Lately with all the negative and frankly terrifying things in the news, I have been thinking about the importance of story.
In a world of turmoil, how can stories and words possibly matter? As an author you can feel super small in that sea of vitriol and violence. Like you are throwing stones into an endless ocean.
Then I realized the world around us is made up of stories, because we are constantly telling stories to ourselves, as a towns and as nations.
America in the nineteenth century had a powerful story; come to America, and no matter who you are, with hard work, you can make your dreams a reality. New Zealand around the same time had a different, but similar story; everyone gets a fair go here. In America recently it has become ‘America is the greatest nation in the world’, while New Zealand is ‘the little nation that punches above its weight.’ That’s why NZ loves its All Blacks rugby team; it embodies that story. Soldier Field in Chicago was filled with 60,000 people to see the ABs play. A story can be that powerful.
It’s not just nations, but cities too. Wellington, my hometown, told itself it was in the 1980s and 1990s a boring, grey, only the government kind of spot. Then in the new century, they changed that to arts, culture and a foodie paradise. Detroit in the 1890s was The Paris of the West, then the story became Motor City, then more recently depressed and wrecked. Now it is turning to arts, hope, and a we-can-do it attitude.
So who makes these stories? What winds of change blow through to make these narratives change? It’s a gathering of wills, a change in the mindset of the people. While one person can instigate change, it has to be picked up and carried by the people as a whole. They have to buy into that story and move it forward, making it a reality.
So in our world it is the people that make the change. Right now, it feels like America is still trying to find its new story, and as a writer I can tell you, finding a new story, and working it properly can be difficult.
So in this national emotional turmoil, I still manage to find a story to write, inspired by this storytelling of place and heart. It’s one about that human mind-meld, and a little bit about the spirits of the Fey. (You didn’t think Chasing the Bard was the only story I had to tell with them) It also contains the Iron Lily, my 19th century strong-woman, and an older immigrant grandmother in New York City. It’s about a city finding its story, and who gets to decide what that will be.
It’ll be told in multiple first person stories, a first for me, but one that works well for this story I think.
It’ll be full of the joy, the madness, the beauty and the darkness of New York City, whose history I am falling in love with.
And it will reflect the importance of the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Hope among the shadows.