Inspiration is everywhere, ready to be planted, tended, and cultivated into stories. This spring, grow some ideas!
Here are some tips to unearthing story nuggets:
Outdoors – Observe buds on the trees, migrating birds, and squirrels dashing through parks. Pay attention to snippets of playground conversations. Stroll through your neighborhood or a new area and take photos of interesting architecture, homes, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Perhaps something you notice will lead you to research and blooming ideas. My inspiration for READY, SET, GORILLA! was a billboard in Times Square that read, “Ready, Set, GO.” I wondered what would happen if a little Gorilla instead shouted, “Ready, Set, GOrilla!” and the story seed was planted.
Explore your home – pay close attention to old family photos, vacation postcards, artwork, music you listen to, or sheet music you play. Hold a family heirloom and reflect on your culture and history. Perhaps you can dig into the objects you collect in your home, or the family stories passed down to you, to inspire a story idea. For SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES, I used tales from my own family history to create vignettes, stories that Sadie hears her Nana tell every Shabbat. This book honors all the inspiration I received from the storytellers in my life.
Examine childhood memories – make lists of your favorite childhood games, books, movies, TV shows, sports, vacations, school subjects, cultural activities, family events, and foods. Remember moments when you engaged in these activities. What emotions arise? Do your memories spark a title, a line, or a fully-formed idea? My inspiration for SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH developed from my love of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER, one of my favorite childhood books, set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I live a few blocks from the Met Museum, and found inspiration while gazing at a treasured Impressionist painting, pondering the question: “What if I had a magic paintbrush and could paint like Monet?” And for PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM, my co-author Shirin Shamsi gifted the idea of writing a multicultural story, and with Callie Metler, we collaborated and examined childhood and cultural memories. Like the three girls in the story, as we worked together, our friendship blossomed.
Now it’s your turn:
Once you sow a few story seeds, determine which will be best for harvesting. Attempt to write one sentence, one title, one scene, one opening line, one closing line, or one thought about a possible story arc.
Cheers to inspiration and nourishing story seeds this spring. Happy writing!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Return to Coney Island and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla!; and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot), released from Clear Fork Publishing in October, 2021. Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. She also interviews authors on her blog, This Writing Life, and offers book tips and resources. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and Wordle! www.MelissaStoller.com