Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Whose Encouragement Has Meant The Most To You? (04/15/05)



Featured writer: Christine Falcone



Contributors this month:
Christine Falcone
Claudia Larson
D.D. Maloney
Marlene Cullen
Mary Gaffney
Susan Bono


Someone Whose Encouragement Meant A Lot to Me

by Christine Falcone

I can still see Mrs. Carmichael, both my third and eighth grade teacher, standing at the blackboard, tray full of dusty erasers and broken bits of chalk the color of bone. I loved watching her write cursive葉he big A and the little a; the Big B and the little b様oved the way her age-spotted right hand with the nicotine stain held the chalk, looped up and down, crossed and dotted, the way her gold charm bracelet jangled like a yoke of bells around a reindeer.

She taught us how to write, literally, but later as eighth graders, she taught us composition葉he elements of a sentence, parts of grammar. We learned about dangling participles, that we should avoid them at all costs, about pronouns and direct objects. I waited all day until after lunch when our sweaty class returned to the room, slid into our desks and the clock ticked one. It was time for English with Mrs. Carmichael. How I enjoyed diagramming sentences! It was almost like an art form for me. (Of course, I kept this little secret to myself.) But somehow, I think Mrs. Carmichael must've known how much words meant to me, how language thrilled my thirteen-year-old senses. When she returned a paper of mine with a big gold star or a capital A with a plus, sometimes even a "++," I don't think my feet even touched the pavement as I walked home.

I saw a very aged Mrs. Carmichael last year at the funeral of one of my classmates. She asked about my writing, said, "I want to be one of the first to get a signed copy when your book is published." Had I told her I wanted to be a writer? My mom must have; she often mentioned seeing her at church. But when I promised her that she would be, hugged her and went off, I had a feeling that would be the last time I'd see Mrs. Carmichael.

Christine Falcone enjoys writing and avoids dangling participles in Novato, CA.

Someone Whose Encouragement Meant A Lot to Me

  by Christine Falcone

I can still see Mrs. Carmichael, both my third and eighth grade teacher, standing at the blackboard, tray full of dusty erasers and broken bits of chalk the color of bone. I loved watching her write cursive葉he big A and the little a; the Big B and the little b様oved the way her age-spotted right hand with the nicotine stain held the chalk, looped up and down, crossed and dotted, the way her gold charm bracelet jangled like a yoke of bells around a reindeer.

She taught us how to write, literally, but later as eighth graders, she taught us composition葉he elements of a sentence, parts of grammar. We learned about dangling participles, that we should avoid them at all costs, about pronouns and direct objects. I waited all day until after lunch when our sweaty class returned to the room, slid into our desks and the clock ticked one. It was time for English with Mrs. Carmichael. How I enjoyed diagramming sentences! It was almost like an art form for me. (Of course, I kept this little secret to myself.) But somehow, I think Mrs. Carmichael must've known how much words meant to me, how language thrilled my thirteen-year-old senses. When she returned a paper of mine with a big gold star or a capital A with a plus, sometimes even a "++," I don't think my feet even touched the pavement as I walked home.

I saw a very aged Mrs. Carmichael last year at the funeral of one of my classmates. She asked about my writing, said, "I want to be one of the first to get a signed copy when your book is published." Had I told her I wanted to be a writer? My mom must have; she often mentioned seeing her at church. But when I promised her that she would be, hugged her and went off, I had a feeling that would be the last time I'd see Mrs. Carmichael.

Christine Falcone enjoys writing and avoids dangling participles in Novato, CA.

Claudia Larson



I took it as a compliment when he said that I use my gifts in a strange way. I sat, beaming inwardly with all the pride saved from scraps of childhood memories and adult accomplishments.

"Thank you", I said. "I consider that a compliment."

"It's not a compliment," he said. "It's more of an acknowledgement."

Yesterday I walked out of Berry's Market with my salami sandwich and my 32- ounce Diet Pepsi, no ice. I set the blue, red and white waxed cup on top of my car. In that instant I became clear about what I want to be: I want to be someone who looks normal, with fun, suburban clothes and hair but with a raucous, bordering on strange, out-there personality.

I've wondered what he experienced to consider my work strange. Fleeting moments of panic float through me... And then they leave. I AM strange! That means that I have my own perception of the world and my place in it. I'm far more interested in my thoughts, my metaphysical explorations, than I am in anyone else's.

That explains my three-year absence from his classes, my impatience with following recipes to the letter and my explosive gusts of laughter. I've gotta do it my way, dance to my own Latin band and pepper my work with earth boneness and black hole travel.

Claudia Larson laughs and dances in Cotati, CA.

D.D. Maloney



Encouragement for me came after I wrote my first story. The initial readers of my first novella were so touched by the heart of the story that they motivated me to create a website (http://www.mikoandtori.com) to allow more readers to access my story for free. More readers came and more comments followed. I devoted a page on my site to the many heartfelt comments that followed. Whenever I need a lift I return to my Readers Page and read through them. They keep me going and hopeful that I can get published in the mainstream so that even more readers can enjoy the story.

D.D. Maloney, author of Miko and Tori.

Marlene Cullen



Full Count, batter takes the stance, crouches, elbows out, ready for the pitch. Pitcher winds up, delivers.

"Stee-rike, yer out," the umpire's thumb jerks towards the dugout. The batter, a bit disheartened returns to his teammates. His coach high fives him and slaps him on the back. My son smiles, knowing he has another chance.

My grandmother's ample bosomed, large lap has held all nine of her grandchildren equally with love and grace. No matter what we did wrong, we always had her lap to climb onto. Like an angel on my shoulder, always secure that she loved me no matter what.

Second grade, a gold star for a 100% on the spelling test, mixed in with a few red and blue stars, but mostly gold.

A writing pal smiles as I read my work. Is she pleased with my writing, or is she recalling a sweet memory? Her calm and accepting attitude is what matters.

Encouragers are my gold star friends who provide unconditional support. I climb upon their metaphorical laps, feel them on my shoulder and with high fives, they deliver tons of gold stars.

Marlene Cullen enjoys collecting high fives and gold stars in Petaluma, CA.

Encouragement

  by Mary Gaffney

When I write about my husband, I don't always embarrass him, but I have done it often enough that when I finish a piece, he asks, with a bit of a sigh, "What did I do this time?" But he never asks me to change those parts. That acceptance is encouraging. When I get a story published, he's proud of me, but, when I am rejected, he isn't disappointed in me. He has never questioned my expenditure of time or money on writing, nor does he complain or nag when I am not writing. He's okay to proof reador not, to attend readingsor not. Everything he does and doesn't do, in regard to my writing, is the encouragement that has meant the most to me.

Next in line for invaluable encouragement are my writer friends. They have been so generous with their time in reading, making suggestions, and rereading, that my stories should really say, "By Mary Gaffney & friends."

Mary Gaffney gets by with her friends in Occidental, CA.

Susan Bono



OK, I admit it. I'm an encouragement junkie. Just give me a pat on the head or a "You go, girl!" in my ear and I'm off and running and flying high. Your support fills me with hope and energy and verve. Your validation supplies the juice that keeps the lights on.

Unfortunately, my need for reassurance gets me searching, not for my notebook, but for the next person who might deliver a dose of feel good. Since an encouragement addict can't count on the continual presence of cheerleaders and guides, there are stretches of time when I feel lost and empty.

Even if I had the literary equivalent of fluff girls stroking my ego at every turn, I suspect that once I got to know them, their ministrations would cease to work the desired magic. My addiction is such that familiarity breeds a contempt of sorts.

When my loyal and long-standing allies give me the thumbs-up I think, "You're just trying to make me feel better. What do you really know?"

So until I break the habit of seeking approval from others, I will continue to burn through the perfectly wonderful supporters I already have. If I want to keep going as a writer, I have to learn to start looking closer to home and finding encouragement in the writing itself.

Susan Bono seeks the 田ourage in 兎ncouragement from her desk 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 20002005 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痴-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壇 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痴 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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