Sunday, March 23, 2008

Local writers share sources of inspiration

Telegram Staff Writer

A thought and a pen - or a keyboard - is all it takes to start writing.
But what does it take to get the thought?
The ancient Greeks credited inspiration to the Muses, a band of sisters who planted seeds of song, story, music and dance within the minds of artists. Those who received such visits were grateful, the myths say, because there was no reason or pattern to the will of any Muse.
Science says it's something chemical, and contemporary religion claims all creation is for and to the glory of God. Others think it's luck.
But these explanations are second-hand.
Talk to a few writers - or artists or musicians - and you'll find that the source of the thought - the inspiration - isn't so difficult to understand.
'It's life,' said Diana Tierney, the founder of Temple's new writing club. 'Why write? Why breathe,' Ms. Tierney said. 'It's the same thing.'
A student seeking a graduate degree in creative writing, Ms. Tierney has written several short stories and is currently working on a novel.
'Life is not always bright and shiny,' she said. 'My stories tend to reflect that.'
Author Joe M. O'Connell found the 'life' for his book at a place of death.
The recent publication of 'Evacuation Plan: Life in a Hospice' came after a 2001 literary opportunity found him in the visitor's wing of Hospice Austin's Christopher House.
'It was a place of final moments,' O'Connell said. 'After seeing how life was there, I had the goal of telling their story - the dying, the nurses and the family members.'
The novel is not a singular tale. Instead it's a combination of short stories that appear as chapters planted between the main action - a young man wanting to write a play about hospice life who forms a friendship with one of the dying, a man named Charlie.
'The characters and dialogue are based on real-life,' O'Connell said. 'But it is a work of fiction.'
The short stories that interrupt the playwright's thoughts are glimpses into the lives of the people he encounters, the corpse transporter, a dying man's daughter and the nurse's son, to name a few.
'My message is that hospice is about life,' O'Connell said. 'It's about letting people be in charge of the ends of their own lives, being able to say a proper goodbye in comfort. What more could you ask for?'
Published author Henry Skupin said he wrote 'Growing Up on the Farm: A History of my Lifetime in Rosebud' to pay homage to a way of life that's fading.
'How often do you get to ride behind a mule or hitchhike across town?' Skupin asked. 'Those kinds of things just don't happen anymore. But they did. I know because I lived them.'
The autobiography tells the story of his childhood as he remembers it. There's a chapter about chores, one about football and several others about family and Rosebud in the 1950s.
'My life was great. I loved it,' Skupin said. 'These experiences that I had aren't what younger folks today are having. I guess I wanted to share it, so that they know that my kind of life existed once.'
And Suanne Stroup of Killeen, another local writer who's recently published a book - her inspiration was Interstate 35, a kind of 'artery' that she says brings life to Texas.
'Living and Dying on the I-35 Corridor' is composed of several chapter-length short stories. Belton's section visits the life of a tired, confused mother of two who's grappling with the news of an unexpected pregnancy. She comes to a Belton hotel for a few days of personal time away from her home life and a husband whom she fears she doesn't love anymore.
'There are so many places where ideas come from,' said Mrs. Stroup, a free-lance editor and writing tutor. 'Memories, observations or imagination. For me, it's a way to step out of my shoes and get into somebody else's life. That's relaxing in a way.'

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