The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

The worst possible thing to write about

Earth Day!  Earth Day!  We could also just go ahead and call it Mothers Day II because when you think of it, where would we be…where would our mothers be…without good old Ma Nature?

When the American Girl team invited me to Madison to talk with them about their early ideas for the doll of the year, they thought Lanie might be an inventor who came up with a great idea to help save the earth.  The only problem is that the worst possible thing for any writer to write about is something they don’t know about and don’t care about.  I’m not sure where my brain was during science class when I was young–probably dreaming up fairy tales–but I just couldn’t picture myself in the brain of a character who invented something scientific.  Who did I think made fascinating scientific discoveries?  Jane Goodall. 

Luckily, the American Girl team took a look at my pictures of my outside childhood in rural Ethiopia and agreed it made sense to let Lanie be an outside girl.  That way, I had deep feelings and memories to draw on as I started to invent the character.  

I got lots of inspiration for Lanie as I read more about Jane Goodall.  She had no real training–but her story is a study in the power of observation.  Only her mother believed enough in her to go along to Africa with her as a companion.  She got up at 5:30 every morning and climbed a mountain to a ridge. She sat with her notebook on her lap, watching for chimpanzees, not moving even if cobras slithered around her feet.

Jane Goodall started to do her part for plants and animals when she still thought of herself as a girl.  Girls can absolutely do so much!  See for further proof.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.