Like the other 8 Ladies I’m still decompressing from my trip to NYC. My writing has definitely benefited from a shot of conference adrenaline, and my imagination is still buzzing with the sights and sounds I experienced on my first trip to NY.
While I didn’t come to NY early like some of the ladies, I still found time to experience the insanity (and sheer humanity) of Time’s Square, the camaraderie of an old-fashioned family style Italian restaurant, and the highlights of the city while on a walking tour with a wonderful young photographer (and daughter of 8 Lady, Michille) named Joanna Caples.
Hanging out with Joanna as we walked around Manhattan gave me a new perspective on many things, not the least of which was storytelling. I found myself making mental notes on the things she chose to capture in her lens, and the things she let go by. The 9/11 Memorial and the iconic Wallstreet “Bull” were not selected as photographic subjects. I assumed she skipped the 9/11 photograph out of respect, and clearly the bull was uninteresting to her. But why? It was as much a part of NY history as the historical Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House (it houses the Museum of the American Indian), which she photographed from every angle.
It wasn’t until I remembered her excitement at the sight of a beautiful, but incongruous little sidewalk wildflower garden (complete with path and bench) that I began to understand. Joanna wasn’t simply after a photograph. She was on the lookout for a good story. Something that would make her stop and say with glee, “What’s this?!”
Eventually, the wildflower garden stop made me ask “What’s this?!” too. Something had been different about that little patch of green. Smaller than the public parks that dot the city, the garden had a quiet, private feel to it. It was different in other ways, too. It wasn’t nicely manicured like the city parks. It had obviously been left to its own devices, its vines and greenery spilling over the fence that surrounded it in an effort to regain lost ground or maybe to simply hold back the advancing tide of concrete that threatened to destroy it. This garden had a story, and in my imagination the story spanned generations.
When I returned to my hotel, (the wonderfully atmospheric Casablanca Hotel ripe with stories of its own), I began planning a short story that centers on that garden. Someday I may share it, but the point is, seeing NY through the eyes of a photographer gave me a new perspective. That in turn, fired my imagination, and brought it back to life.
Stories are everywhere. We writers understand that. But sometimes we need to look through a different lens to see and appreciate them.
What was the last place or object that inspired you to concoct a story?