THE STORY IDEA
My dad never made me an enemy pie. I don’t remember him ever making me a pie at all. But I do remember him taking me to Gasworks Park in Seattle Washington when I was a kid, the place where I came up with the idea for the story. It used to be a plant for making gas, complete with contaminated soil and groundwater. Nowadays it’s a park, and you can find some amazing blackberries around its perimeter. On a warm August day I kayaked to the park for the sole reason of picking those blackberries and making blackberry jam.
It took me awhile before I started thinking about it. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to be picking these blackberries. But even if they were contaminated, they still tasted delicious. So I kept on picking, and as I did, I started to wonder if I should still be making blackberry jam with these things. It would be okay if I got sick from my own imprudence, but it would suck if others had to suffer because of it. And if I wasn’t going to share this jam with my friends and family, what was I going to do with all of it?
That’s when the idea came to me. It evolved amazingly fast. It was like a thunderstorm was passing through my imagination and pouring everything it had into me. By the time I made it home the story was fully cooked. I went straight to the computer and typed it up and edited it. In four hours it was done. Without question it was an inspired gift that chose to express itself through me.
I had never been published before, and I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do. The next day I went down to the local Barnes and Noble and found a book in the writer’s section called the Writer’s Market. It’s a great resource that lists all the publishers and what they are looking for. I sent out the stories to about 30 publishers and after all the rejection letters came back, only one publisher was interested. Chronicle Books called me one afternoon and said they wanted to buy the story. Woohoo! So they sent me a contract, and a copy of the story all marked up with the changes they wanted. We went back and forth 6 or so times before it was finally ready. At the same time I was working on the edits, Chronicle asked Tara Calahan King if she would be interested in doing the illustrations. She said yes, about 8 months later the whole thing was ready, and the book was sent off to Hong Kong for its first printing.
The first time I was the book was when I was in a Border’s bookstore in Redmond, Washington. It was pretty surreal to see my name on a book being displayed in a bookstore, and even more so when I started to get requests to speak at schools and events. Without exception, the whole experience has been absolutely amazing. I feel very fortunate for all the friends, life lessons, and opportunities born from that one spark of imagination.