Dreams, Nightmares, and Telling Stories

This has been one of the best and busiest falls ever. Seriously. I haven’t had so much on my plate and been so in love with the very fact that my plate is as full as a university student’s at an all-you-can-eat buffet since, well, my first year of university.

See, there was this writing contest I entered over the summer. A bunch of people applied for a mentorship and I was fortunate enough to have been selected by the fabulous Kate Brauning.

So, Kate tore through my novel. She offered suggestions to improve it, and…there went September. I lived in my pages and gave my characters the alternate reality they deserved. I deleted thousands of words and added even more.

Then, in October, Kate gave me nit-picky line edits, which largely highlighted the fact that I seem to be fundamentally opposed to compound words. So I fixed them. Then we worked on a query. And a synopsis. And got this project of mine ready to send into the world, polished and flashing its biggest puppy-dog eyes.

Through all of this, the other mentees have been supporting each other behind the scenes and, with our projects about to make their debuts, we thought some distraction might be nice. But we’re writers. So what do we do for distraction? We write.

So, this post is one part distraction, one part sales pitch, because let’s face it: I expect to be fully vetted by any publishing professional who might want to work with me – just like I will completely stalk them in return.

But I’m okay with being blog, Twitter, and HuffPo stalked, because today I’m supposed to blog about my inspiration for this book and, let’s face it, all of those things are going to point in one direction: teaching.

As in, that’s how I willingly spend my days. I like teens. I think they’re awesome people. They’re fun to hang out with, and they’re going to do good things in this world.

But one day, I was chatting with some colleagues about the possibility of taking some students on a trip to Quebec. Another school was looking to add to their numbers so their trip could go ahead, and I was seriously considering seeing if I could muster up the half-dozen kids needed to make the trip happen. My colleagues, however, thought I was nuts.

“Taking students on a trip like that is just asking for trouble,” one of my colleagues said. (Well, she said something like it, at any rate.)

Then, the bell rang, and class started. A class where my students were watching Ratatouille en français, which let my brain wander. I couldn’t help but ask myself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I took the kids on this trip?”

And the answer came to me fast: I could lose one.

So started The Staggering Force of Want.

While my class watched their movie, I brainstormed, developing characters and plot lines between giving my patented teacher glare and threatening to babysit cell phones. I mean, it’s normally good students who go on these trips – students without a history of behavioral or disciplinary issues. So how would I lose a student if they were all reliable, mature people?

And that’s when it hit me. They’re reliable and mature – and they know it. I wouldn’t lose a student. The student would intentionally get lost.

So I worked through what would make them break the rules when they’re normally so dependable – what would be more important to them than the trip of a lifetime? And there was only one answer. A trip abroad can be life changing. It can alter the way you see your present, and what you want for your future.

From there, my brain created Hayley. She met Nicholas. And together they had an adventure that would be beyond my wildest dreams as a student – and my worst nightmares as a teacher.

But as a person? I’m totally rooting for Hayley.