Share this story

Ellen Girardeau Kempler wins Arts Commission prize for art-inspired writing competition

Two winners of an art-inspired writing competition, developed by one of Laguna Beach’s Literary Laureates, Suzanne Redfearn, were recently selected out of a total of 42 entries. 

ellen girardeauJeff Rovner – whose stunning photograph was the inspiration for the writers – selected Theresa Keegan’s short fiction entitled “Karma” (published in Stu News last issue), while the Arts Commission chose Ellen Girardeau Kempler’s poem, “Sunlight Path,” as the other winner. (See her poem, published below.)

“There is a long tradition of writing responding to visual art, so we thought it would be fun to challenge local Laguna Beach poets and authors to respond in verse or prose to a piece of local art,” Redfearn explains.

“It just so happened that at the time of the idea, The Artists Fund, an organization that provides disaster-relief grants and professional-growth grants to local Laguna Beach artists, was featuring their latest exhibit at City Hall. 

“Jeff Rovner’s beautiful photograph Yangon Monastery Myanmar was an obvious choice. There is mystery in the open door that leads to darkness, hope in the light shining through an unseen window above, time etched in the scarred paint on the walls, promise in the youth of the monk and the breeze that lifts the blazing orange fabric of his robe,” Redfearn adds.

ellen girardeau rovner

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jeff Rovner

Jeff Rovner’s evocative photo provided the inspiration for Laguna writers

Impressed with the entries, Redfearn decided to do an author event to give the authors an opportunity to share their work publicly. The event will be on Thursday, August 30 from 6 to 8 at the Susi Q. Over thirty authors will be reading. She also oversaw the publication of an anthology of the essays, stories and poems, now available for purchase on Amazon or Laguna Beach Books.

Redfearn continues: “This project not only speaks to the power of words but also to the power of art, showing how a single inspiration, a snapshot capturing a stunning moment in time, can be interpreted in so many different ways, each expression a window into the unique soul of the writer who created it.”

Here is Ellen Giradeau Kempler’s poem:

Sunlight Path  

“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.

About Ellen

A three-time first-place winner in Laguna Beach Library’s annual poetry contest, Ellen Girardeau Kempler has also won Ireland’s Blackwater International Poetry Prize, honorable mention in Winning Writers’ Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest, and a Solas Award for Best Travel Writing. Widely published by newspapers, magazines, literary presses and websites, she freelances as a copywriter, editor and reviewer.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: with news releases, letters, etc.


Email: for questions about advertising


*The content and ads in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the publisher.

© 2023 2S Publishing, LLC - All Rights Reserved.