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There are many things that can inspire a person: a picture, a song, a person, an event, a possibility, even loss and disappointment. Artists draw on the world around them for their ideas. Sometimes something beautiful is born; sometimes something ugly is created. Either way, the expression finds its way out into the world.

For some writers, like me for instance, inspiration is found in the oddest places. An overheard conversation can conjure a fabrication of pre-actions, observing a stranger might suggest a plot, triggering an entire story, or hearing a song could prompt a line of memories leading to a memoir. Many times a spark for a story comes from a blog post or a conversation from my every day life, No matter what surrounds me, I find myself filled with words to translate.

When my father died, I found myself sitting on my living room couch immersed in grief. Once my emotions saturated me and I was able to return to “normal,” I realized I hadn’t cleaned under my living room furniture in well over three weeks. The dust accumulated and it birthed a series of stories for children about what “lives” under the furniture, odd as it may sound. I’ve written twenty short stories about my new characters. Inspiration from dirt!

A non-fiction piece I wrote came from meeting someone I never thought I’d ever meet; my biological mother. Adopted at birth, I was told over and over my records were legally sealed. Perseverance brought me to the moment when I would finally speak with the women whom I had so many questions for. Because of my fluctuating emotions, I felt I had to write about it. The piece was later published in an anthology about adoption.

Another set of stories came from a neighbor, who challenged me to write in a genre I had never written in. She told me that I “could definitely write something very good.” She even gave me the premise. Three weeks later she was reading my first draft. And several edits later, she held the first copy of that published book in her hands. Who knew?

I recommend a writer take whatever stimulus comes his/her way and to write stories that they would like to write instead of worrying what others might read. That should come later, once the piece is finished. My attempt is to connect a reader to my character by way of feeling and/or emotion, as I share the character’s journey. So far, it’s proven to work and I have reached many readers. Additionally, I find inspiration from the other writers I have the pleasure of knowing. A weekly writer’s group helps us to share thoughts, ideas, and of course, our writing. Their support and encouragement helps generate more thoughts and ideas to write about.

So now, when you walk outside your home, pay close attention to everything around you because you never know what might trigger something to write about.

Novelist and Writers comma Ice Cream alum Lee Mandel lives on Long Island and is working hard on the next story, that is, between being a wife to a great guy; a mom to two fabulous kids; an editor for a local magazine; a writer's workshop moderator; a PTA president, and a full-time paralegal. Visit her under her pen name at .

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