by Dina Sleiman
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Yes, that kingdom creates a magic indeed, by engaging the imagination and allowing you to enter into a fictional world where almost anything can happen.
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“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde
* * *Some of the best vacations I’ve ever experienced have been through books. Last year I traveled to an alternate reality in Arena where spiritual elements took tangible form in the shape of hairy monsters, red-scaled creatures, and glowing mythical archways. Over the past months I’ve wept at the foot of the cross in A Stray Drop of Blood, faced abject poverty and disease while enjoying Jesus as my best friend in The Passion of Mary-Margaret, witnessed a horrific murder What the Bayou Saw, learned how to train a gorilla to use sign-language in Unspoken, and traveled throughout Europe with countless romantic historicals.
Once, I journeyed back through history by being chosen for the Time Lottery. Only a handful of Americans were selected for this brave experiment. We could travel back to one point in our lifetime which we wished to live over. After a specified period, we underwent a short interlude of awareness, during which we had to choose to stay in our new reality in that alternate thread of time, or return to our original reality. Of course, the catch was, if we stayed, it would be as if we had died within our original reality. What I and my fellow travelers learned through this experience is that regret is a wasted emotion that has a way of killing the here and now. What a worthwhile journey that turned out to be.
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“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” - Epicurius
* * *What is a dream? You enter a haze, a fog, a state of sleep. A dream can be a subconscious film our brain plays to help us work through issues in our lives. A dream can take us into spiritual wonders our logic can’t begin to unravel. A dream can be a hope, a wish, an imagination of the future. A dream can be reliving the past to find order and meaning within it. Dreams are the state through which our minds take us to another time and place. Sometimes dreams can seem truer than life, causing us to question: which reality is really real?
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“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” – Douglas H. Everett
* * *During college I played the role of a young woman in love for a short student film. The scene opened with a zoomed in shot of a bedroom mirror as I applied velvet smooth lipstick, dabbed perfume to my pulse points, slipped in diamond earrings to sparkle against my golden tresses. The pink satin of my skirt rustled about my calves as I walked to the door to meet my dream man, ushering him inside for a romantic candlelit dinner. I danced in his arms within a warm yellow glow. Until the jangle of the phone jarred me out of fantasy land. The scene switched. I sat on the couch in harsh blue lighting. Alone. Unwashed in a wrinkled flannel shirt. Hair disheveled about my tear-streaked face. I picked up the receiver. From the other end of the line came a voice. “You’re doing it again, aren’t you?”
Of course I was only acting. Yet the role felt surprisingly familiar. The truth is, writers live in their heads, and that can be a beautifully dangerous place to reside. People question how writers come up with such fantastic stories, how they imagine entire worlds. I suppose the writer must question how normal people slog through reality day in and day out with no internal dream land for respite. Is this good or bad? I’m not quite certain. While I love to escape into the dream world of the books I create, they can also provide an avenue to run away from problems, people, and challenges I should be facing in the real world. Escapism can be both a blessing and a curse.
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“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” - Shakespeare
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I learned something this spring that has vastly improved my writing. It’s a simple little statement. Pull your reader into a fictional dream world. That’s the true essence of fiction. We enter an alternate reality. A sort of dream state. We travel to a different time or place, but more importantly, into the minds of characters where we can feel what they feel. See, hear, taste, and touch what they do, and grow through their experiences. Each book becomes a journey of exploration. An escape from our own world into a new one. An opportunity to become a better person.
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“Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.” – James Dean
* * *While on this summer’s Florida vacation (the real one, although I took several novels along for the ride), I had the opportunity to live out every medieval author’s dream. I attended a tournament complete with armor-clad knights, splintering jousts, a rainbow of pageantry, and a roaring crowd. Okay, I had to suspend my disbelief for the choreographed fights, the plastic pewter ware, and the Pepsi in my goblet—but I ate half a roasted chicken with my own greasy fingers, and it proved great fun nonetheless.
And even more enjoyable than that fictional dream world, was experiencing it with my real-life family. My youngest child bouncing against my side with excitement. My daughter squealing with delight. My middle-son mesmerized by the glinting weapons. Because no matter where we go or what we learn, none of it is worth anything without a real life to apply it to. Real people to love. A real family to build. A real world to make better.
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“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – St. Paul.