Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

There's been an accident. Your creativity's in critical condition. How do you bring it back to life? (11/15/08)



Featured writer: David S. Johnson



Contributors this month:
Arlene L. Mandell
Betty Rodgers
Bree LeMaire
Charlene Bunas
Christine Falcone
Claudia Larson
David Hoag
David S. Johnson
Don Edgers
Glanda Widger
Inez Castor
Susan Bono


This Ain’t My First Rodeo

by David S. Johnson

The unkind sun sluices through the few clouds; it forces my eyes to narrow and my neck to sweat. I hand my ticket to the ticket-taker and follow my nose, which has been lassoed by the promise of gator po-boys, crawfish etouffee, and boiled peanuts. I suck the briny juice from the soft shell of a boiled peanut while looking at the arts and crafts booths. It's an hour before the rodeo begins. The event is a mix of country fair, rodeo, and flea market. Were it not for the double coils of flesh-shredding, razor-lined concertina wire and armed guards, I would have forgotten I was in prison.

Each October Sunday, the largest and most nefarious penal system in the United States offers family entertainment by means of the Angola Prison Rodeo. Inmates on good behavior earn the right to participate in the rodeo or to sell crafts. My creativity is an inmate in a similar prison, along with other people's creativities, sentenced here because of crimes of clichés, awful alliterations, and blatant plagiarism. And like the Angola inmates, these creativities are allowed to redeem themselves on occasion.

I stand at a table covered with wooden plaques inscribed with Bible verses. Angola inmates who are selling crafts are kept in a large square fence with their tables on the outside. They do not speak to passer-bys unless asked a question. I move quickly through the tables. Similarly at my creativity's prison, I walk through the craft tables with each incarcerated creativity watching me with indifferent eyes. They are selling ideas, metaphors, and allusions. I dare not make eye contact because while I think their efforts are laudable, I think most of it is gaudy and I don't want to buy some just to quell my guilt.

At Angola, cowboy inmates ride a thrashing and twisting bull with a recklessness and insidious lack of style that only a life sentence can inspire. Sometimes inmates are thrown; sometimes they are injured. Sometimes they are pinned to the arena fence.

The bull in my creativity's rodeo represents any type of narrative such as an essay, a sonnet, or an article. I am never in control of even my own creativity so I am simply a spectator watching the carnage. I am joined in the stands by editors, readers, and friends. All of us holding our breaths for brilliance or blood.

Let us now watch as my creativity is pinned by a bull. The steel-braided muscles drive the bulldozer legs of the beast as it tries to sieve my creativity's limp body through the narrow bars of the arena fence. The bull backs up and bats my creativity's body into the air. Dried mud, fresh blood, and hands clinched to a kicked gut, my creativity lays there as the bull paws the ground. As the bull charges, the only help I can offer is to send in the clowns. Friends willing to read my essays are my rodeo clowns who distract the bull for a moment while my creativity picks himself up.

We can now exhale because my creativity survives, although he is busted up. This breathlessness of spectators and breaking of creativity are the hallmarks of good prose because the snorting, bullish narrative is never completely tamed. It always has a tinge of danger and wildness. The best I can ever hope for in the creative process is that my creativity hangs on as long as possible, thrilling spectators all the while.

David Samuel Johnson and his creativity try to hold on for as long as possible in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. www.impeccablepeccadillo.wordpress.com

Fighting Fog and Fug

  by Arlene L. Mandell

Rain drenched Sonoma County winters can turn my creative juices to gray sludge. How many poems can one write about fog?

One of my tricks to restart the writing engine comes from Julia Cameron's seminal book, The Artist's Way, which advises a weekly outing. While I don't necessarily write anything about the outing itself, visits to an art gallery, nature preserve, garden center, or fabric store add vivid jolts of color, bits and pieces of new "material".

I also try to take an art course each winter at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts or the Sonoma Community Center. Splashing with tempera or acrylics, I usually make a mess of myself as well as the paper, but these activities seem to free my spirit. They also give me new color words, like alizarin crimson, veridian green and quinacradone magenta.

Sometimes I combine the two, writing and art, into collaged poems, adding scraps of lace, shreds of colored paper, a sprinkle of glitter. This past summer I won four ribbons for poetry at the Sonoma County Fair - two were first prizes - for collaged poems. Even more important - playing with paint and feathers and glue is fun!

Arlene L. Mandell never went to kindergarten. She’s trying to make up for it in her retirement years.

There's been an accident. Your creativity's in critical condition. How do you bring it back to life?

  by Betty Rodgers

I moved from northern California to Maine in my early twenties and lived there for ten years. New adventures awaited as I strode into a lifestyle very different from anything I had formerly experienced. I learned how to boil lobsters (yes, they go into the pot live), figured out that "fox" actually meant "forks," apprenticed in driving in the snow, growing potatoes, and picking fiddleheads, a springtime delicacy. I now know that cows lie down before the rain, and that it's necessary to plug in the car's engine-block heater at 40-below. In addition, I lived a normal life without the convenience of running water for more than a year.

I also learned a lesson from a remarkable dog, whose name I have forgotten. My grandmother had a similar dog named Buck, so I will use that for the sake of discussion. Buck was a ruddy mid-sized mutt who wasn't allowed in the house, and he liked to chase cars. In fact, chasing cars was his sole purpose in this world.

Now and then, Buck would miscalculate and tangle with a vehicle. After the clunk, the driver may or may not have looked back to see the hapless dog flung to the side of the road because more than likely he was dead. "Stupid aggravant, anyway."

In critical condition, Buck would manage to slide himself into the ditch and lie there completely still for days in a near-death stupor. Eventually he would free himself of the coma, pull himself upright, and completely restored, make his way home to bask in the praise and extra kibble from his humans. No search party, no panic, no veterinarians summoned. They knew that Buck would always come back.

Since then I have applied the Buck principle to many situations, including serious blows to my inspiration. No sense forcing or trying to manipulate the issue. Maine native Orissie Faloon preferred to call it "going downriver with the current." Then after a non-quantifiable time span, after the injury has healed, after equilibrium returns, that is when creativity comes back to life and I rise up restored, pen in hand.

Betty Rodgers picks up her pen in Boise, Idaho. Frequently she bakes bread and makes berry pies using tried-and-true Maine recipes. You can reach her at



My Accident

  by Bree LeMaire

There are times when I pray for some small mishap that will physically immobilize and sit me down on the spot demanding "partial bed rest." It is so hard to put myself into the chair and capture my own writing space. My house seems at times like a busy airport, planes arriving, leaving and many tired travelers tramping through my living room. It's a daily battle to take myself away from the kitchen or the garden to plant myself in the spare bedroom and not answer the phone, not contemplate dinner and not check the email or the online bank statement.

My favorite current remedy is to take my writerly self over to Candlestick State Park and write in my Honda CRX, something like Nobokov, who also wrote in his car. The drawback is that I'll invariably forget my favorite pen or even the writing journal. I'm in such a state to get out of the house, away from the phone and the kitchen that I forget the necessary utensils. However, when everything is in sync, I fly. The words flow and my trusty pen never runs out of words.

So, a minor accident that takes me out of commission might be the perfect prescription. I'd put a big sign on the door with red letters canceling visiting hours.

Bree LeMaire continues with her murder mystery. She is now on Chapter 30 and closing in on the murderer. Peraltapal@aol.com


Running Into Creativity

  by Charlene Bunas

"Help, I've faltered and fallen into writers' block and I can't....."

"Wait! I do know how to get up." I'll tell you what works for me.

Creativity, like running, needs a warm-up, an easy jog, a sprint and a cool-down.

I stretch by a session of free write. For fifteen minutes I write continuously about an arbitrarily chosen topic, word, thought. The point is to keep the pen moving or the keys clicking for 15 minutes. No inner critic is allowed, no spelling rules count.

The slow, easy jog is looking at my challenge and answering one of two questions:

a) "What makes him/her/me so boring, so uninspirational, so uncreative?"

b) "If I weren't feeling uncreative right now, what would I be doing?"

Answers to those questions shoot me into a writers' running pace. I keep the sprint pace going, or slowing it down, by listening to Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Enya, Bruce Springsteen, Sade, Norah Jones. I inhale music: jazz, blues, reggae, Motown, opera or Indian chants and become reflective and quiet, spirited, mysterious, mad, sweet or sexy n' sweaty.

Yeah, that was a good run!

At the end of my write, I am refreshed, renewed. Endorphins?

Charlene Bunas lives, writes and runs in Santa Rosa, CA.

How Do You Restore Your Creativity?

  by Christine Falcone

First, mouth-to-mouth. The resuscitation of my creativity would include the breath, that life force that expands the air sacks of our lungs and carries oxygen to the brain. After performing mouth-to-mouth, I'd bring my creativity, its body broken and badly bruised, to a soft bed with white sheets, put her in traction for a few weeks so she could heal properly, all the bones realigning in just the right way. I'd bring her fresh flowers every day and see that she had the best round-the-clock care. I'd even smuggle in a hamburger if she so desired. I'd sit by her bedside and pray, visualize green healing energy around her like a cocoon.

Then, when it was time to leave the hospital, I'd load her carefully into the car and take her for a long drive -- some place scenic, pastoral, the hills of West Marin. We'd ride all the way to the coast, where we'd watch big barrel rollers crash on the beach. I'd help her out of the car, steady her as she walked slowly, deliberately to the sand. I'd help her take off her shoes, lead her down the beach and watch as the wind whipped her hair around her face. We'd inhale deeply, fresh salty air, and close our eyes, feeling the spray of seawater on our cheeks. It all comes back to the breath, inhaling in, exhaling out, and she'd find the words somewhere, pull them out of thin air and hand them to me like a sea star still wet and glistening from the sea.

Christine tends to her creativity in Novato, CA.

Tenderly

  by Claudia Larson

Tenderly I gather her in my arms, holding her as I did each of my children, each grandchild. I coo to her. I listen to her, tuning into her language, responding to it with the curiosity and the attention her un-socialized communication deserves. The warmth of my body embraces her. My breath on her face tells her that she's not alone.

My hands are more than the bones, blood, muscle of human holding; they speak timelessness, spacelessness, formlessness. She nestles closer to me. And in that moment I realize that it's not she who's in critical condition. She's well. She's healthy. She's whole. It's the barrier that's dying. The self-constructed wall of protection, borne of disappointment, of hopelessness, of despair, of loneliness is disappearing, disintegrating before my eyes.

There's plenty of time to learn why that wall was built in the first place. In the meantime, I see that the rose bushes hugging the sidewalk have grown taller, have more pale pink blossoms than ever before. Even in the half light I'm not afraid to walk on the path. In this moment, I'm revived.

Claudia Larson may get scared tomorrow, or even in the next hour, but for the moment in Sonoma County, California, she’s safe from her boogey man, not requiring the creativity ambulance.


Desire is Critical

  by David Hoag

Walking poles don't work so well the 5:30 a.m. starless overcast darkness of a late fall day as they did during same-time-twilight of summer. The morning one-hour walk, up, down, around the bunker and berm on the golf course where I live came to an abrupt halt. On my hands and knees, moaning, I ponder—sprain or break? Walking poles lie there as I brood over a crawl or a walk back to my home overlooking the 11th green. I strap my hands into the leathers, rise, and wobble back to home. My feel for the early morning walk is lost to pain.

Okay, it's got to be a sprain, I think, so I hobble to the Dilbert cubicles for the morning's work and then make a one block sojourn to the Credit Union for cash at noon lunch break. It takes ten minutes to go one-way. I get a ride for one block in the opposite direction to Bardenay Distillery for lunch with a friend. My taste is gone.

My friend hears my tale then tells me one of her own. A twenty-two year old ballet dancer she knew suffered a severe sprain, par for the course on the ballet floor. At her post-mortem, they determined the tiny fractured bone chip traveled to her heart. Is it an urban legend or a truth tale? No matter; but, it does matter; I'm twenty pounds overweight and that chicken-bone crack-sound I'd heard on the way down compels me to go to the VA Hospital—-one of the best in the country, I'm told. The PA takes one quick look and says you're going to x-ray. Down to the basement department I go and back up I carry back the black plastic sheets.

"It's a clean fracture of your lateral malleolus," he says. "We'll get you a boot and send you down to physical therapy for your crutches. Stay off it for six weeks."

"Say, Doc." I ask, "Could I've heard the crack on the way down?

"Yes, you could," he says.

Now, back to the Dilbert Cubicles I dearly love. There is an office staff of thirty devolved into thirds during this completed campaign season—-left, right, and in-between, but mostly it's the men who make fun, nonsensically, of me hobbling around. "Where's your horn?" asks one guy?

No matter, my thoughts are deadened. The women are all consoling. One lady offers her cane from when she broke both her ankles tripping out the door at the grocery store. Another offer, a shower chair, comes from a lady who fractured her hip last winter on a ski holiday.

Two weeks go by and a third lady, Sue, sits down at my desk to ask how I'm doing. She says I'm looking pretty run-down. "Amazing how one small part of the body can affect the rest," she says. She's a former ballet dancer so I tell her about the twenty-two year old ballerina who met an untimely demise. Sue's eyes pop wide open but shakes her head and responds that by age sixty-two, she's never broken a bone. My foot's up under the desk, boot and sock off, trying to keep the swelling down. She catches a glimpse and wants a full view.

Her facial expression squishes a bit but she adds, "Your purple toenail paint is unique."

I ask her, "What's that fragrance you're wearing?"

"Deseo, by Jennifer Lopez."

Finally, after two weeks, my sense of smell no longer seems blighted. I reflect. In essay, particularly, it's written in our genes, flows out of our bones, and lodges in our sub-conscious. I think.

And now, I write, once again.

David Hoag is an Eagle, ID writer who detects changing light off the patio near the 11th Fairway or from a cubicle at the office.
dhrunwalk@gmail.com


This Ain’t My First Rodeo

  by David S. Johnson

The unkind sun sluices through the few clouds; it forces my eyes to narrow and my neck to sweat. I hand my ticket to the ticket-taker and follow my nose, which has been lassoed by the promise of gator po-boys, crawfish etouffee, and boiled peanuts. I suck the briny juice from the soft shell of a boiled peanut while looking at the arts and crafts booths. It's an hour before the rodeo begins. The event is a mix of country fair, rodeo, and flea market. Were it not for the double coils of flesh-shredding, razor-lined concertina wire and armed guards, I would have forgotten I was in prison.

Each October Sunday, the largest and most nefarious penal system in the United States offers family entertainment by means of the Angola Prison Rodeo. Inmates on good behavior earn the right to participate in the rodeo or to sell crafts. My creativity is an inmate in a similar prison, along with other people's creativities, sentenced here because of crimes of clichés, awful alliterations, and blatant plagiarism. And like the Angola inmates, these creativities are allowed to redeem themselves on occasion.

I stand at a table covered with wooden plaques inscribed with Bible verses. Angola inmates who are selling crafts are kept in a large square fence with their tables on the outside. They do not speak to passer-bys unless asked a question. I move quickly through the tables. Similarly at my creativity's prison, I walk through the craft tables with each incarcerated creativity watching me with indifferent eyes. They are selling ideas, metaphors, and allusions. I dare not make eye contact because while I think their efforts are laudable, I think most of it is gaudy and I don't want to buy some just to quell my guilt.

At Angola, cowboy inmates ride a thrashing and twisting bull with a recklessness and insidious lack of style that only a life sentence can inspire. Sometimes inmates are thrown; sometimes they are injured. Sometimes they are pinned to the arena fence.

The bull in my creativity's rodeo represents any type of narrative such as an essay, a sonnet, or an article. I am never in control of even my own creativity so I am simply a spectator watching the carnage. I am joined in the stands by editors, readers, and friends. All of us holding our breaths for brilliance or blood.

Let us now watch as my creativity is pinned by a bull. The steel-braided muscles drive the bulldozer legs of the beast as it tries to sieve my creativity's limp body through the narrow bars of the arena fence. The bull backs up and bats my creativity's body into the air. Dried mud, fresh blood, and hands clinched to a kicked gut, my creativity lays there as the bull paws the ground. As the bull charges, the only help I can offer is to send in the clowns. Friends willing to read my essays are my rodeo clowns who distract the bull for a moment while my creativity picks himself up.

We can now exhale because my creativity survives, although he is busted up. This breathlessness of spectators and breaking of creativity are the hallmarks of good prose because the snorting, bullish narrative is never completely tamed. It always has a tinge of danger and wildness. The best I can ever hope for in the creative process is that my creativity hangs on as long as possible, thrilling spectators all the while.

David Samuel Johnson and his creativity try to hold on for as long as possible in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. www.impeccablepeccadillo.wordpress.com

Critical Condition

  by Don Edgers

My left leg seemed to turn to rubber. Upon our return from the hospital after being examined for suspicion of a stroke and being told, "It's minor," I careened off the garage wall as I exited the passenger side of our truck. Continuing forward and barely making it up two steps to the bedroom, once more my left leg lost its ability to keep me going in the right direction and I shot sideways through the door to our utility room, crashing painfully into our washer. My wife guided me to the bed and told me not to move while she called our doctor.

By the time I got to the hospital for the second time, the limbs on the left side of my body were in critical condition. I had visions of those I'd known who'd had strokes and worried whether my memory would be impaired and whether I'd be able to finish a second book that was only half-done.

I became inspired by my fellow hospital and rehabilitation patients, and physical and occupational therapists who contributed to my mental and physical recovery. I noticed those who gave up or were remiss in doing the exhaustive and painful exercises, regressed to become semi-vegetated and pitiful creatures.

Three years after my stroke I've been able to recover to about 90% of my former condition, finish the half-done book plus another. I still have to work at walking and typing - but cringe at what might happen if I slack off.

So it is with creativity going into critical condition. The physical and occupational therapists, and exercising the almost dead parts of my body which were essential to contributing to my recovery, could be likened to joining a writers' group, or attending writing classes or seminars - or forcing oneself to contributing to Tiny-Lights.com every month, no matter what.

Don Edgers continues to recover and overcome his critical condition in Port Orchard, WA.
www.anislandintime.com


R&R

  by Glanda Widger

It's been a rough month. The family has suffered some traumatic events. The world has suffered similarly but on a grander scale. I sit and stare at the same blank page in my typewriter that was there two weeks ago. As a writer of humor I need fodder for my book. Tears and heartache and worry are not conducive to funny lines.

Before, I would have found humor in everything. The neighbors bald cat; the phone talking, gum snapping female in the grocery line. Now those things just invoke pity, or anger.

I sit here at three in the morning, wracking my numb brain for a way to kick start the creative process. Trying to think of even one thing that I have seen or heard in the last few days that was even remotely funny. Even my dog has stopped being funny. The animal who thinks rabbit poop is an appetizer, refused to come in because the toilet overflowed. That's not funny. It's darned aggravating when you're drenched to the skin trying to drag a sixty five pound animal from under the porch to the safety of the house in a raging storm. I'm cold and my shoulder has no doubt been dislocated.

Maybe I am just trying too hard. Good ideas appear out of thin air when I least expect them. They just drift through my brain like wisps of smoke and I attempt to grab a bit of it and put it on paper. Perhaps it's time I gave up this ridiculous quest to be published. Too much trauma and too many nerve wracking events have left me drained. I could write serious books containing murder and mayhem. I could make use of the depression and misery that has been heaped upon my head lately but, I can't do it. I'm not a writer of serious themes. I can't even begin to figure out how to write those thoughts and feelings down in any cohesive manner.

It's late, tired. I'll just stretch out on the sofa and rest for a while. I can work on it tomorrow. Just a little snooze. A short closing of my eyes. I might even dream of a good story line. Something that has been locked away in my subconscious for a long time. Just, sleep. For a very few.....

Of course. My husband. All I have to do is tell him tomorrow that I want him to build me a table. The darling boy is a detail oriented fanatic. He will ask what size I want it and I will say I'm not sure yet. Then what material and I will respond with,"We have those table legs in the shed." He will ask color and I will say I'm not sure. Then he will throw a fit, stomp out of the room and, BINGO. . .a new storyline. Boy am I slow on the uptake sometimes. Nitey night.

Glanda Widger is over the hill and in the hills of North Carolina. She loves to write about the funny side of life. Now that she is retired she can do whatever the heck she wants to. She has had several humor contest wins and honorable mentions. It’s hard to be serious when you live on Dirty Ankle Rd.



There Are No Accidents

  by Inez Castor

The question assumes that we've got control over the process of creativity. Maybe you do, but I have no control whatsoever. I'm not even sure I have any creativity, beyond the long ago act of turning sperm into healthy babies.

I can raise carrots, but all I create is the conditions for growth. I can edit another's writing, but all I create is the loving acceptance of the author and his or her work. The work itself, sometimes so beautiful it makes me cry, was created by someone far more creative than I.

What I do have is the ability to believe seven impossible things before breakfast, the freedom to do whatever I please as long as it doesn't cost more than $5, and the tendency to wander away, leaving my body at the computer automatically pouring words onto a page.

Inez Castor recently retired in order to spend more time wandering around northern California, following the little animals and steeping in magic like tea in hot water.

Self Help

  by Susan Bono

It all started when a panel of book doctors insisted my sluggish creativity needed to be put on a diet. "Don't think of her silhouette in terms of apples or pears," they said. "Think 'sack of cement' waiting to take her down."

No more sugary treats or lolling by the pool with a rum and coke for my creativity. "This looks serious," the doctors murmured as they poked and prodded, noting poor muscle tone, slow reaction time, the way she ignored their questions. "She appears depressed," they clucked, and prescribed antidepressants.

Thus began my creativity's rapid decline. On the experts' recommendation, I hired an ex-marine with a whistle and clipboard who rang the doorbell at 5 a.m. six days a week for laps around the neighborhood and so many sit-ups and leg lifts I thought she'd break in half.

Next, Creativity got plain oatmeal and water. Then she was sent to her computer to answer every email, because, "New research proves a tidy inbox promotes self-discipline."

Lunch: cottage cheese, prune juice and carrot sticks. Then it was time for group therapy led by a battle-scarred editor of a major literary journal who kept everyone's delusional fantasies in check with truths like, "Just remember, it's all been said before," and, "If you haven't been rejected at least 500 times, don't even bother to call yourself a writer."

"Now we're making progress!" the trainer crowed when Creativity weighed in at half her former bulk. By that time she was making no unnecessary moves during the day, but late at night I could hear her roaming the house, trying all the creativity-proof latches.

One evening, I accidentally left the refrigerator unlocked. Next morning, the leftover mashed potatoes and a quart of Fudge Ripple were gone, but a shadowy smile played at the corners of her mouth. After that, I started leaving trashy magazines and the TV remote lying around and canceling more and more of her therapy appointments. "She's got this cough and mysterious fever," I'd say. "I wouldn't want you to catch anything."

After a few weeks of these small freedoms, my creativity started perking up considerably. The heartbreak of it all, though, was that she never really trusted me again. She'd still stop whatever she was doing and scurry away whenever I entered the room. I couldn't blame her.

So one warm, moonlit spring night, I left the front door unlocked. Around 3 a.m. I heard it close behind her. I haven't seen her since, but I know she's around. The canister of snacks I leave on the deck is always emptied and there are damp towels in the pool house. Many nights last summer I heard her singing outside my open bedroom window. The so-called experts wouldn't think much of it, but it's music to my ears. Some winter night when she's cold enough, maybe she'll come back in. Or maybe I'll get up the courage to join her out there in the dark.


Susan Bono is avoiding diets of all kinds 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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