Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Who loves your writing? (06/15/07)



Featured writer: Claudia Larson



Contributors this month:
Arlene L. Mandell
Christine Falcone
Claudia Larson
Don Edgers
Paula Matzinger
Susan Bono


Who loves your writing?

by Claudia Larson

I love my writing.

That's a bold statement from one whose family lived under the do-well-but-don't-boast flag. It's quite a task to unfurl from that family standard, to sit until the quiet comes, to wait for the images and then to write as if my personal language is the national language. Yet I love that sinking-into, waiting-for, creating-from process.

I love reading the results of turning-inward, looking-outward, being at the hub-core of my existence. It's a satisfying scrapbook of moments, caught in the dew-bejeweled web of noticing. It's a cookbook chock full of visual recipes tasted and touched, providing nourishment for daily walking on the earth.

Outside myself, there are seven women who love my writing. These are women who, with me, have created a bowl of acceptance as we write and read the sharp and rounded edges of honesty. These women have met the surfaces of me, the elbows and knees, the quarks and leptons of me. I am more visible as a result, disappearing the cloak that kept me hidden even from myself.

In my younger view of love, I limited love's satisfaction and excitement to my growing children, to my large and extended Norwegian-American family, to the man I saw as The One, to a handful of dear, dear friends, to kittens and sewing and singing. But writing has rounded out love, including me in my life in a way not done earlier.

Like other things in life, my cognizance of love ebbs and flows, sometimes metallic in the sun bright, other times a fogged bathroom mirror after a steamy shower. My writing audience counts as numerically small, yet in actuality it's as huge and vast as my childhood prairie sky when counted by what matters to me, what strikes the multi-dimensional chord of my fancy, of what I love.

Claudia Larson loves watching the birds outside her Sonoma County, CA window. She's not loving wilting in the heat.


Arlene L. Mandell



Who loves my writing?

1. ME - most of the time.

2. My late mother - when I was on the staff of Good Housekeeping (back in the late ʽ70s) because she could show the articles to relatives and to the ladies in the hair salon.

3. My twice-a-month writing group - sometimes.

4. Miscellaneous editors who publish my work - but never as often as I would like.

5. Some of the people who read it, but I usually donʼt know that.

6. Susan Bono, keeper of the light - thank you Susan.

Arlene L. Mandell reports that her bichon, Gabrielle, listens attentively when she reads but that Gatsby, her Turkish angora cat, prefers eating newts.

Who Loves Your Writing?

  by Christine Falcone

When I ask myself this question, the first thing that comes to mind is: I do. I love my writing, especially the flow of it when it comes pouring out. It's the same kind of love I have for the wind blowing through the trees, or the rush of a fast moving river. It's what keeps me motivated to sit down at a blank computer screen, or crack open a new notebook. It's what wakes me up at four a.m. and urges me to "write it down" as the voice commands. I love my work because I get to make stuff up all day long. I get to be an inventor, a therapist, a sculptor, a painter of words. My canvass is the blank page and, although I find its bareness daunting at times, I also find it full of excitement and possibility. The only part of my work I don't love is the revision. I'll admit, there's a certain satisfaction in tinkering, in refining, in cutting back and filling out. It's like working with a mound of clay on a potter's wheel. There is something therapeutic about it - even addictive at times. But it's the hard part, it's where I'm most likely to experience labor pains. But even with the revising, there is an element of love, in the same way there is with tending a garden . Maybe even in the same way as raising a child: it's hard work, exhausting, not always fun, but there are peak moments and the end result is so worth it. Who loves my writing? I do and that's a good place to be.

Christine Falcone loves what she does in Novato, CA.

Who loves your writing?

  by Claudia Larson

I love my writing.

That's a bold statement from one whose family lived under the do-well-but-don't-boast flag. It's quite a task to unfurl from that family standard, to sit until the quiet comes, to wait for the images and then to write as if my personal language is the national language. Yet I love that sinking-into, waiting-for, creating-from process.

I love reading the results of turning-inward, looking-outward, being at the hub-core of my existence. It's a satisfying scrapbook of moments, caught in the dew-bejeweled web of noticing. It's a cookbook chock full of visual recipes tasted and touched, providing nourishment for daily walking on the earth.

Outside myself, there are seven women who love my writing. These are women who, with me, have created a bowl of acceptance as we write and read the sharp and rounded edges of honesty. These women have met the surfaces of me, the elbows and knees, the quarks and leptons of me. I am more visible as a result, disappearing the cloak that kept me hidden even from myself.

In my younger view of love, I limited love's satisfaction and excitement to my growing children, to my large and extended Norwegian-American family, to the man I saw as The One, to a handful of dear, dear friends, to kittens and sewing and singing. But writing has rounded out love, including me in my life in a way not done earlier.

Like other things in life, my cognizance of love ebbs and flows, sometimes metallic in the sun bright, other times a fogged bathroom mirror after a steamy shower. My writing audience counts as numerically small, yet in actuality it's as huge and vast as my childhood prairie sky when counted by what matters to me, what strikes the multi-dimensional chord of my fancy, of what I love.

Claudia Larson loves watching the birds outside her Sonoma County, CA window. She's not loving wilting in the heat.


Who loves your writing?

  by Don Edgers

[Me] Being a ‘closet-narcissist' is perhaps too strong of a label to hang around my neck; however, I love to read (with amazement) what's come to mind. Perhaps there's an aggressive muse in cranial-residence just waiting for me to put words on paper.

[Other writers] I received the following "love" letter from an author and playwright: "Many thanks for your masterful chronicling of the 1940s in particular and your characterizations of the children of that era. Your lingo of that period was particularly touching. Rarely have I seen the flavor and interests of early childhood so vividly represented. Happy and heart-warming memories were evoked in your book. Again, thanks for the happiness I've enjoyed - yes, and tears shed - in reading your great, pains-taking Puget Sound book."

[Proustian-type nostalgiacs] When I read from my book at a Historical Society potluck and mentioned the "Fox Island dump," the old-timers seemed to react to the "Paddles of Life." An hour after my reading, the former listeners continued to tell their dump stories. Who knew?

[Contemporaries] A columnist for the "Seattle Post Intelligencer" after reading my first book and interviewing me wrote: "Every step backward into his childhood on the Island, described in clear and simple detail, makes his first-person perspective a very open and inviting book. --- As a transplanted contemporary, I am amazed at Don's detailed memory of the old-time radio programs ¯ the taste of water stored in a genuine war-surplus canteen ¯ cadging candy and gum from soldiers as they marched from Fort Lawton to troopships ¯ And running outside with his mother during the 1949 earthquake."

[Family - friends - colleagues - students] My wife has always loved my writing, but my brother, daughter, nieces and nephews were somewhat amazed at my recall, writing style and the fact that family history is preserved for all time. My friends love how I depict commonplace remembrances that they would write about if they wrote. My teaching colleagues and many of my former students love that I actually accomplished the goal of writing a book.

[Those who like a light-hearted read] "Don Edgers repudiates the current trend in some autobiographies that focuses on destructive relationships and damaged characters. Instead, he recounts the adventures of growing up in a loving family during a dysfunctional time in history. An Island In Time, told with fondness and wit, provides literary snapshots of the not-so-distant past." (‘The Bookmonger'- book reviewer)

[Bathroom and short story readers] "I love the length of your stories because I can set the book aside, then pick it up later and not be lost." (several readers)

[Neighbors and acquaintances] "Now I understand why you are the way you are. I love it!"

Don Edgers, a retired, 30-year teacher, lives and writes in Port Orchard, Washington. Check out information about his two historical memoirs on his Web site: anislandintime.com

Who Loves Your Writing?

  by Paula Matzinger

My family loves my writing. And my dog. She is always lying under my desk while I compose on the computer. When no other human is home, I read and re-read my work out loud. My dog doesn't move a paw. I think she loves to hear my voice - if only through her doggy dreams.

When I think my poem or essay is done, after it sounds right to my ears, I fondly anticipate my husband and children's return from work and school. I get my kids a snack, my husband a glass of wine, make sure they're seated on the couch, then read them my current composition.

Believe it or not, they like hearing my stories and stanzas. I think it is because I mostly write about what I know best, which is, of course, them. My family may hear my voluminous interpretation of our various vacations, or snippets about our everyday life at home.

I think they are very courageous and forgiving, because I do not leave out the hard stuff. I may write about tough issues between my husband and myself, or document insults my children throw back and forth at each other. They especially love hearing the insults again, as well as how I craft them into the bigger picture: use them, hopefully with humor, to illustrate my theme - usually having something to do with family chaos inside a cohesion of love.

And I think, despite our family's disagreements and arguments, that is why we still all like to hang out together at home on the couch, or on vacation in a small, cold tent. In the end, as I hear them giggle over my version of our imperfect stories, we can laugh at ourselves.


Paula Matzinger, Sebastopol, CA


Mine Alone

  by Susan Bono

It's getting harder to convince myself I love writing, especially during my many sabbaticals from it. How can I claim to love my captured thoughts if I don't even take the time to chase them? But whenever people ask me what I care about most, "My kids and my writing," is what I tell them.

A few days ago, I stood by my friend's side as she gave birth to her daughter. It was a fairly straightforward labor, but as any woman who's been through it can tell you, even one hour of it, let alone thirteen, is hard, painful work. After three hours of pushing, her doctor decided a vacuum assist was necessary for delivery. He attached a suction cup to the crown of the reluctant baby's head and gave the command to push. The pain must have been extraordinary, because my friend, who until that point had endured every procedure with no protest, began to scream. She looked into my eyes and announced in a tone that brooked no argument, "ENOUGH!"

I knew my job was to tell her to keep going. Both baby and mother's well-being depended on it. But in one of those weird moments of clarity so hard to find words for, I could see how completely mother and daughter were still connected, how neither of them were ready to be separated. They would never be this close again. I saw how violent every birth really is, the destruction of perfect wholeness.

Everyone in the room managed to take another breath, including the baby, whose impossibly gorgeous head was now free, the rest suddenly following. All the pain and outrage lifted from my friend's face when she caught sight of her squalling daughter, and as soon as the newborn was placed on her chest, the peace of happy endings enveloped both of them.

I've heard writing compared to childbirth many times, with special emphasis always given to the rewards that make the scary, grueling agony worthwhile. After all, life is all about letting go and moving forward. As a mother and writer I have had to let go a hundred thousand times, and no end in sight. Sometimes I find the strength myself, sometimes force is in order. But as much as I adore the fact I have children and writing out in the world, I remember when they were still part of me. It's hard not to grieve the loss of perfection and mystery. I may always love my writing best before it's born, because love has a lot to do with holding on in the face of all that's changing.


Susan Bono is continually astounded by what life has to offer in Petaluma, CA.

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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