The Idea Tree

DSCN2871When I was teaching second grade in Manhattan Beach, California, we had Writer’s Workshop. We followed an idea, into words, into a published book fully illustrated.

One question the kids always asked is the same question I’m frequently asked by kids when they learn I am a writer: “Where do you get (and by you they mean I) ideas for stories?”

Easy. The idea tree. You know, back in the orchard behind the money tree.

But, really, this is true. Take this particular tree at the Canoe House Restaurant in Mauna Lani on the Big Island of Hawaii. The characters this tree has seen. The dialogue this tree has lumbered through. The sunsets this tree has witnessed. The whales it has watched play. The slack key it has felt deep down in its roots.

When I travel, I so frequently have a story land on my head. Usually it happens on the plane. I don’t know what it is about being high up in altitude that gets my creative juices flowing, but something does. On this trip, the idea for my next book just landed in as clear as day. Not like I was looking, mind you, as I have a single space four page document with stories I want to write. Nevertheless, it nudges its way up to the front and demands to go next. (Bossy stories.)

Stories are everywhere. Listen to the palm frongs tapping together in the salty ocean breeze. (That one’s for you, QS). Watch the woozles (not their official name, but that’s what they should be called) that were sent over to the Island to control rats but run opposite shifts so now just reproduce–and so do the rats. Walk the land and imagine how it was 300 years ago.

If that doesn’t work, go find the idea tree. It’s waiting for you.

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