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To: My Fans!
From: Ann
Where Do I Get My Ideas?

March 2001

Hi, readers! Whenever I get a chance to meet with kids, one of the questions I am sure to be asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" It's a hard question to answer because my ideas come from many different places. For example, I read a lot of magazines and newspapers so I know what's going on in the world. Also, my editors often have suggestions that I find interesting. And my own experiences as a teenage baby-sitter certainly gave me plenty of material for the BSC books. But my ideas come from other places, too. I'll share a few of them with you so you can see what I mean.

My childhood memories have provided me with many ideas for my books. Stage Fright, one of my first books, tells the story of a shy girl named Sara who learns that every kid in her class will have a speaking part in the class play. Since I was very shy when I was younger, the idea of performing in a play in front of an audience would have given me a major anxiety attack! Because I know exactly how I would have felt in Sara's position (terrified), it was easy for me to describe the different emotions Sara goes through in dealing with this "crisis."

I also get ideas for my books from jobs I have had when I was growing up. During the summers when I was in college, I worked at Eden Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, which is a school for children with autism. (Children with autism can have trouble communicating and seem detached from people.) Inside Out deals with the joys and hardships of a family dealing with autism.

By reading my fan mail and talking with kids, I've learned about the kind of issues that concern my readers. Over and over again, kids told me that they worry about the dangers of drunk driving, and also about the possibility of a friend dying. Mary Anne and the Memory Garden tells the story of how Mary Anne copes with the shock and loss of a classmate in a drunk-driving accident.

Sometimes I write a book just because I'm interested in the subject. My concern for the environment led me to write Dawn Saves the Planet. Jessi's Secret Language came about because I'm fascinated with sign language. Yours Turly, Shirley describes what is it like to struggle with dyslexia, something I witnessed firsthand with my younger sister, Jane.

The idea for my current project came in a roundabout sort of way. A former English professor of mine asked me to contribute to a book she was editing called Smith Voices — Selected Works by Smith College Alumni (Smith College is my alma mater, or where I went to college). The short story I wrote tells of a young girl, Belle Teal, growing up in a rural area in the 1960's. I was very taken with Belle Teal, and interested in further developing her character to explore her relationship with a beloved grandmother suffering from we now know to be the early signs of Alzheimer's Disease. After discussing this possibility with my editor, we agreed that Belle Teal would become my new novel.

Now that I've shared some of my favorite ways to get ideas for my books, be sure to check out the next Ann Online for Ann's Top Ten Writing Tips. Until then, happy reading!