Navigating by Starlight

The Storyteller arrives before dawn.  The world is still dark, and the room empty, but full of anticipation.  She lights a fire in the hearth, sets out the seating, dusts the tables and sweeps the floor.  She ponders, briefly, painting the walls, but decides to leave them as they are.  She puts the kettle on for tea.

The story goes, we writers are reclusive sorts. The stereotypes keep us in cold attics or studio apartments or remote cabins in obscure woods. There may be some truth to that: writing is a notoriously solitary art, and we all need that “room of one’s own,” as Virginia Woolf so famously put it. But now, our computers and laptops come with us up into the attic, and remote cabins are hooked up with wifi. And we do have a habit of making words if we’re given a page to put them on–even if the page is virtual.

My cat Pippin
Obligatory cat photo.

So we writers drift back to our earliest origins, back to telling stories in public. Only these days, we share stories about our lives, our struggles, or just what our cats are doing at any given moment. (I am pretty sure it will be cute. Possibly destructive, but definitely cute.)

This is a roundabout way of announcing that I’m going to start posting regularly in here. The aim is a new post every week. I hope you’ll join me. I’ll be mostly musing about stories and writing, and projects I’m working on. Occasionally I’ll post a little fiction. There will be cats.

So let me get started by telling a little story about myself, from the time I was a reclusive sort living in a cold attic in Rochester.

I named my first laptop the “Star Fissure.”  I pulled the name from the Myst series of video games, which told the story of an ancient group of people who had the ability to literally open portals to other worlds via the books they wrote—provided, of course, that the world created by their words was stable and well-fleshed-out enough.  The Star Fissure was a recurring anomaly in that universe:  a tear in space that appeared to open into a starry void between worlds.

Naturally, my young writer-self was fascinated by all this.  And what better namesake for my laptop than a fissure into infinite worlds?

The Star Fissure came with me when I moved into my first non-dorm apartment, a creaky old house in Rochester, NY.  The attic became my room, and it was everything you might expect:  cold in the winter, hot in the summer, with squirrels living behind the walls, the sound of their scrabbling claws and soft shufflings an endless source of entertainment for my housemate’s two cats.  I had no closet, and kept my clothes on a rolling rack.  The canted ceilings made keeping decorations up an ongoing challenge.  It was theoretically romantic, but also a practical exercise in dealing with frustrations and discomforts.

And then there was the giant hole in the floor.

I don’t think the attic had been designed as a bedroom.  The stairwell formed an L-shaped hole near the middle of the room, and a banister only covered half of it.  I lined the floor along the open edges with glow-in-the-dark stars so I could see where it was at night.  And then I had an idea:  to line the whole thing with glow-in-the-dark stars.  The walls of the stairwell became sprays of constellations, and at night I had my very own Star Fissure.

Writing can be like that.  You start with a blank page, an empty space, and fill it with wonder until it’s transformed into something else.  And life can be like that, too.  Sometimes there’s a hole, and for all practical purposes you can’t get rid of it.  You can only try to navigate around it.  But sometimes, you can line it with stars to light your way.

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