I love questions.
I love considering how people make decisions.
And I love the public library.
On a recent visit to my local branch, magic happened. Two front-facing titles drew me in. The first: Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators.
Score! Kids’ books, authors, illustrators! I turned first to the interview with Mo Willems:
Q: What did you learn at Sesame Street that has carried over into your books?”
“A: Clarity, brevity, and that funny is funny.
This may be cliched to say, but I love conversations that reveal inspiration. Here’s another snippet from the chat with Trixie’s dad:
Q: As you began making picture books, were you inspired by other artists’ books, either books you were looking at then for the first time or those you remembered from childhood?”
“A: The first Pigeon book was certainly informed by Where the Wild things Are.
Let’s go back to that display at my local library. Another surprise: an Atlas of Fashion Designers. Total. Eye. Candy. A book I never would have read. Never imagined I’d put on hold. But there it was, gorgeous, global, and filled with killer insights:
What inspires you?”
“What is your dream as a designer?”
“What has been the most important achievement of your career?”
“How important are trends?”
“Fashion has always reflected a certain era. What does fashion reflect in the twenty-first century?”
“What book would you recommend to every fashion designer?
Simple questions, open-ended enough to not make any preconceived assumptions about what the teller would tell. But specific enough to capture the fashion landscape and hone in on the designer’s vision.
I spend a lot of my work life asking people questions. So I’m always on the lookout, brainstorming ways to ask WHY. For instance, in the New York Times Sunday Business section, there’s a department called Openers, where you’ll often find a featured CEO. I’m curious about how these execs found their passion, carved their path. Some recent questions that got me thinking:
Tell me how your leadership style evolved over time.”
“What were some leadership lessons you learned along the way?”
“What advice do you give college graduates heading into their careers?
I love these mini-puzzles that explore
- what makes someone tick
- what makes their heart beat faster
- what brought a transformation.
When I write stories that give me a glimpse into people’s minds and lives, and I craft these bits of text that prompt response, oftentimes, I’m inspired too.