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, and that’s the place where I got the idea for the story. Gasworks Park used to be a plant for making gas, complete with contaminated soil and toxic 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. True, this wasn’t exactly organic farmland… but man! Those blackberries were incredible. 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 sure suck if others had to suffer because of it. So if I couldn’t share this jam with my friends and family, what was I going to do with it?
That was the question that sparked the story. From there it evolved amazingly fast. It was like a powerful thunderstorm popped up out of nowhere, passed right through my imagination, poured out a story and eventually moved along. In four quick hours Enemy Pie was written, edited, and ready to send in. It was without question an inspired gift. I didn’t choose it. It chose me.
I had never been published before, and I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do next. 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. About 30 publishers rejected the story before Chronicle Books called one afternoon and said they wanted to buy the story. I was so excited that the whole conversation was an absolute blur. A few weeks later 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 the story 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, and about 8 months later the whole thing was ready. Then they sent the story off to Hong Kong for its first printing.
The first time I saw the book was in a Border’s bookstore in Redmond, Washington. It was pretty surreal to see my name on the cover of a book, and even more so in the coming weeks when I started to get requests to speak at schools and events. It has been an incredible ride, right from the start, and continues to be to this day. I feel very fortunate for all the friends, life lessons, and opportunities created from that one little spark of inspiration.