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Published Book or Work by:

Kristin Groulx

Sandcastle: Building a Story

Sandcastle: Building a Story
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By Kristin Groulx

Along with the sand pails, toy shovels, and bottles of bubbles, I toted a spiral notebook and pen with me to the park. My daughter would have her time playing in the sand, and I would find a cozy spot on a park bench to write some notes. My goal for the day was to write a simple plot outline. But it was anything but simple. I found my bench and opened my notebook. At last, all was quiet. It was too quiet. A newly fallen maple leaf blew across my notebook and the pages ruffled. It was then that the wind really started to blow. Like the thoughts flowing into my head, the wind was curling the corners of the paper making it impossible to write.

Flipping the spiral notebook over to the back cover, I tried to outsmart the wind by writing from the back page first. Just as the ideas start to flow and I’ve begun writing, the wind decides to shift and blow from the other direction. Frustrated, I flip the notebook over, like turning an hourglass to shift the sand. I jot notes opposite my original ones, while glancing to notice my daughter is having similar issues keeping the red paper Canadian flags atop her sandcastles. The wind shifts again. Mother Nature certainly has a sense of humour. I struggled to find mine.

Between the margins of ink of the notebook, a plot outline is formed. It looks like an intricate architectural blueprint made up of words, more than anything legibly resembling an outline. But between the wind and me, it has immense meaning. Ideas flew into place; whereas the notes I’d sat down to prepare might have otherwise looked rather ordinary by comparison. Ordinary and uneventful. A simple grain of sand is ordinary until someone builds it into a castle.

It was then that it struck me.

Not only did I have my major plot outlined, but also within I’d written several sub-plots, each individually challenging my protagonist. It was these sub-plots that became more interesting to me, as they were creatively interjected into the story. After all, just as I came here to write, the wind overwhelmed me more so than any writer’s block. Nature was my obstacle. Just as the autumn fallen leaves spewed towards me with every gust, my determination to hold my page down to write my ideas became as firm as the tree they fell from.

My daughter’s sandcastle is blowing away in the wind, as she clings onto the sandbox, feet trailing behind her. The structures of the playground would not budge though. They are the major plot. It is only the sand contained within that is changing. Each grain of sand accumulates into separate piles, but when the wind shifts they interact with one another again. Just as my characters would be only a grain of sand until I built them. I would be the force of nature, breathing life into their ordinary days and making otherwise impossible circumstances seem possible. I, as the author, was now Mother Nature too.

Walking home, with sand still in our hair, we enter our home, sheltered from the oncoming storms. Legos and blocks now replace sand for my daughter’s castle, and I sit at my computer with my notebook to unfold like origami. My notes are a marvel to me. I transpose what is legible to a program on my computer. Each day in my story, a new day is lived and told. I could almost see the leaves outside changing colors for the length of time I wrote that outline. But I loved it. It reminded me of why I loathe places like California, and prefer the minus 30 temperatures and black flies of Canada. It would be awfully boring to wake up every day to perfect weather, constant sunshine and constant smiles. It’s the imperfections and forces of nature that we battle everyday that make us who we are…


I insist my next book shall be written in a snowstorm.

Kristin Groulx lives in Ottawa, Ontario diligently finishing her first novel of unexpected twists and continually shaking the sand out of her shorts. She is married and mother of a 4-year-old daughter.

Autobiography , Other
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