At a particularly difficult point while working on Project Sparkle, my tutor asked me, "Why is this story important to you?" I stumbled over my answer. I didn't know where to begin. So many parts were connected to me, my life, who I am, what's important to me. "Good," Julia said. "That's what I wanted to know."
I was reminded of that exchange this weekend, when I finished Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl. Zarr's writing is raw and emotional. At times I found myself getting teary eyed, not even necessarily because of what was happening in the story, but because I got the main character, and found myself remembering what it's like to be a lonely teenage girl. Even though my childhood was different from hers, while reading I understood her and walked in her shoes. And cried for her.
When I returned to work on Project Demo, all these thoughts were still spinning through my head. Did Project Demo have that kind of emotional resonance? Could it? So instead of diving into my revisions, I took some time to again answer Julia's question, why is this story important to me?
I wrote about the first inspirations for Project Demo, the reasons the story scared me, unsettled me, intrigued me. I kept writing, pouring all my thoughts onto the page. And when I finished, I was ready to go back to work on Project Demo, and to dig as deeply as possible to get at some of the raw truths and characters I want to write about.
I've heard authors say that when they get stuck they return to their original inspiration. But even when we're not stuck, returning to that original inspiration can keep us true to the emotional resonance of the story we want to tell.