by Anastasia Suen
Whenever I visit schools the children always ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s one of my most frequently asked questions. They always seem surprised when I say that ideas are everywhere. I find ideas at home, in school, and in books, magazines, and newspapers. I also find them on the television and the internet. There is always something interesting that can be used in a story. So what did I use in this story? The clues are on the cover….
I love how the cover of my first Boxcar Children Mystery tells the story at a glance. You see the four Aldens working together. It’s a classic Boxcar Children moment! That’s why I loved these books as a child. The Aldens don’t sit around worrying – they make things happen! What are they up to this time? The title is our first clue…this book is called The Zombie Project.
Why did I choose a zombie for this book? Zombies are scary, but not too scary. After all they walk slowly, so you can get away…usually! It’s the chance that you might not escape that makes it interesting. Furthermore, zombies are dead, but they’re not. They’re “undead.” Zombies used to be people like us, but now they’re trapped between life and death because of voodoo or some sort of nasty virus. So they look like us, but not quite. Instead, they’re all gory and disgusting, making them the perfect bad guy for a mystery. If you look closely at the cover, you can see the zombie walking past the river.
Things that go bump in the night
You can see a cabin in the woods on the book cover, too. It’s right behind the zombie. I’ve never seen a zombie up close, thank goodness, but I do know about camping and staying in cabins in the woods. It’s so nice to get away from the lights of the city and see all the stars at night. Oh, but those noises…those strange noises in the woods…they can keep you awake at night. Who is really out there?
Our family has had some interesting experiences camping in the woods. One night in the middle of a thunderstorm, we heard a loud cracking sound. It was a massive lightning strike, one that shut off the cabin’s power for hours. As Snoopy would say, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Another night we heard a noise outside the cabin and when we looked out the window, it was a bear! A young bear was wandering around knocking over trash cans looking for something to eat. There was nothing to eat in our trash can, so it moved on.
On the book cover you can also see Henry holding a fishing pole and a bucket. The Aldens aren’t just fishing for clues; they’re fishing in the water. This is something that our family always does whenever we go camping in the woods. Fishing is a must.
My father taught me to fish when I was Benny’s age. I learned how to fish in the river, just like the Alden children do in this book. When my children were young, we taught them how to fish, too. It can be hard to sit there quietly and wait, but when you feel that tug on your pole, ah, sweet reward.
There’s nothing like eating a freshly caught fish cooked over a campfire. Yum! Cooking over an open flame makes the food so tasty. Later, as the fire dwindles down, it’s time for campfire stories. The sun has set, so the woods all around you are dark…and then someone tells a scary story. It’s a campfire tradition.
It is by the campfire that Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny find out more about the Legend of the Winding River Zombie. They know the story isn’t true, it can’t be. Everyone knows that zombies aren’t real. But who is out in the woods at night? Who was the lurching figure Benny saw in the woods? Could the legend be true after all?
As you can see, The Zombie Project story came from ideas I had and from my own personal experiences. Now it’s your turn. Write your own zombie story this October. I’ve created a Silly Zombie Story Writing Workshop for you to use. This 4 page writing workshop kit has an instruction page, two planning pages (one was completed by Frank E. Stein, so you can see what kind of story he was planning) and a blank author/illustrator page for you to use.
A story really starts when something changes, so here is your writing prompt: When I saw the zombie on Halloween…