I became a writer after considering myself a visual artist for most of my life. Although I understand the beauty and power of the written word, I am not driven to write by these elements of writing. My urge to write almost always comes from a visual prompt. In fact, THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS series of books arose from looking, carefully and over and over again, at the Thorne Rooms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. I look at an object, or a person, or even a scenario playing out in front of me on the street, and I want to tell the story of whatever it is I’m looking at. When I’m writing, I see my stories unfold in my mind’s eye, and I describe what I’m watching.
When I visit schools to talk about writing (which I love doing!), I tell kids about this process. You can’t imagine how many kids’ eyes light up when I describe how this works for me. I think many people look at the blank page and it makes them freeze up. Of course it does – there’s nothing there! So I suggest they look at something else first, stop worrying about the words. Making them sing can happen once the story is on that blank page and the revision process starts.
In the second book of my series, STEALING MAGIC, one of my two main characters – Ruthie – learns the word “provenance”, which is sort of the history of an object; where an object comes from, who made it, who owned it, etc. With antiques, a provenance can be very involved and often fascinating (think of paintings looted by Nazis, rediscovered in dusty attics!). But every object has a history.
Prompt # 6: Look around for 2-3 items that pique your interest. It can be something old, passed down in your family, or something brand new, like a pair of shoes, an ipad, or even a stray dog you just adopted. Imagine where it came from, whose hands touched it, stitched its soles, soldered its circuits in a Chinese factory, or perhaps there is boy missing his lost pup (I’ve got a lump in my throat over that one already!). Take time to describe each item paying particular attention to details can help you find it’s hidden story! From these beginnings, you never know where your story may end up!
Many writers say they made the decision to be a writer when they were very young. Not Marianne; that would have meant sitting too long. But years down the road, while reading to her three children Marianne discovered kidlit.
When her oldest daughter entered middle school, Marianne and a friend decided to try to make up for some of the deficits they saw in the middle school education. The little experiment worked for the next decade and Marianne worked as the Art Teacher at Campus Middle School for Girls. She enjoyed working with this age group so much that she decided to write a book that her students might enjoy and her career in writing was born.