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How I Woke Up My Muse: Writing Fiction in 2014

Calliope, the muse of poetry

Calliope, the muse of poetry

In my  writing life I’ve been searching for a BIG IDEA. I mean, I’ve had a bunch of ideas over the years. I have an idea for an historical YA which I may never write. The research and “getting it right” is very daunting, because it’s such an important story to me. I’m not sure I have the writing chops for it yet either. And I’m ok with that. I’ve been searching for another idea, something that I feel I can do.  I’ve been sending messages to my muse, who happens to be a lazy little bitch, and she just hasn’t been answering. I hate when people (or muses) do that! Just answer! Well, when I least expected to hear back from her, she chimed in… (on a side note, I’m pretty sure my Muse doesn’t look anything like Calliope. I suspect my Muse wears ripped jeans, Doc Martins, and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, stinking of patchouli, drinking coffee, and smoking clove ciggies… or that might just be teenage me…)

Joe McGee in a great green room.

Joe McGee in a great green room.

Aaaaaaanyway. Last week I went to see The ABC of it: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library, with my client Joe McGee. Joe was breezing through NYC on his way up to his residency at The Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he’s almost done with his MFA in writing for children and young adults (you’re welcome for the plug, Joe!). What was particularly great about seeing this exhibit with Joe, besides the fact that he’s fun and great company, was that we really dug in and talked about writing for kids and I didn’t have to be the “expert” on it. We had the exhibit to stir our imaginations and I had Mr. McGee who was primed for thinking about kid lit, as he embarked on spending 2 weeks immersed in more learning about it. And we had such a great time at the exhibit, which you should definitely see if you’re anywhere in the New York area before March 23rd (SCBWI Winter Conference attendees: make the time for it!).

 

I love Ferdinand.

I love Ferdinand! Don’t you?

So on my way home, inspiration struck! Was that the faint scent of patchouli I smelled? An idea came to me and I texted Joe with a title and a “what do you think?” Now that was a role reversal! He and I riffed back and forth with it via text, laughing all the way, while the aroma of clove cigarettes got stronger. And now, BIG IDEA in hand, I get to squeeze in time to write every day. Rather than spending time gazing at an empty page on my computer or in my notebook, cursing that little bitch of a muse of mine for being an absentee-parent of ideas, at the very least I know what I’m trying to write about. Don’t be surprised if you see blog posts in the future from me replete with complaints and/or advice on how to move through writer’s block, or the suffering and anguish of trying to write and be an agent, or whatever… But for now, for today, I’m riding the high of starting the year off knowing what I’m writing.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’ve learned something, and when that happens I like to blab about it all over the place so maybe others can get something from it. Here it is:  My muse lives in the space of conversations about writing and creativity and talking about great books. I immersed myself in some of the finest children’s literature written (see the pic of Joe above; the one of me in “the secret garden” didn’t come out…sorry), in  a (concrete) way that I hadn’t done before, and voila! La Muse peeked her head around a corner and whispered in my ear.

How about you? Is your muse out to lunch, on vacation, in absentia, or otherwise being a deadbeat? What do you do about it?

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