th century words nowadays. Times have changed. We have computers and central heating and polar fleece to keep us protected from chilblains.

The interviewer brought up poet Sandra Cisnero's use of humor in her writing. "Oh, yes," she said. Then she said something like, "I'd kill somebody if I couldn't have fun." Everyone in the audience laughed - with her, not at her, of course. We laughed because we all knew we would want to kill somebody too if we couldn't laugh at our own silly selves, then sit down and write about it.

Except that right now it's chilly and cloudy and even with the heating pad at my back I am still cold and, I assure you, that's no fun, chilblains notwithstanding. Funny sounding word, though.

Marilyn Petty hibernates in the mild winters of Sonoma County while contemplating the fun factors of heat and cold.

First, Last, and Always

  by Sara Etgen-Baker

When my husband introduced me to running, I loved it. As I ran alongside him, my body felt weightless as I soared through our neighborhood—my feet pounding, legs and arms pumping, lungs filling like bellows, my body having fun.

In short, I felt remarkable, magical, and unstoppable—-until I decided to train for my first 5K race and learned that I needed to run properly: Knees up!...Elbows in!...Eyes forward…Keep your head up!...Lift your feet!...Remember pace! After a few weeks' training, I was amazed that I could walk across the street, much less run! I entered my first race only to have a woman a couple of years older than me pass me in the first half mile.
So, I joined a running club and emulated other runners' styles and techniques-—giving up that part of me that loved running. After a few more disappointing finishes, my enthusiasm died; the joy was gone. I got so caught up in running competitively that I lost sight of why I was running until I realized that--given my talent-—I must run my race my way.

When I began writing a couple of years ago, I loved it. As I sat at my laptop, my fingers felt weightless as they danced across the keyboard-—my mind running free, stories magically appearing on the screen, and me always having fun.

In short, I felt creative, alive, and whole-—until I decided to enter contests and learned I needed to write more professionally: Use spell check!...Write proper sentences!...Use proper grammar! Follow submission guides!...Develop a web page!...Remember to blog! After a few months of writing, I was amazed I could think about a story, much less write one! I entered a few contests receiving more than my fair share of rejection letters.

So, I joined a writers' group and emulated other writers' styles and techniques-—giving up that part of me that loved writing. After a few more rejection letters, my enthusiasm waned; the joy was gone. I got so caught up in writing competitively that I lost sight of why I was writing until I realized that-—given my talent-—I must write my story my way.

So, I learned this important truth: Cut loose…run…have fun…and find my story—-first, last, and always.

Sara Baker is a retired educator turned freelance writer. In addition to writing memoirs and personal narratives for fun, she also runs 10 miles a day—-just for fun!

Work Ethic

  by Susan Bono

I've discovered a perverse truth about my life lately: the harder I work, the less I accomplish. I could chain myself to my desk 11 hours a day and still manage only a dribble of productivity. (Although I bet I would get caught up with email!) Put a gun to my head and I might squeeze out a few more lines, but that's no way to increase output. Taking my job seriously doesn't seem to be the answer. It's not getting me anywhere I want to go.

So I'm learning to push away from my desk and go out for some fun. I'm learning to get lost in a corn maze, go to the opera, plan a shade garden, shop for a buffet lamp. None of these activities have anything to do with what I'm trying to write about, but I can't seem to manage a paragraph without them. Looks like I can't write anything that pleases me until I make an effort to be more interesting to myself.

I'm not entirely comfortable with this recent revelation. Whatever happened to "No pain, no gain"? But if fun is part of the job of writing, I better do it. And like anything else I hope to do well, I'm going to give it my best shot.


Susan Bono is doing her best to have fun in Petaluma, CA.

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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