Guest Article: Signposts of Inspiration by Carol Es

Editor’s Note: This is Anthony Avina, and I wanted to personally welcome author Carol Es to my website. This insightful and honest article was something I wanted to share with you all, and I couldn’t appreciate it more that Carol took the time to write it for us. I hope you guys enjoy it. Now on to Carol’s article…


When people ask what inspires me, I never know what to say. Not because I’m lacking in the inspiration department—it’s just too general a question. “Everything,” I’ll say. If asked what my inspiration might be for something specific, you probably won’t be able to shut me up.

As both a writer and a visual artist, my work is predominantly autobiographical. I love anything with a narrative. Stories move me to create, they draw me in and take me on an escape, like a drug. When combining writing with art together, all the better. I have made many Artist’s books that mish-mash art and words, a genre unto itself, and it’s mostly what I’m used to working in.

However, I’ve been writing short stories and poetry since I was a kid. I wrote a screenplay when I was 17-18 that I never finished. (It was terrible.) Throughout my 20s, I made several attempts at writing novels, but had never been able to get more than 50 pages in. Most of the fiction I wrote was autobiographical. I’ve been inspired by authors Charles Bukowski since I was a young teenager, and later John Fante. It’s not that I wanted to write in either of their styles, but I wanted to be able to evoke a similar feeling from my writing.

Still working on that.

It was nerve-wracking writing in nonfiction, though I think it drove me to finish an entire book. At first, I didn’t write about myself much at all. I found the stories of people much more interesting, and so, I’ve written Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley several times over. It was hard to come to grips with, but a memoir is supposed to be self-indulgent. It just feels uncomfortable. I had to carve out an honest story and reveal my raw self to the world. It’s risky business.

Along the way, I probably couldn’t have finished it without bits of inspiration. My partner, Michael Phillips, also a writer pushed me and supported me immensely. I was also absolutely dazzled after seeing Jonathan’s Caouette’s documentary art film, Tarnation.

Caouette took 20 years of home movies, snapshots, and answering machine messages, stuck them into a blender and came out with a unique examination of his early life—his tumultuous childhood with his mentally ill mother. How could I not identify with that? My mother was bipolar.

This incredibly brave movie deeply inspired me to stop apologizing for my own dysfunctional family and embrace them as my muse. I also began to see the strength in vulnerability instead of viewing it as a weakness.

But I had been wanting to write this book in one version or another for a long time. At the start of it, I began to think back some 20 years when I lived off of Laurel Canyon—a winding road through the Santa Monica Mountains that connects the southeast San Fernando Valley to West Hollywood in Los Angeles. It was the most inspired time and place for me.

A few people in the apartment building I lived in donated books in the laundry room and we’d all give and take them. Once I found a big hardcover book that got me really into my Jewish genealogy (Finding our Fathers by Dan Rottenberg), which sent me on a wild and freaky ride to nowhere. Or maybe it sent me to a sad wasteland. I never quite got to the bottom of my family search, but I got a lot of stories from all the digging I did. Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley actually began with my parents’ backstories, but most of it wound up on the cutting room floor as they say.

Once I’d been working on the book for a couple of years, I found even more inspiration in Myla Goldberg’s Bee Season. I’d been living in San Pedro and picked it up at the free clinic, much in the same way I did Finding our Fathers.

Though Bee Season isn’t a work of nonfiction, it changed the way I saw memoir writing. It’s written from a young girl’s point of view looking back as an adult woman. She recalls the span of time in her life when she was able to win over her father’s love by excelling in national spelling competitions. Though I’m no good at spelling, I really identified with the character who was the youngest in a Jewish family of just four. She’s also been severely overshadowed by her older brother. More than her thoughts and desires to be loved, it was the way she was able to bring in each of her family members’ backstory so seamlessly. I loved that and wished I could have done that. Perhaps in the future.

I get wildly excited and inspired by other visual artists too. I’ll fall in love with painters, i.e.: Amy Sillman, or Lisa Sanditz. I’ll want their work to influence mine. Inevitably, it is nearly impossible to duplicate the same feelings or techniques because everyone has there own thing. My work always winds up looking like all my other paintings. It’s frustrating because I often like other artist’s work much more than my own. That happens. That’s life, I guess. We aspire to be better and are inspired by the beauty that surrounds us and keep on going.

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Author Bio

Carol Es

Carol Es is a self-taught artist, writer, and musician born in Los Angeles. Using a wide variety of media, she is known for creating personal narratives that transform a broken history into a positive resolution. Her paintings, drawings, installations, videos, and books have been exhibited nationwide in venues such as Riverside Art Museum, Torrance Art Museum, Lancaster Museum of Art and History, and Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles. Some of her works can be found in the collections at the Getty and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Her collaborative film was also featured in the 2015 Jerusalem Biennale. 

Awarded many honors, including several grants from the National Arts and Disability Center and California Arts Council, she is a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation, a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, and the Wynn Newhouse Award. She has written articles of art critique for the Huffington Post and Coagula Art Journal, as well as having poetry published with small presses. She also received a writing grant from Asylum-Arts—a Global Network for Jewish Culture.

Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley

esart.com

Desert Dog Books

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Inspiration Mondays: Christmas Time

For those who have read my books before, you guys know that I in general write horror based stories, filled with good men and women having to overcome great evil, (both human and non-human), and from the outside, that probably looks like most of my inspiration for writing comes from horror movies, true crime novels and a questionable childhood. However, that is not the case. While I’m a huge fan of the horror genre and love horror movies, shows, games, books and more, I’m also a sucker for romance and feel-good stories that touch the heart. One of the big inspirations for me when I try to be creative in both my writing and my filming is the holidays. Halloween is a big creative push for me, but one of my favorite times of year that truly inspires me is Christmas time.

Christmas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For those of you guys that are religious, this holiday holds a special
meaning to you guys. For others, this is a time where you get free gifts and get to eat your favorite foods. However, since I’m not religious
and since I don’t really focus on the gift portion of the holiday, Christmas has a sort of different meaning for me. To me, Christmas is a
time to be with family. The actual traditions associated with the holiday, (i.e. decorating, baking, wrapping presents, putting up the tree,
listening to Christmas music, watching holiday movies and shows, and even playing games and reading books), these are all a part of the same overlaying tradition, and that’s spending time with family. Family not just by blood, but the families we create as well, whether its significant others and friends to your pets.

These things and the act of being with friends and family is truly inspiring. It lifts my spirits, and boosts my creativity ten fold. Being
around all of these traditions and my family reminds me about the power that family, friends, hope, and love can bring about. It reminds me
of what it is my protagonists are fighting for, and what it means to be connected to one another. No matter how dark things get, the power
of hope and love is strong enough to get you through that darkness. That is what the holiday means to me, and why Christmas is a huge
inspiration to me around this time of year.

Question: What does Christmas mean to you?

Michael Jackson – Will You Be There (Boyce Avenue acoustic/piano cover) on iTunes‬ & Spotify

Just wanted to post this video because this is one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs. I first heard it as a kid when I was watching one of my favorite movies, Free Willy. I loved the characters, the story, and the amazing connection shared between the great whale and the young boy. It was amazing, (and as a side note, it was way better than the unfortunate film Dolphin Tale and its sequel that the current generation of children have watched). This song is so beautiful and well sung, and it is one of those staples of not only my childhood but of the 90’s in general.

I also put this song up tonight because Boyce Avenue, one of my favorite bands, covered the song so well, and while they made it their own they also managed to capture the essence of the original track. I hope you guys can not only see why this song is one of my favorites and an inspiration to me creatively, but can be inspired yourselves as well.

Michael Jackson – Will You Be There (Boyce Avenue acoustic/piano cover) on iTunes‬ & Spotify

Writing 101: The Creative Process

Whether you are writing a novel, poetry, an essay, or the menu for your restaurant, one of the biggest aspects of writing is immersing yourself into the creative process. Everyone’s process is unique and different than others. For instance, I like to either put on some tv or blast my spotify music  to get into the right head space. The first step in beginning your writing is to find whatever it is in life that inspires you, that gets your creative juices flowing, and delving head first into that pool of creativity. Lesson of the day to all you writers out there: find your inspiration, develop your personal creative process, and immerse yourself completely!