Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dancing Into a Story

Have you ever found yourself writing, without premeditation, about someone from your distant past, even your childhood, whom you have not thought of during all the intervening years? There they are, just as you had last seen them, clear and vital, presiding over a part in your story that you wouldn't have envisioned when you began the work.

Sometimes they are protagonist, or antagonist, but more often they are the deuteragonist or tritagonist who hold your fictional world together in the populated corners that give your story and main characters depth. 

When I was a fifth grader, my mother decided that this tomboy was going to learn how to walk, sit and stand like a young lady. Every Saturday morning, I walked up to the mansion on Sutro Hill where Mrs. Evelyn King held her dance classes in her own studio, complete with barre, walls of full length mirrors, a stage and a sun room also with barre and a view across the city to the Bay.

I was not the only girl in my school class attending these lessons but I may have been the only one who got more than good posture out of the years of ballet, jazz and ethnic dances. 
At least in terms of sparking a lifetime of creative inspiration and opportunity.

Not only did I learn to dance, I developed a love of music. For me, the two are inextricably linked. I rarely listen to music without also dancing—if not full-on with my fingers and/or toes.

Yet, I knew from the first lesson dancing was not my future. Choreography was fun and performing was a thrill but to be a professional dancer required the one element I didn't bring to the barre every Saturday morning. Passion.

That ingredient was reserved, even then, for writing, for story-telling, for making worlds with words. Being able to transform all the joys and heartbreaks of growing up into stories is a most wonderful thing.

So, Mrs. King, thank you for inspiring me to nourish this passion. Perhaps, if you were still with us you might recognize yourself in Sharon, the dance teacher in my new re-release, Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls. But, if not, know that I created her as a tribute to you and all the other teachers who have launced their students into the world of creativity.

12 comments:

  1. First of all what a fabulous title for your new release. That should attract buyers.

    I think we all base characters on people in our lives, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not so much. I just hope some of the people I used for inspiration don't recognize themselves at times. LOL

    Great post - thanks for sharing

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    1. Sometimes it is a VERY good thing they don't recognize themselves, Kathye. :)

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  2. What a lovely tribute to your teacher! And you're right, I think we all have teachers who have had a huge impact on us. It's lovely that you acknowledged that sharing.

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    1. I wouldn't be here, or writing, without the fabulous, unsung and unappreciated teachers who often did not realize how their passion inspired their students. I cannot praise them often enough.

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  3. I love when an author uses a memorable character from real life and adds him/her to fiction. And your post today reminded me of the song from A Chorus Line: At the Ballet.

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    1. Here is how my heroine sees her dance teacher: "Emily took a deep breath. This was not her, on stage, alone. This was Sharon’s work. ... This belonged to Sharon and their audience." I do wish I had discovered the contribution Mrs. King made to my life sooner.

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  4. This post brought back memories of some of the wonderful teachers I had. I hope Mrs. King reads this and understands the part she played in the creation of Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls.

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    1. Mrs.King was already in her late fifties or sixties when I joined her dance school. She and so many of those who influenced me have left this world but they are with me every step I take.

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  5. So I should kill off an accordion teacher in my next mystery? Because of my dad's fascination with that instrument, I took lessons for a while. I was very very short, and holding that accordion wasn't pretty! Ahhh yes, I think I see a murder on the horizon!

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    1. I really love most music, but the sound of an accordion has no appeal. Before anyone gets mad, I admit they sound OK if you don't listen too long, but still ... if you must kill a musician, an accordion teacher seems like a good idea.

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    2. I had a fabulous piano teacher I'll never forget. I wouldn't want to see any of my many music teachers in a body bag, Eileen. Accordions are much maligned. Now, if you wanted to do in a bag-piper....

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  6. Hi Leigh--
    What a very lovely tribute to a teacher who encouraged you. I'm sure she is smiling down from heaven, showing your book off to the other angels, saying, "See, she's the one who wrote a book about me!"
    Victoria--

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