Last night I was reading more of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Instead of picking up on the chapter I left off, I flipped to the back and started reading the acknowledgments Gruen wrote.
Psst. I also have a secret habit of reading the last sentence of a book before I get there. I know, I shouldn’t, but then when I really do get to the end and re-read that last sentence, it’s like coming home. I refuse to stop, don’t try to make me.
In Gruen’s acknowledgments, she first related how she came up with the idea for the story. She read an article in the newspaper about Edward J. Kelty, a photographer who traveled along with circuses in America during the 1920’s and 30’s. She became so transfixed with a photo in the paper, she immediately went out and bought two circus photography books. From there, the passion took over. She spent around 4-6 months researching everything circus, including visiting the Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, which isn’t that far from where I live, so my honey and I are going to plan a weekend getaway to check it out! She spent a few weeks in Sarasota, Florida at the Ringling Museum and time at the Kansas City Zoo getting to study elephant body language and behavior. Want to start your own circus project? I kind of do. I’m fascinated with the book so far, and was intrigued that a whole story began after viewing one photograph in the newspaper.
I’m sure most of you heard the genesis about how Twilight series author, Stephanie Meyer began her books. She had a dream that was used in the meadow scene with Edward and Bella. She also spent time in Forks, Washington, the book’s setting, and now the community has more tourists than ever coming to see the houses and school Bella “went” to.
One of my all time favorite books is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I’ll actually be re-reading it this month for a book club. Skloot spent 10 years doing research for this book and it all started with a science class. She remembers her teacher wrote the name Henrietta Lacks on the board, and after that day no one knew a thing about her. She spoke with ethics advisers, lab technicians, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and eventually family members to piece together a story so crucial to the medical industry and never told to the woman’s own family. Just a name on a blackboard launched an investigation into a multi-million dollar industry and one well-kept secret.
Her research went on to conduct interviews, review medical records, visit the hometown of Henrietta, and eventually make contact and earn trust of the Lacks family, thereby viewing journal entries of Henrietta’s daughter and family footage and photos. I am just floored by the amount of devotion Skloot put forward to make a difference in the lives of the Lacks family and to tell a story that helped shape every medical advancement you can think of. You really MUST read this book!
What I’m wondering is what was the moment that hooked you into your writing project? Did you read something in the paper, have a dream, see a name on the blackboard? Every writer is inspired differently, what inspired you? And what was the next step that took that captivating idea into a work in progress/published book?