Yes. That’s where I stayed for several days last week. In a castle. In Colorado. With a room at the top of the tallest tower featuring floor-to-way-over-my-head arched windows.
Officially, I was chaperoning a group of middle school writers and teaching them about plotting fabulous stories. Unofficially, I was dreaming up stories of my own and soaking up the inspiration.
During the day, I was busy from dawn until dark staying ahead of giggling, energetic kids that reminded me of my youngest son at home. Between meals, teaching classes, mentoring during individual writing times, and games, the trip was a non-stop adventure. Despite rain that drove us inside to roast marshmallows for our S’mores over a butane food-warmer-flame instead of at a campfire, the afternoon thunderstorms while inside a castle made it extra magical.
But before breakfast and after lights-out each night, my fingers itched to romp through story ideas set in the regency, medieval, or fairy tale eras. You know. Times where people really lived in castles. From the servants’ tunnel starting at the carriage house to my room at the top of the tower and all the antique features in between including a suit of armor in the main lobby, my imagination spent the days in overdrive and it was all I could do to stay ahead of the brainstorm and record every random thought or idea. (Thank God for notebooks and pens, but mostly my mobile Scrivener app so that all my ideas are already somewhat sorted by topic.)
Even when I fell exhausted onto my pillow at night, my mind still wandered the halls in my dreams. What kinds of people would have lived here or in similar castles? What would it have been like to be a servant and relegated to the shadows or forced to hoist heavy tea trays up narrow, steep servant staircases? To be the pampered child receiving (and expecting) the royal treatment? Would it be easy to fall into an entitled position of false superiority or would a sense of responsibility for the manor translate into compassion and care? This particular castle was home to a young woman suffering from tuberculosis so what other pain did castle-dwellers mask behind a veneer of wealth and privilege?
Castles like this one are filled with secret passages, hidden doors, disguised nooks, and forgotten attics. Just like our lives with secret pain, unfulfilled dreams, and untapped potential. I have to admit that while I learned how much I love (and am good at) brainstorming plots with other writers, I am equally if not more intrigued about the possibility of writing a collection of stories with a castle setting and an exploration of servants vs. royalty through the lives of new characters. (Of course, I’ve got two projects to finish up first, but these castle stories are clamoring for attention as the perfect carrot toward the end of the summer.)
I’m now home again and back in my real world of laundry, dust, dishes, and endless meals…but my heart remains in a castle tower. And some day, either on another teaching trip or in my imagination, I will return to the castle life.