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20 May 2014 ·

History and the magic of inspiration

Inspiration, story ideas – they’re all around us, in everything that we see and hear, think and do, every day of our lives. But sometimes a particular story needs more specific inspiration, as well as hard research, and that’s one of the reasons I’m travelling in France now. In the ancient towns of Marseilles, Avignon, Nimes, etc, I’ve found details that add to the world I’m creating and have  imagined myself into the atmosphere of those very different times. But true inspiration usually comes accidentally, and that’s how it’s been this time. The day that we decided we needed a break from history and ruins, and headed off to tour a cave outside Avignon, was the magical day for me.

Arriving at the caves at 12:00, just as they shut for two hours, we decided to head to the nearest village for lunch. Isle de Sorgue was perfect, charming and historic, exactly what you might imagine for a holiday in Provence. The sun was shining and suddenly the thought of returning to tour a cave with the six classes of kindergartners who’d been picnicking at the entrance, seemed less appealing. We continued on to Saumonne, a village and chateau built of rock, often into the side of the cliff. It was the key I’d been looking for; I felt almost weak with relief. I would have been happy enough to have simply headed home then, but La Fontaine de Sorgue was nearby, so we headed there. We visited the church, first founded in ( I think) the 5th century, rebuilt in 12th or 13th, and still used as the parish church now. Of all the magnificent cathedrals and basilica we’ve visited, we found this the most moving and spiritual.

Then, passing the myriad ice cream and souvenir stalls lining the walkway, we walked up to La Fontaine, the source. There was a barrier at the end, with a sign saying extreme danger but not actually forbidding you to climb over it, as quite a few people were doing, so we did. A short scramble later, we came to one of the most magical places I have ever seen. Clear, deep blue water  welled up from underground chasms deep under the white cliffs. It didn’t take much imagination to  guess that it must have been a sacred place from the time people first saw it, or to imagine what it must feel like on days that weren’t bright with spring sunshine. And to womder at the stories it must have seen…

So often story ideas can come from the smallest things in daily life, the emotions we all know, and no story is complete without those factors. But sometimes there’s magic too, the catch of the breath that marks the sudden gift of inspiration.

At this point I was going to add some glorious pictures, but unfortunately can’t seem to do it from my iPad. I will post some on my facebook page: Wendy Orr Author, if you want to see.



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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Dragonfly Song, a novel in free verse and prose of an outcast girl who becomes a bull-leaper in Bronze Age Crete. Read full bio