Home is Where the Words Are:
Having just moved last weekend, the concept of “home” is on my mind. I sit here at my desk, my back to a room piled high with boxes, crates, bins, and pieces of furniture that have not yet found their places. I am surrounded by the artifacts of my and my daughter’s lives – the flotsam and jetsam that has survived several purges to wash up here on the shore of this, our fifth move in eight years.
Like a writer with a new story idea, I am anxious to settle in. I look around and see that I have all the puzzle pieces; I just need to figure out where each one fits. The rooms of our new house are like the structure of the story. I can see the shape of our home – and our new life here – hovering in the spaces between the walls, but it’ll take me some time to bring the hazy vision to life. At this stage, I’m still working out the details and playing with the possibilities.
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Stories and moving are about beginnings. Each time I pick up a book or read the first lines of a short story, I am filled with the anticipation of setting out on a new adventure. Each read promises the chance to discover as yet unknown characters, places, times, plots, and ideas. Similarly – like Ann Patchett’s perfect, unwritten story – each new writing project fills my heart with hope.
A new home promises the chance to create a unique haven for self, family, friends, and creative work. A new home is also the chance to reassess, reevaluate, and reinvent yourself. Here I will build a small, personal world that is both a reflection of who I am and a force that will influence who I become. This will be my Rivendell, my Bag End.
Whether the task ahead is turning an ethereal idea into a concrete story or setting up house, there is much work to be done and the element of the unknown is both frightening and tantalizing. Still, each experience – reading, writing, and moving – brings an expectant sense of excitement. How will it all turn out? What will we discover? Who will we meet? How will we be changed?
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I welcome the prospect of change. It’s not that I am unhappy with things the way they have been, but change requires growth and growth requires learning. Though I cannot see clearly how things will unfold in the year ahead and beyond, I am glad to think that I will have the chance to stretch, experiment, and evolve.
And fall is, to me, the perfect season for embracing metamorphosis. The fall equinox has always felt like my new year. There is something in the air that smells of magic and mystery and second chances.
Yesterday, we talked about our biggest writing failures. I was touched and saddened by how many of us have held our writer selves back. Many of you confessed to regrets about having let fear keep you from the page. I can relate. But this is the season of new beginnings. You don’t have to wait any longer. You don’t have to hold back. You don’t need to move into a new home to start fresh. You only have to wake up one morning and decide to do something different.
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The funny thing about reading a good story, writing your own story, and finding yourself in the right new house is that even though these experiences are full of the unknown, in the end, they feel like coming home. There is something about the way the words and the walls envelope you that feels familiar and comforting. You realize that these stories and this house were always a part of you; you just hadn’t found them yet. So, welcome home, dear writer. May you find much solace and inspiration where the words are.
In the weeks leading up to our move, I spent many (many!) hours engaged in various forms of house-related manual labor. One of my bigger projects was painting the kitchen cabinets. While I navigated my way clumsily through the process of scrubbing, painting, and varnishing said cabinets, I treated myself to a couple of audio books. This week, I’d like to share with you a few thoughts on The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
I was intrigued by this novel because of the bookish flavor of the story, “On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto ‘No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.’ A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.” I delayed reading it because I usually prefer stories with a little magic in them, and this tale of a widowed book shop owner is very firmly rooted in Real Life.
But, magic or no, I was completely drawn into this quiet story of love, loss, and rediscovery. I enjoyed getting to know A.J. Fikry and developed a deep respect his fierce love of good literature. I was charmed by the character of Lambiase, a local cop who befriends Fikry after investigating the theft of the bookshop owner’s nearly priceless copy of Poe’s Tamerlane.
Both the narrative and Fikry’s ruminations, which appear at the beginning of each chapter, offer the reader much to think about – big ideas and small, philosophical concepts, and personal revelations. And, for writers, the story is imbued with a passion for the craft that feels pleasantly conspiratorial. I may, I think, give this one a second listen in the not-too-distant future. I enjoyed it that much.
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I love animals. I love beautiful photography. I love a good story. Penguin Bloom, a book coming in January 2016, appears to have all three of these in abundance. Written by Bradley Trevor Greive, this is the true story of how Penguin the magpie came to live with photographer Cameron Bloom and his family. Bloom’s beautiful images of Penguin and Bloom’s wife and boys are almost mythical, and though I have not yet read the story, I have a feeling that the tale will live up to the beauty of the images.
This “small” story reminds me that magic and miracles come in all sizes, and sometimes the most profound experiences are the ones that happen right in your own backyard. Though as writers we often tend to look far afield for the stories that will capture readers’ hearts and minds, perhaps we should not overlook the wealth of material that exists around us in the patterns and routines of our everyday life.
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And, then there’s this beautiful piece of literary art – a “map of literature” created by a seventeen year-old artist from Slovakia. I so want this for one of the walls in my new home. (This image is just a detail, click the picture to see the BuzzFeed article that shows the entire map.)
And (though I haven’t had much time for reading blogs), here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from the last few weeks:
- Wordsmiths and Storysmiths by @SPressfield
- Social Media For Authors via @BookBaby
- Building Your Personal Brand by @LUCYrk78 via @MelissaOnline
- How to Write Brilliant Blog Posts: 5 Tips from Psychology by Ellen Jackson via @problogger
- 10 Writing “Rules” We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break by @charliejane
- Our Fractured Days by @SPressfield
- The Price of Writing by @jniesslein
- Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard? by Anne Chemin
Finally, a quote for the week:
So glad to be back from the move and re-settling into both our new home and my old routine here on the weekend edition. Thanks for being here!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.