Where I Find Inspiration

May 1, 2020 | By Claire Fullerton
I was recently asked the following question in an interview: “As a writer, where do you go to find inspiration?” The interviewer cited the habit of Charles Dickens, who took to the streets of London every day in a five to six-mile stroll while looking for source material. I love the evocative image of this world-renowned writer cruising through London, his eyes darting as he tallied impressions, experiencing the common place of that city, taking mental notes.
Because I wanted to answer the question to the best of my ability, I visualized myself in Dickens’ place and pondered what he was really doing. I realized it wasn’t so much where he was as it was that he had his eyes open. The way I considered it, Dickens allowed himself to be influenced, and this is key for writers. The most seemingly inconsequential things can affect a writer, and by this I mean strike an emotional chord. That it typically happens in the blink of an eye doesn’t make it any less meaningful.
In the essay, Honeymoon: The Romance of Umbria, by Pat Conroy, which appears in The Pat Conroy Cookbook, Conroy writes of catching himself writing in his head instead of living in the moment as he stood inspired by an Umbrian sunset. With regard to writers, I believe this is a common habit. It’s a particular way of being in the world and at the heart of it is the desire to communicate coupled with love of language.
There might be shades of the longing to be understood, but I think it’s more a labor of love to help readers understand the world. After all, a writer’s task is to articulate, to put their impressions into words along with what they think and feel through the power of story.
I’ve heard it said that artists view the world through with a peculiar, particular lens.
They have the ability to engage with the world from the outside looking in, to be in it but not of it, stand apart in the middle of a crowd and act as witness. To many artists, this ability is a calling, be it acting, painting, dancing, or writing. In my opinion, writers are the archivists of the world, the interpreters of life who record events and impressions and are driven by the need to share their gift.
And yes, it all starts with finding inspiration, yet inspiration doesn’t so much reside without as it does within. The trick is to keep wide-eyed and aware as one goes about their days, to grab hold of inspiration’s cord once it’s struck and hang on until it resonates. Inspiration doesn’t have so much to do with location as it does the ability to access what’s within once it’s triggered. When it comes to writing, inspiration is a prompting that travels from the spirit of a writer to a blank page and results in a painstaking commitment to work built on hope and blind faith that it’s worth sharing.
In answer to that interviewer’s question of where I go to find inspiration, I tried my best to articulate my experience. I said rather than cite a locale, I can share what I do when inspired, and it has everything to do with discipline. I can be anywhere doing anything when inspiration comes from sight, sound, thought, mood or feeling. To me it’s all about listening to the voice within. The discipline starts with finding a pen

For Release news of my novel, Little Tea, the rest of this post continues here: http://booksbywomen.org/where-i-find-inspiration/

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Little Tea’s Universal Link:  https://books2read.com/u/3nvz0R
Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Mourning Dove is a five-time award winner, including the Literary Classics Words on Wings for Book of the Year, and the Ippy Award silver medal in regional fiction ( Southeast.) Claire is also the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a Kindle Book Review and Readers’ Favorite award winner that is set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire’s 4th novel and is set in the Deep South. It is the story of the bonds of female friendship, healing the past, and outdated racial relations. Little Tea is the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens, a Faulkner Society finalist in the William Wisdom international competition, and a finalist in the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset award. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary

Follow her on Twitter @cfullerton3
Find out more about her on her website https://www.clairefullerton.com/

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Irish Keys


I’ve had many people ask me about a certain picture on my website, where I’m standing against a gray stone wall on a windswept day in the middle of an Irish field, with what are obviously the ruins of a monastery behind me. Observant people have thought, “Wait, there’s a ruined monastery behind her, why is her back turned as she looks into the camera, holding a set of keys in her hand as if it were the bigger focal point?” I’m glad for the opportunity to explain that picture here.

We kind of knew where we were heading, my friend Tama and I, and by this I mean we had a loose plan with regard to how we were going to spend the afternoon in Gort, Ireland. We’d been freewheeling across the countryside in a rented car the size of a matchbox,  its steering wheel on the right side while we drove on the left of the two-lane road as if trying to best a test for dyslexia.
Tama is a devout Catholic, who has a thing about historic churches, which is why we couldn’t have adhered to a plan had we made one. “Stop,” Tama would shout each time we spied one of the dim, ominous structures in the distance. We’d scratch the gravel driveway and wander inside, our solitary footsteps crossing the marble floor in a tread lightly and humble yourself echo off the cavernous vaulted ceiling. We did this so many times that after yet another sweep inside a church, I’d leave Tama to light a red votive candle and fall to her pious knees while I wandered the graveyards and read the tombstone inscriptions thinking about impermanence;  knowing I was passing through in more ways than one.

I thought I was alone in the graveyard when a voice sailed from behind me. “Have you found your way to Kilmacduagh monastery?” it queried. I turned to find a young woman taking in my outlander attire of all-weather jacket and rubber-soled shoes. “It’s just up the road there,” she pointed. “You’ll want to knock on the door of the middle house across the road and ask Lily for the keys.”
I was standing behind Tama when she knocked on the front door of a low slung house on a sparsely populated lane. Across the lane, placid fields of damp clover shimmered in the afternoon mist as far as the eye could see. On one verdant field, a series of interspersed ruins jutted in damp metal-gray; some without roofs, some with wrought-iron gates, one in particular beside a towering stone spire with two windows cut in vertical slashes above a narrow door.  When the front door opened, a pair of blue water eyes gave us the once over with a suspicious, “Yes?”

“Are you Lily?” Tama asked.

“I am,” the woman stated.

“We’re here for the keys,” Tama said.

“The keys, is it? Just a moment there,” Lily said, and after she closed the door, Tama and I stood on the doorstep wordlessly, waiting for the next thing to happen.  Seconds later, the door opened and Lily handed us a set of long metal keys. “Just slip them through the door slot when you’re through,” she said with a quick nod and closed the door.

There was no indication of which key went to what, among the cluster of gates and doors throughout the 7th-century monastery called Kilmacduagh, but after enough scrambling, we figured it out. I was so tickled over being given the keys that I couldn’t get over it. “Is this weird?” I said to Tama. “We could be anybody. It feels like we’ve been given the keys to the kingdom without being vetted. It’s not that there’s anything anybody could steal, but that’s not the point.

I could wax rhapsody over the hours we spent unlocking gates,  pushing through doors and climbing the ruins of the eerie, hallowed grounds, but that’s not my point either. My point is that’s Ireland for you: a stranger offering directions without being asked, Lily handing over the keys like an afterthought, and Tama and I trolling the grounds of historic, sacred space when nobody else was around.

A German couple appeared as we made our way back up the lane. They looked at us wide-eyed and queried, “What is this place?”

“It’s a 7th century monastery,” I said, “here, take these keys and slip them through Lily’s door when you’re through.”

 

Claire Fullerton is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, A Portal in Time, Mourning Dove, and coming May 1st, Litle Tea.

https://www.clairefullerton

 

Gather at the River: 25 Authors on Fishing ( Edited by David Joy with Erick Rickstad)

At the heart of every well-beloved novel is that one riveting scene that verges on transcendence and stays in the reader’s memory as the very soul of the book. Gather at the River is a collection of those resonant moments, one right after another, and there’s not a weak story in the assembly. I use the word story, instead of essay, on purpose. These are first person accounts rife with insider’s knowledge in the hands of those that know nuance and how to describe it down to the last rock in the river. These writers know what from the woods as they recount their individual fishing stories and gift the reader with their own version of universal nostalgia. They work the depths of the seemingly simple themes of family connections, childhood innocence, and pivotal moments all within a bucolic setting that expands the visceral margins of character as place. You can see, hear, and feel the mood of every setting, and though fishing is the common premise, the central experience in each is so much more. There’s such art in the craft of a briefly told story. The sure sign of success is when the reader, in this case, yours truly, is so moved by the reading experience that they wish for more.

Confessions of a Christian Mystic by River Jordan

Bold, daring, and yes, confessional, River Jordan’s collection of personal essays warns you going into it that you’re in for something unique. After all, what is the art of writing, if not a venue to compare notes on this business of life? Only a master can make this plain through the power of fifty delightful stories. This is a writer who asks the big questions for us; who owns a steady faith base yet thinks outside the box. Confessions of a Christian Mystic is devout and dauntless. It is sonorous, beautiful, soul-deep, and fearless. And it is sardonically funny in its skirt-lifted vulnerability. The chapter titled, “Sometimes Good Girls Get Naked” is a case in point. With a deft hold on sentiment without being overly sentimental, I won’t cheapen this important book by suggesting it’s a page-turner—it is better. Confessions of a Christian Mystic is something to savor. You’ll want to pause and ponder at the end of each chapter.
I applaud every essay in this gorgeous gift of a book. River Jordan has woven vignettes of her personal narrative at such an engaging, introspective pitch that I defy every reader not to see themselves in its pages.

With Deepest Sympathy On the News of Kate Spade

I am deeply disturbed by the current media reports of Kate Spade’s death. I didn’t know her, but one doesn’t have to, to be rocked by the news. I’ve been thinking of a short-sighted, general indictment I’ve heard throughout my life concerning feminine rivalry. Apparently, it’s widely assumed that this is the norm among women, but I beg to differ– and it’s not as though I’m a member of any sisterhood for the sake of itself. The fact is much to the contrary; I’m a bit of a loner by nature and temperament. But when a woman of my generation rises to stratospheric heights of international success by contributing to the masses with an art of her making, something within me cheers and thinks she succeeded on behalf of us all. My pride swells as if to say, “Look at what one of us did!” When one woman shines so brightly, she serves as inspiration for the rest of us. Such a woman is a representative of the best in us all. I believe this is why we identify with women that achieve great abundance. There’s a part within all of us that believes if one of us succeeds, I can, too. For this very reason, it’s disillusioning when one of us leaves by her own hand. We don’t talk about it among ourselves, but when one of us gives up, it’s sobering. An internal voice questions, “What? This is an option?” For some of us, it may go deeper than this. For some of us, it may come to the thought, “There by the grace of God go I.” That’s the side of this that’s scary. It touches on a consideration by which most of us are horrified. We couldn’t commit suicide; would never think of it, and we congratulate ourselves for our stout mettle, even as we discount we’ve known one of those days, or perhaps a spiraling bout where it seemed all was lost. But we reel ourselves out of the momentary lapse of reason. And though we’re exhausted, we find the fortitude to soldier on. But what of those women who suffer from debilitating mental anguish? What of those unreachable from the comforting arm of fortifying connections? Because women look to each other for guidance in this business of living. We are role models to each other for how to comport ourselves in the face of great adversity.
With the breaking news of Kate Spade’s suicide, I am counting my blessings. I am thinking of my close friendships and not taking them for granted. I am sending a prayer heaven’s way for Kate Spade and her family. At the center of all this is a resonant prayer for all those suffering from the heartbreak of despair, be it mental, spiritual or emotional. I extend deepest sympathy to Kate Spade’s family.

Southern Writers on Writing

The easiest way to portray how much I loved Southern Writers on Writing is to tell the truth as it happened: After reading each moving essay, I sighed and thought, “This one is my favorite.” Apart from the fact that I’m a lover of the first-person narrative, these confessional essays held me at every turn. What they all have in common is an honesty not easily revealed unless the recipient has earned complete trust. These essays are more than Southern writers pontificating on their “process.” These essays are personal—sometimes painfully so. As an assembly, they are variations of a truth that seeks to put into words the profound impact of what it means to be part and parcel of a storied land, more than the sum of its disharmonious parts. A sense of nostalgia runs through Southern Writers on Writing, and what strikes me most is its unified theme. Task a Southern writer with writing about craft, and invariably, all roads lead back home. Southern Writers on Writing is a treasure for both readers and writers. Each essay contains the intrigue of a gripping short story, and each compelling voice allures the reader’s undivided attention. Thank you, Susan Cushman, for gifting us with this book. And to each author who contributed to this gem, thank you for sharing your story.