Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Attics and Creative Sparks

Ancient Greeks who lived in Attica, the peninsula that includes Athens, used to build a low, decorative wall above the main building to hide the roof. In time, these became enclosed and the space between known as an “Attic story,” later shortened to “attic.”

Five years ago, what is now my office was just unimproved attic space. To access it back then, you had to put a ladder into the front bedroom closet, push a 2’ by 2’ piece of plywood out of the way and shimmy around the clothes rod and through the cutout. Once there, you had to walk on the joists because there was no flooring. Loose insulation filled the spaces between, 100 years of dust clung to the rafters and you couldn’t stand upright except for where the roof peaked.

It was perfect.

Luckily, a friend—who has the design and construction skills I lack—shared my view. In a few short months, and lots of physical labor later, we went from wishful thinking to reality.

Now I not only have an office that I love, but also wonderful memories of building it. I particularly enjoyed watching my friend design on the fly every time some new challenge presented itself—and there were many in this quake-altered frame. My vision of “we could do something with this space” became a fun, creative challenge for her.

This is more or less what I’m trying to do with my book and website. Present a starting point for other people’s creativity. Offer the spark that ignites an imaginative fire.

I could say that this whole idea started because I want to help young people unleash their creative power so they can visualize and build a better world. But the truth is less altruistic. I simply want a way to publish my completed (finally) book.

After doing some research, it didn’t seem like going the agent/editor, print-on-demand or e-book route was quite right for me. So I came up with my own idea.

What I’m envisioning is a website—actually, more like a community—built around the novel that encourages anyone and everyone to upload their own work based on the story. This could be illustrations, videos, songs, animation, side stories, costumes, games, puzzles—whatever.

But it’s more than that. Readers also earn “extras” as they go deeper into the novel. Some of these include an animated map that tells where the chapter takes place. An electronic bookmark that at sign-in goes directly to the last page read. A highlighter, notepad, sketchpad, chapter summary, and other tools to help kids record key things about the plot and characters so they can create their own contributions.

Then there’s my favorite extra, the 3-6 pop-up tidbits in each chapter. These pertain to something going on in the story and provide interesting trivia (the Chinese had armor made of paper), as well as activities (how to create a quill pen) and behind-the-writing stories (one of the female characters was male in an earlier draft). These are much like the tidbits that frame each post on my blog.

I could go on and on about the other things such as the contests, polls, section for parents and teachers, etc. But the final site might look very different from my vision given my limited budget.

Or maybe if I get the right team working with me, it will be even better than I envisioned. Just like the attic where I’ve come up with these ideas.

Who knew that an ancient architectural adornment would have such a profound impact on my future?


  1. Your website sounds very creative and interactive. It takes the idea of reading to another level, which will no doubt become the standard for future generations. Truly inventive. I look forward to participating in your book as those pages come to life.

  2. I was able to see the big picture of your site beyond 3-D. wow, the endless possibilities.

    Michelle is right, the future standard for children and teen books will look very much like your site... which makes me think you should brand it. I can hear the writers in the future saying they want their book published as a "KimFritzActive"

    The legacy you'll leave.