Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

What Inspires You? (12/15/03)



Featured writer: Martha Ley



Contributors this month:
Anne E. Silber
Betty Winslow
Martha Ley
Rodney Merrill
Susan Bono
Susan Starbird


Martha Ley



Teachers inspire me, and I find teachers everywhere: the woman ahead of me in the grocery line teaches me patience, my lazy cats teach me daily the art of relaxation, and children teach me the joy, the utter joy, of being boisterous.

Nature inspires me: I see in nature's mirror the reassuring rhythm of birth, life, death and rebirth, and nature ever reminds me to include songbirds in my morning, watch egrets in the afternoon, and welcome crickets, frogs and raccoons in the night.

Travel inspires me: whether hiking a new trail in Sonoma County or inching my way through customs in a foreign country.

Photography inspires me: with camera in hand, colors are brighter, edges are sharper, juxtapositions delight and time stands still.

Authors inspire me: fiction and nonfiction intersect gently at the keystone of a perfect arch and frame my life.

Writing inspires me.

Martha Ley learns, lives, travels, photographs, reads and writes in Santa Rosa. skyley@aol.com

What Inspires You?

  by Anne E. Silber

Issues. Give me an issue to write about, and I cannot be dragged away from the computer. As far as I can tell, the world revolves around issues of one kind or another, and if not for them, would be a dead Planet indeed!

I won my first essay contest at age 7 by raising an issue. The other boys and girls wrote about their peaceful lives playing baseball, or with their dolls, or whatever.

Not me! I wrote about our playground at school, and how much nicer it would be if it were larger.

I've been writing about issues ever since, be they political, social, religious, or personal. Give me issues, or give me death.

Don't misunderstand. My one published novel so far is centered around a nice family in a nice neighborhood, and is a rather sentimental look at the 1940's. However, as one reviewer wrote on my Amazon page, "Lessons of tolerance, family, and change are stitched into the nostalgic narrative." (Brian Kaufman, author of The Breach.) See there? I had to raise issues and teach something.

Issues help me to better know who I am and where I stand, therefore to become a better writer: one who hopefully can entertain readers while at the same time making them think.

Anne E. Silber

Blackshield1500@earthlink.net

www.annesilber.net


Betty Winslow



I'm almost afraid to answer this one, for fear it will sound too much like Julie Andrews, singing "My Favorite Things", but here goes....

stars and comets,candy corn,
skylights (when clouds are filling the sky),
seashells and rocks,
my friends and my family,
surviving the death of my oldest child,
flowers and sunsets,
full moons and
fireworks,
Bible stories and worship songs,
cheesy charm bracelets,
family photos,
thirty-one years
of love with one man,
the sound of sea waves,
seagulls swooping and squawking,
fountains and rivers and waterfalls,
food smells, like popcorn
and apples and lemons
and creamy hot cocoa and cinnamon spice,
cool cotton sheets on hot nights in August,
and warm flannel sheets when it's snowing outside,
the new-baby smell of my brand-new granddaughter,
and the never-know-what-they'll-say
times with my teens,
knowing God loves me
and will not forsake me...


the things that inspire me go on and on.
So now, here's the $64,000 question:
What do I do with it all?

Betty Winslow, Bowling Green writer, inspired by too much to list!

Martha Ley



Teachers inspire me, and I find teachers everywhere: the woman ahead of me in the grocery line teaches me patience, my lazy cats teach me daily the art of relaxation, and children teach me the joy, the utter joy, of being boisterous.

Nature inspires me: I see in nature's mirror the reassuring rhythm of birth, life, death and rebirth, and nature ever reminds me to include songbirds in my morning, watch egrets in the afternoon, and welcome crickets, frogs and raccoons in the night.

Travel inspires me: whether hiking a new trail in Sonoma County or inching my way through customs in a foreign country.

Photography inspires me: with camera in hand, colors are brighter, edges are sharper, juxtapositions delight and time stands still.

Authors inspire me: fiction and nonfiction intersect gently at the keystone of a perfect arch and frame my life.

Writing inspires me.

Martha Ley learns, lives, travels, photographs, reads and writes in Santa Rosa. skyley@aol.com

Rodney Merrill



I am motivated by the challenge of rendering an experience that may have evolved over many years down to a few well chosen words that create an opportunity for the reader (the co-creator) to create for themselves the sense that it happened to them. I am inspired by the writing of authors who can do that.



Susan Bono



I remember the days I mooned around with a notebook at the ready. I dragged it into classrooms and cafes and Laundromats. I kept it close to my bed. I even took it on dates, because I wrote all the time. I was in my late teens and the muse had me on speed dial.

Was it hormones that had me going? Naiveté and youthful sap? Back then, I was heartbroken about 85% of the time, angry the rest. Safe to say, my inspiration was derived from my own special blend of teenaged angst.

I'm not saying that what I wrote was good. I shudder at the memory of a short story in which a housekeeper decides to dry a wet poodle in a microwave and a poem that compared women to dolls. But I was sufficiently motivated to complete a double major in literature and creative writing. I then went on to become a teacher who would, for a time, encourage other miserable teenagers to write.

Mercifully for me and the world, the source of most of that emoting began to dry up, even before I finished college. I met my husband, found a career, made a home, started a family. I continued to write, but what was once a dangerous, though fecund, swamp gradually evolved into a place where I could stand and sometimes keep my feet dry.

My creative life is no longer the sink-or-swim scramble it once was, and sometimes I miss that. I even miss the ignorance that can masquerade as confidence. But I'm not as lonely as I was in those years, and I've reduced my level of heartache considerably. So life is good.

As long as I have a little drama, a little angst, some frustration and confusion. Because that's what moves me to write.

Susan Bono keeps looking for trouble in Petaluma, CA.

Susan Starbird



What inspires me is a fact, and the smaller the better. Some of these micro-inspirations are borne on the wings of NPR. Others emerge as patterns from the blurry field of consciousness as I maneuver my way through a drowsy morning's stop-and-go-traffic.

This week's favorite factette is the Von Karman Vortex Street, the model describing what water (or air) does downstream (wind) of a symmetrical obstacle. A fish swimming upstream on the Street meanders to take advantage of alternating whirlpools and jets; this meander is called the Karman Gait. (Which, and pardon my digression, could be easily confused with Karma Gate.)

So with these thoughts I surge forward, then wallow in merging traffic, then jet ahead again until I'm spit off the freeway and into an inspirational side eddy. -

Susan Starbird, commuter, Sebastopol

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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