The cogs of inspiration

Halloween is one of my favorite times of years. After all, a significant part of my writing process involves building things, so October turns into a sort of two-for-one deal.

The only problem is that October is also usually my busiest times of years. This October, I toured schools for a literacy organization, did an outreach program at school, spoke at the Vancouver Writers’ Fest, and then went to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference to meet with some agents and editors—all in the two weeks leading up to Halloween. Which is all to say that I crammed my costume and model building into an intensive three-day period leading up to Halloween.

We had bought my wife a very cool steampunk costume earlier this year, so I decided I would match her outfit by going as a steampunk pirate. This involved buying some clothes (I went to a very cool store in Vancouver called Venus and Mars) and then building and modifying a few items, such as an eye patch, hat, belt, and key.

Here’s the eyepatch:


And the details I added to my belt:


The hat was very tricky, mostly because it involved sewing (which is NOT my strength).



The piece de resistance, however, was the pirate key. This actually turned out to be the biggest part of the project. It began with a bunch of parts:


And then playing puzzle-maker as I experimented with how I wanted to fit them together:


At last, I ended up with this:


The neatest part about building the key is that it inspired me to go back and rewrite a scene in one of the projects I’m currently working on—which is why I love building things. It’s a way to use a different part of my brain, a way to generate ideas for my stories. This key isn’t exactly like the one that I ended up describing in my book, but it’s close. (I have a feeling, I’ll be building another key in the near future . . .)

Oh, and here’s the photos of Marcie and I in our final steampunk costumes.

steampunklee steampunkmarcie


How important is your creative space?



I have always lectured my students on the importance of having a personal creative space, a place where they can insulate themselves from the outside world and concentrate on their creative projects.

For me, that place is my in-home studio (unless I’m on the road; then it’s wherever I can find it). However, when I first moved into my studio, I was so busy that I just threw everything into it—desks, drawing table, shelves . . . all the functional things without worrying about the decor. And here I am, week after week, imploring my students to be more creative. Then one of my students, during a Skype consultation, pointed out just how bland my studio wall was. She was right!

So, this year, I finally rolled up my sleeves and began redesigning the wall of my studio. It’s still  work in progress, so when it’s completely done, I’ll post detailed photos of it. However, here is a glimpse of it, so far:


It’s only taken six months! What I thought would be  a simple coat of paint and picture hangers turned into an epic project to have some custom-made shelves built, plus to contract a local furniture store to build me a trunk using an old door from India.



Now, at last, the wall is in working shape. Not only has it been great for my personal creativity, but I’ve found it’s really improved my Skype calls with schools. Now, instead of seeing a white wall stuck with a scattering of sketches (which might sound interesting, but they are impossible to see on a webcam) they see many of the objects and pictures that fuel my imagination.

As I say, there are still some missing pieces . . . but I feel like I’ve crossed an ocean, and now all I need to do is bring the ship to shore.