“How did you come up with that?”

By Katie Holland and Elizabeth Houde

Are you a creative individual? If you are, it’s likely that you’ve heard this question every… single… time you’ve shared your work with anyone.

Are you not a creative individual? Have you asked that question to your creative friends?

Are you a creator or a not-creator who would like to hear how some people get inspired to do creative things? Yes!? Great! Sharing time!

We talked to people–creative people–and they talked back. They were happy to share with us those things that inspire them to write, to sing, to create, and now we will share this great mystery with you based on what we noticed from the replies and what we ourselves tend to draw from, in the hopes that these tips will help you in your future endeavors, or just bring a smile to your face.


1) Images

Many people draw inspiration from images. These images can be anything from a National Geographic photograph to some random graphic floating past on your Facebook feed.

If you’re interested in finding more inspiring images, we recommend browsing sites like DeviantArt, Wikimedia, Tumblr, and TheInspirationGrid. A beautiful image–or even one so hideous it defies explanation–can trigger something in you: a memory, an alternate reality, a feeling, an emotion or sensory, anything to get you going.

Passage 22

Passage 22” by MASYON of DeviantArt.com


2) Life

Now for the real world. So some people find inspiration in *dramatic pause* *whispers* the real world. We were just talking about images, so here’s a good website to look at that has images–of real people, places, animals, etc.–and the stories of the people, places, animals, etc. It’s called Humans of New York, and we’ve found some really inspiring things there.

Amanda Libby told us that when she sits in a coffee shop watching all of the people around her, “story ideas come flooding in by what [she sees] others doing.”

Amanda Eberhardt also had something to say about drawing inspiration from life’s moments, and how she likes to think that everything can be inspiration for writing. She said that “a brilliant story could be found in the face of a man doing card tricks on the New York subway.”

“Having written a story about an old woman who I saw smoking outside Dunkin’ Donuts on a snowy day in my hometown, I can honestly say that anything you see in real life can inspire you to write.” -Elizabeth Houde


In the Playwriting Workshop taught by David Hammond here at Guilford, he encouraged his students to look at the news headlines (both domestic and abroad) for inspiration for their scenes. The idea is that your play (or in your case whatever creative task you are undertaking) is always in your head, just sitting there, waiting to relate to reality. Draw from life, draw from experience, and if you haven’t experienced it yourself read about someone who has.

Fireworks stock

Fireworks Stock 02/07/12-48” by spirit-fire-stock of DeviantArt.com

3) Music

So a lot of people really like music as a source of inspiration, which makes sense, because hey, music, right? People love music. Writers, artists, and musicians, oh my! All of them have found inspiration from the music in their lives.

Basically, a lot of people cited music as their inspiration, a lyric or a theme, the way those words or sounds next to one another just resonate with you on a deeper level. Music is a powerful thing, and letting it take you on a journey can really pay off.


“Songs inspire stories. Usually a lyric and a tone will evoke an image, and then that image turns into a story – sometimes it will stray from what the song is actually about, but I try to keep it the same.”

-Carson Risser


Here are some song suggestions that were offered:

Nellie Vinograd:

1.) Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

2.) der hölle rache kocht in meinem herzen (The Queen of the Night’s 2nd aria) by Mozart

3.) Rock Creek Park by The Blackbyrds


Elizabeth Houde:

1.) Gravedigger by the Dave Matthews Band

2.) Sharpest Lives by My Chemical Romance

3.) Build God, Then We’ll Talk by Panic! At the Disco


If you don’t trust those suggestions, or they just don’t do it for you, you can try Pandora or iTunes radio stations, you might find some new favorites, and maybe a story waiting to be found.


Stormy Sky horizontal

Stormy Sky horizontal” by Lindalees of DeviantArt.com


4) Other Suggestions

Now for the odds and ends of inspiration… not to say that you’re odd. Just… well let’s just say that inspiration comes at different people in different ways. Yeah, that’s what we’ll say. You’re normal. All of you. (THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MEURSAULT) Here we go:


“Sometimes the best way to get something is just to wing it and tap into your subconscious.”

-Tyler Midkiff


“I take a walk in the woods surfing different weather. Sun, cloud, rain, sometimes snow in the winter. Wind is always good.”

-Jadelyn Leroux

Words themselves can sometimes generate entire works, try taking a few (maybe three silly words and one serious–Pineapple, Madonna, Window, and Addiction, for instance) and set out to use all four in a paragraph. See what happens.

Here’s a list of ten words we found beautiful on their own:

  1. Absolute
  2. Pantomime
  3. Tension
  4. Cellophane
  5. Flabbergasted
  6. Distorted
  7. Bauble
  8. Arcane
  9. Slaughter
  10. Absence


Some people find inspiration from other things like…Tumblr. Nellie said that she likes “to see what makes other people laugh even if it doesn’t make [her] laugh,” and she uses it to inspire her to write.


And, hey, sometimes writers use prompts. There’s no shame in it, everybody who takes on a prompt sees it through their own lens, drawing from their own experiences and observations to create something beautiful and only theirs. Greenleaf Review member Chassidy Crump has written an article of Prompts for writers, you should check it out!


Hopefully you now feel like you understand inspiration. If you don’t, we’re sorry. We’ve done our best. You can try our methods. You can try other writers’ methods. You can come up with your own methods. You do you. We’re sure it’s brilliant whether you write or don’t write. (This is life. Go. Enjoy it. Be inspired. Or don’t. The choice is yours. Make the right one.)


Then What?

After you get past finding inspiration and you have a completed piece of writing, artwork, song lyrics, etc. you should think about submitting it to The Greenleaf Review, Guilford College’s Literary Magazine for the opportunity to be published in next year’s issue.


Good luck and happy hunting!

Elizabeth Houde and Katie Holland


Poet Laureates of the U.S. and North Carolina

The poet laureate has not always been an official government position. In the U.S. from 1937 to 1986 there was a position called “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.” Some very famous people served in this role from Robert Frost to Elizabeth Bishop. In 1986 the title and position was changed to “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.” Only those who served after 1986 are considered “Poet Laureate.” There was some controversy over changing the title and official job description as many writers do not want to write on cue and be part of a political position. One writer said he thought being a poet laureate would be the worst job ever.

Here is a list of all those who served as the official for the U.S.:

 Poets LaureateRobert Penn Warren1986-1987Richard Wilbur 1987-1988Howard Nemerov  1988-1990

Mark Strand 1990-1991

Joseph Brodsky  1991-1992

Mona Van Duyn 1992-1993

Rita Dove 1993-1995

Robert Hass 1995-1997

Robert Pinsky 1997-2000

Stanley Kunitz 2000-2001


 Billy Collins 2001-2003Louise Gluck 2003-2004Ted Kooser  2004-2006

Donald Hall 2006-2007

Charles Simic 2007-2008

Kay Ryan 2008-2010

W. S. Merwin 2010-2011

Philip Levine  2011-2012

Natasha Trethewey 2012-



The current poet laureate of the United States was appointed in 2012 by the U.S. Library of Congress at age 46. Trethewey was inspired to write poetry by her father who she visited often in Mississippi. She grew up with her mother in Decatur, Georgia and graduated from University of Georgia in 1989. Her works include Domestic Work, Bellocq’s Ophelia, and Native Guard, about Black Union soldiers. Trethewey won a Pulitzer Prize for her work Native Guard in 2007. Trethewey is the first southern poet to be nominated since 1986, the first African-American poet to be appointed since 1993 and is the only U.S. Poet Laureate to elect to stay in Washington DC and serve her term in the Poets Room at the Library of Congress.


Each state has a poet laureate, as well, who serves for two years and is appointed by the Governor. The poet is selected by examining how they represent the state’s racial and literary diversity across the geographic map. In North Carolina the poet laureate receives a $15,000 stipend each year in order to continue working on some project he or she is interested in. The N.C. Arts Council provides support in helping the laureate travel across the state to engage with the literary community. The oldest duty of the laureate is to write poems for historic or culturally important events.

Previous N.C. Laureates:
Arthur Abernethy (appointed 1948)
James Larkin Pearson (1953-1981)
Sam Ragan (1982-April 1996)
Fred Chappell (December 10, 1997-December 2002)
Kathryn Stripling Byer (February 24, 2005-February 2009)
Cathy Smith Bowers (February 10, 2010-June 30, 2012)

The current N.C. Poet Laureate is Joseph Bathanti. Bathanti is a professor at Appalachian State University and is the chair of the N.C. Writers’ Network Prison Project. His most recent poem is called Fayetteville. He has decided to dedicate his time in office to raising awareness and recognition for veterans. North Carolina has eight military installations and one of the largest populations of veterans in the United States.

The Practical Critic: Glass Mountain Magazine, Spring 2013

Poe. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw the cover. With its black-red mass taking over blood-spotted white, it screamed tentative hope giving way to immense despair and darkness. Fun way to kick off a multi-faceted lit journal. Admittedly, I had not read enough college lit journals to place an indelible label on the pamphlet based on a first glance, so I naturally decided to give it a fair shake by getting my feet wet with the works inside.

Before I dive into my opinions on the publication first, a little history. First published in 2006, Glass Mountain is a biannually published literature magazine put together by University of Houston undergraduates, who obtain submissions from college students all over the country. The mag also sponsors the Boldface Writing Conference, a symposium for up-and-coming writers that includes talks and workshops in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. With such a huge pool of talent from which to pull exceptional content, my expectations were high as anything. And the magazine didn’t disappoint.

As far as literature was concerned, the magazine started out strong and kept it up to the end. Here’s a list of some favorites (in no particular order):

  1. The Fork by Darlene Campos: As one of my first official forays into queer fiction, the story covers the events surrounding the assault of a Native American gay man named John David on the rez (reservation) from the point of view of his best friend. Although very well-written, engaging, and human, the story might make you less inclined to use your kitchenware for a couple of days. The humor and emotional scenes in this work truly makes one connect on a personal level with the main character.
  2. Thrombosis! by Nick Chan: This poet definitely succeeded in capturing the lack of empathy in our society for those life-jarring events that keep us from participating in the rat race. Case in point: a highway is clogged by an accident, and people are upset they will be late to work.
  3. June 25, 2009 by Jennifer Overfield: One sentence displays the rage this poet feels toward Mother Nature’s coldness. The tone of it seemed distant and unfeeling, almost as if the poet chose to demonstrate how messed up it was for a force so ubiquitous to refuse acknowledgement of an event that created so much sadness. Many music lovers would feel her pain.

Obviously, the literature in this magazine was impressive. The art, however, could have been more varied with respect to the number of pieces and the number of artists. In the journal, the only artist featured was “Robot Ronnie.” Although he or she did seem to have attracted the eye of the journal editors with his/her abstract works and eye-catching modernist techniques, I personally did not enjoy as much as the literature simply because only one person offered their own artistic perspective. It would have been a much improved experience if the art in the journal were as varied and textured as the literary pieces.

Becky Gibson Reading

Full house for Becky

Former teach Becky Gibson came so share some of her poetry from her new book of Poetry Heading Home.  

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An Interview with Isabelle Brace

By Samantha Metzner

I sat down with Isabelle on a rainy afternoon at the Greenleaf Coffee Co-op to discuss her piece Dendrochronology, which is featured in the 2014 issue of the Greenleaf Review. It is a unique sculpture, made out of a bicycle wheel and various other materials weaved in and out of the spokes. She created it as part of the art department’s event “Art in the Dark.” Below is a brief interview I did with her.

GLR bike wheel


Me: Your sculpture was part of the series “Art in the Dark” sponsored by the art department. Can you tell me a little bit about what that entails?


Isabelle: Art in the Dark is an experiential based creative process that involves responding to sensory deprivation. Each individual that participated was blindfolded for 5-7 hours with a given task that they chose prior to the experience…they did test runs to figure out [how it] worked.


Me: So, you were able to experiment with your project beforehand?


Isabelle: Yea, and I personally picked a task that I knew catered to the deprivation of sight, so something very touch oriented knowing that I would only have that to guide me for those five hours. Also before the experience started, laid out a good assembly line of materials, workspace and cutting utensils. I had all the materials on the left and cutting utensils and discarded materials on the right. I chose to be in a more private space and did this pretty much alone. Other people, Raina Martens and Lily Rain, chose to spend their time telling each other their life stories.


Me: Can you tell me a little bit about your personal process. Why did you choose the materials that you did?


Isabelle: The materials that I used were all collected from different aspects of my life. I asked close friends and family to give me string, yarn, articles of clothing that I could rip apart and then incorporating things that I use everyday like the bike, the dog leash, tights, a lead rope, a couple of old phone chargers….things that I could use that lent themselves to be woven and things that I use in my daily routine. And then in the process knowing without looking I could tell the different textures apart. Getting aesthetic appeal from transition within colors, rhythm and repetition and then repetition from each material was hard to achieve at first. The first hour was just hashing out how the rest of my time was going to go. It was getting comfortable. I didn’t really have a great gauge of time


Me: Did you have sort of timer set?


Isabelle: Yes, it would just ring at the end. What felt like 45 minutes was a lot of muscle memory…figuring out the patterns of weaving through the spokes of the bike. All the spokes are angled, you can of have to make a consistent weaving figuring out where they cross each other. Once I figured that out it was kind of easy, kind of like a looming, weaving a full circle, then push it down, weaving a full circle again, pushing it down. I really like that repetition, like in sewing.


Me: So would you say that is somewhat therapeutic in a sense?


Isabelle: Yes and I find a lot of comfort in repetition in that way. I was a pretty jittery kid, I had pretty bad ADHA…its easier for me to think sometimes when I am moving my hands or moving something. So after those 45 minutes I had some space to think. I thought first about how I was at the art building at night and blindfolded. I started to think about safety, if someone walked in and they didn’t answer when I asked who it was I would take off my blindfold. That was one thing about the blindness I didn’t think about. Being comfortable because I spent almost 4 years there memorizing the space there changed.


Me: Did you encounter having to use the bathroom or anyone coming in?


Isabelle: Yes, Ruth and Alejo came in but I recognized their voices almost immediately…the bathroom was kind of funny. I definitely did the whole putting my hands out in front of me on the walls to guide me sort of thing…it was definitely goofy. It was a lot like going to the bathroom when I was a kid walking back in the dark.

What I can remember most (during the experience) is that I was singing to myself a lot, pretty loudly. I didn’t have music. So yea, I just spent a lot of time singing to myself. The songs that came up gave me time to think about parts of my life that I didn’t really think about.


Me: Why the lead rope, the dog leash…the very identifiable and personal materials for the sculpture?

Isabelle: So things that are pretty important that are in the sculpture are my horses lead rope from when I was a kid and had that privilege, and the dog leash. Having my dog here is Greensboro is a big part of my identity. It’s having this being that is really close to me mentally and physically. Other things is that I ripped up an old shirt of my grandfathers…so pulling these parts of me that might not be able to be externally identified is very personally fulfilling.


Me: You had this work in a show outside of Guilford?


Isabelle: It was in a student show at UNCG and yea; I got some good feedback from that. It was exciting to go to that exhibit and see the great work other Guilford students are doing. We don’t really get to see other students work in the art department. There is not really a space for that at Guilford. And it was great to see the other amazing work other students are doing in Greensboro, it was pretty empowering. It makes me excited to be among other artists. The art world is pretty individualistic sometimes so this was nice.


Me: Would you ever engage in this process again?


Isabelle: Yes absolutely I would do it again. I think that I’ve learned a lot from this first trial but I don’t think it will be my last.


Me: Do you ever see yourself doing a series based off of this?


Isabelle: Sure, yea. Id like to incorporate different materials and different methods of creating that isn’t maybe weaving, something that is maybe less based on muscle memory. Maybe incorporating a kind of collaboration.



Isabelle’s piece Dendrochronology can be found in print in the 2014 edition of “The Greenleaf Review”


Samantha Metzner is also a Guilford College student. Born in Chapel Hill, she also studies Art and English.

Favorite Books of the Greenleaf Review Staff

Ten of the Greenleaf Review Staff’s Favorite Books

Compiled by Jonahs JonesAlice in Wonderland

1. Laura Todd, from the magazine’s general staff, recommends Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass By: Lewis Carroll

The two stories are difficult to understand on the first read, but they are full of memorable poetry, strange, rich imagery, and many layers of meaning. You can read them for the poetry, the mathematical logic, the historical references, the social commentary, the humor, or the basic weirdness. All in all, these books have a lot of scope for the imagination

2. Candid voltareVanessa Okoyeh, from the magazine’s general staff, recommends Candide By: Voltaire

From its clever innuendo to its hilariously dreary ending, the book radiates wit and skillfully presents critiques of Leibniz’s theory of optimism and the Reformation-era religious

3. Julia Geaney-Moore, from the magazine’s general staff, recommends The Supernaturalist By: Eoin ColferThe supernaturalist

This is a story about a boy who is an orphan in a futuristic, technologically advanced world. His experiences of abuse and isolation are vivid, and when he finally finds a group of friends it seems like everything is going to be okay. He helps them in a war against supernatural beings. A clever plot twist creates a surprising, heartbreaking story to fall in love with.

For Whom the bell tolls4. Samantha Metzner, from the magazine’s art editors, recommends For Whom The Bell Tolls By: Ernest Hemingway

A must read due to Hemingway’s unique style; his short sentences and poignant descriptions are able to evoke a lot of emotion in the reader. It is an incredible war novel, one that certainly will leave an impression on you.

The Awakening

5. Cassidy Crump, from the magazine’s prose editors, recommends The Awakening By: Kate Chopin

This book was my first introduction to feminism in high school, and I related to the main character – Edna Pontellier – and her struggle with gender roles and expectations. Edna’s sexual awakening and desire for romantic love conflicts with expectations for her to be a dutiful wife and mother. It is a beautiful novella that I finished reading in one night during my first read.

The lord of the flies6. Addy Allred, the magazine’s supervising editor, recommends Lord of the Flies By: William Golding

William Golding creates a visual and physical experience for the reader that pulls you into the story and the character’s mindsets. As a horror fan, I was intrigued and moved by this book because it scared me without excessive gore or suspense. Golding took a leap and decided to answer a hypothetical question that we all have thought about before: “What would I do if I was stranded on a desert island?” I think the greatest lesson I learned from this book was how fear cannot hurt you physically, but acting on this fear can hurt you and everyone around you.The Complete works of Sherlock Holmes

7. Elizabeth Houde, from the magazine’s general staff, recommends The Complete

Sherlock Holmes By: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is one of, if not the, best literary character of all time to me at least. He’s got the most seemingly obtainable superpower ever, and I find it ridiculously wonderful. He’s what interests me about psychology. I adore Sherlock Holmes.

8. Faith Krech, from the magazine’s general staff, recommends Ishmael By: Daniel Quinn

This book tackles the ideas of our modern society and how we assume we are doing everything “right” in terms of population growth, community, ethical decisions and many more topics covered in the book. Through the text the main character (a talking Gorilla) mentors the other main character (a human) and challenges him to think deeply about the earliest conventions in human history and how each individual person can make a difference in this world to make it better or worse.

9. Jonahs Jones, from the magazine’s general staff, recommends The Sound and the Fury By: William Faulkner

This novel portrays a tragic melodrama in such a way that instead of focusing on the melodramatic plot, the focus is on the characters. Each character is painfully real, and honest making the portraying the decay of the South in the post-Civil War era through the downfall of the Compson family. The novel is challenging, making it that much more rewarding after reading it.

10. Karlen Lambert, the magazine’s poetry editor, recommends  The Harry Potter Series By J.K. RowlingHarry Potter

Harry Potter is my favorite series because it matures as it progresses, and for me it correlated with the speed that I was maturing so I always felt as if we were growing up together, the characters and I. Also, I love the fantastical world that J.K. Rowling was able to create. The wizarding world was like a little pocket of inspiration tucked away from the mundane life of muggles. I love everything about Harry Potter, from its innocent beginning to its complex thought-provoking end.