Thursday, March 3, 2016

School Visits

I had the great good fortune to visit with students from several schools lately. Holden Middle School made it extremely easy by making me a part of a large evening event in which ten different schools participated in a Math competition along with their Book Fair. For me, that meant I got to hang out in a library (probably the most awesome library I've been in to date) and talk to students who were interested in reading and writing from all over the area. Just an all around fun time! Not to mention the cookies.

Let me just talk a moment about their library. It had diner booths with computer terminals, three sofas, a love seat, a few occasional chairs, and a huge leather ottoman. There were a few standard chairs and tables one would expect in a library, and then there were the padded barstools and high square table. If you haven't noticed, that's just the furnishings. Then there were all the games for the students. There was a ring toss, a big dice roll game, change drop in water, and more, all to win little prizes if the students bought a book to read. When I expressed my surprise at everything the librarian had, she modestly informed me that she was an excellent shopper--I'll say! Not only did she have plenty of great books for the students to read, but she has made a fun and relaxing environment for the students to hang out in. 

One question that came up on a pretty regular basis the other night: Where do you get your ideas? It's a good question. I wish I had a good answer. You know, I'm old, so there's a lot rattling around up there in my head that's been there for a really long time, and these ideas just finally pop out. For all the good ideas I have, there are plenty of ones that suck, let me tell you. But no matter what the initial inspiration for an idea is, you have to work at it. Write it down. Does it sound stupid? How can you make it better? Work with it and re-work it until it's an idea that you can run with.

Anything can inspire you. It might be something completely mundane, like petting your cat, Molly. And you suddenly think, what if she were a warrior queen cat out in the woods with a cat clan? All you were doing was petting your cat and boom! You have an idea. Now run with it. I think that one's been taken, by the way. Maybe your mom makes you do the laundry and you wonder, Where do all the single socks go? While it sounds like a country song, maybe there's a sock fairy who has really cold feet and poor fashion sense. So, you get the idea.

The biggest mistake I think people make is to not write down their ideas when they have them. People say to themselves, "I'm not creative. I can't think of something like that." I'm here to tell you that you can! So the initial thought might not work, but if you write it down, then you have the bones to flesh out. Work the idea around until it makes sense. Then ask people if it sounds interesting. Ask more than one. My best friend doesn't read the type of books that I write, so she's not interested in my ideas for them. If I had asked only her, I never would have written my first book. Ask lots of different people!

So inspiration can come from anywhere and from anything. Don't think there is only one way to get an idea. When that idea does come to you, write it down, and don't let anyone discourage you! There is a really great saying and I wish I could remember who said it first, but it goes back to that 'old' thing I mentioned earlier. Anyway here it is: Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

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