Please welcome the delightful debut author Cathy Ballou Mealey and read about her process and inspiration for her picture book, When a Tree Grows.
Cathy is generously donating an autographed copy for the #CommentContest. Since the holiday season is already in full swing, the winner will be announced this Friday, December 13, and with a little help from Santa the book may arrive in time for Christmas. So read on and leave a comment for Cathy about her golden nuggets and how you might find your own.
Writing from the Inside Out. . . by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Without a doubt, the question I am asked most often is, “Where do you get your ideas for stories?” Finding a new story idea is like uncovering a nugget of gold while weeding the garden or wading at the pond. How I savor the initial thrill of discovery! But making the nugget truly valuable will require additional effort and perseverance. I must buckle down to polish, shape and shine that nugget into a design to delight the eye and touch the heart.
But how will you find your own golden nugget?
For me, inspiration typically strikes outdoors when observing animal behavior, the movement of water, or seasonal changes in plants and trees. WHEN A TREE GROWS was sparked by a distant creaky ‘Crash!’ that I heard while hiking with my family. It caused me to wonder what might have happened if that crash had scared a bear or frightened a deer? You might discover your nugget on a playground, at a sporting event, or in a museum.
Next, examine your nugget carefully!
Have you found gold or just iron pyrite, also called fool’s gold? Sadly, most of the nuggets I find are not pure gold. How can I tell? I carry them around for a bit and look at them from many angles. I mull them over while showering or before I fall asleep. It may be real gold if plot outlines and characters begin to solidify and expand. When I can’t resist the urge to jot down ideas for a pitch or irresistible first line, that’s proof!
Finally, how do you polish your nugget?
Polishing is a three part process: mentor texts, critique partners and time! I look for mentor texts in recently published books or classic stories with interesting structures. One-Dog Canoe (Casanova and Hoyt) was the mentor text that boosted my story structure in WHEN A TREE GROWS because of its hilarious ‘what could happen next?’ twists on each page turn. I rely on my critique partners for honest feedback and thoughtful questions that inspire me to revise for clarity, emotional resonance and humor. And the final factor, time away from the story, is invaluable for developing fresh, well-rested eyes that can polish word choice or character traits to an irresistible gleam.
Debut author Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.
Twitter and Instagram: @catballoumealey
WHEN A TREE GROWS is a rollicking read-aloud that follows a zany chain of events triggered by a broken tree, a cranky Bear, a nut-loving Squirrel and his loyal friend Moose.
Kirkus Review: A bonanza of possibilities opens up for Moose, Bear, and Squirrel, three forest companions. There are two outcomes, one unremarkable and the other outlandish, for each of many causes, starting with the first page of the story. "When a tree grows," it can become either a "scratching post for Moose's itchy antlers," or it can crash and fall, waking up Bear, who can do one of two things. Laugh along as a story about a tree in the forest comes full circle, bringing three creatures along for a bumpy but fun ride.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Review: There are obvious parallels to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and this book similarly amps up the goofiness as Moose and Bear’s encounter leads to Squirrel catching a ride to the big city and becoming a movie star. The layout smoothly guides viewers along, with a trompe-l’oeil lifted page corner bearing the legend “Or...” tempting youngsters to turn the page. Fans of the antics of the aforementioned mouse (and that series’ moose counterpart) will delight in these forest animals’ increasingly kooky adventures.
Thank you, dear friends and book lovers, for stopping by to join Cathy and friends--Bear and Moose. I don't know about you, but I'm eager to turn those pages and find out where that OR. . . in the bottom righthand corner takes me!
Be sure to visit Cathy's website to learn more about her and her books: https://cathyballoumealey.wordpress.com/about/
By the way, if you spread the word on Twitter and FB you'll get more chances to win the autographed copy of When A Tree Grow.