'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 27 January 2011

Guest Post: The Heart of Inspiration

Author Karen Collum
I was in the middle of something mundane, something I've done a hundred times before - packing a picnic lunch to enjoy after church. I'd whipped up some exotic peanut butter and honey sandwiches and then turned my attention to the quarter of watermelon in the fridge.

I sliced a few segments, rind and all, and cut the juicy flesh into bite-sized chunks. There was one section left and for reasons unknown to me, I chose to cut it differently from the rest. I ran the knife along the line where red watermelon meets green rind in a single movement. As I pulled the hunk of melon away, I quite literally gasped. There, right before my eyes, embedded in the thin layer of soft, ruby flesh was a perfectly formed heart.

I thought about the watermelon heart throughout the day and each time it made me smile. I also thought about how easy it would have been to have missed it. After all, who looks for a heart at the bottom of a watermelon?

I couldn't help but think about this experience in relation to being a picture book author. I believe the very best picture books take the familiar, the known, the common and with a clever use of words and illustrations, create something new and amazing and exciting. (Wendy Orr's latest picture book, The Princess and her Panther, does this beautifully.)

To do this successfully, I need to notice the sparkles in the midst of the dull, the gems hiding amongst the dirt. That means I have to be ready. Ready to notice the little things: a golden feather caught in a spider's web; an overheard phrase from a child; a hint of a scent on the wind that takes me back to my childhood. Each of these might become the cornerstone to a new and wonderful picture book, but only if I notice. I need to engage all my senses and be truly immersed in the world in which I inhabit before I can create a world for others to inhabit. I have to hone my observation skills until scanning my environment and seeing - really seeing - becomes second nature. If I train myself to view my world this way, I'll never be short of inspiration for it's all around me. I just need to take the time to see.

Do you want to write? By all means take some classes, read copious amounts of books and write, write, write. But don't forget to notice the world around you.


Because sometimes inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places, even at the bottom of a watermelon.

See more of Karen Collum's work at her website

Read our review of Samuel's Kisses

About Karen Collum: Once upon a time, Karen Collum was a primary school teacher. Now she's a stay-at-home mum to four little munchkins who provide her with truckloads of inspiration along with the mountains of washing. Optimistic, energetic and enthusiastic, Karen is passionate about books that celebrate togetherness, embrace individuality and empower each reader, no matter how small, to do their part in making the world a better place. Her debut picture book, Samuel's Kisses, was published by New Frontier Publishing in December 2010. She hopes it's the first of many.