Friday, August 26, 2016

Gathering Story Seeds: Part Two

"Gathering Story Seeds," my last post, was about finding story ideas. I spent the summer showing my Young Writers group how to keep their "writer's brain" open and alert for those little nuggets that stick in your head.  Or as I explained to the students, "Things that make you go 'huh?'"
image courtesy of Morguefile

Like finding seeds in nature, finding story seeds can be hard work. It's not so much a matter of concentration, but of awareness..  "Don't think too hard," I tell my students.  "Keep your Writer Brain open."  A Writer Brain uses all the senses to observe. If you think about it, most of what you think of as "observation" is what you see.  Wake up hearing, smell, touch and taste. (Be cautious with taste!)

Every writer goes through a time of story drought, where your Writer Brain becomes distracted by the minutiae of life, and eventually become dormant. That's been me for the past year. A whirlwind of family situations, caused my Writer Brain to check out as the rest of the mind skittered here and there with a thousand decisions and deadlines.

This summer, the pace slowed down. I had the luxury of focusing on my young writers and their progress. Talking about using all your senses and staying alert for six straight weeks must have imprinted on my Writer Brain.

No sooner had the Young Writers summer program finished than it seemed as if Story Seeds were cascading from the heavens. Even in the best of the staying-focused-and-alert times, Story Seeds are scarce.  Filling a page in "Seeds" notebook in a month is a huge deal. (Yes, I'm Old School; I still use a notebook.") This August, the notebook is half-filled...and there is still another week in the month!   Out of seemingly nowhere, Seeds have been falling in my lap, tapping me on my shoulder, being handed to me in the supermarket checkout along with my change. Seriously.

For example...

I was skedaddling through the "10-Items-or-Less" line at Publix, with four cups of Greek yogurt...and a hammer.  The checker (her name tag said "Rebecca") scanned the hammer. I am not a chatty person by nature, so it was out of complete silence that Rebecca hefted my new hammer, and with a gleam in her eye, said, "You know, when I was a little tyke, I wanted nothing more than a bright red tool box and hammer. And my mama and daddy got me one for my birthday."

Bzzzzap!  Writer Brain shocked to life, neurons firing rapidly. "How old were you?" asked Writer Brain, which is considerably more nosy and sociable than Mary Ann's brain.

"Two, three." Rebecca said carelessly, bagging the hammer and yogurt separately. "Guess that wouldn't happen in today's world, would it?"

Mary Ann's brain agreed that no, it probably wouldn't. I had a quick mental image of my own daughter at two, armed with a hammer.  Writer's Brain leaped into action to quash the silliness. Writer's Brain hurled down the words, "Becky's Toolbox." I scribbled that down on the back of the receipt as soon as I was out the sliding doors. (I know, I know..where was my notebook?) Unlike a lot seeds that seem interesting, but will need germination time, this one had sprung roots and was pushing through the dirt by the time I hit my driveway.

image courtesy of Morguefile
The wealth of ideas grew and multiplied. Family stories from my dad, an anecdote on Facebook, a surprise cache of Kodachrome taken by parents early in their marriage...all of these things have given my Writer's Brain more than enough to process, mull and squirrel away for future use.

My antennae are up, my ear cocked, nose ready.  Don't stand within my energy field, or you will wind up in my next story! Let those Story Seeds rain down on me.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

P.S. Don’t forget to join the fun! Enter (HERE)  to win an autographed copy of Amy Cattapan's middle-grade mystery Seven Riddles to Nowhere (Vinspire Publishing). The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends August 31. That happens to also be the day of Amy’s Facebook Launch Party, where you can win lots of other great prizes, including a copy of Carmela's own book, Rosa, Sola.


Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Great post, Mary Ann.

Linda said...

Thank you for a glimpse into finding your story seeds. I can't wait to see what grows from "Becky's Hammer!"

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Carla and Linda for your comments. Becky and her hammer are busy building a story right now!