Friday, 17 January 2014

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas?" - by Emma Barnes

It’s lovely to be back, blogging regularly with ABBA. I’ll be here on the 17th of each month, sharing my deep (and not so deep) thoughts. 

For this first post of 2014, I am launching into verse. Bear with me! I don’t pretend to be a poet. But, like many writers, one of the most common questions I’m asked, especially when visiting schools, is how I get my ideas. So here is a poetic answer directed at aspiring writers and school children alike (not that these are mutually exclusive categories). 

On Being Asked: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Real life can sometimes be quite helpful
Especially when it gets most dreadful
Fights and quarrels, things forgot,
Muddles, mix-ups fuel the plot
In fact any kind of disaster
Will make the writer’s pulse beat faster.
And BAD children are just the thing
To make the plot go with a swing.

Eavesdropping is a nasty habit
But for an author it’s well worth it.
Buy a notebook and jot down
All that makes you laugh or frown:
Your teachers’ funny little ways
The strange thing that your granny says
Can lead to something quite stupendous.
And if all else fails, steal someone else's.

But the truth is far deeper
Ideas grow like virginia creeper
From a deep productive soil
Of many years, the golden spoil.
A thousand books have bedded down
To make that rich and fertile loam.
Dreams and visions of many kinds
Make up the compost of the mind.

By now you’re probably past caring
In fact the whole thing’s a red herring
It’s not getting ideas that’s the problem
It’s what you do with them, when you’ve got them.

(P.S. I bet you wish you hadn’t asked that question now!)

So, where do you get your ideas? 

I even wrote a book featuring compost! Illustration: Emma Chichester Clark


Emma's new book, Wild Thing,  about the naughtiest little sister ever, is out in February from Scholastic. It is the first of a series for readers 8+.

 Wolfie is published by Strident.   Sometimes a Girl’s Best Friend is…a Wolf. 
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps - Book of the Week 
"This delightful story is an ideal mix of love and loyalty, stirred together with a little magic and fantasy" Carousel 

Emma's Website
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Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely! I especially like the compost verse.

Joan Lennon said...

Your poem about fertility
Works for me!


Anonymous said...

I once heard Oliver Jeffers tell a young questioner that he has this big box under his bed and when he needs a new idea he just pulls one out.

Emma Barnes said...

Ah! Like the idea of that big box. But the compost idea is my favourite - I also show children on school visits pictures of compost, and explain how everything they read beds down and mingles until new ideas grow. An image for the imagination I got from Tolkien, and mine certainly works that way.

Penny Dolan said...

What a great explanation, Emma!