Every once in a while, a student will come to my office, saying she doesn’t know what to write.

“What gets your heart pumping?” I’ll ask her. “What takes your breath away? What makes the hair on your arms stand up on end?”

And she’ll look up into the air until something dawns upon her, and then a smile (or pained expression) will spread across her face. Her brother’s addiction, she’ll tell me, or her pet dog, or her looming student debt, or her quest to bake the perfect red velvet cupcake, or her involvement in the Occupy movement.

“Write about that,” I’ll tell her and she’ll leave the office with a fresh burst of inspiration, a fresh sense of purpose.

When we write about the things that electrify us--either with joy or with fear--we bring a great zing of energy to the page. Energy that will propel our words forward; energy the reader will be able to feel.

Dance has always been one of my greatest passions; as I wrote The Book of Live Wires, I was thrilled to realize that my narrator Darryl’s grandmother had been a dancer. Through her journals (which Darryl has translated from Russian, Yiddish and French), I was able to vicariously experience what it would have been like to dance with two of my greatest dance influences--Isadora Duncan and Josephine Baker. These women have electrified me for years, and I loved translating their wild, uninhibited dance into fiction. Other aspects of the book charged me up, as well--writing about new parenthood, and illness, and other deeply embodied experiences made me feel more fully alive inside my own skin.

What electrifies you right now, as a writer? Please let me know in the comments below, and you could win a copy of The Book of Live Wires. The grand prize winner will receive an ebook and a rare physical galley of the book, along with a copy of my Bellwether-Prize winning novel, The Book of Dead Birds. The second place winner will receive an ebook and a rare physical galley of The Book of Live Wires, and third, fourth and fifth place winners will receive a free copy of the ebook. You can enter until Friday, January 27. The winners will be announced January 30.

I look forward to learning about what keeps you up at night, what thrills you and scares you and makes you race to the page.

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Comment by gayle brandeis on February 2, 2012 at 4:31pm

Thank you so much, everyone, for all of your beautiful, passionate responses to my question. I am profoundly moved by your voices. You can find the list of winners of the giveaway (and a coupon code for my ebook) here but please continue to share your lightning bolts of inspiration in these comments if you are moved to do so. I will keep reading them! :) Thank you again. xoxo

Comment by Katherine E. Hinkson on February 1, 2012 at 5:53pm

Patricia,

One of my favorite story lines involves an old gothic victorian house. The Gothic is a character in itself. I love writing that story line.

Comment by Katherine E. Hinkson on February 1, 2012 at 5:53pm

Patricia,

One of my favorite story lines involves an old gothic victorian house. The Gothic is a character in itself. I love writing that story line.

Comment by Katherine E. Hinkson on February 1, 2012 at 5:53pm

Patricia,

One of my favorite story lines involves an old gothic victorian house. The Gothic is a character in itself. I love writing that story line.

Comment by Katherine E. Hinkson on February 1, 2012 at 5:53pm

Patricia,

One of my favorite story lines involves an old gothic victorian house. The Gothic is a character in itself. I love writing that story line.

Comment by Joanne R. Alloway on February 1, 2012 at 9:13am
So many things,but Books, the smell of them-old ones, new ones, doesn't matter! Also being in a Library, especially a great one, surrounded by the great works, classics and archival materials.. Wondering how one could ever even touch the tip of this great iceberg?
Comment by Collene Anderson on February 1, 2012 at 7:59am

A mantra that begins with "I don't know..." leads me to treat my days as an explorer of knowledge.  The impact of a clear mind that erases my ego and lets life soak in through my pores is electric.

Comment by Mollie Pearce McKibbon on January 31, 2012 at 4:33pm

New paper, new pens, new books, blank canvas these things electrify me.  I get this excited fluttery feeling when I pick them up.  Life is wonderful and so are words.

Comment by Patricia Gligor on January 31, 2012 at 7:54am

I love old houses and they inspire me! The television show "If Walls Could Talk" was one of my all time favorites. Old houses have so much character and so much history!

Actually, an old Victorian was the inspiration for Mixed Messages, the first novel in my Malone Mystery Series, which will be published in April. I saw the house and immediately my imagination went to work. What kind of people had lived there through the years? What happened in that house?

Comment by Rebecca Panzer on January 31, 2012 at 7:42am

The single pursuit that takes away my fatigue, my unhappiness, my frustrations, is the manipulation of wet clay--potter's clay. When I allow myself to sink into it, I forget all my cares. I've been known to forget to make dinner, run to the post office, or pick my son up from school, too. Not the best moments.... Still, the wonder of bringing a vessel up from a lump of mud never fails to excite and energize me.

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