A charmed life

 A bracelet builds character for an author’s pseudo self.
By Jill Giencke | Published: June 19, 2015


charm braceletIn high school, I had a charm bracelet. Filled with mementos of every birthday, Christmas, prom and homecoming, it jingled and jangled on my wrist every day. A happy sound in a happy time.

After graduation, though, I took it off and started college. Then a funny thing happened.

Thirty years went by – like a snap of my fingers. One day, I rummaged in my jewelry box for Mom’s marcasite bangle, and I came upon my old charm bracelet.

A relic of another age, it lay in my palm, stirring up memories like an opened time capsule. As I examined each tiny charm, I recalled the occasion, the circumstances, the giver. I slipped it on and gave my wrist a shake. The jingle made me smile, and I knew what I had to do next: Start a new bracelet.

In the old days, it seemed easy to do things just for fun, or no reason at all. But now that I’m grown, every action has to have a purpose or a goal, so this bracelet needed a reason to exist.

With a flash, inspiration hit.

In the years between bracelets, I became a writer with published essays, short stories and three novels. I adopted a pseudonym for my fiction, something easier to spell and pronounce than my real name.

My alter ego, Kate Fellowes, would be the owner of this new charm bracelet, I decided. While my first one commemorated birthdays, hobbies and high school dances, the new one would document Kate’s interests and accomplishments.

My real life had followed a pleasant and predictable path – marriage, mortgage, work, work, work. But, Kate? Well, Kate blazed her own trail.

Since I had created her as my very personal work of fiction, I decided to give her a life filled with Nancy Drew’s confidence and competence combined with James Bond’s globetrotting. Like Walter Mitty’s daydreams, Kate’s bracelet could represent the parts of me that flourish only in my dreams and imagination. Kate could travel to the places I long to see, pursue the hobbies I have no talent for, live a life of adventure and excitement.

To that end, I spent every lunch break for the next two weeks on eBay, giving in to auction fever. And Kate’s bracelet – a gorgeous sterling silver double link – began to fill up fast.

There’s a gondola from Kate’s holiday in Venice, and a cable car from her trip to the Alps, where she enjoyed the skiing. A sailboat and a lighthouse speak to her summers in Maine. An old artist’s palette marks her hobby of watercolor painting, and a suitcase with travel stickers denotes her many journeys hither and yon. A fish represents her  writer’s group, and a money bag represents the fruits of those labors.

There’s a charm for each of her publishing successes, too. Elephants, dogs, maple leaves, a picnic basket, a sports car, even Santa Claus mark the articles, short stories and novels Kate has written. Plenty of empty links await future endeavors and offer constant inspiration.

If I’d been willing to pay for shipping, I could have loads of other fabulous charms for my girl. I had no idea there is such a variety of trinkets available. A book that opens. A genie’s lantern. A globe that spins.

I can’t say I’ll ever write a story featuring a genie’s lantern just so I can buy that charm, but I can’t say I won’t, either.

I can say with great confidence that it will be a treat to wear my new bracelet to the next writer’s conference I attend. My name badge will declare me to be “Kate,” and the jingle at my wrist, marking true success and imagined adventures, will make the perfect accent to my outfit.

Conversation piece and concrete reminder, Kate’s bracelet will be her signature for years to come. Turns out, it’s a charmed life for both of us.

—Jill Giencke writes romantic suspense novels under the name Kate Fellowes.