Searchlights & Signal Flares

Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

How do you deal with writer’s envy? (03/15/11)

Featured writer: Gregory Gerard

Contributors this month:
Becky Povich
Carol Treacy
Catherine Crawford
Claudia Larson
Daniel R. David
Eric VanCamp
Jay Halstead
Joan Zerrien
Lidija Alvarez
Marilyn Petty
Nathaniel Alston
Sara Baker
Steve Lindsey
Susan Bono
Tami Root Holihan
Theresa Sanders

The Anagram Approach

by Gregory Gerard

Writer's envy, I fear thee not.

For though thy green eyes rear and retreat,
Dumping thy load of inky poison and despair into this writer's heart,
Tempting me to hate ‘his bestseller' or ‘her review,'
I know thee cannot truly wound.

For thou art but eleven letters.
And letters,
Like feelings of the soul,
Can be rearranged.

Under scrutiny of my winter musings,
Thy sting softens,
Slips away.

‘Poison' becomes ‘I spoon'—

And I do spoon - warming the frigid March mornings with my companion so close beneath the comforter.

‘Despair' becomes ‘aspired'—

Which is how my heart soars, watching April's buds push their way through the slushy layer of snow toward the gentle goal of tomorrow.

And thou? ‘Writer's envy?'

Thou art nothing more than ‘wintry verse'—

Cast away with a simple shake of thy components,
Lost on the purposed breath of spring.

Gregory Gerard waxes poetic as spring gains ground in Rochester NY with his partner of 13 years and their winter-loving spitz husky. His writing has been recognized by The Stone Table Review, Word by Word, The Empty Closet, Outtake Voices, Out in Print, and more. Gerard teaches writing part-time at Writers & Books, Rochester’s contemporary literary center. His memoir, In Jupiter's Shadow, chronicles a religious boy's struggle with forbidden attraction. The funny and poignant story explores how we sometimes work to hide the truth from the most important person in our lives: ourselves.

Visit for pictures, reviews, and lots, lots more.

Envy Whom?

  by Becky Povich

Have I ever experienced writer's envy? At first I thought my answer would be a resounding "Yes", until I looked it up in two different thesauruses. I was surprised to discover I obviously didn't know its true meaning at all.

I always thought it meant to desire, or to wish for, things that others had. Such as: More money, a nicer home, a newer car, but in a kinder, gentler, wishful thinking kind of way. Not in the jealousy, greed, bitterness, resentment, or spiteful kind of way. Those are the emotions of the discontented. Those are the emotions of people who can't or won't make the commitment it takes to keep going and reach any of their goals.

No, I've never experienced writer's envy. There are writers I wish I was as good as. There are writers who make the kind of money I wish I made. But that's not envy. That's just a couple of first reactions and sentiments of someone who has set their aim high, is working toward it, and can see it becoming a reality. No, it's not envy. It's just plain old desire, passion, and hard work. It's making a dream come true.

Becky Povich continues to work toward her goal of getting her memoir published. You can learn more about her at her blog:
or e-mail her at

First Things First

  by Carol Treacy

I'll be completely and blatantly honest: my first emotion is envy. Why not me? Why do they have the connections and why is their work publish-worthy while mine sits silently, woefully on the floor, dodging dust and granules of cat litter. Why is my masterpiece sharing the floor with old copies of People magazine and articles on fighting ab flab? How come my work isn't getting adulation and glory while theirs has practically gotten them rubbing shoulders with celebrities?

Once my jealous rantings die down to a mere whisper, my adult voice, my mature voice, can be heard. It walks me down a path of joy and encouragement for the soon-to-be-published writer. It also points out that this writer could very well open doors for me, like that commercial, "Now you have a friend in the diamond business."

A connection, a portal into the industry that I'm cut off from -- the velvet rope hangs in front of the door -- but will it be removed so that I may pass through? I think it will take more maturity and growth to greet another writer's success with pure glee and excitement. It reminds me of how I felt when a friend found the man of her dreams. Jealousy was replaced with the question, "Does he have a friend?"

Carol Treacy is a Petaluma resident working in a computer software services office and writing screenplays in her spare time. Her desire is to one day hear her pithy, witty dialogue uttered from the lips of George Clooney.

Leafrollers, Fruitworms, and Caterpillars

  by Catherine Crawford

Someone once told me the way to get good at writing was to apprentice myself to great writers, living or dead, and learn from them. Wonderful advice. But when a great one becomes "the apple of my eye," even for a short time, my envy can break out like apple worms in an orchard.

This side of myself embarrasses me. It also undermines the spirit of my writing. OK, I ask myself, what exactly do I envy? Literary prizes? What others say about celebrated writers? Fame, despite the fact I know it's fleeting and that it acts on my system like a parasite or drug?

What I envy isn't important. This pernicious vermin wriggles through my psyche trying to convince me I'm not getting the big things I want. Against the worm, I've little defense except my reason. And reason tells me to get out of Wormville. To see the orchard for what it is. To realize the great ones often fail and, even when successful, have envies of their own. I ask myself what the writers I envy have given up to reach their goals. Do I want lives like theirs? Their friends or moods? Their physical environments? Sometimes when I envy pure talent, I really need reason to boot me out of that.

Worse than envying, however, is being envied. Especially by a good friend. If it's someone who admits their envy to me, we talk about how we're like leaves on a tree, each of us valuable to the whole of writing. Sometimes that helps, sometimes not. But every so often, such a friend confesses to not writing at all, and this makes me cringe. Consistent writing bears fruit for me while envy only stunts the crop.

Sadly I have no bug spray for envy. Occasionally I search the Internet for photos of apple worms because the metaphor is apt and repugnant. Whether they have black or green heads, I see in each the maggot's destruction. Envy may act like a spur to some, but it sours me. I can't get the candor I want in my writing when I'm being devoured by a creature like that.

Catherine Crawford lives in Washington State where apples abound. A historical site near her home has an apple tree planted by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1826. The tree is still alive.

Full Moons and Fairies

  by Claudia Larson

Clouds scribbled out the full moon's edges. The lunar visitor looked fuller and friendlier than usual as its orbit swung close to the earth. My granddaughters set their shoes on the front porch, a greeting to the full moon fairies.

Standing under a cloudy, full moon sky, writer's envy is at the farthest end of the universe. If I pay attention to the way the moonlight enters my eyes and settles into my bones, I'm satisfied. Perhaps I have the full moon fairies to thank.

Claudia Larson waits for moon fairies in Sebastopol, CA.


  by Daniel R. David

Writer's envy?!?! Are you trying to tell me something? Why don't you just come out and say it, that you're afraid my writing will so outshine yours that you will begin to question your choice of vocations? That my prose flows so fluidly and with such flourish you are embarrassed, yea mortified, by your comparatively pallid composition.

Would you prefer that I seek a different profession altogether, say bricklaying? I could spend my days in the fresh air and sunshine and I wouldn't have to listen to jealous, frustrated novelists and poets like you! I would construct splendiferous sidewalks and wondrous walls and beautiful buildings…at least until the Loyal Order of Masons complained of the unfair competition.

Or I could paint. Canvas after gorgeous canvas on wall after wall of all the great museums, each brilliantly conceived and utterly unique...of course, think of the disappointment of all those connoisseurs who no longer own the defining art of the century and of all the Art History courses which would need to be rewritten. But I digress…

Perhaps I am envious of you, the little people, the proletariat. Oh, to be free to write imperfectly, without the constant expectation of genius, of producing the next great novel. Free to express simple thoughts rather than to have to represent and to stimulate the innermost desires of a nation. Why, oh why must I carry this burden, this lodestone, this albatross of greatness?

So, how to deal with it…

Well, I suppose I could let it upset me, react irrationally and emotionally, but that would be so unlike me. I guess I could just ignore the question, but that would be unfair and disappointing to my friends and family and my many fans, who would clearly expect me to defend my reputation. (Not to mention, I would then have nothing to submit.)

How do I deal with writer's envy, then? If I found myself in the (admittedly unlikely) position of envying another's work, I would first calmly examine the specifics of the situation. Was the piece really something I wished I had written? How similar was it to something I did write? (Should I be considering a lawsuit?)

If not perjurious, then why is the piece worthy of my envy? Is the author really that good or was it (more likely) a lucky fluke? I would then remind myself that even a monkey might produce great literature, given a keyboard and enough time, and who am I to deny a simian his day in the sun?

Finally, if upon further review, the object of my jealousy displayed a consistent pattern of excellence, I would have to actually face my feelings. I might have to admit that I may not be the only talented writer, maybe not the most talented. Someone else might truly be better and I would just have to accept it like a rational human being. I might begin to work harder to improve my craft. Or, I could contemplate murder…

Daniel R. David argues his case in Rochester, NY.
His email:

Envy? Yeah Maybe a Little

  by Eric VanCamp

As I consider the authors I most admire, I look at my own good fortune and think this must be what has held me back from having literary fame. The writers whose work I find most fascinating, whose words pop off the page, the authors who can take me deep into the scene, these are the people I want to understand and emulate as I look to make sense of this ever-changing medium. But it's too late. My upbringing and riskless behavior leave me yearning for those lives, stories, horrors and adventure.

I look to the biographies of those authors and I daydream. I daydream of the drunk who writes prose with a pint of whiskey by his side. The secluded barn in the rural Connecticut where he pushes down on his key board has no access because of the snowfall at least two weeks a year. His near death drunkenness helps him to find the darkest material imaginable. When he sobers up to actually frame a story, it becomes a bestseller. He then gets drunk enough to write another piece of literary magic. Does he think this is enough? Drink, write, drink, write, drink…

I think of the writing prowess of the son of a diplomat who spent his childhood between Amsterdam, Thailand, Uganda and Kenya, and having to write his experiences for his dear old diplomatic daddy. Those stories started as an exercise for his father and turned into volumes used in several college Anthropology classes throughout the world. His lectures are admired by many, and with his rugged good looks, he rarely spends a night alone in the upscale hotels in which he stays while on tour. Can he appreciate the silver spoon still stuck in his mouth?

Or how is it that the girl who didn't learn to read until she was 12 could go on to become so famous? Her illiteracy led to her love of books, any and all of which she read before she picked up a pen and pad at age 21. From there she has gone on to write the murder mystery series that can't be sent to print fast enough before hundreds of thousands of copies are sold. Would she like to thank her early deprivation for all her wealth?

Looking at these authors I reflect on what has kept me from fame, glory and envy from my peers. I'm fairly sure I need an addiction, a tragedy, a run in with lots and lots of money, or a mental breakdown that will leave me alone in a room for months on end so I can put my thoughts in other people's minds. Do I have envy? Yeah maybe a little.

Eric VanCamp lives in Fairport, NY with his wife and two young daughters. This is his first submission to anyone, anywhere.

How do You Deal with Writer’s Envy?

  by Jay Halstead

Personally? I scold it, paddle it, make it stand in the corner and send it to bed without supper. Writer's Envy does nothing positive for this writer's best friend - my creativity. No, just as water carved the Grand Canyon into the earth, Writer's Envy works at burrowing a cavernous ravine deep into my belly. Its plan? To set up house and permanently reside there like the big, hairy, misshapen green lump of blah it truly is. It would attach itself to my imagination and warp my ability to construct a coherent sentence. It would sap my strength like a ravenous parasite. It looks to lock up the gears of my brain, refusing to allow any new ideas to percolate to the surface. It itches like a misfit garment fashioned of burlap...only the itch is on the inside. Unreachable by any standard means, it remains ever on the edge of my consciousness, tickling and chafing until I simply cannot write without being pestered by that niggling feeling that something isn't quite right.

Writer's Envy serves no purpose but to lead me astray, dragging me down a path of doubt and betrayal. It even manages to extinguish the street lights behind me, making it more difficult to find my way back through the darkness. It is happiest when I give it my full attention. That's when I feel its bitterness roil up my insides like a plateful of bad beef. It needs to be punished severely and banished. I gird myself if I feel it even beginning to worm its way into my life. I close the windows and lock the doors, refusing it entry. I've learned to say no.

"Envy" is a feeling of discontent and resentment brought about by a desire for the possessions or qualities of another. When a fellow wordsmith manages to put forth that perfect mix of ideas that reaches into my chest seizing my attention, how could I possibly feel discontent or resentment? If they can make me laugh or cry or peek over my shoulder dreading what might be lurking there, why would I? Rather than envy their successful endeavors, I find joy in their efforts and learn from them. The more good writing that sees the light of day, the more readers that will come out of the woodwork. The more readers we have, the more likely it is I will have something of my own read and (hopefully) enjoyed! That's really what it's all about, isn't it? It's the reason we do what we do.

Thanks, but I'll spend my time enjoying the work of others rather than resenting their unique talents. So, wee little Writer's Envy - take your bitter, green discontent and scurry on down the highway to the next threshold. I've no room in my house for you!

Jay Halstead of Rochester, NY, is a tax auditor by necessity, writer by choice.


How do you deal with writer’s envy?

  by Joan Zerrien

Jealousy is about the fun you imagine other people are having.

Some writer more clever than I wrote that, but Google will not remind me who. It's just the kind of thing turns me green.

A tandem wave of cool appreciation and hot longing sweeps through me when I read well-crafted writing. I am awash with envy of the relationship that writer has with her laptop. Doubtless they get together every single day to frolic in joyful creativity. They spend intimate nights sharing their abilities with passionate abandon. The writer never slacks, the laptop never crashes, the laundry never calls. They have it easy, match like that made in heaven. I am so very, very happy for them.

Wikipedia takes a dim view of envy: not only is it wanting what the other has, it's wanting them NOT to have it. Well, I wouldn't go so far as that. What would be left worth my while reading?

Joan Zerrien lives where the laundry calls.
Her email:

Going to the Mat

  by Lidija Alvarez

"Anyone else?" The teacher asked, scanning the room.

"I have something to read … but I can't do it myself. Can you do it for me, please?" I asked a lady who read a sad story of her own and didn't have trouble reading it. I respected her courage.

"Sure."She said.

I gave a copy to the teacher and to her. There was silence in the room. They all curiously waited.

"Fear wrapped my chest … " she started.

I exhaled. I sighed, and then I choked up. Tears fell and I left the room sobbing. From a hallway, I listened until the voice stopped. When it did, I entered. All eyes were on me, sad, some teary. For a few seconds no one spoke. I felt naked, exposed, but glad it was over.

The critique finally started. Realizing I write pretty well for a foreigner, I answered their questions. Many came, introducing themselves and welcoming me. I was grateful and ready to continue writing.
In the following months, my stories brought a new atmosphere in the group, now my second family. I still couldn't read most of my work. I had a few ladies as reading surrogates and my writing progressed. One of my reading surrogates held my hand as she read. The friendships formed as we learned more about each other. I was happy even though my accent got me in some minor trouble. I didn't mind it because each day among these talented people, I learned something new.

I laughed and played around with most as I got to know them better. I also goofed up several times. Once, not knowing the original sender of one E-mail, forwarded back and forth a few times, I expressed my confusion a little too much. The message ended up distorted as in the game "Telephone." We all laughed at it, or so I thought.

My stories described a world foreign to most in the group. They were raw and poignant at the same time. With each piece, I got some praise. I was told from some that they were amazed with my command of the English language. I looked forward to each class. I thought the unity was unanimous until one of the ladies I held dear to my heart turned on me for no reason. After countless E-mails with her, trying to understand what happened, I gave up. I gave up the group and my writing.

I've gotten E-mails from a few ladies urging me to come back. "Your work is important and it has to be told. We miss you." One wrote. I cried.
Torn between self preservation and obligation to my memoir, I went to the mat. I drove to the Speakeasy literary reading in Petaluma in a rain storm. I met great people. I listened and put my name in the hat for the open mike. I entered a writing contest. The next group meeting, I was there. The following, I had a story to read.

The collection of short stories about my childhood titled "The Children of Paper Town" is coming along as well. They capture my life in poverty and dysfunction while growing up in Communist Yugoslavia. Some stories depict parts of history from a childlike, refreshing point of view where survival molds the creative outcomes.
I appreciate all the help and critique I get on my writing. I am also looking for a co-author with psychology background.

Lidija Alvarez says, "My memoir, “Hostage of a Fifteen-Year Silence,” is about the suicide of my 15 year old daughter. You can read an excerpt of it, and about my life after, on, an organization where I volunteer, helping with music therapy in local homeless shelters. We are in a process of organizing a new fund-raiser, a concert of local artists with participation of local businesses, so check us out often."

How do you deal with writer’s envy?

  by Marilyn Petty

This is what I say to myself: Get over it. Quit wasting time comparing yourself to others - envy and pride are deadly sins. You are old enough to know better. So sit down and write and forget this fruitless ruminating over who is better or worse. Get busy and do it - write!

Marilyn Petty continues to give herself this same advice day after day after day in Santa Rosa, California.

For Writer's Envy

  by Nathaniel Alston

Writer's envy i adore
because it brings the best out of me
it allows me to read others' creativity
which inspires me to go back to work
so people can envy me and read as they smirk
a little smile here with a little grin
that's what us writers do when we envy within
it's all inspiration can't you see
that true writer's envy lets us free
takes us to new levels that are unknown
trying to be the first writer to reach that zone
envy that's hidden becomes known
while fellow writer's aim to take you off your throne
little envy here and little envy there
that's one thing about writer's envy you don't have to care
so write what you know and be willing to share
'cause there will always be envy amongst writers who care
so keep on writing to become top king or queen
then writers will hesitate before they step in your ring.

Nathaniel Alston is a 25yr old male looking to become a great writer if it is meant to be. He started writing last year and finds that it allows him to deal with the stress of everyday life and have peace of mind.


  by Sara Baker

Envy is like an insidious fire that burns a writer's soul and, therefore, must be extinguished. Just what are the smoldering embers that fuel this fire? Do human emotions act as accelerants? Am I capable of identifying and understanding those emotions that I often unquestionably and unknowingly choose to ignite the fire? If not, am I destined to be a self-sabotaging arsonist and, thereby, reduce my writing career to ashes?

I choose awareness and insight as keys to dousing envy's narcissistic, adolescent-like power. In so doing, I realized that envy is an emotional response that probably originated in adolescence when comparing one's abilities to another's.

The envious person, then, is born from misperceived threats or fears, and, according to Bertrand Russell, "not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy but-—in extreme cases—-also wishes to inflict misfortune on others."

So, what is the fear that lurks behind a writer's self-constructed firewalls? Fear of inadequacy? Fear of success? Fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear of trust? Fear of vulnerability? Fear of offending either one's readers or an editor?

Writer's envy, therefore, is not about the other person. In reality, envy is about our highly combustible fears—-those well-hidden, smoldering, dark coals that lie just below the fire's surface. Rather than identifying the fear, envy allows us to conveniently deny our fears and project both our fears and our weaknesses onto another person and avoid self-confrontation.

No wonder Dante defined envy as one of the seven deadly sins! His punishment for envy was having one's eyes sewn shut with wire for having gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought down. Seems extreme—-yet if a writer fuels the fires of envy, he blinds himself as he figuratively sews shut his own eyes.

Once a writer's eyes are sewn shut, he alienates himself from the creative force inherent in becoming an effective writer. Once alienated, writer's envy continues burning as a counter-productive, toxic, acidic fire that destroys creativity, and, without creativity, a writer is reduced to smoldering ashes. Smoke, like a soft cloud, rises from those smoldering ashes and brings into sight the fears that need to be addressed and the attributes that need to be developed.

So, look at what you envy in another writer as the thing lacking in you. In that way, envy better serves you because it provides an opportunity to learn. Then, exercise good judgment and self control. Finally, wish the best for your rivals.

Sara Baker is a freelance writer, technical writer, editor, and retired teacher who currently lives in Allen, Texas, with her soulmate with whom she has been married for 27 years. She can be contacted at

Envy’s End

  by Steve Lindsey

I read. I read all the time. I read while cooking (from experience - books and gas stoves don't mix.) I read while eating. I sometimes find myself holding a book over my head as I tip back a can of Diet Coke, searching for the last few drops. I have reading covered.

But writing? Sure, I can do that. How many books have I had to put down because they were awful, a struggle just to pick up the next time? Those authors got their books published. I must be able to write better than that. I can write a book, I just need an idea, the rest should be easy.

I probably spent 10 years waiting for that killer idea. I never wrote anything. I was paralyzed, waiting for some great inspiration, that one great idea. For a while, I kept a notepad by the bed so that brilliant idea at 2 AM wouldn't be lost. At 7 AM, those ideas were old and tired.

I envied those authors who, it seemed, had an abundance of ideas and were able to produce an endless stream of books. Then one day, my son handed me something he had written in school: a story, three pages, with a picture on each page.

Page 1: Once upon a time, there was a peaceful town.
Page 2: A fierce dragon attacked.
Page 3: No one could save them ... except for a hero.

So simple. So what if it's been written before - a million times. In three lines he told the perfect story. I envied his ability to make me feel so good with so little.

I'd been stuck for years, unable to start writing because I thought I needed some unique vision, a flash of magical insight. He showed me I could just sit down and write.

So one evening, I wrote my first story. It was one page, written just for my son. He was the hero who saved his little brother from a snow monster. The next day he told me how much he enjoyed it. That story won't win any awards. I won't spend hours adding detail to the descriptions or massaging it into a professional story to publish somewhere - it was written for one person. But that story was the first step that I had never been able to take and it was inspired by a simple three-line story from a third grader.

Each story has a life of its own, growing, changing, twisting. It needs to be given freedom, and sometimes to be reined in. The author is a parent to his story, shaping it and helping it grow - upset when it isn't meeting expectations. It never turns out like you thought: sometimes better and sometimes worse.

Crafting the right words into a compelling story is hard work. I respect those who can do it well, but I won't envy them.

Steve Lindsey lives near Rochester, NY, likes to read, and is just learning how difficult and time consuming writing can be.

Sure Signs

  by Susan Bono

Whenever I felt poorly as a child, my mother would shake down the mercury-filled thermometer, snug it under my tongue, exhort me to keep my mouth closed, and leave me for what she always claimed was three minutes. After the flexible three minutes was up, she'd remove the glass spear, tilt it at just the right slant, and pronounce me fit for school or not, depending on her findings.

"You know," she often remarked, "it took me a while to figure it out, but when you were little, the surest sign you were sick was when your temperature was low."

Our bodies and minds send out signals to help us interpret the state of our health, and like a low temp, writer's envy is a sure sign I need to take better care of myself. When the first twinges of dissatisfaction and jealousy start to tighten my chest and narrow my vision, it usually means I have not been minding my own business and doing enough of what I profess to love: writing, teaching, editing, publishing.

A spasm or two of envy here and there is probably natural—like a sneezing or coughing fit from some errant irritant in the air. But a full blown envy attack that has me resenting the accomplishments of others or despairing of my own abilities means I am standing outside the candy shop pressing my nose against the window. I'm so fixated on the goodies out of reach behind the glass, I'm not even aware that I could open the door and walk in. If I actually allowed myself to stroll among the displays, delighting in the sights and smells, I'd realize I couldn't possibly enjoy all that I'd yearned for when I was standing outside feeling deprived. Everything has its price, and in the case of writer's envy, if what I want costs more than the quarters closed in my sweaty fist, I can always shake down the thermometer and get another reading before deciding what to do next.

Susan Bono is taking her readings in Petaluma, CA.


  by Tami Root Holihan

I hate the writer sitting next to me. I hate that I love her memoir piece—its carefully chosen words about a father's sickness tucked beneath a surface story about the birth of stray barn cats, formidable on its own. I hate that she could write it in only 10 minutes with Instamatic creativity.

Her life must have more stories than mine. Where is my fodder? I used to write pages about the smell of a boy riding past on his bicycle or a dream about a lotus flower. Where has that gone?

I hate that she has the time while I have to work at a real job, surrounded by noise during hours when I am feeling most creative. It would be nice, rather, to sit up in my office at home with the smooth ceramic of my coffee mug, filled with brew that brings back the spray of the Kona coast.

I would sip my coffee and gaze out the windows that fog up around the edges, winter seeping in. I would watch the people down below walking to the hospital two streets over. They would struggle with the snow that is never shoveled off the sidewalks, carrying books and bags, hampered by a miscellany of warming agents (heavy jackets, clunky boots, large thermoses).

Without that time, I am left with imagination and memory. I imagine the doctors, nurses, secretaries, lab assistants, and clinicians walking heavily through the bitter air. I imagine their lives as they warm up in the hospital-—the cold-shocked drones beginning to buzz, temporarily forgetting what winter means.

This gives way to memory. I remember the fish tank and the soft voices in that same hospital, when the sickness was mine-—the sickness that is less damaging when it is not named. The name means nothing. I was starving myself. But I was the only one who knew all about it, outside and in.

And when I was better (as they say) and thought I had become an adult, there was my friend, Will. My memories of him have thinned; they rely on afterwards. I remember the phone call to tell me he was missing. And the day they found him—at the base of Niagara Falls. I remember my father's hand, its familiar roughness around my bony fingers, as we stood together in the cemetery. I wondered what last thing Will's body felt.

And then my own plunge—-with different intentions-—off the coast of a Hawaiian island. All that mattered were my skin and muscles and bones. Cool, mossy rocks with sharp edges beneath my pruned toes. Air. And then coarse water beating my body as I surged toward the ocean floor, swarms of tiny bubbles coating my skin. A welcome beating bringing elation and relief. I am alive!

I remember I have these things.

And as I remember to write about them, I am thinking so little about stray barn cats.

Tami Root Holihan writes pages about lotus flower dreams in Rochester, NY.

This, I Believe

  by Theresa Sanders

I've just finished reading "the best book ever." I close my eyes, hug it to my chest. It will stay with me for a long time, this novel. The author's ability to paint his apocryphal world with stark, crystalline images is something I won't soon forget. Never in a thousand years could I write like this, but even as that thought takes me, it can tumble into depression if I let it. It can leave me feeling vulnerable and unworthy, which is when I'm most susceptible to envy. So before envy can do its damage, I must actively change my mind-set.

This, I believe:

G: Green with envy is not a pretty color.

R: Resonance. Writing is such hard work, so when someone's writing resonates with me, I tell them. Writers are sensitive souls. We all need to hear when our words touch others.

A: Admiration is part of the process.

T: Tenacity: the ability to hold fast, often in the face of great odds. Writing takes courage.

I: Inspired to aspire. The negative energy of envy is counterproductive, but inspiration comes from a positive place. Inspired by others, I'm led to aspire to my own personal best. Years of prodigious reading, studying, writing and re-writing have helped me to find my own voice.

T: There is only one me. I'm not a competitive person, by nature. "Being me" is the only competitive edge I have.

U: Use envy for good. When I support another writer by buying a debut novel or attending a book signing it shows them I believe in them. And if I'm ever on that side of the karmic table, having another writer's support means everything. It's all about what I send out into the world.

D: Destiny. We are all destined for greatness. While writing is a huge deal to me, it's not the only deal. My life is full in so many other areas. There's also a certain connectivity to life. When I get out and live it, I have more to write about.

E: Envy is rendered impotent by gratitude.

I finish the memoir I've been reading and hug it to my chest. It is, without doubt, the "best book ever." The author has literally taken my breath away, her descriptions so lush and lyrical I could almost hear them tapping across the page. In her capable hands, I have traveled worldwide, with language so beautiful it sometimes made me cry. Forget about underlining favorite passages; I might as well have highlighted the whole thing. Would that I could ever write like this, and if I'm not careful, envy will find me.

So again, I turn to gratitude: gratitude for life and breath; gratitude for family and friends, for colleagues I cherish and admire; gratitude for stark, crystalline images and the sound of words that tap, lush and lyrical, across the page. This, I believe…

Theresa Sanders lives with her husband near St. Louis, and is “Mom” to four beloved grown children. She is inspired by so many wonderful and talented writers, including the ones right here at Tiny Lights. Oh…and did she forget to mention that she’s grateful? Theresa welcomes email at: .

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono


C. Larson, B. Povich, M. Petty, C. Crawford, T. Sanders

Columnists Emeriti: Christine Falcone, David S. Johnson, Betty Rodgers, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Betty Winslow

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer living in Petaluma, CA. She has published Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at She conducts creative writing classes in Petaluma and Santa Rosa and co-hosts the quarterly Speakeasy Literary Saloon at the Aqus Café in Petaluma. She's on the boards of Petaluma Readers Theatre and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. She is still writing a postcard a day. Her most recent publishing credits include Petaluma Readers Theatre, KRCB’s Mouthful, Milk and Ink, and Passager Magazine.

Marilyn Petty is a dyed-in-the wool Midwesterner, a long-ago émigré to California and a fortunate resident of Sonoma County, CA. She taught weaving through the SRJC for 8 years and was the reporter, essayist, editor and publisher of the Redwood Empire Handweavers and Spinners Guild for 10 years. When not tangling with yarns, she is unknotting words, writing poetry and personal essays. She putters in the garden when words fail her.

Catherine Crawford is a former technical writer, editor, and course materials developer for high tech industries. She has taught college English at the four-year degree level, published two award winning chapbooks of poetry, and written articles for, a Portland, Oregon online travel magazine. She works as an editor in Vancouver, Washington. Her email:

Claudia Larson, in her childhood, wrote long letters to her best-friend cousin and enthralled herself by writing a heart-rending story of two orphans. She writes fewer letters nowadays and prefers writing poetry and memoirs of her North Dakotan farm girl days. She is not yet an orphan, has six siblings and lives in Sebastopol, CA.

Becky Povich lives near St. Louis, Missouri. Although not young in "people years," she's only been writing for ten of those. Getting her first book completed, a memoir, is her current short-term goal. She can be reached at, or visit her blog at

Theresa Sanders lives in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, where she is completing a novel. A former award-winning technical writer and consultant, she managed a Documentation and Training department before turning to her first love, creative writing. Her stories appear regularly in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Theresa welcomes email and would love to hear from you. Contact her at:

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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