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Wednesday 26 October 2022

Guest Post: Carla Fitzgerald on The Personal and the Political - Catching Story Ideas

I don’t normally have my best ideas during my kids’ bedtime. Putting three kids to bed is more perspiration than inspiration – dinner, bath, pjs, books, sip of water, toilet. No, you can’t sleep with your shoes on. One more sip. You get it.

On this particular night, my eldest remembered that he had a speech to do the next day. The topic was, ‘Why kids should rule the world!’


Immediately I knew this speech was different though. My son was excited by it like no other speech before. They’d discussed it in class and he was brimming with ideas. 

His classmates had ideas too. Free lollies from the canteen, longer school holidays, slides at the entrance to classroom! But also, action on climate change, protection of endangered animals and strategies to save the Great Barrier Reef!

Of course, I thought. Kids love being the boss. Actually who doesn’t love power? World wars have been fought over it.

And maybe kids being in charge wouldn’t be so bad after all?

My brain had started ticking. Was there a story in this?

Not yet. But my antenna was up.

The ‘what if’ moment came soon after when I saw Ivanka Trump appear at a meeting of world leaders on behalf of her dad. What if she had been a child, filling in for her dad as President? I had this image of this tiny girl sitting a table with all these world leaders.

Then of course, I saw reports of our own prime minister taking a rather ill-timed trip to Hawaii. A prime minister who loved wearing Hawaiian shirts and playing the ukulele.

The personal and political merged. I had a story idea.

How to be Prime Minister and Survive Grade Five
is the story of eleven-year old, Harper and her dad, who happens to be the prime minister. Unfortunately, Harper’s dad is terrible in the role. Soon their family is a laughing stock, and Dad disappears to a ‘conference’, leaving his phone behind. With her little sister, Lottie, Harper must secretly take his place and decide on a new policy before it’s too late.

Harper finds herself torn between ideas – should she ban plastic bottles? Or make weekends longer? Can she prove a kid can lead the country better than a grown-up?

This experience reinforced that ideas can come from anywhere. The inspiration for this story came from my own house and an event that happened on the other side of the world. I believe it’s so important for writers to catch the ideas when they appear. The notes section of my phone is full of my attempts to pin down story ideas:

Monkey siblings

Fairy floss

What it means to be good?


No-one else would have a clue what I’m on about! And maybe I don’t yet either but that’s okay. I know some writers prefer to use notepads or journals to record ideas, which seems far more authorly. Sadly though, the phone is often the closest thing to me and it’s important to get it down before I get distracted by something else.

The other thing to mention is that ideas often evolve and become better when you take on the feedback of others. Not just any feedback, but feedback from those that you trust, at the appropriate time. I was fortunate that Clair Hume and the wonderful editors at UQP understood what I was trying to do and had their own thoughts about making it better.

Ideas are everywhere, don’t let them get away!

Carla Fitzgerald is a writer, a recovered lawyer and mum of three from Sydney. She studied arts/law at university before working for a judge, in private practice and at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Only after that did she rediscover the great fun of making stuff up and writing it down. Carla is a Books in Homes role model and a coach with the Harding Miller Education Foundation. Her favourite things to do are write, walk, read, eat, and hang out with her family. Not in that order.

Connect with Carla via her website or Instagram.