Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

What has writing taught you? (02/15/07)



Featured writer: Pat Tyler



Contributors this month:

Anne Reagn
Christine Falcone
Claudia Larson
Donna Emerson
Elaine Maikovska
Elizabeth Kern
James Scheller
Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Joyce Wakefield
Leslie McClean
Marlene Cullen
Meg House
Pat Tyler
Richard Comfort
Susan Bono


What I Know for Sure

by Pat Tyler

Writing has taught me so many things that I've come to know for sure, that I can only list them now - and hope to expand upon them later.

1. It is through the actual, physical act of picking up a pen - thinking about something - but not 'over-thinking' it, as a treasured friend suggests - but immediately writing my reaction to that thought - that helps make me a writer.I strongly believe it is the act of writing that creates writers.

2. It is through writing - more than through any other creative act - that I have come to know myself - and through eavesdropping on the thoughts and ideas of other writers - I have come to know (and love) them. I have become acquainted with them quickly and intimately through their writing. Often, I don't know where they live, or what they do. I don't know if they're rich or poor, God-fearing or Atheist. But I do know what they think, how they feel, what they believe, dream of, and endure. And perhaps it is through what they endure that I've come to know them - and love them - best.

3. The seeds of writerly friendships are sewn and grown in unorthodox ways. In our mundane lives we meet non-writers here and there along the way - perhaps fellow students - business colleagues - members of social clubs and organizations - often making quick, and more often, false judgments about them - sometimes instant judgments based on flash-in-the-pan personal notions that we cannot even explain to ourselves. If we're in a situation where polite conversation is required - we might ask where they live, what they do, where they did - or do - go to school - BUT we always mind our manners - never bringing up the subjects of race, religion, spirituality, politics, war, abortion, immigration, evolution, reincarnation, or, God forbid! - that poor-excuse-of-a-man who now dares to call himself our President. To discuss any of these would be stepping over the line, disembarking from the social graces. As a result, non-writerly friendships often have lengthy gestation periods, long, painful labors, difficult births, and either very short - or very long-but-difficult lives. An unorthodox writerly friendship grows in a much different way. A recent example comes to mind:

I have written with a small group of men and women for about four years now and when someone sent me an email photo that touched me - one I thought might be of interest to one of the group, I forwarded the photo to her. Her response to what I thought of as an insignificant email astounded me.

Through her poignant reply I learned that one of her children had suffered severe health problems as an infant. I learned about the toll it had taken during that heart-wrenching period of her life. In the four years we'd worked together that event had never been discussed. But here's what I came to know of her as she shared her writing during those years: I know that she's sensitive and caring - responsive to others - and responsible. I know that despite the petty annoyances they often present to her - annoyances that I often find amusing - as I look from the outside, in - I know she loves her husband and adores her children. I know that she's suddenly become a new and frightened member of the sandwich generation - struggling to keep her immediate family intact and well cared for - as she simultaneously struggles to care for elderly parents slipping insidiously - both mentally and physically - from the world they once knew, but no longer recognize. And I know - as surely as I know anything for sure - that she will endure. And it is her enduring that inspires me.

These are just some of the many things I have come to know for sure - about one writer. These are not qualities I would have learned about her from a campaign button at a Democratic Rally. These are the things - the important things, the treasured things, the essence-kind-of-things I've learned from her unspoken words as well as from the words she writes so eloquently - and best of all - from the words she's chosen to share.

These are the things that inspire me to love her. And these are the things that make me brave enough - strong enough - comfortable and vulnerable and open and proud enough to be a writer among writers I revere.

Now, after writing for years in isolation, I have the gift of many writers in my life. And finally, in my dotage, these are the things I know for sure - because these are the things that writing and writers - and two women writers in particular - have taught me. And so, I pick up my pen and write again - from a place of knowing, and more importantly, from a place of sharing - and most importantly, from a very personal place of heart-felt gratitude.

Pat Tyler teaches writing in Cotati, CA. Her historical fiction recently won an award at the San Francisco Writer's Conference.







Chinese Red Flowers and the Vision of a Hummingbird

  by Anne Reagn

Dazzling green against
A red-pink prickly floral canopy;
The iridescent green soft spot of color falls into view.

I stop; I look.

I can see each wing fluttering like a heart beat.
The beak is thin and perfectly long
Fitting into the red bud
Where we both know there is nectar.

In my moment of seeing I become the watcher.

I witness each quiver, each tiny drink, and sip.
Somehow this reminds me to write.
Each pulsating wing becomes a type written letter:
A black beat against the stark white background
While time speeds up creating words as the wings flicker
So fast I can barely perceive a soft yellow highlight
Finishing the color spectrum
Of the tiny three inch body floating in air
Intent on one thing: sustenance.

I cannot see it anymore; it is gone.

Now only the Chinese red paper flowers
Are illuminated against strangely motionless
Green mountain backdrop and
Everything becomes still, because
The sky has turned the grey-purple of California rain.

I know the bird will come again.

I know this because I am addicted
To the fast swing of its body,
The intent color it wears,
And the vision it leaves behind.


Anne Regan bird watches in Arroyo Grande, CA.
E-Mail Anne Reagan


What Has Writing Taught You?

  by Christine Falcone

Writing has taught me to pay attention. It's taught me to be quiet and listen. It's taught me that what I think is going to come out might not. It's taught me that there's a level that exists beyond what I think I'm in control of. Writing has taught me to have respect for my characters - these people who emerge out of the darkness of my dreams. At first, they're sort of sketchy. Then they reveal themselves to me in slices, like they're peeling off layers of clothing until they're stripped bare; then they start peeling off layers of skin, organs, bones, until there's nothing left but their essential selves.

Writing has taught me that I don't have to behave. It's taught me to take chances, to risk it all, to stand on the lip of a six-foot cornice and jump. It's taught me to have balls. Writing has also taught me to be vulnerable. It's taught me about taking off my clothes in public and standing there naked -- we're talking full-frontal nudity. It's taught me not to have too many expectations, especially with regards to being perfect. It's taught me that the jagged edge is beautiful, that the slippery slope can be a great friend.

It's taught me things like believing in the heart of the matter, and that there's a universal chord at which we all vibrate. It's taught me to open myself up, to look deeply at my own shit. It's taught me to give up caring about what other people think and that, when I'm most afraid, to forge ahead. It's taught me that we all have failings, that imperfection and weakness is what drives the train. And it's taught me to surrender, time and time again, to whatever may come.

Christine Falcone is a writer and mother living in Novato, California, where writing and motherhood teach her more about life than anything else. Her recently completed novel, "This Is What I Know," is in the hands of several literary agents while she sits by the phone, chewing her fingernails.

What has writing taught you?

  by Claudia Larson

Self acceptance, pure and simple, is a lesson learned under writing's spell. The simple act of pondering "what's so", about anything that nabs my curiosity, melts the invisible, powerful barrier between inner and outer self. Inner becomes outer and I feel whole. Satisfied. Connected.
Alive.


Claudia Larson has plenty of opportunities to learn self acceptance because she’s still alive, in Sonoma County, CA.



Donna Emerson



Writing has taught me to wait.

From the habit of diary writing begun at age twelve, what was a mystery one month became understood several months or years later. What friends to trust. How my father's drinking would affect the family. Why boys are so different from girls.

Today I sit waiting in the almost dawn, on a chair, then the floor. Yesterday in my bed between dreams.

I wait for last week to climb up from my feet. Which images will stretch up or peek out and speak? If I push them up or grit down on them they don't come out sounding like me. They may not be the true ones. Dreams often help.

I had a dream last night about a former lover, the relationship I never quite figured out. We were in scene after scene playing out the years of our connection: the exact misses, the falling out of the bond with too many disappointments. This was one of those all night dreams, long, intense, with tears which felt wet, encounters with many colors. In the dream he'd leave me in his typically mysterious way. I was in a big yellow Victorian house and he walked out. This time, dreamtime, instead of getting angry or attempting to talk, I'd walk beside him, with words which made him turn around and face me. Funny, I don't remember the words themselves. When he turned around, after several scenes of slipping away, his face became a different color and he told me why he couldn't stay. I mean his face would look like purple stage paint smeared thick all over his head. Then red. Later royal blue. The consistency of shiny whipped cream. As he spoke, his reasons for disappearing were precise fears and patterned habits by which he would lose our closeness. Sometimes conscious, usually unconscious on his part. Habits he did not want to change. Occasionally he would hold up diary notes, to show me what he'd felt at each time.

He preferred to be central, solo, on a stage. With actors, writers, directors, musicians. With famous people. Surrounded by the excitement of the theatre. As his face changed many colors, with various admissions, I unexpectedly came to love him more, finally seeing that he would always be this way. I saw, too, that his excitement had pulled me close, then drove me away. That this leaving was his way. Paradoxically, in this fondness, I could now let him go. Our lifetrees had grown differently. Goodbye, green-faced man, running man, man whose hands in photographs grasp the shoulders of famous people.

I waited twenty-one years for that dream. A dream full of words and writing! I didn't know enough of it until it came forward. Just now. Now I can write what I didn't understand.

So I wait.

Donna Emerson Petaluma, CA

Elaine Maikovska



Writing has taught me to revere that special place held by the written word. In the beginning was the word, and it was oral, spoken perhaps with hands gesturing. When someone got the idea to record the oral symbols, to make a record so others traversing the path could read them, they made a friend in me forever. I love writing. When I write, I conjure a pathway into my inner life. Every morning, rain or shine, sleet or snow, I reach for my buddy, the pen, and transpose my thoughts onto my magenta colored notebook. Sometimes it's a dream recorded, sometimes-mundane thoughts about how my day will look. I trust the connection my hand has to the pen as it glides along satiny paper, my writing hand leading me to places I would otherwise not go and creating for me a record of where I've been. What follows is my own personal list of writing maxims, which I've gleaned from my writing life.

Maxim #1:Writing enables me to know my inner life. My pen does not lie, especially in my journal. Trusting the connection my hand has to my pen, my ever-moving hand leads me to oft hidden places, sometimes venting a repository for feelings not otherwise at home anywhere, sometimes a resting spot, a solace. But it always informs me about what's important to me at that moment.

Maxim #2 Writing clarifies my sloppy thinking, which my ambling mind walks around. My rough drafts clue me in as to my thoughts, but editing is always required. Sometimes I'm surprised at my own first drafts and believe another person may have etched the words, a friend, perhaps, but not me.

Maxim#3 Writing helps me to remember. If I write something down-anything-even trivial, mundane needs on a grocery list, attached to the fridge, I'll hardly ever forget them, even when I'm in the grocery store without the list, of course.

Maxim#4 Writing transforms my thoughts and empowers me. As I clarify my thoughts through writing, the thoughts and feelings undergo a growth and a shift in view. The process of putting words on a page affords me a chance to stand back from the experience and to move through it. There occurs a shift, from a "What's up Doc?" position to " Aha, I See", or from "What the heck is going on?" to "" I can get through this".

Lastly, Maxim #5 Writing has taught me that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Writing gives me a soft edge into the hearts of readers as I carve my way into their understanding. In turn, if they get my gist, my written gist, I feel connected to them, very connected--as connected to the first people who ever put pen to papyrus, or feather to stone.

In sum, writing helps me to record, clarify, transform and remember thoughts and to communicate with others. You might say that without it, I would be lost on the pathway, muttering unintelligible oral words to myself and others.

Elaine Maikovska , Elainemaikovska@comcast.net
I am a writer, and a 23 Year resident of Northern California who keeps her East Coast attorney’s license active, just in case.


What Writing Has Taught Me

  by Elizabeth Kern

Writing is a crafty schoolmarm. She's a lady with principles. She brandishes a sharp pointer. She gives great hugs, but mostly, she demands indulgence.

She has been standing in front of my mental classroom—the one that says "Fiction 101" on the door—for seven years now. She hasn't changed in appearance, but she sure has changed me.

She has made me a seeker of new words. Sparkly words like "phosphorescence," words that fit in the palm of your hand, like "twee."

She has made me a keen worshiper of a clever twist of the phrase.

She has made me commit to a long workday spent at her feet, sometimes to the point of exhaustion and obsession. She has made herself my icon, my Mother Mary statue in the corner of her classroom, and I kneel and pray at her feet. How sick! Please heal me Mother Mary from the damage this woman has wrought.

She has made me look at feelings long forgotten, and she's made me explore spots of the map that I never knew were spots. She has made me a questioner, a dreamer, a music listener, a prayer, a friend, and paradoxically, a narrower but fuller person.

I know she's going nowhere in 2007. She's just staring me with a raised eyebrow sharpening her pointer.

Elizabeth Kern is at work on her second novel, "Wanting to be Jackie Kennedy" in Petaluma, CA.

What Writing Has Taught Me

  by James Scheller

CONCISENESS!


E-Mail Jim Scheller


What has writing taught you?

  by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

What has writing taught me? I can think of good girl ways to answer this question, how it's taught me to be diligent and a master of paring out the excess; I should say I've learned that it's all about the journey, never the destination, or that too many adverbs spoil the soup. But the first thing that really came to mind has nothing to do with craft or language at all.

During the day while my husband is at work, and since the very recent loss of our beloved cat, I am alone much of the day. Yesterday, coming down the stairs I heard someone speak in my voice—answering aloud a question posed by someone else whose voice also was uncannily like my own. Actually, both voices belong to me—they're just a few members of the strange commune who live in my body, but don't tell the ego in charge, because She would like to distance herself from these wayward muses. As a reflex, I moved to find my journal where I let these resident voices have their conversation out in the open where I could follow along.

The fact is, parts of me are always in conversation with each other, and in that is the answer to the question. What writing has taught me is how to keep myself company. Because when I'm writing I'm blissfully aware of how connected I am to a realm of feelings and ideas that never forsake me.

I can remember the lonely hours of my childhood writing (or reading) when I spun worlds around myself that were shaped at my own hand, built parallel universes into which only I could crawl, and inside whose mysterious cities and forests and enchanted meadows, I was never alone.

That doesn't mean there are no lonely times. I'm lonely a lot of the time lately, but not, for instance, in this moment, when my pen is swifter than the ache, when the words provide me with elixr.

Writing has taught me that there is always one last defense before giving up all hope…put it on paper first.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld and her many voices live and write in the South Bay, though she finds it hard to believe some days, since her heart is still in Petaluma.
Jordan's Website


Under the Bones

  by Joyce Wakefield

My favorite show is coming on and I rush to finish the dishes. I miss the opening credits and the action has begun. The operating room. A dozen pairs of eyes exchange meaningful looks over masks and the life support machines are beeping wildly.

"Spreader!" The main doctor (the cutest one on the show) holds out his hand ready for what looks to me like barbecue tongs. The atmosphere tenses and the music heightens. Doctor Cute makes an incision from the top of the patients chest to the bottom. He takes the 'tongs' and inserts them under the ribs and opens the patients chest.

The scene cuts to a full screen shot of a heart beating erratically. The doctor injects some medicine into the heart. The miracle works and the patient is stapled shut, all the monitors return to normal, and the show goes on. But wait! Two of the masked women brush hands and stare briefly into each other's eyes. Writer Joyce dons her cape ... are they doctors or nurses? Could that look mean they are lovers? Where are they from? And what does that look and brushing of hands want to tell me?

This is what writing is to me. Something unseen stirs in my chest; flashes of images sneak out of nowhere while I am driving and I know that I will have to write them down. My chest will have to be cracked and my heart exposed to whatever images it wants to see . Unlike the show, there isn't a team of specialists standing around me, ready with that miracle shot. There is me and the white blankness of my computer screen. Writing has taught me that this is the real beginning - one word, one bit of conversation, one image that follows me even to the grocery store.

I have taken many classes on journaling, poetry, and creative writing. My bookshelves are peppered with titles that talk about the writing experience from many writers. I have listened to professors and Poet Laureates read and discuss their work. Ten years ago, my mentor told me in one sentence what all these writers write whole books about. She told me that the desire to be a writer, without sitting down and writing, is the desire not to be a writer.

And so, I write. Writing has taught me observation. A trip to the mall is far more than shopping. It is the people I see, the conversations I hear, and the emotion in the gestures of a tired, young mother. Writing has taught me discipline. I write with passion in the mornings and dread in the evening. So mornings are my writing hours.

Across all cultures and centuries, the words we have written bind us all together as one person speaking their truth to another. Underneath all the bones of our lives are hearts, beating and asking one question. I am here; are you there? Writing has taught me to answer.

Joyce Wakefield's work has appeared in Byline Magazine, Loch Raven Review, and Poems Niederngasse. Her poem "Sevenling" won The Writer Magazine's award for the best poem submitted for 2006. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Moondance - Celebrating Creative Women. She currently resides in Southern California.
E-Mail Joyce Wakefield


Leslie McClean



I sit at my work computer, ninth graders mumbling in the background.

I face the screen whose words might as well be in Tagalog: "What Has Writing Taught You."

I know now how my students feel when I give them endless writing prompts.

I start to get mouthy. "Writing has taught me nothing" occurs to me, but is rejected for being too belligerent.

I realize that the question would mean just as much if it were "What Have Blood Circulation and Defecation Taught You." Both bodily functions are essential, and so for me is writing. But my blood and waste products and words flowing do not so much teach me anything as keep me alive.

I remember that disgusting Marquis de Sade movie and how the one redeeming feature was the truth of the man having to write, having to write as much as he had to have his blood circulate, his waste exit.

I remember how in desperation he wrote in his own blood, his own shit. My heart beats, my lungs fill, my fingers type; this is what writing has taught me.

Leslie McLean, Sonoma, CA


What has writing taught you?

  by Marlene Cullen

Writing has taught me that pictures can be painted words. I am transported by the visual images that transcend beyond the page.

Writing has given me the gift of seeing into the lives and souls of the authors. I use writing here as a noun rather than the active verb, "to write."

Other people's writing transforms me and makes me a better person. I become more tolerant, more patient, kinder, more understanding.

I am a thankful recipient when hearing the writing of others. I feel my soul opening at my solar plexus as I'm privileged to hear and share innermost thoughts.

I'm excited whenever I have a good book on my bedside table, ready to be read. I'm excited at the thought of attending writing workshops where I know I'll be inspired and treated to hearing treasured writing.

Our writing pieces, big or small, are gems to me. A writing workshop is a treasure chest where I am treated to wondrous riches.

I am constantly in awe of how gifted each person is and what is brought to our writing table.

For my writing, I love the process - the learning and surprises that unfold as letters march across the page - often surprising me with what is revealed.

Notebooks and notebooks of treasures. If my house were burning what would I save? Notebooks or photos? Hmmmm. Hopefully, I'll never be faced with that decision.

Marlene Cullen has the privilege of facilitating writing workshops in Petaluma, CA.
Marlene Cullen's Website


Meg House



Today, as I was driving my minivan with my 15-year-old daughter, my library books and purse kept falling onto the car floor, and I kept picking them up and putting them on the little table between the front seats. When they fell off for the third time, I said, "Guess I'm a slow learner." My teenager was quick to agree. So I think I need to use the present continuous to answer this question. The question for me is not what has writing taught me, but what it is teaching me.

I am learning that writing is all about process. Each time I wonder about what will happen with a piece I'm writing, each time I try to leap to the end, I get stuck, I get writers' block, I get depressed. Then, once again, I have to remind myself that no result can come without sitting down, playing with words, and writing, even though I have no idea where what I'm writing is going to land. It's only when I finish a draft that I can go back and shape it into a story with a beginning, middle and end. Hmmm. Life is like that too.


Meg Hanna House keeps writing and learning in Arlington, Virginia.


What I Know for Sure

  by Pat Tyler

Writing has taught me so many things that I've come to know for sure, that I can only list them now - and hope to expand upon them later.

1. It is through the actual, physical act of picking up a pen - thinking about something - but not 'over-thinking' it, as a treasured friend suggests - but immediately writing my reaction to that thought - that helps make me a writer.I strongly believe it is the act of writing that creates writers.

2. It is through writing - more than through any other creative act - that I have come to know myself - and through eavesdropping on the thoughts and ideas of other writers - I have come to know (and love) them. I have become acquainted with them quickly and intimately through their writing. Often, I don't know where they live, or what they do. I don't know if they're rich or poor, God-fearing or Atheist. But I do know what they think, how they feel, what they believe, dream of, and endure. And perhaps it is through what they endure that I've come to know them - and love them - best.

3. The seeds of writerly friendships are sewn and grown in unorthodox ways. In our mundane lives we meet non-writers here and there along the way - perhaps fellow students - business colleagues - members of social clubs and organizations - often making quick, and more often, false judgments about them - sometimes instant judgments based on flash-in-the-pan personal notions that we cannot even explain to ourselves. If we're in a situation where polite conversation is required - we might ask where they live, what they do, where they did - or do - go to school - BUT we always mind our manners - never bringing up the subjects of race, religion, spirituality, politics, war, abortion, immigration, evolution, reincarnation, or, God forbid! - that poor-excuse-of-a-man who now dares to call himself our President. To discuss any of these would be stepping over the line, disembarking from the social graces. As a result, non-writerly friendships often have lengthy gestation periods, long, painful labors, difficult births, and either very short - or very long-but-difficult lives. An unorthodox writerly friendship grows in a much different way. A recent example comes to mind:

I have written with a small group of men and women for about four years now and when someone sent me an email photo that touched me - one I thought might be of interest to one of the group, I forwarded the photo to her. Her response to what I thought of as an insignificant email astounded me.

Through her poignant reply I learned that one of her children had suffered severe health problems as an infant. I learned about the toll it had taken during that heart-wrenching period of her life. In the four years we'd worked together that event had never been discussed. But here's what I came to know of her as she shared her writing during those years: I know that she's sensitive and caring - responsive to others - and responsible. I know that despite the petty annoyances they often present to her - annoyances that I often find amusing - as I look from the outside, in - I know she loves her husband and adores her children. I know that she's suddenly become a new and frightened member of the sandwich generation - struggling to keep her immediate family intact and well cared for - as she simultaneously struggles to care for elderly parents slipping insidiously - both mentally and physically - from the world they once knew, but no longer recognize. And I know - as surely as I know anything for sure - that she will endure. And it is her enduring that inspires me.

These are just some of the many things I have come to know for sure - about one writer. These are not qualities I would have learned about her from a campaign button at a Democratic Rally. These are the things - the important things, the treasured things, the essence-kind-of-things I've learned from her unspoken words as well as from the words she writes so eloquently - and best of all - from the words she's chosen to share.

These are the things that inspire me to love her. And these are the things that make me brave enough - strong enough - comfortable and vulnerable and open and proud enough to be a writer among writers I revere.

Now, after writing for years in isolation, I have the gift of many writers in my life. And finally, in my dotage, these are the things I know for sure - because these are the things that writing and writers - and two women writers in particular - have taught me. And so, I pick up my pen and write again - from a place of knowing, and more importantly, from a place of sharing - and most importantly, from a very personal place of heart-felt gratitude.

Pat Tyler teaches writing in Cotati, CA. Her historical fiction recently won an award at the San Francisco Writer's Conference.

What Has Writing Taught Me?

  by Richard Comfort

Be careful what you put on the printed page. It may be witty, informative, clever. Don't count on it. It also can be dumb, awkward and worst of all, boring. Words on a page often are chameleon-like. What they meant while you were writing them is not what they mean when you read them later.

Alas, what a bummer it is to rush back after a few days to read your pearls of wisdom only to find they are so stilted that they sound like they were written by some hack during the days of the Cold War. I miss those days when the Soviet Socialist Republic churned out stuff you didn't have to completely read to know what it completely said. It was a good lesson in how to insult the intelligence of a reader. The worst of it is, at times I can find myself fully capable of doing that. And worser yet is that I have actually passed it on to someone to read. The punishment more than fits the crime.

So why do I write? Because there is the chance that I can be lucid, entertaining. What a rush it is to pick up something I don't remember writing and say to myself, "Who wrote this? It's good." It makes it all ok.

E-Mail Richard Comfort

Today's Lesson

  by Susan Bono

Writing does not magically appear in my journal, computer, or anywhere, just because I want it to. Writing demands my time, my attention, my energy, whether it's my writing or someone else's.

This month, others' words have come first and I can only sigh, shrug, think back over the busy, cluttered days of February and let them go unrecorded.

Whether or not I have learned my lesson well enough next month remains to be seen.

Susan Bono's head is currently being filled with entries to the 13th annual Tiny Lights' personal essay contest.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

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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