The papers are frayed, crumpled, coffee-stained and creased. Some have been with me for over a decade, traveling in various trucks from apartment to flat to house. Other, more recent, additions still reside in piles and heaps, though I slowly chip away at them, tossing the detritus, but keeping much — ever so much — more. The process is lengthy because I can’t seem to sort through them without reliving the moments they represent. You see, each of these scribbles and e-mails and notes and press releases and photos tells a story. Not just that of an article once written, but in many ways, the story of my life. It’s not really surprising that I save all these dog-eared scraps: Stories have always beguiled me. As a child, I listened, transfixed, as my mother read aloud. From Narnia to the Swiss Alps to the Arabian Nights, we explored the streets and back roads of fairylands and mythical kingdoms. Together and apart, we were reading, always reading. In time, of course, I came to tell my own stories. Before long, I saw that while spinning yarns out of whole cloth had its charms, there was grace to be found in seeking out other people’s stories.
Now, as I sort through those artifacts from stories long past, I see them as snapshots in time. One brings forth a brilliant sunny afternoon, when the cyber-pioneer I was talking with realized that a crowd had gathered around the television’s flickering screen, mesmerized by the now-famous low-speed chase. Another recalls a day-long interview with a monologist who rarely paused for breath and stuck me with his dinner bill. And then there was the renowned writer who enlisted me to play Lincoln Logs with her son, then regaled me with her tales, leaving me bereft that we didn’t become lifelong friends.
I’m better for hearing, and telling, all of them.
Because it’s stories that help us crystallize our ideas, and, as one definition has it, “reveal a truth that research data cannot.” Stories are, in a very fundamental way, how we share our humanity. Stories remind us that we’re all connected, even (maybe especially) given all our crazy-quilt differences. The best stories celebrate and edify, move us to tears and make us snort with laughter, bring us out of ourselves and nudge us to look inward.
So even though I sigh at the teetering stacks, soon enough I find myself engrossed once again in words, shaking my head at scribbles and sentence fragments, before a single crystalline phrase reminds me of what, exactly, I was trying to say, way back when I first sat down and decided to write a story.
— Julene Snyder, Editor