Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

9/28/10

A Search For A New Idea

Where do we find the seeds that sprout into stories/art? Reading the latest posts on this blog reveals the many sources for inspiration, from mining personal experience (our own and others’) to attentive exploration of the world (inner and outer). Sometimes, too, the idea for a story can come from a random thought or (my favorite one) from the “imagination jump-start” that comes while reading a favorite book.

For me, the strangest seed came when I wanted to write an “animal” story but had no idea where to begin. I love bears, so naturally that was my first idea; but I wanted to explore beyond my own knowledge/interests and try something new, so I picked up a field guide to North American mammals and opened it to the first entry: American Pika. Though I grew up in Alaska, I had never heard of these cute little alpine critters, so I was immediately intrigued. Then, when the explanatory narrative in the field guide said pikas collect “haystacks” of dried grasses/flowers to eat during the winter, and that they also “throw” their voices to mislead predators, I was hooked! Next, I “googled” pikas and discovered that scientists predict they may be one of the early victims of global warming due to their low tolerance for high temperatures. Voila! In the space of ten minutes I had found an idea for a character and a “problem” for a story!

And so began a year-long immersion in the world above tree line, resulting in a middle grade novel entitled Angus – an “apprenticeship” novel that remains unsold but which served as a fun way to work on my craft, and an example of how ideas can sometimes come from consciously “looking” for them.

7 comments:

john said...

Mark, very interesting description of your process on this. For your sake and for young readers sake, I hope this book finds a publishing home.

Mark said...

Thanks for the encouragement and kind thoughts, John.

Christy said...

Mark, I love how all the elements were there in the research. This critter sounds fascinating. Like John, I hope your story finds a home.

Mark said...

Thanks, Christy. A few more revisions and it just might!!

Lauren said...

I love research and where it leads one-- I also love bears- I am impressed with how you deliberately pushed out of your familiar world into the unknown to find a subject. Great story. I too hope your book finds a publisher!

Edie said...

Mark,
I really want to read this book! Thanks for sharing your process.

David LaRochelle said...

I've enjoyed hearing all the different ways people have been inspired to write their stories. The pika sounds like a great story subject. If you don't sell it as a novel, have you considered trying it as a picture book?