Girl, seven, sits on a swing, scuffling the sand with her toes. She is too young to know how to strike a match. She isn’t lonely or alone. She’s writing a story in her imagination, writing as she always does, by sifting through ideas before she commits word one to lined paper. Like, what would happen to a kid who couldn’t find the way home? Or, why would a girl spend a found dollar on paints when her dress is so outgrown that the sleeves pinch her arms? And, how does that boy plan to sneak the puppy into his bedroom, and what does the little fella eat? The problems mount for each character, the resolutions are not obvious. At seven, little agonies generate tears, and fixing things means happily ever after. Figuring it all out takes a lot of toe scuffling. In her stories the world eventually brightens though not without a fight.
The girl, older now than seven by decades, sifts through ideas, not usually on a swing. Perhaps she walks in the cool dampness of early morning or keeps company with the night’s owls, yielding the private moments to think story. So many jobs and hobbies after second grade, so many relationships past, thoughts penned, discarded, elaborated on. A life built, sloppy and rich as most, with family, friendships, education, careers, community experiences and others too private to share.
Story comes from all of it. Like, what happens to people cast in situations not of their choice? What if they lack the skill or fortitude to change? Characters journey through sorrow, illness, joy, despair, loss, injustice, betrayal, wonder, secrecy, and victory. They fall into pits that sever the earth and survive gashes that rend the heart. They encounter incidents that construct insurmountable prisons or climb scaffolds built of noble endeavors. They wrestle the devil incarnate and ordinary folk. They confront the dross in their own marrow and weep at their trifling impact on all things of value. Characters in her stories live because the girl has lived.
At a moment of duress or an indeterminate crossroads, during a national crisis or personal juncture, the character manifests, a hero perhaps or a cad with a quest. He encounters crises, makes a critical decision, defeats the devil, changes the course of events, emerges a better person who has impacted the world in a positive way or a fool who’s learned nothing. The character is not afraid and will suffer defeat or triumph.
The girl on the swing is still writing, sometimes in her head, usually on a computer, lined paper long ago discarded. She stands in the darkest pit of the earth, alone but not lonely, pulls out the stub of a candle, and finally knows how to strike the match. In her stories the world brightens though not without a fight. Here is born Sharon Bonin-Pratt’s Ink Flare. I welcome you on my journey through story, sparked by words. And so it begins.
Photo courtesy Pratt family archives