Creative Nonfiction Sampler: “Intrigue” by Rachel Means (’14)

Reading a book at the beach

Intrigue [v. in-treeg] – To plot craftily or underhandedly; to capture

 As I flip to Chapter One of a new book, or click on the Netflix link to a previously unknown movie or TV show, I wait for that moment when the story grabs my face and forces me to keep looking, keep going, get to the end.

Sometimes it’s such a shy whisper of intrigue that I don’t even notice until it has me trapped. Sometimes it’s a punch to my face that knocks me back into a comfortable chair for the remainder of the story. The best kind are the stories that purposefully put on a tedious mask until I am forced to read them, and then they creep up behind me and hold me hostage until the very last word. Those stories, when they finally release me from their spell, leave me longing to run back into the warmth of their cage. Just as there are wallflower stories that can keep me prisoner for months, there are also rockstar stories that drag me to their altar to worship but then forget to ever appear, and I wander off, lost and confused.

Reading is a form of Stockholm Syndrome, where I grow to love my intriguing captor to the point that when I am free to leave, I stay. Writing is an acceptable form of kidnapping, though I suppose kidnapping is the least of the crimes authors often commit against their characters.

I try to convince the stories I write to hide in the bushes and jump out, or lure people into unsolvable mazes, or just make people look at them, but they don’t listen to me and I am left with jumbled words on a page as my story runs off to play with another writer. To capture a story and lock it in a book requires just as much sneakiness as catching a reader does. Someday I will find a story that will let me catch it, and on that day I will have started my life of crime.

Rachel Means is a senior at Whitworth University studying English and Music. Originally from western Washington, Rachel enjoys reading fantasy, playing the violin, and finding new bands to listen to and new authors to read.

Book image is from here.

A Public Service Announcement from the Tea Room Theme House

A public service announcement for your benefit:
Point one – there exists such a thing as the Whitworth Tea Room Theme House.
Point two – the residents of this house have tea to share.
Conclusion – at your earliest convenience, you should make your way over here!
Truthfully, it would be wonderful to have English friends pop by for a chat over a cup of tea. Make yourself at home on our fantastic, so-hideous-it’s-beautiful 70s floral mustard armchair. Come by, have some tea, watch a movie, hang out, and die a little inside when you have to go back and do homework. So it goes.
But wait: there’s more! We at the Tea Room are also planning an English department event! English majors, minors, aficionados, and professors are welcome to join us at teatime on October 5th for tea and treats. Get to know English lovers new and old. Talk about literature, classes, tea, and the BBC shows that frustrate you the most.
Come partake in a variety of delicious teas, the use of adorable teacups and eclectic mugs, and some delectable sandwiches and desserts. Enjoy a calm October afternoon amongst a group of fellow English-oriented individuals.
The Tea Room can be found near Hawthorne Hall, on Hawthorne Road, and across from that ever-classy establishment known as Jack-in-the-Box. (For the directionally impaired, there is a sign out front. You’re welcome.)
The Tea Room:
Jenna Hoole, Joanna Szabo, Katelyn Bitterman, and Shannon Ritchie

Internship Spotlight: Ana Quiring (’14) on The Pilgrim’s Way

pilgrims way bookstore

I may be (rather suddenly) a grown-up of some sort, but I’m still writing essays about what I did on my summer vacation, and I can’t say I mind.

I suppose this summer qualifies for a coveted position on the Whitworth English department blog because it was a singularly English-y time of my life (rather like all of them). My plans for the summer were to somehow find a job as a barista, which meaner critics of the English major would call “living up to my potential.” Regardless, it seemed a nice enough way to while away the summer in Carmel, CA, a beach town full of quaint shops, dogs, and Texan tourists.

With my expectations firmly managed, you can imagine how excited I was to find a job at an independent bookstore, of all places—specifically, Pilgrim’s Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden. Pilgrim’s Way has been around since the 60s, and hasn’t changed owners in twenty years.

That owner is Paul Fridlund, a man with the kind eyes and slow-moving calm of a manatee, who answered me in very friendly monosyllables when I came in to apply. His wife and now co-owner, Cynthia, is a firecracker with her own radio show and the paper-goods-conservation skills of a UC Berkeley Ecology professor.

When these lovely people agreed to hired me, I was invited into an entirely new world of books. See, Pilgrim’s Way used to be called Pilgrim’s Way Metaphysical Books. They’ve changed the name and added a lot of paperback novels to widen their appeal, but Paul and Cynthia’s hearts remain with their hearty metaphysical, new age, self-help, and Buddhist sections (not to mention an incense collection that would make the Himalaya mountain region jealous).

These sections were totally new to me, but I soon learned about Tarot cards, Vedic astrology, personality archetypes, and past lives. A hearty crystal and jewelry collection led me to recommend to a German tourist the cleansing power of citrine, or the general good energy of pink quartz. This is not the kind of stuff they teach us at Whitworth.

Of course, along the way I got to recommend a lot of John Steinbeck (a local celebrity), David Sedaris (a personal favorite), and James Patterson (because there just isn’t anything we can do about it—he’s everywhere). Between the books, crystal, and backyard spiritual garden, it was a busy and interesting summer. For example: my favorite customer was an old-timer named Scott Macbeth who ordered copies of Montaigne’s essays and delighted in recounting to me his adventures climbing Mount Everest.

What’s so great about this place, and why I wanted to tell you this story, is this: we have to remember that places like Pilgrim’s Way still exist. There are still quirky, eclectic stories in otherwise snooty beach towns. There are still places for English majors to feel at home, and find a way to pay their rent.

And I didn’t even make a single cup of coffee.

Ana Quiring is an English major specializing in British literature, writing, and compulsive book-buying.