Thanks to Anara Guard for her today's piece about writing. I was really taken by her welcoming life-long journey. Don't miss her new collection of short stories, Remedies for Hunger.
Beyond the Glass
I invite you to visit my favorite gallery in the Art Institute of Chicago. Enter into the darkened hall and you will see several dozen panes of glass, lit from within. Behind each window is a miniature room, complete with rugs, paintings, fireplaces, chandeliers, delicate needlepoint in process on a tiny stand, tiny dishes on the table. And look at the tiny book, spread open on the table! These jewel-box interiors have been elaborately decorated and furnished to represent particular periods in time or historical buildings. Notice how every room contains one open window or a door standing ajar: a promise of something that lies beyond. But no matter how you press your nose against the glass or twist your head to the side, you cannot see into the garden or the adjoining chamber.
As children, my sisters and I spent many hours smearing fingerprints upon these panes of glass, pointing out our favorite chairs, marveling over a canopy bed. Whether the home belonged to Louis XIV or a Dutch peasant, we populated the empty scenes with ourselves, pretending we were the farm wife, lady-in-waiting, princess… If only we had received the magic invitation, we would have kicked off our Keds and left our shorts and blouses puddled on the floor of the dark gallery. Once inside the homey kitchen, we would have a new wardrobe: wooden clogs and woolen dress, a white hat whose wingtips pointed up in celebration.
Fiction offers all of us the chance to dissolve that barrier of fingerprinted glass. To me, stories are like lovingly detailed rooms, waiting to be completed. The characters can mount the long, curving staircase and at last explore what lies beyond those half-open doors. The story beckons you in; it requires readers as guests, as participants. When your imagination enters, you add your own touches: perhaps you hang a favorite pattern of wallpaper, bounce on the sofa, or stoke the fire to keep warm. You lay claim to the story, and ever after, you own this room that you have helped to bring to life.
Anara Guard is a writer based in Sacramento, California. Her new collection of short stories, “Remedies for Hunger,” has been described as haunting, original, fresh, and addictive, “with delicious sentences that melt in the mouth.” Anara studied creative writing at Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Urban Gateways, and Kenyon College. Her poetry has most recently appeared in “Convergences” and “Late Peaches: An Anthology of Sacramento Poets”.