I’ve been sorting through old drafts and folders, and came across this poem, which I wrote some years ago as part of a Facebook challenge (the set topic was ‘blue’).
Not exactly a work of art, but today I took a photo of it and shared it on Instagram – and then was left thinking about how, sometimes, poems, and stories too, really do seem to just appear, and I know I have to write them down and share them. This led me to ponder how ideas really can come from just about anywhere.
Take Queen Narelle as an example. The idea from this book came from a fairly random sequence of events. In 2008 I wrote Pearl Verses the World (and THAT story came to me from a voice in my head that insisted I write her story). A year later, it was published, with gorgeous illustrations by Heather Potter. When I was busy promoting the book, a boy called Cassidy emailed some questions for me to answer from Pearl’s perspective. These were really perceptive questions – Cassidy was a very cluey nine year old. You can read the interview here.
So, Cassidy asked me/Pearl, ‘what is your cat’s name?’ and I have to admit this stumped me – because I had not given Pearl a cat. There is no mention of a cat in the story I wrote. BUT Cassidy had seen Pearl’s cat – there in several of Heather Potter’s gorgeous illustrations. So, if I was answering as Pearl, I couldn’t say I didn’t know the cat’s name. I thought fast, and gave the cat the name of a cat from my own childhood: Narelle.
The interview was published and I moved on. Except, I kept thinking about that cat. Because there is a humorous reason we called our cat Narelle. Narelle, you see, is the sound a cat makes. It doesn’t say miaow – it says Naarrellllllleee. And, having remembered that fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about a cat called Narelle. Eventually I decided that Narelle deserved a story of her own.
When I sat down to write, however, it wasn’t Pearl’s cat, or even my ‘real’ cat, that seemed to want to have their story told. It was a different cat. And she was determined to tell her story in her own voice. The first draft of Queen Narelle didn’t take long to write – and it was all from Narelle’s first person viewpoint.
Since 2009 that first draft has had many revisions and edits, including adding in a second narrator – Maddie, Narelle’s favourite human. Doing this made the story richer, more complete, but I have always loved writing in Narelle’s voice. It was lots of fun, even though there are tricky things happening in the book. Those things evolved from me trying to figure out what problems a cat might have, or witness, and how a cat might be involved in their resolution.
So, in this case, the idea came from a simple question about one cat, and a chain of thoughts about that cat, and a very demanding cat demanding to be written about.
Of course, other stories and poems have their origins in other places. I might write about some of my other story origins in coming posts.