by Kami Kinard
I’m one of those people who has always known I wanted to be an author. What? You too? It’s pretty common (but not necessary) among we writer types. When I first started out, more than a decade ago, I wasn’t exactly sure what type of writer I wanted to be. So I played around with different genres. It was a lot of fun.
But I wanted to do more than have fun. So I devoured Writer’s Market and Children’s Writers Market. I purchased books of writerly advice, and books featuring quotes from authors.
Whenever I felt inspired, I wrote and wrote and wrote. When I didn’t feel inspired to write, I used my free time to do other things. I took courses in metal working, I learned bead stringing techniques, I started a small jewelry-making business, and I even learned to play the banjo.
Then I purchased the book that changed my methods, and ultimately led to publication success.
You might say I experienced a lifestyle change because of this book. One of the quotes featured in it was just a few words from Jack London. Here, I’ve made a little poster of it for you, so you can print it out and hang in your workspace.
Reading this quote resulted in an important ah-ha moment for me. The reason I wasn’t moving forward with my writing was that I was waiting for inspiration to lead me. When it didn’t, I was wandering off of the trail. I realized that in order to capture my dreams, I needed to focus on my quest for inspiration. I gave my metalworking supplies to a cousin in design school. The banjo went to a friend who’d borrowed it a few times. The jewelry making business was sold. I kept the bead stringing supplies because—hey—everyone needs a hobby! (And if you’re serious about this, writing can’t be your hobby.)
Then, I grabbed my club and started spending my lunch break in libraries. I chased down inspiration between the covers of books, captured ideas, and caged them into poems that were soon published in children’s magazines.
I hunted down the idea for this poem, sold to Jack and Jill, on the “UBA” page of a rhyming dictionary. Scuba and Tuba? What’s not to love?
I stumbled across the idea for this story about gopher tortoises, published in Ladybug, while stalking a story about alligators. (The alligator story escaped me, but at least I didn’t come away from the excursion empty handed.)
I tracked down inspiration in unlikely places, like the stroller handle where an inch worm journeyed, and an autumn maple that was reminiscent of a gigantic golden feather. Often, as in these two cases, the inspiration resulted in stories I was able to sell.
Eventually, my club and I apprehended inspiration between the pages of my old middle school diaries, and my trophy looks like this.
My first published book!
You can find inspiration almost anywhere. But you have to stalk it. Sniff the air. Listen for it. Be alert to its presence.
Now, when people ask me, “Where do you find inspiration?”
I answer, “Anywhere I have five minutes of free time.” And this is true. I don’t wait for huge blocks of time, for peace and quiet, or for good atmosphere. Give me five minutes, and I’ll find inspiration. After all, I’m never without the tools of my trade. That’s the best thing about working with words: they’re lightweight, omnipresent, and free!
When Tara invited me to post for PiBoIdMo, my first response was, “I haven’t sold a picture book.” True confession. Notice I put this at the end of the post! Years ago, I imagined I would author only picture books and poetry. But pursing inspiration led me in an unexpected direction. My first published book was not the picture book I predicted it would be, but a middle grade novel.
November is filled with inspiration and ideas. As the month draws to a close, I invite you to pick up your club and keep chasing inspiration. Focus on your quarry. Be relentless. You never really know where the chase will lead you, but if you can capture your inspiration with words, the award is magnificent!
Bonus: If you’d like more PiBoIdMo tips, check out my blog nerdychicksrule.com for another post about writing.
Author Bio: Kami Kinard’s poetry, articles, and stories have been published in some of the world’s best children’s magazines. Her first middle grade novel, The Boy Project (Scholastic 2012), will soon be followed by a companion novel, The Boy Problem (Scholastic 2014). A former public educator, Kami currently teaches writing for children and adults and leads writing workshops at conferences and retreats. She lives in balmy, buggy, and beautiful Beaufort, SC with her husband, two children, and the world’s smartest dog. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting her website KamiKinard.com or her blog at nerdychicksrule.com.
Kami is giving away a critique of up to ten pages of any single children’s manuscript. An experienced critiquer, Kami has critiqued picture books, novels, and poems that have gone on to be published.
This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post (as per Annette’s spine-tingling challenge).
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!