As I’ve told a lot of you folks – I’ve been fortunate enough this year to see my middle-grade novel SINKING DEEPER: OR MY QUESTIONABLE (POSSIBLY HEROIC) DECISION TO INVENT A SEA MONSTER has made the short list in both the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch Award.
Which means my book is being read by kids all across the maritimes as well as the province of Ontario.
I was VERY happy to receive my VERY first piece of fan mail for SINKING DEEPER just yesterday.
It came from a young girl named Lucy. She lives in New Brunswick and the letter was sent to me through her local library.
This is what it said.
DEAR STEVE VERNON,
My name is Lucy. I belong to the Hackmatack book club. How were you inspired to write this book? I really like sea monster books, especially this one. Most of them I read are from Halifax, N.S. I am from Halifax too. I love your book so much! Are you going to write any more books? Bye.
This is what we kids writers write for. The gift of being able to touch a young person’s imagination is absolutely precious and rare and wonderful.
So I sat down this morning and wrote Lucy a reply.
I thought I’d post it here for you folks to read.
April 16, 2013
I want to thank you very much for your kind letter.
I’m very excited to be a part of the Hackmatack Award Program and I am glad to hear that you enjoyed reading SINKING DEEPER.
You asked what inspired me to write this novel. Well, I’ll tell you. Inspiration is a little like that nagging little brother who will sneak up and grab you by the ear and start whispering words into it. Inspiration will pester you until there is nothing else to be done but to get up from wherever you are comfortable and to go out and create the thing.
Whether you are a writer or an artist or just a talented jump-roper figuring out how to jump over that big old green neon jumping rope in a brand new and exciting way – like maybe with one arm tucked behind your knee-cap and your eyes closed tight shut – inspiration is what will wake you up in the morning and get you started through the day.
Inspiration is something that grows in your imagination. You grow enough of it and your heart and spirit will just inhale it on up just as natural as somebody breathing in and out.
You don’t need any kind of encouragement to remember how to breathe – now do you?
Inspiration works the same way as breathing does.
We all do it – kids and adults alike.
The only real trick is to learn how to recognize it.
So how is that done?
Well – recognizing inspiration is easier for kids like you than it is for old grown-ups like me.
Recognizing inspiration is a little like seeing cows.
Let me explain.
Think about the last time your parents drove down the road out to the country – most likely going somewhere. And there you are sitting in the back seat looking around for something to see.
And then you see it.
Parked behind a big farm fence, chewing on a cud the size of Wisconsin.
“It’s a cow!” You’ll say. “It’s a big freaking cow!”
Odds are the grown-ups did not see that cow. They were way too busy watching the road and thinking about income tax and talking about baseball statistics and chewing on their own grown-up cuds.
Their imaginations were cluttered with the rattle of newspaper and time clocks and gray old ink.
But you spotted that cow – right out there in the green field. Maybe you gave it a name – called it Georgina or Murgatroyd or Lumbago. Maybe you gave that cow a set of cow-wings and sent it off to the moon to look for moon-pickles.
Maybe you sang it a little cow song or dressed it in a moo-moo or honked its horns real loud.
That’s imagination talking.
That’s inspiration talking.
So – what inspired me to write SINKING DEEPER?
Well, it might have been a cow – but actually it was a real life sea monster that inspired me.
I wrote that novel thinking about Old Ned – the Lake Utopia monster in New Brunswick.
I was also thinking of the Miller Lake monster here in Nova Scotia that was originally nothing more than a torn-up tree stump that somebody painted to look a sea monster – mostly because they were inspired. Then a group of Boy Scouts got together and started painting that lake monster even fancier. Then, when somebody decided to steal that old sea monster’s head – (and the thought of a headless sea monster is pretty scary, don’t you think?) – then somebody else made another sea monster head.
And it all started with the gift of inspiration.
So that’s what inspired me. The idea that some little kid could actually create an entire sea monster out of nothing more than a single wistful dream.
Y’see, I remember what it was like to be a kid.
Kids are a way lot more powerful than people want to believe.
Kids have a firm grip on the key to their imagination.
Kids believe in monsters.
Lastly, you asked me if I was going to write another book.
Yes I am.
I’m writing one right now.
Yours in storytelling,
(if anybody is interested in reading SINKING DEEPER you can pick it up on Kobo right now or hunt it up at Chapters or at Amazon or get your local bookstore to order you a copy. I guarantee a good read – and a generous helping of inspiration.)