Ophelia’s Oddyssey – The Backstory

As I mentioned in my biography, I was a public school teacher for many years.  I taught 5th & 6th grade Language (reading, writing, grammar, spelling) and History for many years.

One year I had a young girl in my class who was a bookworm.  She was the kind of person who could buy the new Harry Potter book and finish it in two days.  If allowed, she would read the entire day.  She lived in her books. 

Now, this was wonderful, of course, me being a Language teacher.  However, as the saying goes – too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad.  And it was in this case.  This young lady would have a book in her hand all day in my class – whether I was teaching grammar, spelling, history or writing, she would have her nose in a book.  Needless to say, her grades suffered. 

To say I was frustrated would be to put it mildly.  Every day I had to rip books out of her hand and endure her wrath.  I am sure she despised me.  She was a very bright girl and was probably bored to tears with what we were studying.  But the fact remained – this was the curriculum and it was my job to teach it to her.

It got to the point where I called her parents in and discussed the problem with them.  I even went so far as to ask them to check her backpack in the morning and take any books out.  I couldn’t believe that I, a reading teacher, was asking parents to take books away from their daughter.  Absurd as it seemed, that was what I had to do.

And then I had an epiphany.  One day when I was mulling over this predicament, it suddenly occurred to me – Hey!  This could be an interesting story.  A girl who is such a bookworm that one day she actually falls into one of her stories.  In one fell swoop I had turned what was a thorn in my side into a gift. 

I immediately began writing my very first story.  I had no grand plan for it.  I merely started writing and it came to life under my fingers.  It was a very pleasurable experience.  However, I must confess that I am a terribly undisciplined writer (something I hope to improve upon in subsequent books).  It took me several years to finish the first draft.  In my defense, I was working full time and summers were busy with yard work, travels and my favorite pastime – hiking.  I finally finished the first draft in 2007.  And then began the arduous task of rewriting, honing, editing.  This is the tedious part of writing. 

I struggled with the ending for many years and did not hit upon the current ending until the end of 2018 when I happened to meet the mother of the girl who inspired the story while on a hike.  She had never read the story (I had talked to her father about it the entire time I was writing.  As a matter of fact, he suggested a key element in the resolution of Ophelia’s Oddyssey.) 

What has this taught me?  That oftentimes the inspiration for a story lies right in front of us if we would only look at it correctly.  Sometimes it is important to turn something over in your mind and view it from different angles to see it in the correct light and perspective.  We have to free our minds to allow them to engage the world in new ways.  Something mundane can become magical and profound.  A chance encounter – something glanced sideways while going about our day – a word or phrase someone says – an overheard conversation – a forgotten story buried in a newspaper or magazine.  All can become the seed for a literary journey.