In this series, guests write their answer to the question “What’s Your Story?” Their story can be about a moment in time, an entire life — or anything in-between. If you are interested in contributing YOUR story, let me know.
I was so small. But I had an idea that motivated me to action: Freshly washed sheets! The smell was delicious. And, ooh, I loved those crisp edges, which were pointier than the smooth satin edge of my “blankey.” I could just curl myself in a tiny ball and concentrate on sucking my index finger pressed up against the roof of my mouth, allowing my thumbnail to casually rub along my top lip like a tiny windshield wiper, taking that pointed edge of the sheet with it for a ride. The smell, the feel . . . I loved to suck my finger with its ceaseless sensations. It tasted good and satisfied my urges.
Maybe I was three feet tall? I couldn’t yet reach my arm up or even jump high enough to hit the pull-chain dangling from the Chinese paper lamp in the hallway. In fact, I wouldn’t be for another two years—at which point I would knock that chain so hard that the lantern would rip, disintegrating into shredded spirals of wire. Score! But I was just big enough to reach the doorknob of the hall closet and climb up between the second and third shelves to where the folded sheets were stored and burrow in like a happy rabbit in the darkness of its hidey-hole. Peter Rabbit never had it so good. This was a far better place for an afternoon nap than the prison of the crib with its railings.
When Mommy couldn’t find me, she would open the door and have a look inside. Then she’d smile at me and shut the door again. You can’t get hurt amidst sheets after all. We had a tacit agreement to leave a little crack open, but not too wide a one. I liked the darkness. Sound was also muffled there.
Basically, at four I had invented the isolation tank!
You’d think I would have outgrown my closet. Well, I outgrew shelf number two around age six. But I didn’t leave. That’s when I discovered shelf three had more air space above it. There were some pillows there, and a box of first aid supplies, shoe polish, light bulbs, and a bag of dry cat food, among other items. There was also space for me to sit with a small notepad and pencil, writing little stories with pictures for little books that I’d give my parents. Mom would staple them together for me. To her this must have been the epitome of cuteness. For me making notes of my ideas and stories held the thrill of invention. Which words could I spell? “Restaurant”? I’d read that on the sidewalk. An A with a U? Go figure.
I also liked inventing commercials at the breakfast table holding different toiletries and food items. Toothpaste. Kellogg’s Cornflakes, with the scary chicken on the box: Now that was a box with excellent words on it! Just like on TV, just like the ladies on the game shows pointing to the prizes while a narrator read the description, I would display the box and read the promotional copy aloud. Already I knew the power of words to persuade.
Some people are born to read and write. People like me. We just think it’s good fun.
Stephanie Gunning, aka the Get a Book Deal® Coach, is an author, editor, and publishing consultant who has worked in many capacities within the book industry. She began her career at HarperCollins Publishers and rose through the ranks to become a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell before establishing her own company in 1996. Her elite roster of clients since then has included bestselling authors, major publishing firms, top-caliber literary agencies, and innovative self-publishers. As the co-author and ghostwriter of over 25 books, she has been published by Hay House, New World Library, J.P. Tarcher, Perigee, Harmony Books, McGraw-Hill, Jossey Bass, Three Rivers Press, New Page Press, and Broadway Books, among other houses. In 2011, she co-founded Lincoln Square Books, a project management firm serving writers.