The Dragon, the Girl, and the Twitter: A True Story of Portland and Magic
As a child, I envied the children in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for their ability to open a door into Narnia. I would stare at the back of my own closet with a wistful yearning in my heart, wishing the same was possible for me. Once at my grandmother’s house I even crept behind her coats and knocked a little at the wood, not truly expecting anything to happen, but feeling a weird pang in my heart.
I’m not the same lonely person I was as a child, always dreaming of escape. By some freak chance I achieved at a reasonably happy & well-adjusted adulthood. So it’s particularly ironic that Narnia arrived exactly at the moment I no longer needed it.
What? You say, Narnia? Let me explain: Twitter is Narnia. On Twitter I am friends with a large number of aspiring and independent fantasy and science fiction writers. They create magical worlds out of their words that feel very real. But unlike the fantasy worlds in books, the fantasy worlds built in social media are interactive: they talk back. On Twitter, you can be a dragon, a goddess, or even a friendly personified pig and the rules of virtual Internet reality will not stop you. I have one friend who is a flying cat on Twitter, and she is always tweeting me purrs and snuggles.
My friend Theresa Snyder (@TheresaSnyder19) is the author of The Farloft Chronicles, an indie book series about a dragon named Farloft. Once a month she tweets in the persona of her dragon character; she changes her headshot to an illustration of a dragon wearing a voice-to-text headset.
My first memorable encounter with Theresa-as-Farloft was when the mighty dragon found me arguing politics with a mildly jackass (but endearing) friend named Scott Zachary. Farloft flew at Scott with a thunderous roar and told him that you need to, “Learn some manners, youngling!” Scott tried to torch Farloft with a flamethrower, but it didn’t work at all. It was hilarious.
Later on I learned that Farloft could teleport, and he took me flying into the clouds of sunrise, with a quick stop by the great wall of China. (He narrated the flight and I narrated my reactions in a series of tweets replying to one another.)
Farloft is an important part of Theresa’s life. She tweets about his visits to her house in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon… where he has difficulty landing in her garden without knocking over the fruit trees. And vice versa: Theresa is an important part of Farloft’s life. Theresa the Healer Mage lives in Farloft’s kingdom, a crucial character in the book series. This made me ask Theresa one day, “How did you and Farloft meet?”
She wrote a whole book to answer that question. And she dedicated it to ME! “For Charlotte Ashlock, who asked Farloft how he met Theresa, which is entirely the right thing to ask a dragon who loves to tell stories…. Charlotte, Memories are to be treasured, Dreams to be sought, So you may reflect on a life lived well. Love, Theresa.”
I even got to receive my book in person. You see, I traveled to Portland recently for Ben’s cousin’s wedding. On my first day there, I got up early and took the train to the suburb where Theresa lives. I had no idea she was dedicating the book to me. I DID know she was making me tea. It was her Farloft tweeting day and I told her not to take away time from her book marketing to make me a crazy tea. She responded firmly, “I am Irish. The tea will be crazy.” Here is a picture of the tea she made:
While she was whipping up the little sandwiches, she told me to look on the table for my “gift.” I saw the newest book in the Farloft series. I opened it and began flipping through it, and with a rare irritation Theresa told me, “That’s too fast! Go slowly!” And of course when I went slowly, I found the dedication, I leaped to my feet, screamed, hugged.
If Twitter is Narnia- my gate into a magical world of unending fun and friendship (albeit accessed via phone rather than via wardrobe)- visiting Theresa’s house was like Narnia being made real. I have this whole secret Twitter life, that I can’t really talk about in real life without getting raised eyebrows. It was wonderful to finally talk in real life with someone who was part of the same community.
Theresa once told me she identified a great deal with Farloft, and “Farloft IS me.” I immediately sensed the truth in that. It seems strange to compare an amiable Baby Boomer who wears red and purple gowns and shiny earrings, to a fierce green dragon. But it fits. Here’s why.
When I gave her the hug, she smelled like a mixture of incense and pastry. (She later told me that was because she used cinnamon oil as perfume, but it’s funny because that’s exactly the way I imagine a good and kind dragon would smell.) We had tea in her Moroccan room (which you can see on Youtube); basically a gorgeously decorated closed-in-porch of a room with all sorts of glittery decorations everywhere. Just like a dragon decorating their cave with precious gold and jewels, Theresa had decorated her lounging porch with nonstop richness and sparkles. And– the most important point of resemblance– just like Farloft, she told nonstop stories. (In fact, the first thing she told me when I arrived, was that if she talked too much, I should just put up my arms and shout, “HELP!” This amused me.)
Our conversation made me reflect on how the best books are made out of love. Theresa got the idea for her Farloft series because she had a nephew James, who was having trouble listening. She thought, “Who would an 8-year old boy listen to? A dragon!” and so she wrote a book about it. (The first book of the series, which you should buy immediately, is called James and the Dragon.)
The Farloft series are born from love of a nephew. The Narnia books are born from love of a C.S. Lewis’s niece, Lucy, in case you didn’t know. All great books are made from love.
After tea, Theresa took me to a famous tall waterfall and then to her waterside retreat where she rented a cabin once and awhile. The water with the mountains in the distance looked like a perfect place for dragons to fly. I felt myself longing for wings of my own when I looked up into that endless sky.
And then, on the drive back, we saw a cloud shaped like a dragon’s head. Theresa said, “That’s Farloft, reminding us not to forget about him.” I smiled. It was perfect.