My daughter and I recently spent a week in Lexington, VA visiting my dad. One of the highlights was visiting the amazing Fairy Forest at Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden. The Fairy Forest opened this spring and is growing quickly. Garden Director, Faith Vosburgh, explained that this colony for fairy folk is meant to be a place where children can come to explore and build. She showed my daughter buckets containing prickly balls, pine cones, pods, acorn shells, twigs and other bits of natural building material perfect for building and adorning fairy houses.
But, before building her own fairy house, my daughter wanted to explore the woods for inspiration. She peeked into the structures previous fairy house architects and engineers had constructed.
She looked at this house and this one and this one!
And this one… and this one!
And as she did, she took mental notes about what worked, in her opinion, and what didn’t.
Next, with her own plan in mind, Miss A. was ready to begin.
She picked her special spot and cleared space for her foundation. Then, using bits of nature and her wonderful imagination, as well as some of the fairy abode principles she had observed, she built.
She built and built and built!
Until, finally, her fairy house was finished!
As a writer, think that the Boxerwood Fairy Forest is a wonderful, visual reminder that good writing should be grounded in a solid understanding of our subject/genre. Indeed, whether building fairy houses or writing picture books, it’s important to look to those who have built before us, or who are building alongside us, for wisdom and insight into what makes a long and lasting structure/story.
For me, that means reading, reading, reading! Each week this summer, I plan to lug home a bag full of picture books from the library. Some will be classics I knew and loved as a child. Others will be new books by contemporary authors. I will read them to myself, to the kids, to the dog and as I do I will analyze what makes them work or not. I will record my thoughts in a notebook for future reference.
Then, just as my daughter did at Boxerwood’s Fairy Forest, I will gather my own twigs, bark, and yarn, and build my own stories, applying what I’ve learned from the experts.
How about you? What’s your version of a trip to Fairy Forest? How do you plan to grow and learn as a writer this summer? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Happy Summer, all!