Sights to Inspire

After reading an article on fantasy stories last week that annoyed me, though I agreed with some of the points made (go here if you’re curious), I was going to write a post about that experience. But rather than vent my spleen, I decided to take a more positive tangent.

The other day while heading to a four-year-old’s birthday party (you may not believe how often I get invited to those), I caught a faint shimmer in the sky off to the west. A rainbow on a sunny winter afternoon. I had never seen one on a rainless day. But there it was. And there it remained, uncaptured by my phone’s camera, since I was driving at the time. But it reminded me of a rainbow I saw last month. This was yet another first for me: I saw almost the whole rainbow from west to east. A cloud covered the top part of it. I could only capture part of both sides (sorry that one is so faint):

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But I was at the right place at the right time to see both sides. Oddly enough both of my rainbow experiences occurred while I was in my car. At least for one instance—a rainy day last December—I had time to get out of my car twice to photograph.

Something as serendipitous as seeing a rainbow reminds me of what I love about fairy tales and other fantasy stories. Some of these aspects are what inspire me to write fantasy stories. (See, here’s that tangent I mentioned earlier.)

Dragon

You can’t read this blog for too long without knowing that I love Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings or the fact that my father used to read a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales to me at bedtime. So I grew up feeling comforted by these familiar stories that took me to places where giants roamed and wily dragons hunted. They fueled my desire to see adventures unfurl around every corner. And when I eventually grew into a nerdy kid who was bullied by other kids at school, the desire to escape into a magical realm like Bastian Balthazar Bux does in The Neverending Story escalated.

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Every book I read became my own private movie theater of the imagination and fueled my desire to write the kinds of stories into which kids could escape. The tales based on the mythology of myriad cultures (Welsh, Greek/Roman, African, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavian) helped fuel the fire.

As a writer, I can only do my best to impart my vision as vividly as possible in order to come across in high definition on the screen of a reader’s imagination. That’s why I’m grateful for the flashes of inspiration that occasionally come my way. They’re like those glimpses I had of the rainbow the other day, which made a commonplace journey extraordinary. When I’m inspired, every sense is heightened, every moment fraught with possibility. (I’ll bet you’re thinking of Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” right about now.)

Judy Garland

Because of a pressing curriculum project recently and the holidays, I haven’t written much in the way of fiction in the last few weeks. But I hope to return to my story and the wonder to be had in a magical place somewhere over the rainbow.

What inspired you recently?

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This wolf howls because he’s not one of the three wolves on a T-shirt sold by Amazon.

Book cover from Goodreads. Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz from vickielester.com. Dragon image from dragonwallpapers10. Wolf image from fanpop.

Stuck in Neutral

After so many gloomy rainy days, the warm sun beckoned. I ventured outside as eager as a chick bursting through an eggshell, glorying in a sky scrubbed clean of clouds. But enjoyment of the day wasn’t the only thing on my mind. Something bothered me.

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I didn’t take this picture, but it provides an idea of what I mean.

I’m not sure why, but a cricket chirping in the bike shed of my apartment building caused me to glance down at the T-shirt I wore—this T-shirt:

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And I thought, That’s it. That’s what’s bothering me. I don’t mean the image per se. I’m quite partial to it, actually. No, the idea of movement itself—or the seeming lack thereof in my life—is what bothers me.

Let’s see . . . I’ve sent out manuscript queries; I’ve applied for jobs; I’ve networked. Baby steps these seem—tiny bursts of movement like flickering fireflies.

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But I made them, and now I’m waiting for something to happen, or at least some step I can take toward making something happen. For now, I feel stuck in neutral.

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Everybody waits for something. Is there something for which you wait? Some of us don’t wait easily. We long too much for something to change—a change for the good.

27712A scene I recently read really resonated with me. It comes from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Without giving away the plot (It’s complicated), I can tell you that the main character, Bastian Balthazar Bux, comes across an unusual house that can change its own rooms. Here’s a small portion of the scene.

After a short silence she said: ‘I think it would like us to move into the next room. I believe it may have arranged something for you.’

‘Who?’ Bastian asked, looking around.

‘The House of Change,’ said Dame Eyola, as if that were the most natural thing in the world.

And indeed a strange thing had happened. The living room had changed without Bastian noticing that anything was going on. (Ende 404)

Would you like to live in a house that could do this? I love this scene, not only for its coziness (I’m partial to scenes like this as well as the scene in Tom Bombadil’s house in Fellowship of the Ring), but because of the theme of change. The house did its best to delight Bastian by changing in such creative ways. I’m reminded also of another delightful book—Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, where the castle changes its own rooms.

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I love any scene in which someone or something acts toward the good of someone and a delightful change is the result. And that’s key—something that delights. In a year in which bad changes have occurred, I can’t help longing for something good to happen.

Ende, Michael. The Neverending Story. Trans. By Ralph Manheim. New York: Firebird/Penguin, 1983. 404. First printed in Germany as Die Unendliche Geschichte by K. Thienemanns Verlag, 1979. Print.

Blue sky from freetwitterheaders.net. Fireflies from successfulworkplace.com. Neutral gear from georgecastellion.com. Book covers from Gooreads.