Midwinter Saturday: The Randomness of Inspiration

January 24, 2009

I've been to two author functions thus far, Women of Mystery yesterday and the Sunrise Speaker series featuring cartoonist Leigh Rubin today. The surprising, if apropos, common theme between them is the randomness of inspiration. Mary Jane Clark addressed that theme directly yesterday as she described how she sees stories on the Today Show that could be turned into a story. "As long as there's news I think I'll always be able to come up with stories," she quipped, and she went on to explain that since her characters are television reporters who get involved with mystery and suspense in the stories they cover, there's no limit to what milieu those characters can find themselves in. Nancy Atherton, meanwhile, discussed the value her varied reading had in giving her ideas, and Francine Mathews told how characters develop a life of their own that the author can't control. Rubin, creator of the comic strip Rubes, declared that "I just think inspiration is all around us," as he showed some of his favorite panels and described how he got the ideas for them. He also noted that "Sometimes people write me complaint letters, but they're never what I expect." On his humor style, Rubin said, "I don't like to give the reader the whole joke." Instead, he wants the reader to have to contribute knowledge and experience from their own background.