Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference: 'Paper Dolls'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 12:45 PM

[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]

After the excitement of the preceding evening, I was glad for the quiet desolation of being indoors during a spring rain. Outside a starling screamed and shook its chimerical coat. Inside it grew darker, then lighter, then darker. On the last day of the conference, I was at a class on arranging other people’s pictures.

“There are classic techniques, like taking all the framed pictures off the wall and placing them face down on the floor. An increasingly popular variation on this is to stack them in some kind of structure — a four-walled room, a pyramid — the important thing is that they are all faced inward. Speaking from a century of experience, I encourage you to experiment beyond these basic tricks. Single someone out for instance. On a coffee table full of photographs, pick out one to place underneath the table and face it so it looks yearningly up at its family. Treat photographs on a wall like paper dolls and make up stories about them. Move them around according to the demands of the story — tear some in half if you have to. Take this set of 6 smiling faces for example — what happens if I …”

Our instructor had an indistinct face, a feature only enhanced by the half-light of the rain. His black suit faded into the shadows when the clouds gathered more tightly. I strained my eyes to get a handle on him, but closer inspection only made him more elusive. In the shadows, his suit seemed to take on impossible shapes: a thin horse, a snowman, an upturned bouquet. I had already lost the thread of his presentation when I saw a piece of him skitter away. With widening eyes, I watched it travel across the floor and climb up the wall to the window. When it hit the glass, it disappeared.

“… It was my feeling that Johnny’s family should know what happened in the woods. That’s why I filled the bathtub with his portraits. In the case of Miranda, I simply felt that as the middle child, she should be afforded more attention. I got the idea to use the red marker after she got that terrible grade on her — ”

In an instant every window in the classroom was shattered. I hit the floor with my hands over my head, though the damage was already done. When I arose moments later, I found the skies greatly darkened and the classroom empty.

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