A silver-haired goddess rises from a lake. A pregnant woman runs for her life. A Japanese schoolgirl opens a door and rose petals fly out.
At the Palm Beach library, teen writers gather for a workshop. AnneMarie, the librarian-in-charge of tonight's meeting, picks up a pen decorated with glittery stars. "Because we're all stars," she says, giggling, and she's right.
AnneMarie listens to Finnish metal while she types her ghost stories. I ask everybody at the table, "Who listens to music when you write?" A slew of hands go up. We talk about the show-don't-tell rule. I encourage them to think like a movie camera. "Write what you see."
As they take turns, reading out loud, I hear a story thick with details. "Do you like to draw?" I ask Alexis, who smiles and nods. Around her neck, she wears a chain with a dangling skeleton. On her hands, she wears gloves shaped like bones.
A boy named Ocean says, "I'm going to be the next Stephen King. Except I'm going to make him look like an old grandma."
Ocean only goes to the beach at night. Otherwise his freckles will burn. I tell him I do the same thing. He digs for ghost crabs in the sand and makes up "gorey stories with lots of blood." He wonders if he could get in trouble for writing something scary.
"Are you afraid that someone is going to judge you?" I ask.
He shrugs. "Not really."
When the class ends, they keep asking questions. Is there such a thing as writer's block? (I don't believe in it). Is it "bad" to write about emotions? (every story is about emotions. It's all in the way you show it).
Alexis gives me her sketch--the one she's been working on, all this time. When I ask, "Where's your signature?" she points to a zigzag in the corner. Then she waves goodbye.
AnneMarie leads me through the "secret VIP tunnel" to the front desk, where Amanda, another children's librarian, sits behind a desk. In this room, the chairs are shaped like owls. The desks are carved with silhouettes that remind me of children's drawings: lollipop trees and suns.
"I was going to display your book," Amanda says, "but it's been checked out."
I tell the librarians: I wish something like this program had existed, back when I was in high-school.
As I wait for my ride, a conga line of cars roll up. Kids race across the parking lot, talking nonstop. Their parents look straight ahead. "Come on. Let's go. Hurry up."
I lean against the wall and listen.