Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

9/21/10

Looking for what isn't there

When I was an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark College taking Educational Psychology toward my teaching credential, our professor assigned papers on topics not yet studied. “Anyone can do research,” he claimed. He wanted us to do search papers. The assignment forced us to come at our subjects from different angles, ask our own questions, find our own correlations, and assert our own theories.

When I have an idea for a book, whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, I start by seeking what already exists related to my theme. I scout widely: read articles and books (picture books, art books, poetry collections, and scholarly works), watch films, attend exhibits, and travel to pertinent sights. I flood myself with stimulus. I take notes. I find photos or take new ones. I mull. The process takes a long time. Ultimately, I am not looking for what is. Why duplicate that in a book? Instead I am searching for an open place or hole that I can fill, a dark place to shine a light, a different question I can attempt to answer, something that has not been written—ultimately a reason to create a new book. Then I write and I sketch.

9 comments:

Edie said...

Christy,
Finding that hole or open place you can fill seems like the perfect way to search for your next topic. Very interesting approach!

Christy said...

Edie, often this just amounts to making sure the idea I'm pursuing hasn't already been covered. I have a couple new picture books I've written under contract (fall 11, spring 12), but am never sure about how much to reveal before publication. One is a young concept book. The other poetry/non-fiction.

john said...

I like the idea of search papers. And I like thinking about the difference between searching and researching.

Christy said...

My professor was named John--maybe there's some connection. ;-)

Stephanie said...

I love the idea of looking for what isn't...

betsy woods said...

I would like to use this approach--a "search" paper brings a natural curiousity out in me. Suddenly, there is a sense of personal ownership.

Diane Adams said...

I love this term. It gives me new inspiration for my school papers, and my children's books.

Lauren said...

I agree with all the comments-- this idea of a "search" paper instead of a re-search paper-- we could have a wonderful discussion about this-- there is a lot to think about just in that!
Congratulations on your two upcoming books Christy, I cannot wait to hear/read more about them.

Mark said...

I really like the angle you took with this, and how it has inspired the rest of the group and, with any luck, blog followers.