…a rubber duck that is.
There are many ways to approach non-fiction writing. For me, I use a narrative, storytelling approach which I like to anchor in a metaphor. The metaphor pulls together all the individual stories – connecting them to help the reader see the bigger picture. Nature lends itself so well to this approach and I especially love to weave together tales of connection, cause and effect, wonder and awe.
I rarely start with the metaphor. Usually I know the topic, and some of the content, but almost never the metaphor. All I can do is patiently wade into the research…hours and hours of research…and try to be patient as the stories and information swirl in my head until that a-ha moment arrives. And that a-ha moment is one of pure excitement – my body starts to literally buzz and that’s how I know I’ve found it!
It was like that with One Well: The Story of Water on Earth. I knew I was writing about water. I had pages of research and stories that I wanted to tell. But despite pitch after pitch to the editor and publisher nothing pulled it together. I was really starting to panic. And then one morning, a few short hours before I was to make yet another pitch to the editor, I had my a-ha moment. I was in the shower (not gonna lie, I get a lot of writing ideas there ?) and as I watched the water slip down the drain it hit me like a bolt of lightning. It’s ALL connected… It’s all ONE Well. No matter where you live in the world, we are all drawing water from the same well.
My new book took a familiar path.
After weeks of ocean research, learning about amazing species and ocean literacy, I was starting to stress about the metaphor that would pull it all together. That’s when I came across the story about the Evergreen Ever Laurel. The Ever Laurel was a cargo ship traveling through the Pacific Ocean when a storm washed one of its shipping containers overboard. The container was filled with more than 28,000 rubber ducks and other bath toys. Over the next several years the ducks (also called Friendly Floatees) were found washed ashore all over the world – from South America to Scotland and Australia. They were even found in the Arctic.
And all of a sudden, a light bulb went off…and several ideas that I’d been playing with all came together – tied perfectly in a little bow. My metaphor had arrived. This magical moment is one of my favourite parts of writing. In fact, I was so grateful for those rubber ducks, that I adopted my own. Duckie has become my constant companion – always at my side – when I travel, at family events, at our dinner table, but especially while writing the new book.
And what was that metaphor, you might ask. Well that my friends that I cannot tell you! You’ll just have to wait until the new book comes out! Spring 2022!
PS –Duckie would love a companion. If anyone knows where or how I can find one of those original Friendly Floatees, please let me know!