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Full of Empty: The Story of the Story

One of the reasons I love being a writer is that again and again I’m part of a story.  But I don’t mean only the story I’m telling; I’m also part of the story of how that story came to be. And a story usually doesn’t begin in that lovely, sometimes incandescent moment when it first occurs to you.  The beginning is often like a fern seed, that dust-like seed so small as to be almost invisible; Somewhere between your mind and your heart, in that mysterious land of imagination and feeling below conscious awareness, a tiny seed finds dark ground and waits—then opens.

Click to Tweet: One of the reasons I love being a writer is that again and again I’m part of a story.

For me and Priscilla (my wife and co-author), the real beginning of Full of Empty was our profound love for and interest in children.  Long before our own kids were born, we loved them to distraction and talked about them as if they were already real—which, of course, they were.  And this orientation to children opened us to many other things too, as did the fact that we were both teachers.  For one thing, we began to learn, both from books and our own experience, about just how wise and poetic even some of the youngest children can be.

Back then we discovered From Two to Five by Russian writer and literary critic Kornei Chukovsky, and immediately loved it.  We were charmed by Chukovsky’s samples of actual children’s verbal inventiveness and insight.  I’ve never forgotten the little boy who said, on first seeing a steamboat docked in a harbor, “Oh, Mama, look!  The locomotive is taking a bath!”

That’s part of why I was so taken when a wonderful colleague of mine, Dr. Pattie Simone, told me about a rough day her young daughter was having.  When Pattie asked what was wrong, the anguished Mary Claire said, “I’m just full of empty!”  Priscilla loved the incident too when I told her about it.  And she immediately suggested a story about a princess who, lonely and bored, feels the same way.

That led directly, of course, to the book.  But this story about the story is important in its own right, I think, since Princess Claire’s experience didn’t come only out of imagination, but also out of the actual life of a child—as did, of course, the climactic line!

I should add that I decided, for narrative purposes, not to include the other line the real Mary Claire uttered, when her loving parents made her feel so much better and she described herself as “full of full.”  But I love that story too, since it represents what we grown-ups should be giving, every day, to all the children of the world.

Like the article? We bet you’ll love this book:

Princess Claire’s smile has flown away like a bird—and now she feels “full of empty.” But there’s a way to bring that smile back . . . if only . . .
Every child gets bored or lonely—and this …

Full of Empty

Tim J. Myers

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Tim J. Myers is a writer, storyteller, songwriter, and senior lecturer at Santa Clara University. Tim earned his master’s in literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has 32 years experience teaching, both at the classroom and universit… Read More


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