In honor of Children’s Book Week, today’s guest blogger Lee Welles, author of the Gaia Girls book series, reflects on the books she loved as a girl and how they helped her imagination grow and her understanding of the world flourish.
“Where do you get your ideas?” It’s the question every author gets asked…repeatedly. Personally, I like to joke around and tell readers there is a store on Market Street in my hometown that is always well stocked with ideas. I also joke that I know the secret location of an enchanted tree that grows good ideas. Authors just have to show up to pick them like ripe fruit. And that’s not too far from the truth. Authors actually get their ideas from unlikely mash-ups of information that is bouncing around between their ears. Those collisions make a noise. A great idea whispers, “What if…”
I’ve had very clear “What if…” moments. I’d like to take full credit; but in truth, many of the more charming aspects of my writing have been rolling around my brain pan for decades. WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams was an 11th-birthday gift. The book introduced me to the idea that one could give consciousness to the natural world without diluting the wonderful reality of it. The intrepid rabbits of that great book didn’t wear coats, or sip tea. They were very real rabbits; and Adams’ writing made me feel as if I’d been privileged to peek into their rabbit world.
I most likely chose an otter to star as a main character in my books because Gavin Maxwell’s RING OF BRIGHT WATER was such a compelling true story enhanced by amazing black and white photographs. I distinctly remember being 12, staring at the photos and wanting desperately to see an otter in real life.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE series showed me that enlivening the smallest details of the natural world had the power to transport a reader from dreary winter days in upstate New York, to the waving grasses, insect orchestras and wide skies of the plains. And, as far as I’m concerned, being transported is both the most immediate and longest lasting gift of reading.
During Children’s Book Week, I like to imagine that as a child reads, elements of story are likely rolling around and finding a place to settle. Like a seed, an image or a notion, or a particular approach to writing will gently lie in the dark, nourished by other life experiences. The more books…the more seeds!
And who knows what fruit such seeds will bear? One day—possibly decades down the road when the world is in even more need of creative minds and new solutions—that notation will push from the ground and the reader will say, “What if…”