Monday, October 12, 2015

Five Ways to Get Inspired: Guest Post by Katy Towell

Our guest today is author and illustrator, Katy Towell. Appropriate for the month of October, Katy’s newest novel, Charlie and The Grandmothers, will certainly chill and thrill. Don’t miss her frightfully creepy animated preview. (

- Eden Unger Bowditch

If you were anything like me as a kid, one of your biggest dreams was to write a novel. You spent a vast percentage of your free time fantasizing about your novel’s title and doodling book covers in notepads meant for school. In your head, you played the trailer for the film adaptation over and over. You carried that dream with you as you grew up, and now here you are: writing your own novel for the kind of kid you used to be!

But you’re an adult now. How do you get into the right mindset for middle grade fiction? Here are a few of my favorite tools:

1)    Write down a list of things that mattered to you when you were your readers’ age: your fears, your wishes, things that made you sad, things that gave you joy. Set a time limit--five minutes or less--to avoid overthinking it. The first memories that come to mind are the strongest, and they stand out to you for a reason. Use them!

2)    Struggling to find an idea? Start making up titles! When you write one down that really grabs you, you’ll soon think up a story that fits it. (I’ll tell you secret: that’s how came up with the plot for my latest, Charlie and the Grandmothers.)

3)    Feeling stuck? Go back and look at the books and movies you loved as a child. Consider what it was you loved about them, and ask yourself what your current project is missing.

4)    Stop thinking so hard! Listen to music and let your imagination take over. Film scores are excellent for this because they cover a wide range of emotions. I find it’s best when they’re from a movie you haven’t seen so that your thoughts aren’t hijacked by a story you already know.

5)    Play make-believe! Don’t be afraid to get into character and act out your scenes. If you get too wrapped up in the process of writing, you might forget that your characters are meant to be people! So, try being those people for a little while. Maybe wait until you’re home alone, though.

In short: when writing for children, the secret to finding inspiration is as simple as letting go and allowing yourself to become a kid again. Not just in terms of the story itself, but in the way you start writing it. The grownup in you can take over when the story’s ready for polishing.

To find out more about Katy's work, click on the links below:


  1. Great tips! I have to add that, if you have children, eavesdrop on them mercilessly.

    And... y'all must go to Katy's website. It is AM-AZING! Charlie and the Grandmothers sounds right up my spooky alley. And... Katy lives in Portland, Oregon. How is it that our paths have not yet crossed?!

  2. Oh my, that is a creepy preview. But, I really love creepy spooky things, and it's so perfect for the month of October. The title and cover are wonderful, congratulations.

  3. This is such an excellent list! I love #1 and #3. I often go back and re-read my fave kid's books (that are tattered and still on my shelf). Besides eavesdropping on my son and his friends too, I also ask my middle grade son what he liked/didn't like about the books he reads. This has led to a great window of what kids (or at least my son) enjoy reading and why. And he doesn't hold back!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!