Saturday, October 10, 2015

Inspiration Point #1--"Cover Her Ghost with a Feathered Cape"

This is a picture of St. Helen, patron saint of archaeologists, painted by Michael O'Neill McGrath. It's on a postcard my friend Francesca Forrest sent to me years ago. I'd been having another one of those periods of doing more flailing than writing, so every day for a week she sent me a postcard with a cheerful message. It's been on the bulletin board behind my desk since it arrived--like Francesca, I really liked the idea of saints portrayed as modern people. And I love archaeology.

Then, about a year and a half ago, a call went out from Eric Reynolds at Hadley Rille Books. He wanted to put together an anthology featuring archaeologists--specifically, archaeologists who also happened to be women of color. This picture, and a book I'd recently read about the world of the Anasazi, and a visit to the Grand Canyon all combined together, and the result is a story called "Cover Her Ghost with a Feathered Cape" that will be in the Ruins Excavations anthology, due out at the end of the month.

Inspiration is a strange thing. Writers collect bits of shiny things and make a nest of them: artwork, a line of song lyrics, an overheard conversation. Somehow--and I think many writers will agree with me, that it's all a little mysterious--all those disparate pieces come together and make character, and place, and events. Ideas curl up beside us in the night, or they jump out of the shadows and hit us over the head. The best ones have the feeling of a blessing, something outside and beyond us, It's one of the things non-writers most often ask us about (aside from the ever popular "Will you write down my amazing life story and split the profits with me?"), and it's a question that often stumps us. Maybe there's a bit of fear, too, that if we look too closely at the magic, it will fade away.

Or maybe it's like an excavation, brushing away what you don't need, piecing together the bits that bring a whole world to life.

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