When I first learned that words were magic

reading

I just read a wonderful article on the writing career of Ron Rash, Elegance and Grit, by David Menconi  I met Ron almost 20 years ago at Wildacres Writers Workshop near Little Switzerland, NC. I feel in love with his use of language and the way he turned a small story into pure magic.

I don’t write epic tales of time travel and mysterious worlds discovered or fantastical fiction about creatures of myth and lore. I don’t write grand and sweeping historical fiction or make provocative political statements.

I write about contemporary American life. Sometimes I worry if my “world” is too small. Then I read Ron Rash and am reminded that “regular” life is epic–filled with mystery, madness, and magic; wound tight with love, loss, and longing. Hope, desire, and fight.

I remember that words are magic–strung together like twinkling lights, like fireflies flashing.

But what really connected me to Ron’s article was a short video at the end. Ron told a story about his grandfather reading to him and it reminded me of my grandmother and the way she opened by eyes to writing.

She used to tell me stories about Hansel and Gretel. Not the story you’ve read a dozen times, but the “extended adventures of Hansel and Gretel.” Stories she was making up as she went along. I asked her what book these stories were in and she said, very nonchalantly, “Oh, I’m just making this up off the top of my head.”

My whole world blew open. I loved books. I loved stories. I honestly thought (now remember, I was a little child) that the books in the library and at the store were ALL the books. That there was some finite amount of story and what you saw was IT. I had never really thought about who had written the stories.

They stories my grandmother told were exciting and suspenseful, full of detail and dramatic flare. Off the top of her head. My grandmother…hold the phone, I began to think….this means that ANYONE can make up a story. Anyone can write. Does this me I could write stories if I wanted to?

Perhaps there were people out in the world writing stories even as I lay there in bed listening to the hijinks of Hansel and Gretel. Maybe “story” could go on forever. Maybe there would never be an end. Maybe I could be a part of that.

Thanks, Grandma, for showing me that I can do this.

Thanks, Ron, for showing me over these last 20 years how it’s done.

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