Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Posted by: Cindy Spencer Pape
In my critique group last night, one of my partners sent through a manuscript for a wildly imaginative middle-grade novel. Set in a mall, it features, among other amazing characters, a little bird who calls himself, "The Mallsparrow of Doom." Of course I was reminded of sitting with her at Cafe Beignet in New Orleans during the Romantic Times Convention, watching sparrows. Since the Cafe is open-air, the sparrows fly right in and out of the structure as well as the garden. On the last day of our trip, we sat there for about an hour, enjoying the sunshine, the local color, a street performer, and of course, the beignets, before our return to the still semi-frozen north.
Sarah admitted that she'd based some of the bird's antics and behaviors on the sparrows of our favorite little cafe. Of course the ones in New Orleans didn't actually speak. They were also quite camera-shy, though I did get a photo, since I have a zoom on my camera. :)
This leads me to my part of the story. While in NOLA, a contemporary/paranromal romance started writing itself in my head, involving a street musician, but not an ordinary one. You see the woman outside the cafe wasn't a very good street musician. She had a mandolin, and apparently knew one tune. One. She ran through the American folk canon, adapting just about every song she sang to that tune.When she got to the gospel standard, "I'll fly away," (appropriate to the sparrows) we discovered that was the one. Anyway, Sarah and I are both old folkies, so we were sitting in the very back of the cafe garden, quietly singing along.By the end, we were even harmonizing, though neither of us is that great of a singer. None of the other diners complained, so we allowed ourselves to have our fun.
The couple in front of us, tourists from somewhere, stood to leave, while the performer was singing, "Teach your Children Well." Sarah and I only know the chorus to that one, so we were quiet during the verses, chiming in on, "and know they lo-ove you." The woman said to her companion, "You know, just for a moment there, I could have sworn I heard harmony." He nodded and they blithely went on their way, leaving two middle aged women behind them doubled over in silent but hysterical laughter.
That's when Sarah and I discovered we have superpowers.
So often writers are asked where they get their ideas. We say this or that, but here's a truth. Writers often have the ability to see the magic in things no one else notices, whether that's mall sparrows or mysterious
design studio that wasn't even officially open yet. My husband is now the proud owner of bow tie #1, hand sewn on an antique machine from vintage fabric. Also the "Don't Blink Balcony," which is kinda creepy if you're a Dr. Who fan, and my new friends, who wouldn't fit on the plane to come home with me.
Adding a shameless plug for my friend Sarah Zettel/Darcie Wilde, even if the mallsparrows aren't on the bookshelves yet. It's SO much fun to travel with someone else who sees the magic.
Frantically trying to juggle real life and still find time to write, so that the voices in my head will be quiet!