I'm thrilled to join the YA Shot blog tour again this year and to share a guest post from the YA Shot director, founder and YA author Alexia Casale. You can read more about Alexia and her amazing books here.
YA Shot is a wonderful YA and Middle Grade festival that raises funds for a programme that pairs libraries and schools for free author events, to 'foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts'. This year, YA Shot will be held on Saturday 14th April. Over 50 authors will deliver workshops, panels and 'in conversation' events, as well as signing their books. You can buy tickets and find out more information here.
I'll hand over to Alexia now to discuss the fascinating subject of where ideas come from.
Where do you get your ideas?
Every event I do, I am asked this question – for good reason. It’s a big, important question and there are lots of different answers.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how often my own answer changes from event to event and why… and whether there’s one answer that gets to the root of all the others.
I think there is: ‘real life’.
But not in the way we tend to think about that as a source of inspiration: it’s not a one-to-one autobiographical inspiration for most novelists. However, our lives shape everything about us, whether we accept the forces that try to mould us or struggle against them. What we know about ourselves, other people, relationships, animals, stories, the world, food, happiness, misery… all of it comes from our lives – from the interaction of what happens inside us with what we experience externally.
Let’s test that theory by applying it to whether ‘real life’ still inspires stories about other worlds and universes.
One of the big developments in Sci-Fi and Fantasy is a renewed push to deconstruct the ways human history has shaped what we imagine, even when we think we’re coming up with new worlds and sometimes non-human societies. Deconstructing the long, long reach of colonialization is part of this new push to free our imaginations to imagine truly unique and original universes. As authors like Ursula Le Guin have argued, this is why Fantasy and Sci-Fi are so vital to human development: until we can see new ways of being with and among other people, it’ll be hard to learn from the past and move forwards.
Often when we’re trying to confront the worst of human actions in the past, we get stuck simply thinking we must do the polar opposite. It’s a natural impulse, but in the process of assuming the simple ‘opposite’ is the answer to positive change, we forget that may we need to do something radically different – something different in every way. Instead of merely ‘doing the opposite’ and struggling against the forces of the past, what if we tried to imagine something so different that there is a true discontinuity with that past?
We are all caught in the web of what we have seen, tasted, touched, smelt, felt, thought, imagined and learnt. We have ourselves and what we have experienced of the world: the limits of that experience (in the broadest possible sense) are the limits of our inspiration. Thus, the more you learn and experience, the more those limits move outwards.
If you want to be inspired, then you must first be curious. The richer your life in terms of what you experience, the more you can imagine. It’s that simple.
Watch different sorts of things on TV. Read all sorts of different books about all sorts of different things. Go to the theatre if you can afford it. Go to museums of all sorts whenever possible – many are free. Learn about different times in history. And about different places in the world. And about science. Listen to music and try making some yourself. Look at art – and try creating something of your own. Learn a new language to the point where you start to see how people in other societies think in different ways because of how different languages are structured. Try eating and cooking new food. Research what meals look like in different cultures – when do they happen, where, with what furniture/utensils or lack thereof, who is present and who does what, what is eaten, where does it come from, how it is prepared for eating and by whom?
Don’t assume anything. Wonder about everything. Be endlessly curious.
Where I get my ideas? Where do I look for inspiration?
Thanks so much for sharing these fantastic ideas Alexia - I definitely feel inspired. Keep an eye on Twitter and the YA Shot website to follow the other blog tour posts. I hope to see some of you at the festival!