Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
by Cynthia Kadohata
Photo provided by Cynthia Kadohata, 2010
The question I’m most often asked by kids is, “Where do your ideas come from?” I always give a concrete answer: “Someone suggested that to me,” or, “It happened in my childhood.” And while those answers are true for some of what I write, many of my ideas come from somewhere else. But it’s hard to put my finger on just where that somewhere else is.
Inspiration comes to me in a number of ways. I can listen to music, for instance. I try to find the right music for the moment, for the particular type of idea that I’m searching for. Then I play the music and sit there with my pen poised.
I used to have a special vial of perfume that I would sniff as an aid when I wanted to be taken back in time. I don’t even know what kind of perfume it was, but it reminded me of childhood. Going back in time is essential for writing children’s books, at least for me.
Travel by bus or train is another tried-and-true method for finding inspiration. I can’t do this as much as before, now that I have a young son, but when I do have the opportunity to travel, I stare out the window and am sometimes rewarded with a flood of ideas: for books, for a specific paragraph, for that perfect word.
I really have no idea whether these thoughts exist in my brain or out in the ether. All I know is that they’re elusive and impossible to hunt down. I find them by letting them come to me. This process is really one of the most important aspects of my writing and a source of much superstition in my mind. In fact, I’m a little worried that by writing this down I won’t be able to find any ideas ever again!
This material may not be used without the express written consent of Cynthia Kadohata.