Finding Creativity, writing prompts

Finding Inspiration in Childhood Memories

Hello, Word Wonderers! Kidlit writers know that the best way to write for children is to think like a kid and what better way than to explore your own childhood memories? It’s a great way to tell the story that only you can tell and today we have guest author, Candace Spizzirri, on the blog to share the inspiration behind her debut picture book, FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE. Welcome, Candace!

Candace With An A: Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Candice! I’m delighted to be here. In 2018 I participated in StoryStorm, a month-long story brainstorming event run every January by author Tara Lazar, where kidlit creatives try to come up with an idea a day.

One idea was “a story about fishing with a parent/daughter or grandparent/granddaughter.” It rumbled around my brain until I wrote a rough draft in June of that year. Turned out it was a story about fishing with my own grandpa!

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, beautifully illustrated by Beverly Love Warren, launched on April 19, 2022, with Clear Fork Publishing. Yay! The inspiration for this story came from many fishing trips to Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, with my beloved Grandpa Henry. Although it is truly about Grandpa and me, I use my granddaughter Skye’s name as the main character. This story is about one day in particular when Grandpa had a special surprise for me. FISHING celebrates the love between generations and is the story of my heart!

Candice With An I: How funny! That year’s StoryStorm was particularly inspirational–it’s when I brainstormed my picture book, CHOMPSEY, too! I loved reading your Author’s Note in the back of FISHING and seeing your picture from when you were four years old. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Candace: Sometimes a title will “pop” into my head from out of the blue. If my heart races a bit and it makes me smile, I know I have a viable idea for a new story. This initial creative spark is my favorite part.

But I also enjoy the revision process- working on story structure, character development, beginnings/endings, and especially finding the right words. The melodic sound of the right words in just the right order when read aloud is a delight.

I pay close attention to rhythm, rhyme, wordplay, alliteration, onomatopoeia, repeating refrains/phrases, and the use of literary devices such as metaphor and simile. I love making up songs and playing the “what if” game when writing a story where I let my imagination run free. What fun!

I love how Skye’s imagination is shown in this spread!

Candice: Fun indeed! Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? How do they cross into your writing?

Candace: I’ve always had a creative side. As a young girl, I adored art classes: painting, sculpting, and projects of all kinds. Other outlets and hobbies include interior design, cooking, gardening, hiking, fishing, traveling, and dancing. My love of fishing and outdoor activities led to FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE. My enjoyment of travel inspired FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE.

I have a manuscript about flowers starring a young girl named Lily Rose who, like me, loves collecting stems of all kinds. I also have a work in progress entitled CLUCK-CLUCK DANCE about a dancing chicken. And guess what? That chicken is me. 😉

Candice: I remember CLUCK-CLUCK DANCE from the Writing Magic class we took together! It was so much fun to read aloud. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about creativity?

Candace: Fan the creative flames. Look for inspiration everywhere! I find ideas for stories in everyday moments like walks out in nature, overheard conversations, animal antics, and the funny and often spot-on things my grandkids say.

Creative moments can come at any time, from anywhere, so you have to be ready. A few years ago, I had a story idea while driving home from the grocery store. I pulled to the side of the road (safely) and jotted down plot points and character details on the back of my receipt.

Warren’s watercolors are so calming and perfect for a picture book set on a lake!

Candice: Love that! Grocery shopping drains me too much for any brainstorming, lol. Can you tell us more about your upcoming book?

Candace: My next picture book, FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE will release on April 18, 2023. The idea for this story came to me two years ago on a trip to Alaska. I fell in love with the gorgeous scenery which looked like a postcard in every direction. While visiting the town of Talkeetna, a moose wandered about to the enjoyment of tourists, then disappeared into the woods. In this quaint town, I happened upon a little shop called Once in a Blue Moose and the spark for Finley, a moose who longs to ride the rails, was born.

Sandra Sutter, the owner of Gnome Road Publishing, [and Wonder of Words co-host!] liked a pitch for Finley on a Twitter pitch party. After a revise and resubmit, she contacted me saying the acquisitions team fell in love with Finley Moose. The amazing award-winning team of Chantelle and Burgen Thorne are illustrating. I can’t wait to share FINLEY Moose with the world!

Such a talented team! Congrats! Thank you for sharing your tips on creativity and finding inspiration, and best of luck with both FISHING and next year, FINLEY!

You can find FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE online at bookshop.org which helps support independent bookstores, and on the publisher’s website. Request a copy at your local library or indie bookstore.

Pic ID: Author holding her debut picture book next to a celebratory bouquet of flowers

Candace Spizzirri grew up in a small town in New Jersey with tree-lined streets and old Victorian houses. As a child, she spent hours playing at the park, catching minnows in a nearby stream, and exploring the woods at the end of her street. Passionate about education, Candace is a co-founder of an elementary school and high school in Southern California where she now makes her home. She loves spending time with her husband, grown children, daughter-in-law, and four grandkids. Candace’s debut picture book, FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, illustrated by Beverly Love Warren was published by Clear Fork Publishing/Spork on April 19, 2022, and will be followed by FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE, illustrated by Chantelle & Burgen Thorne in Spring 2023 with Gnome Road Publishing. Learn more about Candace at candacespizzirri.com and follow her on Twitter at @CCSpizzirri1 and on Instagram at @CCSpizzirri.

 Beverly Love Warren grew up on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology where she studied illustration. After graduating, she worked as a paste-up artist and taught art for grades K-8. Later, she became a member of SCBWI and illustrated children’s literature. 

Currently, she lives in Washington state with her husband. When she is not illustrating, you can find her writing stories, hiking, sewing, or enjoying time spent with her three children and six grandchildren.

Call to Creativity: What are your favorite memories from your childhood? Especially ones where you received a special gift from a family member?

1 thought on “Finding Inspiration in Childhood Memories”

  1. Great interview. Mining those childhood memories is a good way to find story ideas. I’m looking forward to reading all of Candace’s books!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s