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"Where Do Your Ideas Come From?"

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

As I have been sharing my writing more with school-age children and some adults now that I have published my first children's book, it is almost guaranteed that the question will be asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" The simple answer is that they just seem to pop into my head or appear from normal, daily interactions without really looking for them.

For example, in the case of Theo the Mouse- A Christmas Story the idea actually came from the original poem titled, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Moore. In the second line of the poem he writes, "...not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." Right away my mind asked the question, What if there was a mouse stirring? What would he be doing? And from those initial questions, a story began to develop. And that is how Theo the Mouse was born.

Another example happened just the other day. As I was listening to my grandchildren talk about something going on in school, the conversation turned to people who break their promises. As they continued talking, my mind began wondering what happens to promises that are broken as if they are objects that could fall and break into pieces. Do they get thrown into the trash as garbage? Do they have an afterlife? Is there a place where all broken promises end up together? Can broken promises be repaired? Are they ever just like new if they have been repaired, or are there noticeable, telltale signs like cracks left behind? I think there is a story in there somewhere and I have already been putting some lines together to see if the story will show itself to me. I initially visualized an island where broken promises go until they are rescued, or, sadly, never rescued. So, I'll allow it to have time to develop into something with a lesson to share.

This coming year I hope to be working with Bekah Grace --the same illustrator who drew the remarkable pictures for Theo--on a book about a boy who finds a penny and decides it is a lucky penny. To prove it is, he puts it to the test and learns a very important lesson about luck. That idea came to me while i was sitting at the computer working on another story. The first two lines came to me almost immediately. So I set aside the story I was working on and typed out and saved the first two lines of the lucky penny idea. With that idea now secure, I returned to work on the previous story. It was a number of months later that I finished, "My Lucky Penny". Now it's on the verge of being illustrated and published next year.

One final example came from a visit to a local home-schooling group. One of the activities I like to do with the students is help them learn the method of poetry I use for my stories, anapestic tetrameter. The students chose the topic of dragons. As we began working through the process of putting some lines together that made sense about dragons—accounting for syllable placement, rhyme and meter—I began to see an interesting story take form from just those two lines. Of course, if I ever do write that story poem, I would share the credits with that group of children.

A final thought about my ideas and how I currently work: I work on several stories at a time. When I hit a wall with one, I pull up one of the others and continue where I left off. I do, however, check in on just about all of them each time I sit down to write to see which one sparks my writing imagination at that sitting. So, I guess the lesson is to grab an idea as soon as it pops its head up and hold on to it by adding it to the collection of others. There are literally millions of story ideas swimming around in the stream of conversations and activities all around you and me. Remember: any idea for a story is a good idea.

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