Monday, April 7, 2014

Stories that Inspire - Part One

The act of publishing is circular. For me, the process began after completing the novel and editing it many times. I then queried agents and publishers.  The querying phase is exhausting. I sent small samples (sometimes a single paragraph query letter) to agents, looking for representation. 99.9% of all queries are rejections- either the agent/publisher never answers, or they send a polite note back saying no.  Some wrote back and asked for the novel, but then decided it wasn't for them.  Eventually two publishers said yes, and I chose MuseitUp. Now, the book is preparing for release, and I feel like I am back at the first stage again.  Instead of querying agents or publishers, I am querying bloggers and reviewers.  So far, five have agreed to review the book before release, yet the feeling is similar to the frustration of querying at the beginning of this process.

Another query...  D'oh!
While reading the blogs of potential reviewers, I've noticed how many others talk about the stories that shaped them as both readers and writers. One of the people who signed up for my newsletter (note: sign up for the monthly newsletter before April 14th and be automatically entered to win a 20 dollar Amazon Gift Card. Details at or sign up on the sidebar at right) asked if my students inspire my stories. The answer is "sort of".  To be honest, many of my stories were created before I started teaching.  School of Deaths was finished before I set foot in my current job, yet interacting with kids on a daily basis has certainly shaped my writing and how I view kids and their reactions.

One thing that has undoubtedly affected me as a writer is stories I've read, watched, performed in, or otherwise encountered throughout my life. Towards that end, my next several posts will be a reflection on some of my favorite stories and how they inspired me.


I am a full-time theatre teacher, and have been involved with theatre onstage and off since I was ten.  Writing and theatre are my two greatest passions in life.  It is natural to start a discussion of stories that have inspired me by talking about theatre that has inspired.

Man of La Mancha by Wasserman, Darion, and Leigh

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was cast as the understudy for Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. It was the closest I'd ever been to playing an actual lead in a musical (at that point), an it was a musical I enjoyed a great deal. I was allowed to perform the role in a single performance, not even open to the public, yet it was one of the highlights of my high school career, and probably the beginning of my current career path, since I am back at the high school level, giving new students the opportunity to experience the joys I did.  The story itself is also motivational. Quixote is a dreamer, an idealist. He lives with one foot in reality, and one foot in his own fantasy. It is his "quest" to constantly strive towards his own fantasies, his own lofty dreams.  From an early age, living with a foot in my own daydreams was something I was accustomed to.  Striving towards making those dreams is a goal Quixote helped inspire, and now with the publication of my first fantasy novel I really have "reached the impossible star."

Wicked by Schwartz and Holzman

One of my favorite musicals (and no, I haven't read the book it's based on), Wicked helped inspire me as a writer.  The writing, and how everything comes together is brilliant.  Add this to a thrilling and wonderful score, and an amazing set, and of course you have an incredible musical.  I first saw Wicked in London, then saw it on Broadway with Rachel for our one-year anniversary as a couple.  While writing School of Deaths I'd play the soundtrack, imagining Suzie struggling at the College of Deaths, while Billy told her to simply try "Dancing Through Life."  One of the characters in the novel, named Athanasius, was even given a goat-like physical appearance directly inspired by Dr. Dillamond.  

Elphaba and Dillamond- Original Broadway Cast

Matilda: the Musical by Minchin and Kelly

When I saw Matilda, I posted on this blog that it was one of the best new shows I've seen (original post here).  Like Wicked, this was a soundtrack I played while writing my first drafts of School of Deaths.  I had read Dahl's book as a child, and the thing that thrilled me about the character Matilda was her love of books and reading.  When I went to the RSC production in London and saw thousands of letter tiles exploding outward to form one of the best sets I've seen- I remembered how much Matilda liked to read.  It reminded me of another child who always dove headfirst into books, and would spend entire summers devouring bookshelf after bookshelf. That child, of course, was me.  One of the most important locations in School of Deaths, as well as the current novel I'm working on (a sequel called Sword of Deaths) is a library.  It may seem redundant to emphasize reading within the pages of a book- but as fewer and fewer children read for pleasure (an unfortunate trend), where better to encourage reading than within a book?

Those three stories definitely helped inspire me.  Next week, I'll examine different stories.

Don't forget that School of Deaths is available for pre-order now if you visit MuseitUp's website here.  This past Saturday, I spent 3 and half hours filming a trailer (to be released later this month).  This is a teaser (not the full trailer)


No comments:

Post a Comment