Eighty-six years ago today, December 27th, 1930, this article by Emilie Loring appeared in The Editor. As she often quoted, “The gods provide the thread once the web is started.”
So many years ago that the paper on which it was printed has yellowed, I clipped from a newspaper the following:
LOST: Sunday night, black satin slipper with buckle.
I dropped the advertisement into my notebook, sure that sometime it would make a story. Occasionally I would come across it, say to myself, “It’s good,” and put it back. One day it struck a spark in my imagination. I decided to use it. Problems arose at once. How? Why? Where?
I sat down at my typewriter and stuck the clipping in front of me. I gazed unseeingly at the black letters and numerals on the keyboard of the machine. Then, as clearly as you see the print you are reading, I saw:
Fifth Avenue. In that quiet hour before dawn when for a trifling interval the city dozes, it never sleeps. The gleaming asphalt, blanched to silvery whiteness by arc lights, stretched ahead illimitably between looming sky-scrapers, phantoms of concrete and steel, brick and glass, shadowy and unreal as the back-drop in a pantomime. In the middle of its polished surface, like a dark isle in a glistening ribbon of river, rested a slipper. Black, satin, buckled with brilliants which caught the light and threw it back transmuted into a thousand colorful sparks. A slipper of parts, unquestionably.
So far so good. I had planted the slipper. Now what? Almost before I could answer the question:
Bruce Harcourt stopped short in his long stride to regard it incredulously. How had it come there? He looked up and down the broad deserted avenue before he salvaged it. A spot of red light was dimming eastward.
It was not all so easy as that. I spent almost a year writing the story. Enthusiastic readers of “Lighted Windows” (Penn Publishing Company) write me that they sit up all night to finish it. That is the result for which I worked. When I commence to tell a story, like the Ancient Mariner who held the Bridegroom with his skiny [sic] hand and glittering eye, I say to my reader:
“Now listen Don’t move till I get through.”
Even then, when a person says to me, “I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it,” the remark is like fingers at my throat, I am so touched and thrilled.”
Stars in Your Eyes is up next. Ready for a late-night read?