How It Progressed

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In the first grade I had an assignment to write three sentences about the stairs in my home. Pretty cut and dry, right? Well . . . not for me. Because the stairs weren’t just stairs. And they weren’t made of just boring old wood, either. They were made of golden fish scales. If you stepped on the third stair, a secret slot opened. And in that slot, there was a key . . .

Of course a story this grand needed illustrations. But not just pencil drawings, oh no. Color. This required lots and lots of color. Happiness spread over me, like the taste of the perfect pb&j. This feeling was euphoric, even much better than when I got to tie the pretend cardboard shoes! The world faded away, like I had my own rectangular eraser.

Until Mrs. Winowitch happened by.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Although the name Winowitch sounds about as welcoming as rickets on a pirate ship in June, this was a teacher who was exemplary. I always think of her with the greatest fondness and know without a doubt that she cared a great deal for me.

However, the way she looked down her nose at me that day is forever brandished in my mind. Surprise crossed her features as she stood beside my desk. And then a look that bordered on constipation. I was being very naughty. Very naughty, indeed. She promptly snatched my paper away and held it in front of the class as an example of what not to do.

I’ve often thought about this incident, and what I would say to Mrs. Winowitch if I could. It might go a little something like this:

Dear Mrs. Winowitch,

I’m still very naughty. Very naughty, indeed. I’m afraid “the incident” all those years ago had the reverse affect. Allow me to confess—I tell lies for fun and profit. That’s right. I write fiction. And it’s so much fun. You see, when I’m bored I use this clever instrument called imagination. It’s so helpful at times. Like when I’m standing in the post office line and I imagine everyone’s hair spontaneously falling out. And how that would look, all those different colors on the floor. But the best part would be the cries of outrage. And when the guy who used to have the mullet slipped on the poodle-permed fro. Tee-hee . . . I digress.

This thing called imagination usually serves me well, except those times when I’m the only one laughing in the room. I do tend to have the oddest black-outs sometimes. The rectangular eraser comes back and suddenly I’m in England or Jerusalem or Abu Dhabi. Yes, people do grow weary with me. Especially when they’ve been talking to me for five minutes and I have no idea what they’ve said. But, hey! That’s just the hazards of the profession. Regardless, my sincerest thanks are due to you. You inadvertently set me on the writer’s path.

Kind regards,

What about you? What’s been your weirdest flash of imagination?

How It Began

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When I was five years old, I would ask my grandmother to read a picture dictionary to me. Every time she would get to the “writer” entry, my gaze would always linger a tad bit longer. What was it about the picture that fascinated me? The disheveled looking guy in a robe? The antiquated typewriter? The coffee cups, obviously empty? Or was it the papers lying all around him, crumpled on the floor? Maybe it was his fingers flying frantically over the keys (or so I imagined). Or maybe, just maybe, what attracted me most were the things that I saw as I rested my hand on his tired shoulder, stood on my tip-toes, and dared to peek at the half-written page. Things like joy, and pain, and the way the wind turns a leaf just before it falls. And people, such people . . .

Whatever it was, it obviously stuck. Because most likely at two a.m. that’s where you’ll find me—sitting at my laptop, wearing an old ratty robe I really should throw away, but can’t . . . just because we’ve been through so many words together. We’ve obsessed about the color of the light over old Jerusalem. We've wandered through the British Museum by candlelight, searching for Bianca's soul mate. We've studied the pattern of the rain on a window, just before he said the unthinkable and ripped her world apart.

So here I am, giving you a window into the oddities of one particular novelist. I hope you enjoy this journey, come along beside me, and we'll find our way together. And in those still, magic hours just before the sun breathes deep, I'll lift one of my tea cups—one of the many scattered around—and I'll be thinking of you, my readers, and how I can’t wait to share my imaginary world with you all.