Tag Archives: storytelling

Write the change you want to see: A Birthday Thank You for a Friend

Special Note: I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of teachers in my life. Some of these people probably don’t even realize I was their pupil at one point or another. I’d like to dedicate this blog post to a friend who greeted me in the hallowed halls of the Zoetrope writers workshop at the true beginning of my writing career. Her example and kind words of encouragement have helped many a writer over the years, whether it was as an editor or reviewer or friend. Happy birthday, Beverly!IMG_4047

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think writers have another obligation. Write the change. It’s the charge given to each of us with this calling to write our feelings and dreams down and send them out on paper airplanes into the world.

Don’t like the world with less opportunity for lower classes? Imagine it different. Write the change.

Don’t like racism? Write a world with more tolerance.

Don’t like partisan politics? Erase them with a few strokes of the keyboard—in your writing, anyway.

Horrified by the attitudes that resulted in the #metoo movement? Write a world where consent is actually romanticized. For instance:

She loved and trusted this man. Nothing they chose to do together could be wrong or destructive. —Dickens Magic, coming October 31, 2018

I’m not saying you’ll change the world with your stories. I’m saying it’s up to the writers and dreamers to reach out to others and show them what the world could be. Imagine a world where the rights of every human being are respected. Imagine a world where technology aids instead of replaces human interaction. Imagine a world where everyone is valued for what they bring to the world, no matter what their skill is.

Imagine it and write it.

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A Christmas Carol: A new adventure, an old love

7A241F6E-D057-4BE3-8D35-3CB616A54869.jpegThis is my father’s copy of Dickens’ Christmas Stories. It’s seen better days. It was old the first time I laid my hands on it, when I was about nine or ten. Someone—probably me—drew on the first pages. You can see the binding is loose. It wasn’t a well-made book to begin with and many readings have pretty much destroyed it.

It’s one of the most precious things I own.

My father gave me this book when I left for college. I’d read it many times during the years and he knew how much I loved it. The very first story in it is A Christmas Carol. Has there ever been a better first line than this one?

Marley was dead, to begin with.

If ever it was necessary to end a sentence with a preposition, this is the one. From the first line to the last, “God bless us, every one!”, I was hooked. And the description of the Fezziwig party! “…three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were  not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.” I always felt as if I were there, dancing and singing and reveling, and I always wished I really was.

When I heard our local theater was going to do a musical production of A Christmas Carol, I knew I had to be involved. This was my chance—or as close as I was likely to ever get—to join in the parties Dickens described. I have no experience at all acting. I can’t sing. I didn’t know, at the time, if I would be able to dance. But my daughter convinced me that we should audition together, so I threw my hat in for a non-singing role.

Now, less than a month away from the first show, I’m glad I did. I’ve learned most of two dances, one of which is in the Fezziwig party. I’m enjoying the company of the rest of the cast, all of whom have more experience than me in this sort of thing. They’re wonderful people, every one of them, and they’ve taught me a lot. Even the ones who are younger than me.

But mostly, I’m loving experiencing first hand a new (to me) way of storytelling. I imagine when Charles Dickens sat down to write A Christmas Carol, he never imagined it being adapted to the stage. He never thought of the way his beautiful story of self-discovery and redemption could be told through song and dance, visualized by a director and translated by actors on a stage.

I’m sure he never thought of it, but I believe he would have liked it.

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Origin Stories: They’re not just for Superheroes!

Yesterday was one of my kids’ birthdays. I found myself thinking (and talking) all day about the day he was born. I’m going to tell you the story and I beg you to bear with me because there is a point to it.

It was snowy and cold up in Baltimore and I had been feeling bad all day, but I wasn’t supposed to be in labor yet. It was a month too early! But my husband called the doctor anyway, and he suggested we just stop by the hospital to be checked out. Better safe than sorry. We figured we’d stop by Taco Bell and pick up dinner on the way home, then cuddle up in our cozy apartment with our four-year-old son and watch “The Simpsons”.

Well, I was in labor. Long story short, they decided to stop the labor so while they fed me drugs intravenously, my husband braved the snow and took our son to the Eastern Shore to stay with his Granny. The labor stopped and I was discharged the next morning with instructions to rest. I did, but the pains started again that evening and in the early morning hours, I woke my husband and we went to the hospital again and a few hours later, my blessedly healthy five-pound son was born.

This is a story like many others. My friends and I used to get together at play dates and swap birth stories. I find myself telling these stories to strangers and acquaintances who probably don’t get why it’s so important to me and are probably hiding yawns as a I tell them.

So why is this story so interesting to me? Because it’s an origin story. Not just my son’s origin story, but the story of how I became a mom of two (the story of how I became a mom of three is another one for another time!). I love origin stories. The one book of the Bible that I have actually read and studied is Genesis. “In the beginning…” is a magical phrase for me. I think these stories are important to me because they preserve where we came from, and that’s what stories were originally intended to do.

We are made up of our origin stories. How we became who we are. Parents, writers, sons, daughters…whatever you are, you have an origin story or two or three. Probably many all intertwined like leaves and vines. We are who we are because of our stories, so the next time your mother bores you with her story of your birth or your grandfather tells you for the umpteenth time what it was like when he was a kid, listen with an ear pressed to the ground. It’s your origins—your roots—that you’re hearing.

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