Sunday, February 7, 2010

I have always pulled inspiration from the things that surround me, people, events, and sometimes it seems nothing at all. Many times with my picture books, the title comes to me first, and the story is the byproduct. Sometimes a couple of lines from a story will pop in my head, and the rest of the story is constructed around these lines.

Novel writing is different. Usually the outlines of an idea come to me and I have to brainstorm to get a clear picture of the story I want to tell. This process is more evident with the vampire novel I am writing. It took me years to plot the story. Actually, I'm still working on the plot even as I write it.

But sometimes, there are those events or places in my childhood that provide such warm memories, that I want to relive them through my writing.

Monta so eloquently described a place like this in her post.

But for me, that place was Camp Mathieu which my Middle Grade novel Camp Lagoon is based on. When I was a kid starting at age 7, I went away to camp every year for 10 summers. Since Camp Mathieu was owned by the Off The Street Club, a boys and girls club in Chicago, it serves inner city youth who normally wouldn't get the opportunity to go away to camp. Although I never attended the club, ( I lived on the other side of town) I did get to experience Camp Mathieu through my church's coordination with the facility. For one entire week, my brothers and I were whisked away to camp for a week of hiking, swimming, horse back riding, and a host of other activities.

But the highlight of the week, was always Thursday nights. On this night, campers were gathered around the camp fire and told the story of Goon. A half human, half monster like creature with a child-like mind and super human strength, who had possibly killed a camper or two as revenge for a prank pulled on him years ago. Then, we were marched through the woods half scared out of our minds looking for signs of Goon. After of course, they showed us the half foot print left in the road leading up to the camp, and the broken chain at the camps entrance.

It was always a wild time. Even when we were older and no longer believed in Goon, it was exciting to walk through the woods pretending to be brave while surrounded by a chorus of screaming children.

My MG novel Camp Lagoon, which I hope will be a bit funny and a bit scary, is based on the experiences my brothers and I had over the years at Camp Mathieu. The main character Tyler is a combination of me and my brothers. Mostly them, except the nerdy part of his personality, which is me. Although this is irrelevant to the topic of writing inspirations, writing this novel has prompted me to start donating to The Off The Street Club in hopes of sending someone to Camp Mathieu this summer.

I should say, a lot of my ideas come from me having children. I haven't based one particular character around my boys, but they do help me keep in touch with what children like and how they think. They remind me of what it was like when I was a child, which helps me try to relate to other children while I'm writing, so in essence they are probably my greatest source of inspiration.


  1. Urania--I knew that you had attended camp for years as a kid, but I didn't know that your camp actually had the legend of the Goon!! That's awesome about how writing inspired you to give to the Club. I know you had mentioned writing directly about your brother in the future, but maybe Camp Lagoon will be somewhat therapeutic and a way to relive good times. I agree that a whole picture book can be constructed around just a couple lines that pop into one's head. For my vampire story, whole scenes came into my head, then plot around them.

  2. We can see the camp so clearly through your writing - don't freak us out with the goon!

  3. Kids as inspiration is perhaps the best inspiration ever.

  4. Michelle, I agree with you about writing about my brother. He was very funny and sarcastic so I have tons of material there.

    And Robin, I promise not to freak you out too much. I hope it will be a little scary, but more in a suspenseful kind of way. So I won't have Goon appear in the story and start slashing up campers.

  5. The start of Camp Lagoon is terrific. From what you describe above, I can't wait to read more. Was there a real Harry Lovejoy?

  6. Sadly, Harry is a fictional character.

  7. The 6 of you are wonderful inspiration. I have thoroughly enjoyed your postings over the past few weeks and have only just figured out how to butt in.

    My own inspiration has waned lately and in an attempt to get some I came across your blog. It worked. It remains to be seen whether or not I will continue to attempt to write for kids, but what I do know is that I am back in my writing chair and have you all to thank for it.

    I'll be checking in frequently to make sure I don't miss anything, and of course to keep me inspired. Keep up the good work.

    BTW ... I have added the word 'mistful' to my vocabulary. Love it!


  8. Thank you, for you comment Clare.

    Maybe someday, if I can garner enough support, I will petition Webster to add "mistful" to the dictionary.

    Seriously, you made my day-- well night, since it's way past 1:00. It's awesome knowing someone else is listening to us and gaining inspiration for their own work.

    I hope that you do continue to write and keep up with us. Knowing that there are other aspiring writers out there, keeps me motivated too, and I'd love to hear your input on our topics.


  9. Hi Clare! Thank you so much for reading us. How delightful that the posts have actually been helpful! I really really liked reading your stuff last spring and have wondered if you continued working on it so I could someday read more. It was very engaging, funny, had a great voice. Even if you aren't writing for children right now, I'm happy you still have the writing bug!

  10. I suspected you were the Clare from our class last spring, but I wasn't sure. I did find your novel funny and engaging. And like Trager said, it had a really good voice.

    I really hope you keep at it. I want to know what happened to that priest!