Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

What will you bring to your writing this year? (01/15/05)



Featured writer: Anne Silber



Contributors this month:
Anne Silber
Arlene L. Mandell
Betty Winslow
J. Randal Matheny
Kathleen Lynch
Lizzie Hannon
Marilyn Petty
Marlene Cullen
Susan Bono
Terry Law


What will you bring to your writing this year?

by Anne Silber

Confidence. I've scaled the slippery walls of publishing, selling, not selling, lovely reviews, not-so-lovely reviews, rejection, attempts to write in different styles, attempts to expand my writing, period. All of this took place over the past nine years.

I slipped so often I feel like I have permanently skinned knees. I thought I had left those behind at around age ten. I'm permanently scarred, permanently scared, and permanently committed.

Committed to what? Committed to writing till the pen drops out of my hand, and the Coroner is called. No matter the rejection, the fumbling around with various avenues to pursue, I've been through it all now, and I know who I am as a writer.

That's why I'm confident. I learned that the reason I write is because I have to write. I can't not write. I know now that the judgment of others is much less important to me than my own. I discovered what I most enjoy writing. I got over not being a best-selling author, and immensely enjoy entertaining the smaller audiences who read my works.

It's nice being comfortable with yourself. I mentioned, though, that I am permanently scarred. I will never forget the misery of bad reviews, rejections, and trying to resolve the burning question in my soul, "Who are you, as a writer?" And being scared is part of who I am as a writer.

Now, though, I am not scared of what others think or say about my writing: my only fear is that I will not finish writing all I want to write before leaving this life.

Confidence comes when you understand that all the pain, struggle and heartbreak, as well as the joy, triumph and satisfaction, has shaped you into a writer who can't be discouraged, bought, manipulated, or turned into a slave for the "industry".

Happy 2005 everyone!

Anne Silber lives in Colorado Springs, CO and writes novels, collections of short stories, essays and articles. Details of her novel can be found on her website: www.annesilber.net

What will you bring to your writing this year?

  by Anne Silber

Confidence. I've scaled the slippery walls of publishing, selling, not selling, lovely reviews, not-so-lovely reviews, rejection, attempts to write in different styles, attempts to expand my writing, period. All of this took place over the past nine years.

I slipped so often I feel like I have permanently skinned knees. I thought I had left those behind at around age ten. I'm permanently scarred, permanently scared, and permanently committed.

Committed to what? Committed to writing till the pen drops out of my hand, and the Coroner is called. No matter the rejection, the fumbling around with various avenues to pursue, I've been through it all now, and I know who I am as a writer.

That's why I'm confident. I learned that the reason I write is because I have to write. I can't not write. I know now that the judgment of others is much less important to me than my own. I discovered what I most enjoy writing. I got over not being a best-selling author, and immensely enjoy entertaining the smaller audiences who read my works.

It's nice being comfortable with yourself. I mentioned, though, that I am permanently scarred. I will never forget the misery of bad reviews, rejections, and trying to resolve the burning question in my soul, "Who are you, as a writer?" And being scared is part of who I am as a writer.

Now, though, I am not scared of what others think or say about my writing: my only fear is that I will not finish writing all I want to write before leaving this life.

Confidence comes when you understand that all the pain, struggle and heartbreak, as well as the joy, triumph and satisfaction, has shaped you into a writer who can't be discouraged, bought, manipulated, or turned into a slave for the "industry".

Happy 2005 everyone!

Anne Silber lives in Colorado Springs, CO and writes novels, collections of short stories, essays and articles. Details of her novel can be found on her website: www.annesilber.net

Arlene L. Mandell



In a word: RUTHLESSNESS!!! I've been using a computer to write, edit and save my poems, essays and short stories for 15 years. Since I still don't trust the computer 100%, I also have a two-drawer file cabinet stuffed to overflowing and at least 10 inches of manila folders slip-sliding all over my desk, the so-called WIPS (Works in Progress).

Right now I have several brilliant ideas chattering in my mind and a dazzling mini-memoir in a fast-growing folder under my rubber cement jar. So at some point soon I must absolutely, positively look over everything I've written in the past 15 years and delete some of the almost-but-not-quite writings. I will be ruthless! Or maybe I'll ignore the past, move the rubber cement jar, and get back to work on the dazzling memoir. Stay tuned.

Arlene L. Mandell, a Santa-Rosa based writer, can be reached at poetessxyz@aol.com. She welcomes your suggestions about managing the creative flow.


Betty Winslow





More passion.
More vision.
More skill.
More time.

Betty Winslow, replying succinctly from Bowling Green, OH


J. Randal Matheny



What will you bring to your writing this year?? (Deadline: January 21, 2005.)

1. Focus.

2. Discipline.

3. I can't remember the third point, because my wife's poodle ran off with my notes. (I hate poodles. When I was a kid, I had a mutt, 100 breeds and non-breeds in one, with maybe a little bit of wolf thrown in, now that was a dog. I named him Tippy. He was a really funny dog.—)

Oh, yeah, point no. 3: Humor.

[Note to self: leave for three days, come back and revise; work on humor; send this off by the 22nd.]

J. Randal Matheny, http://RandalMatheny.com.

Kathleen Lynch



Guess it is not so much what as who…sorry to lead from the question but my ink has been dry for months for some reason and I just decided to pound the keys at this one. I will bring with me that voice that speaks to me, whispers to me, and relentlessly challenges me. The one who wakes me in the middle of the night while tucked within a dream yelling, "Wake up and write this down!" The voice that chastises, chides, and consoles me. The one that has the ability to sound like sharp nails across a chalkboard or the sweet smoothness of a tenor sax. One who will persuade a confession of truth from inside so that the words will skate over the paper in honesty and not fail under the burden of lies that expose weak and false lines.

The one who has seemed to shut up for too long, for I can't hear it like I once did. Maybe I have just stopped listening. Or maybe it is just visiting someone else for a bit. I hope wherever it travels…someone is listening…and writing it all down.

Kathleen Lynch, Farmington, Maine

Lizzie Hannon



Now that I am sleeping again, I can manage what the cards this morning exhort regarding writing, obedience, responsibility. I will not crabwalk sideways, backwards into the shell welded to the tendons of my left shoulder/neck/arm: the armor of fear and procrastination. This year I will "write, write." Listen and obey— become someone who responds to the sound of fog, can translate from the Polish, decode the embedded equation of sacred geometry = to be is to do.

I will be all poet—all tongue and whisper. I will be fog-like, reliable/ soft/ tender, obey my imagination. Each morning I will face north, creek side, where Pomo made camp between sequoia and pine. In the lull between rainstorms, lift the flaps, patient as fog, to find what is hidden within myself. Remember Sun God is already at work, rising, rising. I will stay here, punch an invisible time clock, follow the law of morning, climb with the Sun into the day. Even when words feel wooly, thick as a sweater of fog, I will keep my hands moving. I will do this for the tribe. This year. The year I woke up.

Lizzie Hannon, Santa Rosa, CA


Marilyn Petty



I keep thinking of the cast-off purse—the pocketbook Mother gave me when I was five or so. In our backyard in Oak Park was a peony bush which, that spring, was loaded with hard, fat buds. Plucked from their branches and dropped into my capacious soft, leather pocketbook they made a wonderfully rattly money sound. I was a rich, grownup lady about town, queen of my fenced-in realm. The point being that I remember vividly the look, the smells, the sounds of the yard, the bush, the black leather pocketbook full of noisy peony-bud money. And I remember the reality of that fiction. Now, in my writing, I want the same enthusiasm, intensity, and self-confidence that was so authentic to me then.


Marilyn Petty, Santa Rosa, CA


Marlene Cullen



What will I bring to my writing this year? Humor, irreverence and dedication. I promise to write every day; more than the usual to-do lists, grocery lists and numerous emails. I promise not to check my emails every 12 minutes. I promise to sit in chair and write. Maybe I'll learn to use the laptop and then I can write wherever and whenever.

The most honest answer though, is that I won't bring anything new. I know me. It will be the same ‘ol. Every morning, first thing, I have to check my emails. Something interesting may have come in overnight. Then, the morning's errands of groceries, bank, post office, recycle. Return home and first thing, check email (yes, even before putting groceries away). Then I have to clear my desk. By now, it's lunch time. You know the routine.

I do have good intentions though, especially now that the holidays are over. Somehow, the holidays spill over into February. Oh, wait, there's Valentine's Day. Okay, the holidays will soon be over.

The rum is in the cupboard, wine in storage and it's lemon water the rest of the month (thank goodness there are only a few more days in the month).

While I miss the rum being within easy reach on the counter, I do get my exercise stretching way back into the cupboard. It's not that I enjoy drinking rum. I just need a place for my paper umbrellas.

A true writer does write with drink in hand, right? I heard that somewhere.

I do have a plan to write more.

I plan to write for myself, simply for the joy of writing and to tell no lies.

Marlene Cullen writes mostly the truth in Petaluma, CA


Susan Bono



I started the morning kneeling in the hall in front of our thermostat—it's one of those battery operated programmable jobs, and it wasn't working right. Unfortunately, neither were my eyes. It took me three times longer than it would have last year to decipher the digital readout and the itsy bitsy text printed on the thermostat cover in order to get the heat going.

With numbed knees I staggered into the kitchen and almost threw my back out when I stooped to retrieve a frying pan for the breakfast eggs. By the time I got dressed, I was avoiding the mirror because I just couldn't face more evidence of what I have lost.

These days, I come to my writing with a similar sense of power on the wane. I fondly recall those hours as a teen I spent sprawled on my bed, pouring the contents of my heart onto the lined pages of a notebook. No hemming or hawing; just a thoughtful pause every now and then. None of this squinting blindly at a subject and wishing for brighter light and stronger glasses.

I don't consider my adolescent observations among my most profound, but there were years in my 20s and 30s when I felt it was possible to write without too much pain and self doubt. I had sharper eyes and a more flexible reach. And even if I failed to hit the mark, I could tell myself there was a next time. I was still young.

Of course, everything seems easier in retrospect, but in 2005 I'd like to bring some of the confidence I enjoyed in earlier years to the projects I'm working on now. I'm 49: old enough to begin to appreciate how complicated life can be, how elusive the answers are, how no one has forever. And at this rate of decay, acceptance seems to be my best option. When I picture myself ten years from now, 49 is still young. Maybe this year I can bring myself to use it before I lose it.

Susan Bono is trying to figure out what to lose and what to use in Petaluma, CA


Terry Law



Today I had to take a drive before dawn to charge my battery. Not figuratively so much as that I'd left the car door ajar and vulnerable to 18 hours of sapping domelight.

The sun hadn't risen by the time I got to Bodega Head and was simply a wild-rose strip which backdropped our distant sharp-limned hills. I hiked around a mile in its direction.

My 2005 resolution was to ditch the negativity, and unlike other years I've so far succeeded, or at least forgiven myself the odd banana peel and rake handle that already got me.

The pretty journal my Alaskan family gave me for Christmas is therefore filling itself with bright and harmless anecdotes, the tone being up, paragraphs short. Like an email I got from a brokerage firm high on the A-list of the SEC's usual suspects. In part (the part I remember) it says: "If you are not an intended recipient of this email, please notify the sender, delete it and do not read...it." This caution fell two paragraphs after the message. Or like the sign our bus passed en route to Santa Fe that advertised Reverse Vasectomies, just before a sign that spelled out the name of the (underpopulated) town: K-N-I-F-E. A later sign read Moneyback Guarantee; try not to think about it.

So all in a strew, I'm positively catapulting old manuscript rejects to this review and that. Without rereading. Any rereading might renudge negativity. I remail them: a) to be sure they're really not what the little mags I send to want, even though they run a bit deeper than the KNIFE paragraph above, and b) to then file them in the part of my life that's been not quite so up as I mean it to be now.

Maybe one can learn from famous rolemodel writers that up can be just as profound as one used to think down was. I hope that forsaking one's clear, rose-ribboned sky and driving recharged into a smoky sun is not an omen: that would be too negative for words.

Terry Law, Bodega Bay, 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.

Back to Searchlights & Signal Flares