Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Growth of a Story

When I began to tell my sons stories about Duffy Barkley and the fantasy world of Uhrlin, it was only natural to incorporate the things I knew with the things we imagined.  So I told them short stories and the stories grew longer as my children asked questions which had to develop answers.
 My love of dolphins and merpeople is one of my first memories, and as a small town, Wyoming, land locked child, I remember fighting with my mother when I was barely a toddler, angry that she hadn't named me "flipper."  I also had an intense love of Keiko, the free-willie whale who lived for a few years just north of us when my own children were toddlers, and the killer whales markings influenced the coloring I chose for my own mer-people and their Princess SeaBee.
 The lovely water of the Smith River in summer always reminded bye of living, liquid jade, and provided the first inspiration for flowstone.  Flowstone, is a colony of microscopic creatures who form a group which can be solid or liquid based on how fast they vibrate and which lives symbiotically with a tamarin like creature, forming the clothing and homes of the city of Oohline.  From a distance Oohline looks like a cluster of green grapes or a pile of glass fishing floats.  Well, finding one of those floats washed up on the beaches where  we live now is a goal like a treasure hunt.  Then one day, building sand castles with my youngest son, the castle kept crumbling and he'd scoop up and re-use the sand, and the idea of a city, where the rooms could detach and move around was born.  And the boys loved trampolines, and we thought how much fun it would be to live where the land was like a trampoline, and then we wondered if you would even walk if the land was that springy, so the tamarin, monkey like creatures began to roll up like a ball and bounce, and so did their flowstone bubble homes.
 I started sketching and painting images from the story which made me think of even more details.

I was a teacher of young children with severe handicaps, a role I grew into after being blessed with a brother with Down's Syndrome.  Most of my students had been amazingly strong, loving people who thrived with teaching and attention, and the ones I found able to express themselves had very strong opinions, so I made my main character a very opinionated 9 year old with Cerebral Palsy who hated being told "No"

 I wrote out our stories and drew a map and edited and re-edited the book, and still thought of it as a simple thing that I could share with the two boys I loved so much.  And then I printed it, and a sequel and now I find myself in the curious, wonderful position of not being the only one who knows and loves Duffy.

 I grew up by Yellowstone, so part of my fantasy land had strong ties to that amazing landscape
 but I live in the redwoods by the sea so towering first and ocean found a place there too.

 And my best friend as a child, was this chimp, named Judy after the one on Daktari, and many of the characters in Uhrlin have something of Judy in them, and something of the toddlers my children were.
Now, I am delighted to look on line and discover other people talking about my characters, and reading my books and leaving wonderful reviews on the kindle and paperback sites on Amazon.  I always wanted to be a storyteller, but i had never realized how much of myself would show up in my stories, or how much fantasy is shaped by my life.

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