Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Behind the Books: Stealing Ideas

If you’ve read my last couple of Wednesday posts, you know that many of my book ideas come from things I observe or experience—often in the natural world. But I admit that once I stole an idea.

Hold on, hold on. I’m no criminal. Here’s the back story.

A few years ago, my nephew (Shown here with his sisters on Halloween. He's a zombie.) thought insects were way cool. I recommended all kinds of books for him to read, and he gobbled them up (the books, not the insects).

One day, he asked me for a book about insects “that were still growing up, just like me.” It seemed like a reasonable request, but guess what—I couldn’t find much. That’s when I decided to try to write a book myself.

But I didn’t tell my nephew. I didn’t want him to be disappointed if the book never happened. That’s why, technically, it was stealing.

I called my editor, and she liked the idea. So I did some research, developed an outline, wrote a few sample sections, and sent them out. It wasn’t long before I had a signed contract in my hands.

I could have told my nephew at this point, but I decided not to. I wanted to surprise him. So, technically, it was still stealing.

When Maggots, Grubs, and More: The Secret Lives of Young Insects came out, I showed it to my nephew. He liked the title. He liked the cover. He like the information. But I didn’t see a little light bulb go off in his brain, and I was a bit disappointed.

He didn’t even remember asking me for a book about juvenile insects. And while he still liked insects, they were no longer his passion. (After all, two years had passed.)

But he was thrilled when I told him how I got the idea for the book. In fact, he was stunned that I’d really listened to him, and he was honored that I had taken his idea seriously—and that, just that, made my day.


  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story!

  2. Very cute! I will have to remember "stealing ideas from children" for later this month, as I'm hosting "picture book idea month" alternative to NaNoWriMo for picture book writers. This is a great story!