Dear Mrs. Valente,
I don't have thousands of words inked around my eyes, but there are so many words and stories coiled up in my head, eager for a chance to be released from my lips. Ever since I was a small girl, books and stories have been my passion, my solace. Human beings of flesh and blood were a much more arcane subject to handle. I'd run my mouth through entire conversations with the characters of my mental fantasies, yet be unable to shatter the silence that permeated the air between my classmates and me. There was nothing that could prompt my cold, shy self to be interested in anyone outside my family and my pathetically tiny group of friends. There was nothing that could make me reveal the theater of my imagination to the audience of the outside world. It would take divine intervention to bend my stubborn mind.
But then came the week when I pulled The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden and the sequel The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice off the library shelf and began reading. The first few pages of In the Night Garden introduced me to a girl not unlike myself-isolated, yet brimming with yarns to be spun. Oh, I've read plenty of books that featured loner-type characters, but this was the first one that I could truly identify with. The barriers that separated me from other people were constructed by my own will instead of the prejudice of strangers, but I, like the orphaned girl in the garden, also needed a listener for my tales. That feeling must have been hidden deep within my psyche for years before being excavated. But that wasn't enough to break my timidity around others. I needed something even bigger to jolt me into action. And that brings to the actual structure of The Orphan's Tales.
Unlike some readers, I never got lost in your intricate maze of nested, interrelated tales. Even though the Orphan's stories were steeped in fantasy and fairy tale, they trailed and crossed through the lives of many people. Long after finishing the final page of In the Cities of Coin and Spice, my mind still held on to a certain quote uttered by a certain dressmaking spider: "Another creature's tale is like a web: it spirals in and out again, and if you are not careful, you may become stuck while the teller weaves on." This line of thinking became the jolt I needed when I realized that it applies to real life as well. It doesn't matter if the person is an orphan, a Sultan, or a sailor; everyone has a story to share, everyone is living out a story. People loop in and out of each others' lives like characters in a plot. A malevolent antagonist to one set of eyes may be a heroic protagonist to another. Someone you only catch glance of on the street may consider you a minor character in the tale they star in. What I had always craved for underneath the covers of books, on the television screen, and at the movie theater also exists in everyday life. Maybe real life isn't as glamorous as fairy tale life, but it's still pulsing with narrative threads. That was the push I needed to turn my attitude around; the spark that threw me into the human instinct to socialize. It wasn't immediate, as the effects didn't manifest until a few weeks later and a therapist is still helping me in my quest to conquer my social anxieties. But isn't it enough that I'm making an effort? At least now I am taking steps towards a new goal. At least now I can let the words spring out of my throat in a classmate-to-classmate conversation with less apprehension.
What are people made of? Flesh, organs, and the molecules of various names on the periodic table, the scientists say. For many years, I was content with just this cold, matter-of-fact answer. Obviously my current mindset is different. Stories, I now say, also make up every ounce of a person's being from the snapping of the umbilical cord to the last breath before the grave. It's up to me to reach out to other people, find those stories, make connections, and find ears that will hear my tales. There's a world of wonders waiting for me beyond the gates of solitude, and it's not nestled inside the pages of a book. Thanks to The Orphan's Tales, I've found a way out of my Garden. The journey will be littered with obstacles and the road will be long, but I have started it and that is all that matters.