Finding Inspiration

Destiny200This is a guest post by Jennifer Gibson, author of “Destiny“.

Jennifer is the author of a trilogy series which features a teen dealing with an invisible disability and includes some of her real-life experiences in them. Her goal in creating this series was to shine a light on hearing loss and provide a sense of hope and inspiration for young readers.

Not only is she an author, she is also an award-winning photographer, illustrator, and book cover designer.  Her novels have received numerous awards including Silver in the 2014 Literary Classics Book Awards, Finalist in the Stargazer Literary Prizes, Readers’ Favorite 5 stars, and Official Selection in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards.  This past year, she was chosen as a HearStrong Champion by the HearStrong Foundation in New York due to her dedication to helping change the stigma surrounding hearing loss through her books. One of her short stories, Blue Moon, was recently awarded Honorable Mention from the 85 Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.



Jennifer Gibson


As a writer, I’m always looking for sources of inspiration. When I decided to write a book for the young adult market, I quickly realized that I needed fresh resources. I didn’t have kids which encouraged me to look in another direction and that was through my journals. Fortunately, I had the foresight to keep all of my diaries from when I was a young child as well as my teenage years. When I sat down and went through them, it brought back a lot of memories.

Growing up in our house, you learned to roll with the punches, or in this case, a great punch line.  Having a witty or snarky comeback was a necessary balance to offset our grisly conversations at dinner time. Living in a medical household usually led to gag inducing topics. Well…for the average person anyways.  Not us.  We learned to embrace it.  My brother was really good at making milk came out of my nose from laughing so hard.

In those days, my mother would always start the conversation by asking “So, did anything exciting happen today?”  This would lead to a fascinating and in-depth look into the world of surgery. It was far more educational that what I would learn at school in biology class. The most intriguing cases were the most unexpected ones.  You never knew what would happen in the Operating Room.  Even the most routine surgeries could easily go sideways.  For us, it was a way of life and a superb source of information.

I was free to ask my parents all sorts of questions about the human anatomy.  It was a great learning experience.  Although, I had learned that not everyone had an open mind like we did.  Particularly at supper time.  It wasn’t until we had guests over for a visit, that I truly realized how unique we were.

It would start with all of us sitting at the dinner table, having banal conversations about the weather, politics, or the latest news when it would veer into the direction of surgery.  I already knew what was coming when my father would remark, “We had the most unusual case today.”  Unfortunately, the poor sap sitting across from me had to ask, “Really? What happened?”  This invariably led to a detailed analysis of what occurred, much to my amusement.  I would watch their expressions change from fascination to disgust, waiting for their fork to fall onto the plate with a clatter as they clamped their hand over their mouth.  I smiled, imagining myself punching the air with a triumph fist.

My mother would also delve into a invigorating topic of diseases on the brain, explaining how some viruses could turn it into mouldy swiss cheese.  While she talked about this, I would spear my fork into the soggy cauliflower while my guest would flick their eyes from the plate to my parents and suddenly gag. Dinner was never boring especially at times like this.  It was like an episode of House, you never knew what would happen.

Looking back, this kind of environment is what likely encouraged the growth of my already overactive imagination.  What I learned around the dinner table made me even more curious as an adult.  Today, our conversations are even more gruesome with the additional entourage of nurses and paramedics.  I could easily ask them what’s the worst car accident scene they’ve stumbled upon and they would be happy to oblige.  They would recount hilarious antics of trying to get a patient down a precariously steep and impossibly narrow stairway or discovering a body in the most unusual places.  There were also times when someone would ask them to perform CPR on a person that was obviously dead.  Beyond dead.  Completely stiff.  Where the soul had already crossed over.  What they’ve witnessed is almost mind boggling.  To a writer like me, this a treasure trove of cool and fascinating information.

I love asking them all sorts of questions such as, “They were impaled? Wow! How did that happen?”  while munching on pizza.  My favourite query would have to be, “You found the body where?  Is that even possible?”  They would nod and continue to eat, not bothered by it.

No one would bat an eye when someone asked, “So, how do you poison someone?” or “Is it possible to bend a body when it’s stiff like that?”  It would lead to a flurry of theories and an animated discussion on the best way to kill someone or handle a body.

At least this way, I don’t have to go to my doctor and say, “I’m not here for a check up.  I just wanted to ask you how do you kill someone?”  That kind of question would likely end up with the doctor picking up the phone and requesting a psychological evaluation.  It’s easier to ask my family.  After all, family know best.

Growing up in this unique environment taught me to hold onto those moments by writing them down in my journals.  It’s a good thing I did.  I ended up incorporating many of my personal exploits into my books.

Ideas can pop up at anytime, anywhere. If I see a stone angel in the cemetery, I’ll stop and wonder what would happen if it came to life.  That’s how those sparks of inspiration grow into stories. I’m always writing short stories and they sometimes grow into a full length novel.  In fact, that’s how my first book got started.  It was from a dream that begged to be told which I had jotted down in my diary afterwards.

That’s why I found it useful to keep a journal, to write down my thoughts and moments of inspiration, no matter how wild and wacky they may be. Great ideas vanish very quickly.  I’ve learned that the hard way, usually when I’m smack dab in the middle of taking a hot shower.  By the time I’ve stumbled out of the bathroom, dripping wet, it’s gone and all I’m left with is a big soggy puddle on the floor.

Reading my diaries was an illuminating experience, it was a connection to my past that gave me the ability to see the world through those young eyes once again.  There were moments when I had to stop reading as the pain became unbearable, the sorrow as fresh as it was when I was a kid.  I could almost smell the old school hallways as I held those pages in my hands.  I could hear the squeaks of tennis shoes on the polished floor once again. To be able to go back in time, even just for a short while, was invaluable. Writing down my thoughts proved to be a lifesaver, it was my gateway to a new world for everyone to enjoy.  Well, weep. There are some sappy chapters in there too.  As an author, my mind is an open book.  Literally.

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