Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lisa: On Inspiration

Sometimes people ask me - what inspires you?

People are so curious about that when it comes to writers, aren't they?  Like we know the secrets of the universe and can share those secrets with anyone who asks. I'm sorry to say there isn't a magic key.

I think I believe inspiration is everywhere. Well, some days it is. And nowhere on other days. It just depends. Am I open to it? Am I looking for it?

But I've realized something lately, and I thought I would talk about my discovery here. What often inspires me - moves me to write - is when a song or book or movie or a scene in nature or any number of things causes me to feel something strongly. When I feel something deep in my soul, I then want to work at writing something that will cause someone else to feel those feelings while they read my work.

When I read The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo a few years ago, I felt like I'd visited a different land. Like I'd walked the streets of Baltese and visited the market square, just as Peter did. It left me longing to do something similar with my writing. As soon as I closed her book, I opened my idea journal, and thought - if I were to write a fairy tale story, what elements would I want to include in that story?  I wrote down a few things. A beautiful flower garden. A bird. A king and a queen. A girl.

It took me six months before I found my way into that story. But always, when I looked at that page, I was reminded of how I felt when I wrote those words. It wasn't so much the items themselves, but putting them together to try and create a magical story that would make a reader feel like he/she had been swept away to different time and place. A place where things are bleak, but a glimmer of hope seems to be around every corner. And a place where story elements are woven together in such a way that by the end, you look back at the journey you took with wonder and delight. I don't know if I accomplished all of those things. But I tried. Because of the story I'd read that inspired me, I really tried. I'm happy to say that the middle grade novel I ended up writing sold to Henry Holt recently (it's untitled at the moment).

Another example I can share. In January, 2010, I was watching the Grammy awards. It was a pretty good show, as far as the Grammy's are concerned. But then, something spectacular happened. The artist P!nk came out and gave one of the most beautiful performances I've ever seen as she sang her song, "Glitter in the Air." I was moved. Moved enough to download the song, which I'd never heard before. Over the next few days, I listened to it over and over again.

I want to write a book like this song, I thought.

I want to write a book that makes me feel the way this song makes me feel.

It was this line, specifically, that gave me goosebumps:

"Have you ever wanted... an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and pulled that rope tight?"

So, as writers like to do, I started asking myself, what if? What if two teens didn't want the day/the night to end? Why not? What was going on with them, and could I find enough of a story there to write a book?

I could. And I did, always going back to how that song made me feel, and trying to bring those emotions to the page.

Did I succeed? Some readers have told me, yes I did. Not all readers, of course. Ha, that's a dream world, where everyone gets what you were trying to do and loves it!

But I'm happy with how the story turned out. The book is called THE DAY BEFORE and I'm celebrating it's release today!

What about you? How do you answer that question - what inspires you?


  1. Great post! I'm inspired by music, nature, art, books, movies, pretty much everything.

  2. Hurray for THE DAY BEFORE! I enjoyed reading about the magic moments that inspired some of books.

  3. I can completely relate to being struck by a moment, lyric, scene, etc. Life is the ultimate source of inspiration!

    Congrats on THE DAY BEFORE!

  4. Great post, Lisa! Congratulations on your book day! Now for your question. I am inspired by interesting land mammals, gardens, scrimshaw, and cookies.

  5. Congratulations, Lisa! I can't wait to get my hands on it. Lovely post, too.

  6. Congratulations, Lisa! And lovely post! My copy will be arriving tomorrow. I can't wait to read it :D

  7. Congratulations!

    My inspirations come from all over, too. Sometimes a song or a line in a song. Sometimes reading a book or watching TV or a movie. Sometimes from someplace I visit. It almost always starts with a "what if?" and takes off from there!


  8. What a lovely post -- thanks for sharing some of your moments of inspiration (I'm also a big fan of "Glitter in the Air").


  9. Congratulations, Lisa! I'm inspired by nature and music, random thoughts that strike me at odd times, and what goes on in relationships.

  10. I'm inspired by people, like you, who take the time to see the beauty all around them.