A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a trip to Scandinavia. We had only a few days in Sweden and Denmark and the bulk of the trip was in Norway. Besides the spectacular scenery of fjords, forests, waterfalls and lakes, Norway has its own delight for a writer of children’s stories. After all, Norway is the land of Vikings, trolls, reindeer, moose, goats and sheep.
As usual, I brought some children’s books (translated into English). I also looked for story ideas for future children’s picture books. Books about trolls. Scandinavian myths and Vikings were everywhere, although those translated into English were harder to find. Still, I came home with a goodly number to read and share with my grandchildren.
One cute book from Sweden is a delight. The story takes place in the 1600’s and is about a pig who was sold to the Swedish navy. He ended up on the Vasa, a ship that went down near Stockholm in 1649 on her maiden voyage because she was top heavy. Poor piglet destined for a ship’s dinner, nearly drowned in the city’s harbor only to survive by clinging to a piece of the mast. This ship has since been raised from the bottom and is in a museum. It is now made more famous by being immortalized in a children’s book about a pig. I’m drawn to this story because it is based on real events, yet told from a novel view point with delightful drawings and story line. I look for children’s books where learning and fun are combined in unusual ways.
On trips, I am also on the alert for new story ideas. In Norway, I met a goat farmer who told us about his own experience about saving one of his flock from a snow storm. Although I often use real-life events in my own kid’s stories, I look for ways to make them my own by adding story elements or other characters to give them a wider appeal.
This new story idea is in its formative phase, but I am thinking of making the main character a small boy. The goat will be young, frisky and inquisitive, a gift from the boy’s father that the boy is now raising. The farm will be the same farm I visited. Bordered by steep cliffs in a small meadow with a trickling stream, the story will have sod covered, small cabins where the family stays and makes goat cheese. My little goat may even end up on one of these sod covered roofs eating a snack. My next job is to learn more about Norwegian goat farming.
I’m often asked where I get my story ideas. My answer, “I find them all around me.” My next trip is to South Africa where I’m sure I’ll find plenty to write about.
In the mean time, I'm busy setting up my files for my new OTP children's picture book, Clowning Around. It's about a clownfish so energetic and talented that he makes the other aquarium fish jealous.