by Jennifer Paros
When I was around
the age of seven, I was in my room writing one day. It was not
something I had to write for school; I just wanted to write a
story. I sat at my desk with paper in front of me and then I stood
at my desk with paper in front of me, and then I started to walk
around my room. Apparently, I didn’t know what I wanted to write,
but I knew I wanted to write.
At one point, I
walked over to my bureau, which was fairly tall. I peered over the
ledge. Here is where I kept all sorts of small, decorative figurines
that I had collected for a long time. I had some tiny china kittens
with an overturned bucket with “spilled” milk. Some of the kittens
were posed so they could drink the milk and some of them were
sitting up; there was also a mother cat lying nearby that went with
the set. I had some stuffed furry mice dressed in outfits – one had
a kerchief on its head and carried a basket, I believe; an Indian
Girl Doll (Native American) with a papoose and pigtailed hair that
had come unglued (like a dislodged wig) and periodically shifted
position to reveal her bald head.
There was, what I
considered at the time, a very expensive Israeli doll (I had paid
seven dollars for her with my own money) with a silky, light blue
dress, crinoline, and blinking eyes. And there were small wooden
grasshoppers each playing a different instrument, standing around in
an ensemble, which I had arranged. But then, I had collected and
specifically and purposefully arranged everything on that
dresser. In each section, there was a story happening. Each object
had an idea and feeling, and always implied at least the beginning
of a narrative, more often than not, purposefully cultivated by me.
My eyes scanned the
different scenes and came upon the five-inch wooden cat that had
caught a mouse by its leather tail. I looked at that cat and
thought of how the cat could be a magic cat with special
powers, and then it occurred to me – and I remember thinking this
distinctly – that writing is like magic because you can make
anything be what you want it to be.
The question is:
What do you want it to be?
I still look around
and am amazed at how packed everything is – every person, every
object, every space, and every experience –
with story. The
trick is to select out that which resonates and best serves the
development of what most compels me.
And over the years,
since having packed away the world stationed on top of my bureau, I
have developed another array of things I’ve purposefully, and
sometimes not-so-purposefully, been collecting. And by “things” I
mean experience and people; things given me that I didn’t much want,
and things I have loved since the day they arrived. And when I look
around me now, each object, person, and experience can easily become
a portal (like my bureau collection) through which I can travel in
order to convene with the story I am so wanting to write.
We all have a
collection. And when we use our vision to see into all that is
before us, that, I believe, can’t help but be a moment of
Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.