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“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world.” Philip Pullman
Couldn’t agree more! How about you? I have only to remember the deep, heart-joy I felt when as children, my beloved mother Dorothy sat and read to us. What a delight to be transported from my little bed to Buckingham Palace or to the North Pole or to the mysterious land of Wynkyn, Blynkyn, and Nod! Later, I remember feeling a different kind of joy when Dorothy, or “Dot” as he always called her, would read to my son Alex. There is something so comforting, so reassuring, about a story, isn’t there? It takes us on journey from the place where we are and delivers us back again, changed somehow.
In their own way, stories give us the very essentials of life – they nourish us, shelter us, and provide us with companionship, don’t they?
Stories – how much we’re in need of them today! Stories that uplift and encourage us. Stories of people who’ve suffered life’s “slings and arrows” and emerged stronger and learned something they want to pass on. Stories of people who’ve lived very different lives from our own, but who share many of our same hopes and dreams. Stories of animals and nature, which show us how connected we are. Picaresque adventures. Cautionary tales. Tragedies. Comedies. Histories. Mysteries. Discoveries. Reveries. We need them all.
But are they in danger, the stories that are a source of so much nourishment and joy?
Some time ago, I was on a plane next to a young woman who spent our entire short flight on her giant cell phone. We were sitting so close together that I couldn’t help but see that she was rapidly scrolling down image after image, giving each one no more than a few seconds of her attention. Even just sitting next to her made me feel restless and agitated. What a powerful digital distraction device she held in the palm of her hand!
Every day we face these same temptations – to be distracted, to turn away from the page. And every story we write has a huge job to do – wooing potential readers. Whether they read our stories on the page or on their iPhone, we’re still asking them to a come with us on a narrative journey – one that takes them away from a random succession of images.
It’s a challenging role we’ve set for ourselves – we are the story savers. We are the ones who are spinning out stories that give the world and our lives shape and meaning. We are the ones who are nourishing the heart and soul with words that can heal and help and give hope. And we are the ones who must remind readers that stories matter. A lot. Write on!