Need a new idea? Try looking around. That's what Marc Brown does. “There are wonderful ideas for stories all around,” says Marc. “All you have to do is keep your eyes and your ears open. It might be something that happens at home with your sister. It might happen in your classroom. It might be on the bus. I feel envious of kids, because they are right in the middle of it, while I have to try and remember!
Whenever Marc has time, he loves to visit children in schools. For him, it is a way to connect with his readers. It helps Marc remember his own days in school. During these visits, he often finds material he can use in his own writing. “After all,” Marc admits, “practically all of my characters come from the third grade.”
When Marc steps into a school, he is all eyes and ears. “I go into overdrive,” he says. “I find the day so exciting and intense. I'm like a sponge. There's all this great material everywhere. I try to remember it all.” A passing conversation, the way a child opens a lunch box in the cafeteria — any of these ordinary details might spark an idea for Marc's next book.
When Marc gets an idea — it can be a picture, a funny ending to a story, the name of a character, even a book title — he stores it away until the time is right for that idea to “grow up” to become a book. Sometimes it takes years. “Sometimes,” Marc confesses, “those ideas never grow up.” He explains, “My ideas have to germinate a long time before they come together in a book. I depend on drawers full of scraps of stories, bits of dialogue, quick drawings, titles, concepts. At any one time there are probably 100 ideas in the drawer, not all of them good. Sometimes just one small part of a drawing, one line of a vignette is usable.”