Every writer needs to take a break occasionally, step back, reassess, and so forth. Where do you go and/or what do you do? A particular place? A certain activity? What gets you going again, what inspires you?
See, it all started in 1972: one of my second-grade friends wanted to go to camp and asked me to come with her. I went back every year, once staying for two two-week sessions, and once for the whole summer. It was awesome! Well, obviously, I kept going back… and then I was on staff. That was awesome too – after a few years, though, I had to go out into the real world. Sigh.
I’d visited a few times since, but a couple years ago started going down every summer for an alumni campfire. And then I had that salsa-induced dream, the one that inspired REDUCED, and I just knew – based on cues from that dream – that camp was the location for the novel.
Oh, there are differences: the camp isn’t named, neither are the locations within the camp except for the seven hills around the perimeter. And in the books, the camp is “abandoned,” but it’s still in use today. That’s why I was down there this week – to do a presentation on camp counseling.
It’s a little hard to go back… So much has changed, little things. It’s rather surreal.
Other things stay the same: the enthusiasm of the staff, their eagerness to work with the campers; their curiosity about the camp itself. You can almost see, in the group, the faces of old staff members that you knew way back when – some things don’t change at all. These kids – yes, kids, they weren’t even born until well after my last year down there – they believe. They believe in camp, this camp, and as long as they keep coming, and keep coming back, many things won’t change at all.
This is what inspires me, what rejuvenates my writing. And, too, there’s the feeling, the atmosphere, the green, the cedar, the open meadows, the rolling hills. Big, blue sky overhead. When I turn onto the camp road and see the lake off to the left, I feel like I’m eight years old again. Or eighteen.