When Toren returns home, her little sister, Noa, is full of questions. Noa demands to know why Toren wakes only at night; what causes her almost constant pain; and above all, why, after completing her apprenticeship, she has decided not to become a wizard. To answer, Toren weaves a tale about a journey that leads her to discover the greatest source of magic in her world–herself. It is a revelation that comes at a high price. Through her darkest years, Toren finds solace and strength in the stories she tells. But her greatest tale is not yet finished. Together with Noa, she sets out on a new adventure. And in the end, she must choose: will she continue to cling to her dream of an ordinary life, or will she dare to let her own magic shine?
TOREN: THE TELLER’S TALE is more than an inspirational fantasy. It is a philosophical tale about the enchantment of literature, because in Toren’s parallel world there is no greater power than the magic of storytelling.
TOREN: THE TELLER’S TALE is intended to be the first book in the Toren the Teller series.
Toren closed her eyes. “So, you want to know who I am,” she said. “It seems a simple question: ‘Who are you?’ And we always give it such simple answers. ‘Who am I? I’m Toren. I’m Noa. I’m the eldest daughter of Omri the vintner. I’m the youngest. . . .’ Of course, these answers aren’t true. They are simple, quick and easy, while the truth is none of those things. Even a mouse has a story as grand as the sky.
“You want to know why I’m not a wizard. The simple answer is I do not wish to be. But you want the truth: you want to hear my tale. Where should I begin?”
Shevi Arnold started telling stories when she was just a kid looking for a way to pass the time on the long, boring ride to school. Not long after that, she started telling herself her own stories–letting them play through her mind, like favorite TV shows–as she was about to fall asleep or whenever she was bored. One night when she was seventeen, she encountered Toren for the very first time. The magical storyteller left quite an impression. But Shevi didn’t have the time to write Toren’s story down. She had degrees to earn in college, and when she was through with that, she had her work in newspapers and magazines, her marriage, and her family to keep her busy. Then in 2001 Shevi returned to the USA in search of a better education for her autistic son, and she had to leave her job and her old life behind. She had only ever worked as a writer and an illustrator, and she couldn’t work full-time for newspapers or magazines anymore. What was she going to? She sat down and began to write Toren the Teller’s Tale. Since then Shevi has written six other novels for kids and young adults, but after thirty years simmering in her mind and countless edits, she considers this novel her greatest masterpiece.
And here’s a little back story on Shevi Arnold:
On the long boring ride to school I used to pass the time by telling stories to the younger kids at the back of the van. Most of those stories were classic fairy tales, but sometimes I would make a story up as I went along.
I remember one little girl who would interrupt me every few minutes with the words, “What happened after that?” Even when I reached the end and said, “And they lived happily ever after,” she still wanted to know, “What happened after that?”
What happened after that, indeed.
It’s one of those questions you can ask at the end of any story — and get a million different answers in reply. An even better question to ask is “What if?”
“What if I lived in the Dark Ages?”
“What if dragons were real?”
“What if a storyteller didn’t just tell a fairy tale but was its hero little girl lived in a tree on the White House lawn?”
Questions like that can inspire an infinite number of stories.
And so can boredom.
When there’s nothing to watch on TV, when I’m sitting on a bus or waiting in line, when I’m lying in bed and haven’t fallen asleep yet, my thoughts turn on this little television set I have in my mind. I watch new shows, new episodes of old favorites or reruns that seem to change every time I watch them. These are the bedtime stories I tell myself, and I love them.
For many years I thought I would keep these stories to myself, my private treasure I would horde forever. I was a writer. I made a living at it working at a newspaper. But writing fiction? No one gives you a regular paycheck to submit chapters of a novel week after week. You have to write the whole thing, and then maybe you sell it and maybe you don’t. It seemed too big a risk to take.
I left my newspaper job when I left Israel in February 2001, and by early September I was prepared to start looking for freelance work. I sent out a bunch of query letters, but after the anthrax scare I never even got back my self-addressed, stamped envelopes.
I asked my husband, “What should I do?”
He asked me, “What do you want to do?”
I thought about it long and hard. I was a writer. I was used to working for newspapers and magazines, but that door was now closed.
“I want to write a novel,” I said.
And that’s what I did.
Now I’m waiting to find the answer to the question, “What happened after that?”
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