Where Ideas Come From

It’s always a lovely surprise when a new idea bubbles up. It’s rarely from an expected place – just *pop* – there it is. No explanation. I can’t always connect the dots to where it came from, but I’ve also learned that it doesn’t matter. It’s just important to follow it.

Sometimes, though, it comes from something concrete. I read a line in a book that transports me to a memory, or a couple of words catch my attention and won’t leave until I’ve turned them into a poem. Once, I wrote an entire chapbook full of found poems using nothing but the dialogue from the TV show Gilmore Girls (it was more about sharing the experience with a friend than anything). One time, it was a student’s last name that sent my fingertips scurrying along.

That’s this time, actually. I’ve just come off a particularly rough semester – a semester from hell, if you will. I don’t say that in an overdramatic sort of way. Or a woe-is-me sort of way. It happened. It’s thankfully done. And today, somehow, I’ve put down 8,000 words of creative writing.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a writing streak like this – mostly because I can’t remember when I last had the time to sit down and write anything longer than a haiku. I’ve been thinking about stories constantly, though, dreaming of stealing away to my favorite local coffee shop (Kavarna, a place I’ve been patronizing on and off for almost twenty years – even when I’ve moved away, any return trip to Green Bay, WI, required a stop here) and sitting with a pot of peppermint or chai tea and just writing until my fingers ached.

But as writers know, it doesn’t always happen like that. It can feel like it rarely happens like that. But today – it happened like that. I couldn’t type fast enough. And all thanks to a student’s last name.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has been a favorite for longer than I can remember. I don’t care what form it came in – I will read it, watch it, listen to it. I love when AIW references pop up in TV shows or songs. And I have been spending a long time thinking about a modern retelling of this story – well, this idea. It’s Alice in Chicago without the LSD trip. And this semester, I had a student whose last name was Hoppenworth – and it, of course, caught my attention. “What a perfect last name for my white rabbit character…”

So aside from not having time, I also felt a bit weird using this name while he was still my student. But now it’s winter break, he’s not my student any longer, and I’m 8,000 words deep into Alice’s story.

I’m Ami Maxine, by the way. Hi.

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