Saturday Story Starter

Can you believe it’s August already?  Summer is slipping away….

But not before one more Story Starter!

As those of you who have participated before know, Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)

Before we get started, though, I left you hanging last month with another picture that I promised had a story to go along with it. Here’s the picture:

Mistake House May 2014

And here’s the story:

Many moons ago, I was a student at Principia College. Principia is located in a breathtaking spot, high up on the limestone bluffs of Elsah, Illinois, overlooking the Mississippi River. The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark, thanks to Bernard Maybeck, the celebrated American architect who designed it. (Click here if you’d like to watch a short video showing some of his buildings at Principia College.)

Maybeck called the project his “favorite child,” and he designed the campus to look like an English village. (Swoon! Perfect place for Anglophile me!) This little building in the picture above is known as the “Mistake House,” and it was a sample building, enabling him to try out the various materials and techniques he would use in constructing the rest of the campus.

And it was here in the Mistake House that everything changed for me overnight.

I was an English major, set on becoming the next Jane Austen. It was spring quarter my senior year. I needed one more credit to graduate. As I was flipping through the course catalog trying to decide what to take, I spotted a class called “Children’s Literature.” I thought, “That’s sounds fun–and easy.” (Did I mention it was spring? Or that I had senioritis, and was eager to coast through to graduation and the “real life” that beckoned beyond?)

I duly signed up for the class, and on the appointed day I walked through the door of the Mistake House, where it was held. Can you imagine a more perfect setting for a course on children’s books? The teacher was a former children’s librarian named Marjorie Hamlin. She was and still is a force of nature.  Here’s a picture of her taken not so very long ago on a trip she took to Vietnam, when she was in her 80s:

Marjorie Hamlin on an elephant 2011

Isn’t she wonderful?  She just sparkles with vigor, curiosity, and vibrant life. And that’s what she was like as a teacher, too. Everyone should be privileged to have a teacher and mentor like Margie. She made the world of children’s literature come alive to her students, and it’s because of her class that I decided to write for young readers.

Many decades later, I dedicated THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB to her. Here she is the day I brought her a copy:

Margie Hamlin Closeup

You can see why I love her, can’t you?

And you can see why the Mistake House will always be special to me.

OK, onward to our Story Starter.  Here’s this month’s photo:

Magical Staircase

(If you click on it, the photo should enlarge.)

I came across this fabulous staircase on my travels earlier this year. (Some of you who live in the city where it’s located may recognize it–and even walk up and down it regularly!) It was late afternoon, and the setting sun shone on the small pieces of shimmering tile with which the stair risers are decorated, lighting it up with an ethereal glow. Pure loveliness!

Tell us about this staircase. Tell us its story. Perhaps you want to think about where it goes, and who uses it. Or perhaps you want to look at the makers–the artists who conceived and created this beautiful piece of public art. Or were they artists? Perhaps they were fairies or elves or other creatures who chose to grace this corner of the world with their particular magic…

Ready, set, WRITE!