Pat McCarthy is the author of a dozen nonfiction books for children and young adults. She has published numerous stories, articles, puzzles and quizzes in magazines for children and adults. She teaches for the Institute of Children's Literature. She has also written encyclopedia articles and school curriculum. Pat is a retired elementary school teacher who subs to remain in touch with kids. Her hobbies are photography, travel, birding and scrapbooking.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

People often ask how writers get their ideas. Most of mine come from real life. Strange things are always happening to me, and some of them find their way into writing. The past two weeks I've decided it's NOT fun being a home owner. If I rented, the landlord would have to fix all the things that have gone wrong.

It started with a gas leak, and when the gas company checked, they informed me there was also a low level of carbon monoxide. $178 later, I had a new valve on the water heater, a dead bird had been emptied out of the furnace pipe, and the air quality was back to normal.

The next day I blew a fuse by plugging in two heaters in my room that is only heated by two small baseboard heaters. I found out you shouldn't do that. A fuse blew. I couldn't get the fuse out. My nephew couldn't get it out, and a guy he works with who remodels houses couldn't get it out. They finally managed with pliers, but now they can't get another fuse IN, so I have three rooms without electricity.

A couple of days later, I woke up to find all my water pipes frozen. Eventually with heaters and a hair dryer, I got them unclogged. Next the refrigerator door started popping open every time I closed it. I now have the kitchen table pushed against it, holding it shut. Then the door fell off the vanity in the bathroom.

The last two days, I've been treated to starlings flying around in the house, chased by my cat, Oz. They sit on the chimney, get overcome with carbon monoxide, fall down into the furnace, and usually revive and come out and fly around. You can throw a dish towel over one and pick it up and let it go outside. If they don't revive, they die in the pipe and sometimes cause the carbon monoxide to come in when the exhaust can't get out.

Anyway, I should be able to write something about this whole fiasco. After all, I need to make some money to fix everything.

I have worked some on my writing. I posted my first post to my Abigail Adams blog on If you want to take a look, the URL is I also sent out my midgrade novel for the first time. It's a humorous contemporary novel about a 12-year-old boy and his younger sister who have to spend the summer on campus with their mom instead of having fun with Dad in Colorado.

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