Friday, November 19, 2010

untouched ideas

On December 26th, 2004 there was a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck the Indian Ocean. A massive tsunami resulted killing thousands of people. You remember the scenes on television. People trying to outrun the wave, climbing on top of buildings and up into trees, anything to get out of the way. It was terrible, yet I couldn't tear myself away from those images. But out of all of those horrible scenes, I recall seeing one story that was so touching it was heartbreaking. The second I saw it I ran for my writing journal, outlined a synopsis and told myself this is the type of story, taken from true life, that adults and children will all be able to relate to.

Hippo & Tortoise - that's what I initially named it. Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship (Scholastic Press, 2006), is what someone else named it. Yes, the story of the baby hippo, orphaned and displaced by the tsunami, only to find friendship in a 130 year-old giant tortoise, was apparently a story that caught the eye of a six-year-old at the time as well. She persuaded her father to write Owen & Mzee, while my version, Hippo & Tortoise, sat untouched in my black and white notebook - where hundreds of others stories still sit, untouched.
It's not always easy to write out a fully-fleshed story just as the moment strikes you, and there's not always time. But I think I'm learning that I've got to at least try - especially when it comes to picture books. Although, as I say that I realize that picture books are sometimes harder to get right than a 200-page novel. I guess the tale of Hippo & Tortoise wasn't to be mine. And I can accept that. I won't be able to accept it if happens again and again. So I'm breaking out old journals and half-started stories and trying to get things done. Like spring cleaning in the fall, if you will. So far I've completed one and sent it out. We'll see how far I get....