THE BLUE UMBRELLA – What inspired the story….
I wrote The Blue Umbrella during the first lockdown for Covid-19. I was home-schooling my daughter, as the schools were all shut, and I made sure I had one dedicated day to writing each week. One day, I sat down and said to myself that I would write a picture book that day. In fact, I wrote two! (Disclaimer: it is not often that I write a picture book in one day, and some takes years to write!).
That day, I searched online for inspiration and came across this front cover of a picture book called ‘The Thing’ by Simon Puttock and Daniel Egnéus. The blue ‘thing’ always makes me think of a broken blue umbrella. Straight away, I sat down and wrote the pitch for The Blue Umbrella. This is exactly what I wrote:
Covers over everyone, protects them from the rainfall
Story of a giant umbrella, protecting everyone from rainstorm/hail from above
A story of how to support your community and protect them, room for everyone, help everyone, no matter who they are.’
I still have the word document saved on my laptop with only those words on!
A few hours later, I sat down and wrote the story in one go. (Second disclaimer: it went to critique partners and then some edits. That first draft was by no means perfect).
Interestingly, I’d been wanting to write a story called Come Together but had never been able to make it work. Blue Umbrella was written during lockdown when there was lots of talk about looking out for your neighbours and sheltering others from Covid-19. Also, in my area that are lots of Umbrella Centres (community centres). I think all of these things aligned in my brain and The Blue Umbrella was formed. But, when I sat down to write that day, I didn’t have any idea what story I would write.
This is how The Blue Umbrella came to be. Initially, it was called ‘The Umbrella.’ But the umbrella was always blue. It must have been a blue themed day because I also wrote another story that day with Blue in the title!
As you can see, lots of things came together and inspired The Blue Umbrella, whether I was aware of this or not. Partly, I think this is because I am always open to my surroundings and taking them in, storing them at the back of my brain for another time! So how can you look for ideas? Here are some things that have helped me. They have now become a part of my every day life and I don’t know I am consciously doing them.
- Ideas are everywhere! Get in a habit of looking out for them, and having a way to record them as soon as they come to you. My phone has 1000 plus notes, and many of those are story ideas.
- Use pictures as prompts. You might see an illustration, or a birthday card, or a sign, that prompts an idea
- Listen out for snippets of conversation and little phrases and sayings
- Ask questions. E.g. if you hear the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, you might ask yourself, ‘why did Humpty fall?’
These are just a few of the things I do. Many ideas now come to me when I’m in the middle of chatting to friends. Anything can spark an idea, so always be ready!