Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Inspiration/Finding the Spark in Non-Fiction by Lori Mortensen

 When the Blue Oasis Online Support Team (BOOST) Critique Groups folded oh, so many years ago, many of the members decided to wander off on their own into the vast desert of children's writing. Some of us banded together as a force to weather the often arid climates of children's magazine and book publishing. I was in one such group. Recognizing the bright light that glowed within each other, we decided to call ourselves the Rising Stars and vowed that we would figure out a way to navigate ourselves toward success.

Among the talented writers in my pack was a girl named Lori Mortensen. She could nail any genre she studied -- fiction, nonfiction, magazine articles, picture book -- you name it! We've had so much fun creating challenges to get published in a particular magazine (i.e., Highlights, Ladybug, Turtle) or a particular type of story (Rebus, Panel).

I am so pleased to have her here today as the first of my Rising Star Guest Bloggers to celebrate the release of her book COME SEE THE EARTH TURN: The Story of Foucault's Pendulum, published by Random House/Tricycle Press. Shop at!

I can honestly say that I had no doubt ever that Lori, or any one of the girls would achieve their dreams (and we ALL did). Because even then, when we were perhaps even ten years younger, you could not only see the talent, but a spark. So of course, I smiled when Lori sent me her piece for my blog and I read her title -- The Spark of Nonfiction. So when you leave this blog post, you'll recognize what it takes to find a good topic to write about in non-fiction, and you'll know it takes more than just talent -- longevity, stick-to-itiveness and that special spark -- to reach your dreams. So keep twinkling!

The Spark of Nonfiction

To me, writing nonfiction is all about the spark—the kernel of an idea that sets you off in a certain direction. When I was a new writer many years ago, I didn’t know what that spark felt like. I looked around and I had no idea how to pin down an idea. What made one idea better than another one? They all seemed the same to me. As I gained more experience, however, I realized the most important factor was my reaction to whatever I came across. When I learned to identify the subtle “ah, ha!” feeling, what to write about became clear.

My new release, Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Léon Foucault, was the result of accidentally finding an in depth book about Foucault in the library. Like many others, I remembered going on a field trip to a museum as a child and watching how the pendulum swung back and forth. I remembered how fun it was to see how the great shiny pendulum knocked down one peg, then another. But that was all I knew. So when I found a book about the man responsible for this demonstration, my curiosity was peaked.  Who was he anyway? When I read that he sent his colleagues an invitation to see the earth turn, a light bulb switched on. I knew I wanted to share his story with young readers.

It was a similar story for my award-winning release In the Trees, Honey Bees!
In this case, however, my father-in-law was a beekeeper. (At one time, he had over 300 hives!) Because of my association with him, I became curious about bees. Was there more to them than making honey and doing their familiar dance? Honestly, I didn’t think there would be. After all, I’d read the books about bees just like everyone and there were lots of books about bees on the shelf. However, when I looked into the subject, I was amazed. Who knew that bees did different chores as they matured in the hive? I didn’t. Who knew that bees gathered water and tree sap in addition to the familiar nectar and pollen? I didn’t. Who knew that honey bees used tree sap to seal cracks in their hive? I didn’t. Once again, the spark gave me direction.

Looking for a subject to write about? Look for that inner spark.

ABOUT LORI MORTENSEN: She has sold over 100 magazine stories and articles and two dozen fiction and non-fiction books. To learn more about Lori and her award-winning books, visit


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks as always for your support, Gayle! LOVE your Blog. It has Monster appeal. Hugs!