When I was seven, I moved into a home that was over 150 years old. It was filled with trap doors, secret spaces and stairs that led nowhere. I had visions of days gone by—horse carriages, ball gowns and hidden treasure. For years, I tried to persuade my parents to pry up the wood floor where it had an obvious and suspicious hatch. (No luck.) Behind the house were woods that stretched across acres to an apple orchard. We had playhouses and treehouses and mountains of snow in the winter. I don’t know if the house and landscape created my imagination or just fueled it, but I vividly remember the joy of being lost in daydreams and creating imaginary worlds and stories at that age.
I still love to get lost in my imagination. I keep a “seed” notebook of things that strike my fancy: situations, words, phrases, quirky behaviors and so forth. Sometimes I do quick sketches. These days, most of my inspiration comes from adventures with my daughters and my dog. A few years ago, I wrote the phrase “messy sleeper” in my notebook after observing the very different sleeping habits in our house.
Some time later, I was struck by the contrast between my newborn who slept so peacefully and my 3-year-old who thrashed from one end of her bed to the other. I remembered the “messy sleeping” note. I decided that my 3-year-old must be having big dreams. I thought about dreams and the visual possibilities—what fun it would be to have the character’s sleeping position mimic the action in the dream. I could also use the dreams to give insight into the character’s personality.