Sherene looked through the classroom window of the Art and Magic University gazing at the tree-lined campus. Sitting in front of the Storyteller waiting for the panel’s judgment, she watched the breeze blow the dead leaves into small whirlwinds.Just like my flow of words. Dry, dead, and not really going anywhere, Sherene thought.
Sherene turned her face to the panel again. Motioning with your hands wasn't allowed in these admission counseling sessions, so she kept her sweaty palms plastered to the top of her thighs. Her red, wool dress stuck to her back as she sat pencil-straight in the chair.
“Let’s begin,” the white-robed Storyteller said.
Sherene swallowed hard.
“So you dream to emulate me, young Scribe.”
“Yes, I do,” Sherene answered in a hoarse voice. She wiggled her toes in her high heels to assure herself that her body hadn’t gone totally numb.
“Well then, to become a true Word Weaver, you must listen to the advice of some of my colleagues.” The Storyteller paused for a moment. “Let’s start with Rowan.” She gazed to her right toward the blue-robed man seated at the end of the table.
Rowan placed his hands flat on the desk's surface and focused his hazel eyes on Sherene. She felt like the black eye on his robe was staring at her.
“A true Scrawler needs a powerful sixth sense like mine. Your stories don’t engage the readers. Tap into your intuition and follow your gut feeling about what your readers want to read,” Rowan said.
Oh great. I never know the right phrases to use, which direction to take, or even how to end the story, Sherene thought. Not really.
“Thank you Rowan. I won’t disappoint you.”
Sherene noticed the twinkle in his eyes when he smiled.
The Storyteller returned her gaze to Sherene. "Now you will hear from Rhiannon."
The woman in the black robe sitting next to Rowan cleared her throat. She had silver streaks through her black hair that matched the silver spiral on her robe. It shimmered like a starry sky.
“You’re creative and imaginative with ideas, but your yarns need more plot to keep your readers interested,” Rhiannon said.
“I don’t understand,” Sherene said.
“A true Wordsmith needs to cast spells on her readers like I do and keep them into the story until the end.”
“Thank you Rhiannon,” Sherene said. "That helps a lot." I wish I had a notebook to write down all this advice, Sherene thought as she crossed her ankles, tucking her feet underneath the chair. What good is the advice if I can’t remember it?
A smug smile spread across the Storyteller’s face. She looked at the man in the burnt-orange robe sitting between her and Rhiannon. “Mercutio, please give us your opinion.”
Mercutio's blue eyes seemed to look right through Sherene and the hand sprinkling stardust sewn on his robe mesmerized her.
“Writer, your fiction contains too much detail. You must learn the trick of the storytelling trade. Layering. Make one sentence do many things. Surplus words are the reason for your “slow” prose.”
“Thank you Mercutio. If I get admitted, I'll try my best to learn this trick.”Well, more criticism was coming, Sherene thought, so I need to keep my emotions under control and keep listening. Although I think my chances for admittance are slim to none.
The Storyteller looked at Sherene and Sherene’s eyes filled with tears. She wanted to be accepted to the school. But not one salty drop flowed down her face.
“Shall we continue?” The Storyteller asked. Sherene nodded yes.
The Storyteller looked to her left at the woman in the vibrant yellow robe emblazoned with tarot cards on her chest.
“Sibyl,” the Storyteller prompted.
Sibyl nodded and gazed at Sherene.
“Your stories and construction continue to improve Penner, so your fortune will change if you take more writing courses or join a writers’ group,” Sibyl said.
“Thank you Sibyl. I appreciate your advice,” Sherene said. She shifted her body in the chair to hide her frustration. She almost sighed aloud, but stopped before the fatal mistake.
The Storyteller twirled her pen in her fingers. This time she turned her gaze again to the left toward the woman in a violet robe.
“Crystal,” the storyteller said.
They’re almost done ripping me apart,” Sherene thought.
“We don’t want to hurt your feelings. We only wish to help,” Crystal said.
Oh no! She’s the psychic, Sherene thought.
“Scribbler, you have trouble with crafting your stories.”
“I know Crystal. But what am I supposed to do?”
“Study the old masters’ styles and some new authors’ styles.”
“But I want to be original.”
“You’ll find your unique form among them.”
"Thank you Crystal."
One more to go. Crystal smiled as she read Sherene's thought.
The Storyteller turned to the last man sitting at the far end of the table. He wore a gray robe embroidered with the solar system on the front.
“Asta,” the Storyteller prompted once again.
“I study the stars,” Asta said as he settled his gaze on Sherene. “My advice doesn’t concern your stories, Inkslinger, but your ambitions. You need to reach for the stars. Only when we push ourselves do we improve.”
“Thank you for this helpful advice Asta,” Sherene said.
“Do you have anything to say on your behalf?” The Storyteller asked.
Sherene took her cue and stood. Her legs felt wobbly from the tension. She clasped her hands together.
“Yes, I understand that to train and to become a storyteller is a high honor and that a candidate must combine intelligence with elements of magic with the words. I hope to do that at this university under the teaching and guidance of your highly trained staff.”
“Thank you Sherene. You may go,” the Storyteller said.
Sherene made a quick, shallow bow and walked to the door. As it closed behind her, she heard the Storyteller’s voice.
“Sherene listened better than most.”
Thinking of Asta’s sage advice, Sherene smiled and walked away. Hopefully, I’ll know the answer soon, but even if the answer is no, I’ll most definitely journal the advice and write my stories anyway! She walked home to her small apartment; stocked with her many notebooks and laptop, sat down and began to write.
Martina Kranz is a mother, grandmother, veteran and library assistant living in Minot, North Dakota and aspiring to become an excellent writer who people want to read.