Where do you get your ideas?

People often ask me this question, and it’s a pretty easy one to answer. I get ideas everywhere I go if I’m looking for them. I ask myself, “What would happen if—,” and I notice things that interest me. One way to get ideas is to explore places where you live and research something you want to learn about.

When I was sixteen years old, I got my first real job at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. I had enjoyed visiting that zoo, so I thought I would enjoy working there, but I had no idea how much I would learn!

Working on the zoo grounds crew allowed me to see and observe the animals up close every day. I helped out with the zoo train, which was a genuine Union Pacific steam engine, by selling and taking tickets. Sometimes, I gave the zoo train speech over the intercom from the caboose. I loved the smell of steam train coal and food cart popcorn, the loud and sometimes surprising bird calls, and the many different animals, habitats, and water features. I thought, “What if a kid lived here? How cool would it be to explore the zoo whenever you want and have a treehouse in the woods beyond the public paths?” The idea of that magic feeling never left me.

Something else that never left me was the elephants. I was fascinated by elephant social groups and behavior. Being around elephants, hearing their sounds, and feeling their low rumblings made me care deeply for them and their welfare.

So, when I decided finally to write a book about kids who live in a zoo, I started researching elephants. This opened a door I never expected, and I came to love elephants and be concerned for them in a way I’d never known before. Writing a story with an elephant became something I had to do!

I’m so excited to share this magical story with you, and it’s scheduled for publication with Crown Books for Young Readers in May 2020. As I write this post, the Penguin Random House and Crown teams are still discussing what to title this tornado-zoo-elephant story starring an orphan named Lexington Willow and her baseball-playing best friend Fisher. I’ll keep you posted about the title, the cover reveal, and when and where you can preorder the book!

In the meantime, what Fantastic thing do you want to learn more about? Start a list in a notebook that’s reserved for your fantastic ideas, and we’ll talk more about that soon!

Find YOUR Fantastic,