I was speaking with a third grade class yesterday and one of the children asked: "Where do you get the idea for a story? How do you start a new book? "
I answered the question somehow. It was only later, when I went for a walk, that I truly thought out my answer.
For me, a story starts with an image and then with a What if?
White Pine began with a visit to the Chippewa Valley Museum. I was sitting on a bench in the bunk house with my then third grader and he pointed out the lumberjack socks dangling from rail by the stove. The idea popped into my mind: What if a boy, one older than my son, had to go to work at a logging camp in the 1880s? Other questions followed that What if? Questions like: Why would he have to go? How would the other men treat him? And, would he want to go home after a winter in the Northwoods?
It all starts with a What if.