Filling the Well: A Profile on Lisl Spangenberg

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By Aimee Martinez

“When I was young, I used to sit in a hammock in our little country house and I made up all kinds of stories in my mind during the rain, just swinging back and forth,” English teacher Lisl Spangenberg said.

Spangenberg currently teaches film literature and creative writing. But before her teaching days she was a writer. As a child, she’d always wanted to be a writer. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to write.

“I was a little handful, and so I got punished. My dad would put me on a chair for an hour on Saturday morning and I would sit there swinging my legs and making up stories to pass the time,” Spangenberg said.

When she first started out she was worked for Texas Instruments in synthetic speech and voice recognition. They sent her all around the world to help people with their applications.  She’s traveled to Hong Kong, Taipei, the Middle East, and all over Europe. Despite her travels, however, the desire to be a writer still beat in her heart.

“I had always wanted to be a writer but I thought I couldn’t because I was never going to be a Hemingway or an F. Scott Fitzgerald, and then I just decided, what the heck,” Spangenberg said.

Soon after, she was able to talk her way onto a newspaper; a national weekly publication called “Furniture Today.” She had never written a newspaper article before but she successfully worked there for a year. After that, she decided that she’d had enough of furniture and thus began her road to freelance writing. She’d made contacts working for the newspaper, so when she decided to start freelance writing job offers came in.

“I thought I could get a lot of experience as a freelance writer doing just about anything, which I did, “ Spangenberg said.

However, when she became a writer, she missed all the travel that working at a her previous job had required. As a result, she became a travel writer enabling her to go to the North Pole, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and many more exotic locations. The longest she spent in one place was ten days in the Arctic Circle.

One of the challenges she faced freelance writing was that she would have to bill her publishers to grow her business for herself. But when she wasn’t building her business, she would write whenever she was able to.

“The hardest thing was to sit down every single day and just write without procrastinating because I always wanted it to be perfect, but no writing is ever perfect. Well, maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Spangenberg said.

After running in the morning, she would come back home and before she went upstairs, forced herself to sit down for a half hour to write and would not let herself get out of the chair until she finished her work.

“For me, there was no such thing as writer’s block because I had deadlines and had to pay the bills. So, the hardest thing was just getting over myself,” Spangenberg said.

Being a travel writer exposed her to all sorts of interesting experiences. While in Puerto Rico, she ran across a dead body and once she was sent to the Bahamas on a celebrity-filled weekend where she had to interview Burt Lancaster, an actor known for movies such as “From Here to Eternity” and “Gunfight at the O.K Corral”.

“He was really difficult. Crabby, mean, not forthcoming and I had to do a profile on him and I couldn’t get anything out of him. That was a little weird,” Spangenberg said.

She has been able to interview writers, chefs, businessmen, corporations, ditch-diggers, and prize winners. She never knew which day she’d be interviewing or what she’d be doing with interviewing people. It was all part of the thrill.

But ultimately, her favorite part of writing is when she knows she’s done a really good job and the words she has written come out just as beautifully as they can.  She loves being able to read her words again or read the article or watch the commercial she wrote and just take pride knowing that she did that.

“It’s like touching a beautiful sculpture, looking at a beautiful painting. Not that I’m that good, but when it works, it’s just so great. I created that. I did it,” Spangenberg said.

Years later, she decided to turn to teaching. She was encouraged by her nephews and nieces because they saw how much she loved teaching at graduate school. She wanted to help students and share with them all that she had learned.

Now, she has impacted the lives of so many students who have come through her class.  

“I think she’s a very passionate teacher who cares about her students,” said senior Allison Dominguez, one of her former students.

Recently, Spangenberg has set up a blog with one of her old students in order to start writing again. Currently, she keeps a journal where she writes three morning pages, as suggested by “The Artist’s Way”, a self help book on creativity by Julia Cameron.

“I keep a journal of three pages every day which is hard given my schedule. You get through these three pages,  you get all the dross out, and then you fill the well and have a place to create,” Spangenberg said.

At this point in her life, she’s written just about everything. From commercials, travel, business, and high-tech, to movie reviews and newspaper articles, Spangenberg’s written it all and has enjoyed writing every single time.

There is one thing, however, that she’d really like to write: a novel. She’d like to finish one that she started a while ago and then write another one. Or she’d like to create a book of short stories about teaching, get other people’s stories and put them in a book.

The possibilities are endless for a writer.

 

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Author: Plaid Press

Granada Hills Charter High School newspaper

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