Everyone loves a good story. Once a vital tool of survival ensuring valuable experiences are shared and passed down to the future generations, storytelling has been wired into our brain reward circuitry. In that, as scientists hypothesize, it is similar to exploration, play, nurturing the youth, and other rewarding activities. We are lost in the lands of make-believe for hours on end – in books, movies, role playing computer games – and when we are not immersed into narrative crafted by others, our imagination is busy making stories of its own. “We are, as species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” (from “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottcshal).

***

Realizing most keenly the importance of good writing skills for scientific research, I had been taking whatever relevant courses I could get my hands on for practice; English Composition I from Duke university was one of the them. One day I came across Jaya Sengupta’s post on the course’s forum where she was looking for writers from all over the world to join the project. Wait a minute! Was it the same student who got her op-ed (something we had to come up with as an exercise) published in a newspaper? I did not expect to meet a person who writes professionally. How exciting!

Growing up I enjoyed listening to stories, recollections of real events enhanced by elements of fiction, told by my Granny and aunts. They always had something entertaining to pass the time on a long train trip or to lull a restless girl to sleep. These “cozy” family stories, unnoticed for they rarely reach outsiders, are a hidden treasure. In them a lifetime of irreplicable experiences and conserved knowledge of generations with a unique cultural spin on the ordinary matters are encompassed; and although a great deal of enthusiasm and perseverance is required to bring such an anthology to life, in the end, it is worth the effort. A wonderful idea! The project sounded promising and I decided to give it a try.

As the project progressed I found myself increasingly enjoying being a part of it. I felt immensely lucky to be working with a team of talented, public communication- and technology-savvy editors; grateful for the support of established writers and artists who has been “piggybacking” us, newbies, all the way through this adventure. One cannot overestimate the sheer amount of guidance and encouragement I received at various stages of “crafting” my story; many people contributed towards its completion. Tisha Shibchurn, Jaya Sengupta, Meera Shiva, Guadalupe Toledo, and Elin Babcock went over my ideas for the plot and advised on which one would work best. Lorinna Hastings was the first person to take a look at a rough draft and suggest edits. It is thanks to her friendly attitude and invaluable suggestions on narrative structure and phrasing that I believed in my work eventually becoming good enough to find its reader and my merits as a writer. It made all the difference! Jaya Sengupta paid great attention to detail when editing the piece. She did a genuinely great job of meticulous editing and did so without stifling our creativity at the same time. Guadalupe Toledo, Tisha Shibchurn, and Nella Vladi kindly read and reviewed the draft following up with the immensely helpful feedback. It felt reassuring to have your writing so well received. And, finally, when the story was ready Pat Southern-Pearce generously offered to illustrate it in her unique style thereby increasing its value tenfold. Any narrative would be enhanced by so lovely an illustration! My fellow storytellers have helped me without even knowing it for I drew my inspiration from other stories in the anthology as well; although it is an impossible task to pick just a few favourites to list here. It all added up to an amazing experience and I cannot thank the Magic Diary team enough for it! Seeing our venture flourish gives me a great pleasure and I cannot help but rejoice at its success.

– Ry Auscitte

Part 1: A City That Inspires.

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