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Supporting the literary arts in Laguna Beach

Art-Inspired Writing Contest


There is a long tradition of writing responding to visual art, so we thought it would be fun to post a challenge to local poets and authors to respond in verse or prose to a piece of local art. The Artists Fund, an organization that provides disaster-relief grants and professional-growth grants to local Laguna Beach artists, was currently featuring their “Red Hot” exhibit ( featuring over two-dozen pieces for sale to raise money for the fund. From their show, we chose Jeff Rovner’s photograph Yangon Monastery Myanmar


Two winners were chosen, one selected by the artist and the other by the Arts Commission:

Jeff Rovner selected Theresa Keegan’s short fiction entitled “Karma”
The Arts Commission selected Ellen Girardeau Kempler’s poem, “Sunlight Path.”

Below are the pieces.

There were so many wonderful submissions, LitLaguna decided to make an anthology of the work, which is now available through Amazon for $10 Click Here to Buy.



(Artist’s Selection)


Theresa Keegan

One framed picture, hanging in a city-sponsored art show, transports countries, cultures. It has created a mashup of art messily mingling with life. The image reveals a monk going confidently into the light. As if in a just a few steps, he will vanish – consumed by the brightness – swept away. Or perhaps he may just wind up at the end of the corridor and attend the popular community lunch at Kalaywa Monastery. Either is fine. And directly below this framed, captured moment of accepted fate, lies a line of builders, plumbers, architects and homeowners seeking permits, pleading appeals, listening to city staff asininely explaining the need for two sets of blueprints with each application. They are passionate in their causes. Their importance so intrinsic to their existence – for now.  But will they, can they, walk as confidently as that monk toward the light that will one day ultimately cross their paths?  They don’t even look at the image on the wall. Reading texts, reviewing plans, they are unaware there has even been an intersection between Yangon and Laguna Beach, yet they have become a part of it. In this setting art with a singleminded purpose has become so multi-layered. How magical that this moment at the monastery, now transported to this small beach town city hall, reveals our unabashed, interconnected humanity.  Whether we are in Myanmar or California we are in this world together. Certainly, our refugees’ stories are too familiar. Too painful. Camps and holding facilities filled with families torn asunder. Abandoned children. Women raped. Men stripped of dignity. The powerful plying the powerless in the name of religion, nationality or the greater good. Somehow evil is inexplicably given credence to exist.  Yet our communities also fight to keep goodness relevant. Food is shared, wounds bandaged, smiles exchanged, sunsets admired.  And through it all, babies are born, people die, Marriages are conducted while divorce papers are filed. Schools can boost tyranny as easily as they can spread wisdom. And fires and earthquakes and fate can strike at any time.  What is there to really know of places, of people, of life and death? Does the same justice that resides in a monastery where lunch is shared with strangers and acquaintances also reside in a beach town city hall? Is it meted out by an invisible entity, determining destinies or controlled by outside forces? Yet, in a beautifully captured moment in the Kalaywa Monastery, a monk walks stoically toward the light. And halfway across the earth, in the tiny town of Laguna Beach, a pod of dolphins breaks through the deep blue waves. Suddenly, somehow, all seems balanced.



(Art Commission Selection)



Ellen Girardeau Kempler

“You cannot travel the path unless you become the path itself.” ~ Buddha

The truth is pure

as this: a portrait
in sunlight, the thin

clean-shaven monk
striding sandal-clad

down the bright path
persimmon-robed, lit

with holy purpose
belonging here 

& only here, this 
morning & every 

morning, moving
to meet the others,

to sit still before 
Buddha, chanting,

lifting off, traveling 
up, meeting the light 

& finding its source
here, where it begins,

this Yangon monastery.