3:14

“So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, ‘Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.’” (THE BOOK OF RUTH, 3:14)

She was born on March fourteenth.  She had exactly fourteen golden freckles scattered across her nose.  She had three dimples, one on each cheek and a tiny one on her chin.

When she was three she knew how to read the newspaper.  She didn’t understand it, but loved to sound out the mysterious words.  She was rarely wrong.  Adults handed her newspapers to test this ability and walked away from her saying “What a smart child,” “She’s going to be famous,” “She’s so cute.”  She paid no attention focusing her curly hair on learning the next word.

At fourteen she had her first boyfriend—the first of three loves of her life—and learned her first lesson about sexual inequality.  They were together all the time, even meeting each other between classes for a quick kiss and exchange of cuteness.  She lost him when she decided to run for class president and had less time to spend with him.  Or maybe it was just a typical surge of hormones when he wanted more than she was ready to give.  He left her for someone who thought less about helping and more about sex.

She met number two during her second semester at college.  She gave into the hormones this time.  They were together for three years but eventually drifted apart, each having different goals and expectations after graduation.  He wanted the perfect doctor’s wife, she wanted her own career.  He moved to the West Coast, she moved to Boston and traveled incessantly.  Every three years they call each other to reminisce.  He talks about his wife and three kids, she talks about her life.

It took fourteen years for her to meet the third and (hopefully) last love of her life.  She spent that time creating her career, writing about her world.  They met, fell in love, and married.  He laid next to her in bed—his  heavy breathing enveloped her in an invisible mist of comfort and protection whenever she was awakened by strange dreams, panic attacks, or her ever-thinking mind.

This night she awoke at exactly 3:14 am.

She did not know what had woken her.  She didn’t recall a specifically disturbing dream (and she usually remembered them for a short time at least).  She didn’t hear any strange noises.  Actually, the silence seemed deeper than usual.  Even his breathing had become quiet as he turned on his side.  She glanced at the clock again, and it still said 3:14.  She went to the bathroom and got a cool drink of water hoping she would relax and be able to go back to sleep.  When she returned to bed she glanced again at the clock.  3:14. There must have been a power outage, she thought and crawled under the warm covers.  I have to get back to sleep, she thought and took three deep breaths.  She counted fourteen imaginary sheep and slowly drifted into timelessness.

***

The newspaper article read:  She was born on March 14, 1968 at 3:14 am and died on March 14, 2006 at 3:14 am.  Coincidence?  We may never know.  Her heart mysteriously stopped at exactly 3:14 am as did the clock next to her bed.  She had become one of the most famous female wordsmiths over the past fourteen years.  She was one of only three women to write prize-winning articles and books that fought all types of social injustice, and have actually forced some change.  Strangely, the other two women are dead as well.  All three deaths are being investigated.  She will be missed by her husband and three dogs, and mourned by many.

On Writing Fantasy and the Fiction of Superiority

One lucky (and talented) blogger wrote about the writing community yesterday in “Talking Shop,” or “I’m a writer, too!” and became Freshly Pressed. She was overwhelmed by the positive responses that appeared in her mailbox. Congratulations! Enjoy them.

One cord really struck home with me in the blog; the derisive snort of a fellow writer upon the discovery that this person writes science fiction and fantasy. Why do people do that?  How can people dismiss fantasy  and science fiction as somehow “lesser than” when we have examples of amazing writing in both genres? People who write these forms, and write them well, are creating worlds and sometimes even universes peopled with living, breathing creatures with complex personalities and needs. They explore life just as deeply as any “realistic” writer might. If you don’t believe me, maybe it is time for you to revisit Tolkien.

I am one of those people who seems to embrace the underdog. In my theater work, I more often prefer plays for young audiences over plays for adults. Children’s theater is the bastard stepchild of any theater programming–valued as long as it doesn’t interfere with the needs of the main stage. Yet, I chose to pursue Theater for Youth for my doctorate, rather than many of the more “respectable” choices that I could have made (and I am well-rounded in most areas of theater). Why? Because directing a play for young audiences is sometimes more challenging than for adults. Children are honest audiences, and you know when you have failed. A play for young audiences requires someone to delve in with as much imagination as possible, in order to bring the audience along the magical ride. Plays for adults can do this as well, but they tend to be more rooted in the psychology of the characters or the issue being explored. I value working with both forms, and I don’t believe either one is lesser than the other.  Both provide challenges in different ways.

When I decided to take more steps towards become a writer, I chose to take a course in Writing for Young People. While I still write things for adults as well, I started there. Why? Because when you write for young people, words matter even more. You have less time to create pictures in their heads. You have fewer words to be able to tell the complete story of a character, a situation, a problem. Learning to write for young people makes you craft your words more carefully, then those skills can be brought to more mature material. Writing for young people is not an easy thing to do.

My first completed (although as yet unpublished) novel for young adults has  elements of fantasy in it.  One of the projects I am currently working on is full-fledged fantasy (for young adults). I have wanted to write fantasy forever. I am not as interested in writing science fiction (although I read it occasionally) because of the science element which feels out of my reach. So, for me, fantasy is the ideal. Here’s the thing, the full-fledged fantasy has become both my dream and my nightmare. Why? Because writing an entire world is not an easy thing to do.

Think about it. For a fantasy world to work it has to feel real:

  • peopled by creatures or beings that are honest and believable
  • filled with places and locations that characters can travel to realistically, and readers can travel to imaginatively
  • enlivened by a complex interweaving of stories that provide both background and challenges to the protagonist, and must be believable
  • and filled with honest emotion and interactions between the characters.

Those of you who dismiss the writing of fantasy as something unworthy,then go ahead and try it. I want a story by the end of the week. No? You can’t do that? Well, then let’s be a little less critical folks.

Being creative and putting words on paper is challenging and worthy, no matter what form it takes.

SQUIRREL!!!

Jasper: Ooooh, I want one. I want one. Why can’t I climb this tree? What are the furry things with fuzzy tails? They are up there. I know they are up there. I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna get it. Maybe if I jump high enough I can fly. I know I can. I know I can. I know I can.

Lizzy: [gives Jasper a scornful look] Leave those silly things alone. Have you seen that little white thing that walks on a leash? I think it might be a dog, but it sure looks funny. I will go explore next time Mommy lets me off the leash. You never get off the leash because you are always chasing things.

Jasper: Oh, oh, oh! But you went after that other thing we saw. You know the one with the shell and four legs. What was it? What was it? I want to get one. And did you taste that yummy squished thing I got yesterday? It had bumps on it. I want one. I want one.

Lizzy: I’m going back inside. You need to chill out. I think it’s time for a nap.

Fairy Dust and Starshine: Necessities of Life

 

A fairy offering wishes, illustration by John ...

Image via Wikipedia

 

That’s it! I’ve figured out what one of the major problems is with this world. Too many people have stopped believing in fairies. By this I mean the more general belief in a magical world that is not dictated by our rules of science. We have lost the sense of wonder that comes when you see the twinkling of fireflies on a warm summer night. Yes, I know that there is a scientific explanation for those fireflies (something to do with mating); but isn’t there power in imagining the fireflies are gatherings of stars fallen from the sky? Our world suffers as people focus only on science and logic, and forget fairy dust and starshine.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all live in a fantasy land or ignore the valuable scientific understanding of the universe. I am arguing that welcoming a sense of wonder, and the possibility of events occurring beyond explanations, allows us to feel another important thing–and that is hope. This does not mean we have to believe in a specific god or a specific religion, but it does mean that we should try to believe in possibilities. Once we let those possibilities go, the world becomes routine and mundane. Who really wants to live in a world like that?

So, all fairies and pixies, unicorns and rainbows, ghosts and goblins, star dust and music you are welcome in my home. All of you who want to join me in world full of potential . . . you are very welcome.

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