Everything sparks ideas. But capturing ideas before they flee is daunting. For me, whimsical and wily inspiration comes from problems, experiences and observations.
1. Problems: When my daughter Sydney was in first grade, she wrote a song in response to a bully. After she sang it to her class, the bully approached her.
“Did you write that song about me?”
Sydney: “Yes I did.”
Bully: “I’m going to be nicer to you. I don’t want you to write another song about me!”
Sydney's problem inspired her to write a song that not only solved her first grade bully problem, but also drove the creation of our family band.
My childhood problems tend to resurface in my writing. Ultimately all of my main characters figure out a way to overcome doubt and be true to themselves.
In Cornelia Funk's The Princess Knight, Princess Violetta wants to do things that are unexpected of her. Strong women who defy stereotypes appear in all of Cornelia Funk's books and I wonder if this was a problem for her.
2. Experiences: Every manuscript we write embodies a little bit of who we were as kids. Childhood memories and experiences inspire wonderful picture books. The clumsy unicorn in one of my stories is definitely a magical version of who I was as a kid.
Tara Lazar's The Monstore, depicts a boy who wants to keep his sister away. On the flap of the book, Tara says she would have loved a monstore as a kid to help her spook her little brother.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is an example of days that we all have experienced as kids--that's why it resonates with everyone.
3. Observations: Every single one of my stories was inspired by observing my five kiddos. I told the story of The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall on a rainy day to Sydney when she was bored of waiting at Home Depot. Sydney also inspired a story about dragons and intense tantrums. Another of my stories tells about a fashionista who is strangely similar to my 6 year old daughter.
My friend Paul Czajak wrote Monster Needs his Sleep, after years of bedtime experience with his kids.
Think about your problems and experiences and observe the kids you know. Pay attention to the ideas that are waiting to be held and told and made into a story that will change lives.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out last December. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you might find her attempting to capture ideas! You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
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