I wrote “A Distant Shore” at the end of last school year, but the original idea for it was a lot older. In fact, the story starts in second grade, when my teacher gave the class writing prompts from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. One picture in particular stuck in my mind: “A Strange Day in July.” At the time, I couldn’t remember the caption that went along with it, but I remembered vividly the image of a young boy and girl in their Sunday best, skipping stones at the edge of a shining lake.
It told a story of friends that spent all summer together, that refused to leave the other’s side. I decided to build off of that. What kind of town would these children live in? Why did they enjoy going down to the lake? What might it mean to them?
After that, I didn’t write this story so much as it occurred to me as a stream of consciousness as I considered each element of Merry and Jack and what their life might be like. The problems they would have, the innocence they grew out of, and the sheltered nature of small towns. All these elements became something I saw in the lake itself and I tried to incorporate that feeling into my story.
If I had to choose a favorite part of the story, it would have to be Jack’s memory of the time they spent at the lake together and their time in the rowboat. When I wrote this part I drew upon my own memories from when a friend and I paddled out to a small island in the middle of a lake. Granted our boat was made of metal and it had a hole on the bottom big enough that one of us had to bail while the other rowed, but it was fun all the same. I remember the sun on our backs and just the feeling of that moment is something that this part of the piece embodies for me. I also used Jack’s memories to call to mind something that I think everyone has done at some point in their life and something that I personally would like to do more: cloud-gaze.
There’s something about it, something innocent and child-like that I wanted to include in this moment. As we grow older, I think we all lose a little bit of that sense of wonder, of the imagination it takes to constantly stare up at the sky and find shapes among the clouds.
I wrote this story, for the most part, just sitting on my back deck. Whenever I got writer’s block, or honestly just got bored with writing, I would just sit and stare at the clouds. The time I took to write this story was perhaps one of the most enjoyable times of my life, not because I discovered my love of writing, I already had that, but rather because I rediscovered my love of the sky and the peace that nature has to offer.