By Zoe Moga, TIWP Student
I like to sit in little coffee shops near the grand libraries of the city, re-reading Jane Austen novels filled with protagonists too modern and radical for the time they lived in. I can just imagine Elizabeth Bennet thriving today. Can’t you just see it? I would want to be friends with her, of course. Or just be Elizabeth Bennet. I’ve wanted to be an early 19th century female protagonist since 5th grade. I would lay in my bed day dreaming of long green dresses and gloves that went past my elbow, of lavish balls, large country homes, and a brooding love interest who I would fall for despite wanting to hate him. Ah the pleasures of the fictional world of the 1810’s!
I put myself in a different world while reading. As my fingers carefully flip the old, rough pages, I am sucked into the book itself. With my headphones in, playing music appropriate to the era of the novel, I feel like I am the protagonist. My breath quickens in moments of suspense and my heart beat slows when it is resolved. My wishful heart plays writer at home, where I fall asleep planning my own story. I build my own world, with every aspect of the romantic-age literature, long, lovely, words describing the natural world around me. Thesaurus.com is a saved tab on my computer. Even as a writer and reader in my spare time, I was never too good at finding the right word at the right time.
In elementary school, I would read books as if it were a drug. I would get books every year for my birthday, Christmas, even a book in my Easter basket. It was an escape for me, the gateway into another world that I liked better than my own. I would read painfully sad books at a young age, like Black Beauty. That book was traumatizing for me. I vividly remember reading it and sobbing for hours afterwards. That was an introduction into the children’s classics, a series consisting of classic books but written so that maybe a 5th or 6th grader could understand it. I would read Austen and Dickens, both sprouting a love for that era of literature.
I don’t remember a specific time when I began to love to build stories, to build worlds That was a real escape for me. I wasn’t living vicariously through Emma Woodhouse or Fanny Price, but as myself. It was fun to create my ideal world, my own troubles, my own resolution. Neither do I remember when I began to write down these ideas. It began as small notebooks filled with little family trees and descriptions of each unique character in a quirky English village. Then it turned into long stories that I copied from my nightly brainstorm. While laying on my side in my bed before I slept, I could see the world I was creating: large stone homes, green vines, with pale lavender flowers, wrapping itself around vines, and small brick buildings, filled with yards of silk and sacks of spices from the indies. I especially loved seeing the characters I created. I could see their faces clearly, down to the smallest details. The color of their eyes or the freckles that danced on the bridge of their nose. Their voice would come into my head in the complete silence of my room, the way they laughed and cried, how they responded to the one they loved most in the world, and the little spiteful comments they made to their enemies. I loved it all, and always will.