7:30 BELLS Guest Post: ASKING QUESTIONS by Nina Laden

Author NINA LADEN inspires us with what makes the bells ring for her
in this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post.

The secret to writing for me, perhaps even the secret to life, is asking questions. You have to maintain a child-like wonder, even in the face of adversity. By being curious you will continually learn, open doors in your mind, and you will hear those bells ring.

I went through a very dark period of my life with one family crisis after another and it took the literary wind out of my sails. I couldn’t write the clever and funny picture books that I was known for and I worried that I never would get out of the hole I was in. However I kept journaling and writing what I could here and there. I also kept taking my long beach walks, looking for treasure, looking for answers, and asking questions.

One day, I found an eagle feather on the beach. Eagles live near our home on Lummi Island and their feathers fall on the beach all the time. I have always loved the delicate nature of feathers and the majestic beauty of eagles. I picked up the feather, tested it in the wind, and felt the power that it had to be able to carry the weight of such a big bird, and how it could allow it to soar so smoothly. My own life was not soaring at that time.

I held that feather and I asked myself, “does a feather remember it once was a bird?” Wondering, possibly subconsciously, “do I remember I once was an author and illustrator?” I also started thinking about the Native American legend that eagle feathers must stay where they land so that they can return to the creator, so I photographed the feather and put it down.

As I walked back home, I started asking myself more questions because of that first one: “Does a feather remember it once was a bird? Does a book remember it once was a word? Does a chair remember it once was a tree? Does a garden remember it once was a pea?” I had started writing a poem and I had to run up the hill to my cottage to write it down before I forgot it.

All of those questions eventually became my new book “Once Upon A Memory” which just came out with publisher Little, Brown and Company. Renata Liwska did the gorgeous illustrations. Now the only question that I have is “what will be the next question that starts me down the road to a new book and lets me hear those bells ring again and again?”

Open doors in your mind
 and hear the bells ring

Thank you Nina, for sharing this inspiring essay and making me wonder what I am that I might have forgotten. 

Nina Laden is an award-winning, bestselling children's book author and illustrator who lives in Seattle and on Lummi Island, WA, but mostly she lives in her imagination. She grew up in the New York City area, the daughter of two artists, and received a BFA from Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts. She has over a dozen books in print including The Night I Followed the Dog, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, and Roberto: The Insect Architect.
Learn more about Nina Laden and her books at her website and blog.

7:30  BELLS Posts runs every Tuesday. Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me next month when author Laura Kvasnosky shares what makes the bells ring for her.