Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Looking for a Popcorn Tree

Today we welcome recently published mystery novelist Norma Huss, who closes out our month of writing inspiration by talking about who and what inspires her. Welcome, Norma!
By Norma Huss
This past winter I looked out my window and saw a popcorn tree. Wow! I had to take a picture.

Well, you know it wasn’t ACTUALLY a popcorn tree. It was a tree with branches completely devoid of leaves, but snow had gathered in so many heavy clumps it reminded me of little popcorn balls. Today, now that I think of it, there has to be a story there somewhere! So, how can I use a popcorn tree?

I’ll go to my inspiration collection, writerly quotes I’ve collected over the years. My very favorite is one I’ve printed up and taped right over my computer. I glance at it every day, and try to do my best to live by this:
“That was the moment I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of the professional which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Agatha Christie
But today, I need more advice, something that gathers my notes and gives me direction. Perhaps this one:
“Keep a notebook, honey, and someday it will keep you.” Mae West
Sorry, not that one. (I could only wish!) Aha! How about the next quote?
“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” Voltaire
Oops, that does SO not go with Mae’s quote. But I have more quotes.
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
VERY useful when one is busy submitting that lovely manuscript to a multitude of agents, but does it help me today? I must dig deeper.
“Always remember, perseverance is as important as talent.” Dean Koontz
“The professional writer is the amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Back
Yes, I am inspired. I can do it. Let me think a bit. How about a children’s story. Maybe a picture book manuscript. Except I’m a mystery writer. But are there picture book mysteries? Could be the first of a collection of “what-is-it?” pictures, you know, the close-up that doesn’t provide enough external clues to.... How about an adult mystery. It could make a good title: Dead Under The Popcorn Tree, or Murder By Popcorn. No, no, that’s really bad! How about.... Is that another quote I hear banging on my door?
“Don’t think! Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things; you simply must do them.” Ray Bradbury
There you go! And guess what? That’s the quote I’ll use. Just plunk a popcorn tree down on the website, and ramble (with quote collection in hand).

Have you ever seen a popcorn tree? How about some other strange and wonderful sight that inspired you? Did you find advice that really helped? I must admit, the first one I quoted here has helped me through many a session of writing that was not going particularly well. Do you have a favorite quote?

A postscript from Norma:
Wings ePress, Inc. published my first novel, a mystery titled Yesterday’s Body, last October—the same month my mother turned 100. Naturally, I dedicated it to her. Although she has never actually given me writing advice, she’s my inspiration. She’s written poetry all her life, mainly as gifts for others to celebrate birthdays and special events. Last year she wrote one (that didn’t quite have the rhyme and rhythm of her earlier ones) for one of the caregivers at her assisted living home. It was all about the dogs the woman brought for a visit, and they published it in their newsletter.


Gina said...

Welcome, Norma!

A popcorn tree is intriguing - it could be delightful, or ominous. I mean, are the people who live nearby dropping by with butter, or are they still hiding in their basements, thinking that the sound of its popping kernels was a major gun fight?

Once, stopped at a red light, I watched a squirrel cross the street above me, balanced on a wire. I thought, "That squirrel is nuts!," which led to a short story about nutty squirrels.

Laurissa said...

Hi, Norma, welcome!

I enjoyed your quotes, especially the first one. I, too, will now tape it to the wall next to my computer for inspiration.

Loved the popcorn tree!

Joyce Tremel said...

Welcome Norma. I have to say I'm most intrigued with the fact that your mother is 100 years old! Wow!

PatRemick said...

Thanks Norma for sharing your inspiration!

Jenna said...

Welcome to the Stiffs, Norma. Some excellent quotes there. I too love the Agatha Christie one. So true!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

But how did they get it in the microwave?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Norma, those are great. Thank you so much for sharing. I'll be printing them out and relying on them for months to come.

Susan said...

I'm guessing Tiger Woods' mistresses must have read the Mae West quote!

My favorite quote is something I told myself (and put into practice) right before I got published...Ready?

Good enough isn't good.

susan meier

Patg said...

Hi Norma,
Welcome to the stiffs, great quotes and the popcorn tree is great.

M Pax said...

From Ursula K. Le Guin - Let things compost. Don't write them before their time.

I keep a notebook. After some composting, they start making their way into my stories. :)

Love the popcorn tree. What about a mystery where there is always the lingering aroma of popcorn?

Norma said...

Goody, I'm getting new quotes. Susan, I love your advice! And Ursula, that composting suggestion is great too, but, for the sake of my nose, can I let my ideas simmer?

I didn't think about the aroma of popcorn, but that IS intriguing. Would that go with the squirrel's nuts?

Glad to see you all here. Do excuse me if I seem a little off-center.... That's my usual posture.

Patricia Harrington said...

Well, you got me with sentence on and the popcorn tree and ended well with your 100-year-old mom, the caregivers with the dogs who visit.

Love it all, Will ponder on Agatha Christie's advice most of all because that's where my heart's love is, the mystery. But then there is self-discovery, poetry, the occasional weird sci-fi . . . and, oh yes, the occasional blog comment.

Love it all.

Pat Harrington, working on "A Rum Mystery" and an article that I'll sub with the pen name, "The Church Mouse."


Pat Harrington

Anonymous said...

enjoyed all of this.

Where/when where is Death of a Hot Chick