To celebrate the book birthday of the wonderful new middle grade
novel, Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder, I invited her to stop by and tell us where the seed for the came from.
It's always fun to hear how a seed grows and then blossoms into a book.
Here's what she said:
When I visit schools students often ask where my ideas come from. So I'd like to share here the origin of a particular idea that I used in Be Light Like a Bird: a girl burying roadkill and a boy taking photos of animals killed on the road.
Be Light Like a Bird is the emotional, realistic fiction story of 12-year old Wren, who is heart-broken after losing her father in an airplane crash. Wren's father always told her to be "light like a bird, not like a feather," - to control her own destiny, to make her own choices. But Wren is adrift after her father dies. Her mother acts distant and angry and takes her away from her home. Over the course of the story Wren has to heal, and when she finally learns the reason for her mother's behavior, she needs to learn to forgive.
|Monika with her dog, Frank|
After her father's death, no body was found and her mother
doesn't even want to have a memorial service for her late husband. In developing Wren's character, I tried to put myself in Wren’s position and felt that her desperation about the loss of her father and her mother’s distant behavior needed an equally desperate outlet. She ends up burying roadkill. The idea for the roadkill came to me on my morning run in my North Carolina neighborhood, where on any given day one may find small animals dead on the road. I often wonder what it says about people’s relationship to animals that so many of them are killed in this way and then left dead and unattended on the asphalt.
|One of Monika's many beautiful gardens|
But then I also remembered that many years ago, a friend of mine, the talented photographer Jim Pojman, had shown me a series of black and white pictures that he had taken of roadkill. If you have the stomach for them you can see them here:
Jim also had taken pictures of objects arranged in several rows of equal lengths, such as gummi bears, screws, buttons, dead flies, etc. From that memory I developed the idea to have Theo show Wren such images during one of their early meetings. He pulls out his binder of photos and shows her a picture of screws and then the photos of roadkill he had taken, which, of course, she doesn't want to see at that point, since she doesn't want to have anything in common with a nerd like Theo.
As you can see, often events, memories, and observations are stored for a long time in a writer's head and just as a new story develops they may connect and become a part of that story.
***Monika grew up in Germany and has lived and worked in international schools in Egypt, Chile, Oman and India. She is the author of Saraswati's Way, The Dog in the Wood and My Brother's Shadow. Before she moved to the US she was the elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Monika now lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and dog. If she doesn't write she reads, bakes or tends to her flower garden. Her latest novel for middle-grade readers is Be Light Like a Bird. Visit her at: www.monikaschroeder.com