Whether we realize it or not, we’re all writers. We text our mothers or partners to tell them we will be late for dinner or, in my case, write posts for the library’s blog. From books and articles to texts and emails, we all recognize the power of the written word. It can be utilized to influence an electorate, allow the reader to travel to far away places, through space and time, or even to put a smile on someone’s face with a simple “Have a great day!”
What inspires these words? I draw inspiration for my posts from my day to day experiences with patrons, events happening in the world around me or even the books I am reading. But what was it that inspired the authors of literature’s most famous stories? How did Roald Dahl create Charlie Bucket and chocolatier Willy Wonka? Why did John Steinbeck have to re-write “Of Mice and Men?” And how did childhood memories and a chance discovery help Khaled Hosseini to create “The Kite Runner?” Here are some fascinating and quirky facts about classic tales and the imaginations that brought them to life.
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck – When left alone one night, Steinbeck’s Irish Setter pup, Toby, ate the only draft of his new manuscript, “Of Mice and Men.” The dog literally ate his homework.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl – As a child, Dahl and his friends were taste-testers for Cadbury Chocolate Company. From these experiences, he drew his inspiration for his children’s classic.
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll – Rumor has it that Charles Dodgson first created the story for the daughter of a friend of his, Alice Liddell. The child, having enjoyed the tale immensely, begged him to write it down. The stories were eventually published under the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll.
Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling – Rowling’s real name is Joanne Rowling. Fearing that young boys may not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers asked her to use two initials instead of her full name. Having no middle name, she chose “Kathleen” after her grandmother, thus creating the name J.K. Rowling.
“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery – Saint-Exupery used his experiences as a pilot, including his own plane crash in the Sahara desert, as inspiration for the prince’s travels. While he was stranded, Saint-Exupery passed the time by coming up with various stories and tales which became a basis for his novella.
“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner – The Nobel Prize winning author drew inspiration for the title of this book from a quote from Homer’s “The Odyssey,” “As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.” Faulkner wrote this book from midnight to four a.m. for a period of six weeks while he was working at a power plant. It was his first and final draft, and the famed novelist has said he did not change a word of it.
“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini – While watching the news, the bestselling author saw a story about how the Taliban had banned kite flying in Afghanistan. Remembering how much he enjoyed flying kites during his own childhood in Kabul, Hosseini wrote a short story on the subject. Put aside after receiving rejections from magazine publishers, he re-discovered the story in his garage a couple of years later and “The Kite Runner” was born.
There’s no way to tell where and when inspiration will strike but I encourage all of you to find yours. Maybe it is in a nearby park or buried deep in the stacks of your local library. Maybe you’ll find it while eating breakfast one morning or on the bumper sticker of a nearby car. When it comes, accept it, take it and create with it.
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