By Lily Fishleder
Where you live determines how you live. The voice of my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. McDonald, rings in my memory. He is explaining that hunter-gatherers have a specific lifestyle, dictated by the landscape that surrounds them. (He sent the message home by walking around the classroom with a yard stick and occasionally throwing it in the general direction of some of my classmates, who would yelp in playful fury.) This memory may have stuck with me because I was startled by the lack of apparent safety in the classroom. But, perhaps more so, it stuck with me because I was aware that—as a Chinese adoptee—where I grew up (New York City) and what landscape surrounded me (skyscrapers and subway stations) had everything to do with how I lived and, furthermore, how I oriented myself in the world.
Where you live—and who you live with—determines how you live. Although I don’t think Mr. McDonald was suggesting that location, exclusively, predicts quality of life, I think your attitude and chosen company do. At Lighthouse, writers abundant, I have observed and experienced something new. Dan Manzanares, Lighthouse’s creative curator, described it best when I first set foot in this beautiful 19th century Victorian house back in May. He said Lighthouse was his real-life Hogwarts. I didn’t quite comprehend what he meant by this, but I get it now. This place—this community—is a castle full of wonder, magic, opportunity, adventure, and new friends. A great community with just enough mystery to keep you coming back for more.
In my life, I have a lot to write about. I was adopted from Southeast China when I was seven months old. As an adoptee, my identity is a tangled ball of yarn. At the age of nine, my adoptee mom died, and since then, my inner strength is derived from independence and a transcendental philosophical approach in creating meaning from my 21 years and counting.
My arrival to Lighthouse Writers Workshop can only be explained as fate. I have always had a lot on my mind and a lot to say, but never a formal space (let alone a house), way, or practice to develop my voice as a writer. Lighthouse is a serious dose of inspiration and illumination. Most of my experience with the writing community has been by association and living in the middle of a social landscape of published writers, professional editors, and teachers. And lo and behold, I find myself in a sea of literary artists.
In recent weeks, the sheer atrocity of the degree of injustice in America has become all too clear. There is an added pressure to my personal sense of identity but also to my motivation to act and make a positive difference in the world. If Hogwarts, as a school of witchcraft and wizardry, is designed to teach and prepare young wizards and witches for a magical world, then Lighthouse Writers Workshop—through the fine magical art of writing and storytelling—can help you learn the spells and potions for making how you live more fulfilling and perhaps a bit more orienting.
Lily Fishleder was Lighthouse’s summer 2016 intern.