by Barbara Renner
Last month, Neil Diamond announced he is retiring from touring after being recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He made the announcement during his 50th anniversary tour and canceled his concerts in Australia and New Zealand. I’m not embarrassed to say Neil Diamond has been my internal teenage soul heartthrob ever since I heard “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” on the radio 50 years ago. Lucky me; I saw him in concert last July when he was in Phoenix. Not that I consider myself a stalker, but I’ve attended almost all of his Phoenix concerts and one in Minneapolis, dragging along whomever I could cajole into going with me.
Music inspires me with ideas for stories or musings. When I go for my walks, I make sure I have my ear buds plugged in so I can listen to my favorite tunes. Not only music by Neil Diamond, but music that stirs my soul or touches my heart. On many occasions, I hurry home to the computer to start writing about a seed that began germinating because of the lyrics I’ve enjoyed for the umpteenth time. Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” inspired me to write a short story, “The Revival,” about the dark side of evangelists and tent revivals. I submitted it to a literary contest, where it earned honorable mention; it was also published in the Arizona Authors’ Association 2015 Literary Magazine.
My brother, Rick, enjoyed listening to blue grass, folk, and old country on his Bose machine. Music touched his soul in a way that would sometimes move him to tears. He would share with me music trivia and told me about the day John Denver died in a plane crash. Rick fancied himself a writer and penned many musings in spiral notebooks as he deteriorated away in his bedroom. I promised him on his deathbed that I would publish his work. Here is his tribute to John Denver: “Sometimes when I allow myself to indulge in a mild spate of melancholy, I think to myself, oh, you have left us with so much, but still it was way too little, not enough, oh, John, why did you do it . . . for we cry enough already . . .”
When I taught financial services in high school, sometimes my students would come to me for suggestions on how to complete an English assignment because they knew I used to teach English. One young man was worried about an assignment in which he had to write his personal interpretation of the lyrics to a song of his choice. Even though it was way before his time, I played “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and suggested he write about that.
In the literature class I taught adults at a community college, I always began a new unit by playing music and providing the lyrics for discussion. This was to stimulate their cognitive thinking skills as they tackled abstract stories that held no meaning to their lives. Most of my students had struggled in high school and were trying to catch up in order to graduate with an A.A. degree. Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” was an excellent choice for one of my lessons about irony in a story.
What is your music of choice? Are you moved by the lyrics, the beat, or the artist? How can you combine music with your writing muse? Writing seems to be a solitary man kind of activity, and sometimes it helps to drink a little cracklin’ rosie to get the muse excited, but the nice thing about being an author is you can sit at your desk all day in sweatpants or forever in blue jeans.
Barbara Renner and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Birds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at RennerWrites.com, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.