Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Scavenger Hunt

Last night I heard a wonderful concert by the group Pink Martini at Macky Auditorium in Boulder. Their concert was an ecclectic mix of retro movie music, torch songs from all over the world sung in the original languages, and quirky compositions by members of the band, especially lead singer China Forbes and pianist/band director Thomas Lauderdale. The two met as Harvard chums and went on to assemble a band of ten to play with them (and dazzle in their own right - oh, that trombone player!)

I loved best how their own songs came from all kinds of odd little sources of inspiration (as they explained from the stage). "Hang on, little tomtato" was inspired by a catchup advertisement in a 1950s Life Magazine; "Hey Eugene" came from China's meeting a guy at a party who acted very interested in her but then never called; "Je ne veux pas travailler" (my favorite) had its origins in some lines of classic French poetry.

That's what I love about writing my children's books, too: living my everyday life and stumbling upon little bits of this and that to make their way into my stories. Grandpa's fascination with handwriting analysis sparked Amy's Mini Society project in Trading Places; a school hallway display of recent student work (student ideas on what they would do to change the world) generated How Oliver Olson Changed the World; a funny comment Gregory made when he played a piece called "The Horse Race" in his first year of piano lessons ("My horse was the one that lost") provided the unifying motif for Gus and Grandpa and the Piano Lesson. Little bits and pieces, stitched into the quilt of story.

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