Getting Ideas from . . . School

This month's blog theme is a double one: 1) where we get our ideas; and 2) heading back to school. For me, this combo is extra-perfect because where I get the vast majority of my book ideas is . . . school!

My specialty is writing school stories. I loved school as a child, and I want to share this love of school with kids through books that celebrate the school experience. So I tell the kids in the audience for my author visits that I come to their school as a spy, snooping around for book ideas. I always try to squeeze in time to walk up and down the halls, thrilled to see their completed projects on display, each one a possible story-sparker.

One school's bulletin board featured kids' essays answering the question, "How would you change the world?" BINGO! I hurried home and started writing How Oliver Olson Changed the World.
School readathons provided plenty of material for Kelsey Green, Reading Queen.
Shamelessly I borrow brilliant ideas from my own sons' elementary and middle-school teachers. An assignment to keep a diary in the persona of a Civil War-era character was the seed for The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish. The annual "biography tea" became Being Teddy Roosevelt.
One of the sweetest moments in my writing career came last year when a school in Virginia invited me to join them for the tenth anniversary of their biography tea, inspired by the biography tea in my book, which was inspired by the biography tea at my boys' elementary school here in Colorado. I loved so much that the brainchild of one amazing fifth-grade teacher in Boulder, Colorado, could have such fertile results, spanning thousands of miles and ten whole years, thanks to the power of real-life school to become transformed into story.

Hooray for school!


  1. Where would we authors be with out the support of teachers and schools?

  2. No kidding! I love this partnership between authors and teachers. Long may it continue!

  3. School is the biggest part of a young person's life. I love that you write about school.


Post a Comment