Archive for February, 2012

From Dreams to Reality

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I am a writer.

While that has always been the case, I’ve not always freely admitted it. Over the years, I’ve met many other writers, some published and several pre-published, who hesitate to confess their passion or embrace their talent. And it’s a shame. Because, like all creative people—artists, photographers, dancers, singers, actors—we can deny our ambitions, but we can’t survive without practicing our obsession. So, I’ll say it again; I am a writer.

I wrote stories in my head even before I knew how to put them on paper. One of my favorite activities was to plot my dreams before falling asleep at night.

After I snuggled into bed, and my mother had turned out the light, my four-year-old self would conjure up the fantasy du jour. I started my dream before I fell asleep, hopefully to continue the adventure once slumber overtook my conscious mind.

Teryl, Nancy, and Teryl's brother, Tim

I wrote and rewrote one dream story every night for a season—like reruns of a favorite television program. The tale always began the same. With head on the pillow and my eyes closed tightly, I pictured myself passing through a hole in the retaining wall belonging to my best friend, Nancy Wilhelm. She lived across the street and we played together every day. On sunny afternoons, we pumped our legs skyward on the homemade rope swing tied to a cottonwood tree branch at the edge of a suburban cornfield. If we felt brave, at the apex, we launched ourselves from the safety of the wooden seat to sail through the air and land in the cool, black dirt below. When it rained, we moved indoors to play school, taking turns being the teacher.

Those afternoons in Nancy’s home introduced me to the fact that houses not only have different families living in them, but different textures and smells, too. I coveted her aluminum Christmas tree. It had a light with a revolving wheel, covered with multi-colored cellophane. At night, through their gigantic picture window, I watched the silver needles glow, turning from pink, to purple, and then blue.

The pink/purple/blue aluminum Christmas tree

Nancy’s family used different hand soap, too, that smelled flowery and didn’t have pumice beads in it like ours did. But the best thing—her mother always served us chocolate, not plain milk, for a snack.

Back to the dream—I floated through the hole in Nancy’s wall. I never worried about impossibilities. I simply adjusted my size to fit the four-inch space of the concrete block.

Did I mention I’d flown through the hole? No walking through passageways in my dreams. That was much too boring and insufferably slow, since my destination was Deepest, Darkest Africa. I still recall the bass voice announcing I’d arrived in “Deepest. Darkest. Africa.”

My dream jungle was as lush as any I’d seen in the Tarzan movies, except the leaves were vivid green instead of black and white. I climbed the closest vine to sit on the highest branch in the canopy. My first duty was to feed a bag of peanuts to the brightly-colored toucan on my left and the chimpanzee on my right.

After that, I fell into a sound sleep and the next morning I couldn’t remember how the story had played out. I suspect, I had numerous, heroic adventures, running with the cheetahs and saving naïve English hunters on safari as they tramped, unaware of danger, along the dense jungle floor.

Pierre-Esprit_Radisson

Later, I had the great fortune to be in the sixth-grade class of Mrs. Carol Loucks. She understood the creative spirit, as she was a consummate musician and singer. For a spring project, she directed and staged our class production of Brigadoon. What I enjoyed most in her class was the weekly writing assignment.

On Monday, Mrs. Loucks announced the theme of the week’s composition, due on Friday morning. She cleverly tied the theme to a current event or a topic we were discussing in our studies.

One week, we had to write a story about the French explorers we were studying in Early American History. I sat baffled by how to work Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Medard des Groseilliers of the Hudson Bay Company into a compelling plot. I turned to my mother for help. Frances Myers was my first muse, my constant collaborator, and a terrific poet and writer in her own right.

My mother suggested a different perspective. Why not stage the story in a modern-day museum and construct a conversation between two exhibits side by side in a display case? Why not write dialog between the worn leather shoe of French Explorer Radisson and the shiny new boot of Astronaut John Glenn? The inanimate objects could share their discoveries in a fun way with each other and the reader.

Point of View – it was the first of many lessons my mother, my mentor taught me about writing. It’s easy to see the roots of my passion.

Now, when asked, I clearly proclaim my joy and my profession.

I AM A WRITER.

Watch for the release of my next book, Still Kickin’–A Harmony Hills Mystery. Due out in March 2012.