Where do you get your ideas?

I keep hearing about writers who get asked “where do you get your ideas?” Famous writers talk about it, and works of fiction about writers show them faced with this question as well.

Since so much of my writing is fueled by a burning desire for representation, nobody has ever asked me that. Nobody asks the bisexual Jewish woman (who looks like a lesbian on the outside because she’s in a same-sex marriage and bi invisibility is a thing) why she wrote a book with an all-Jewish cast and a lesbian protagonist.

Plus, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me personally that a lot of Shulamit’s journey is my own journey, minus the crushes on older men (I gave those to Rivka), and translated into “fairy tale”. I, too, lost my father relatively suddenly. I, too, experienced my teenage years and early twenties as a femme strongly attracted to other women and confused about what that meant for my own identity. I, too, sometimes need saving from my female friends—and have turned around and rescued them as best I could. It’s also obvious to anyone who knows us in person that I got the celiac plotline from my gluten-intolerant spouse. I don’t get asked “where do you get your ideas?” because I took my life and added a cuddly dragon, and who wouldn’t want to do that?

So what do I get asked? Well:

I’ve had white people ask me why Shulamit (and by extension, her entire kingdom’s population) is brown. Then I get to give a little speech about representation, but honestly, the answer is “because why not?”

I’ve had people ask me the sexual orientation of the dragon. (This is the best question ever, but if you want to know, you have to read it! Sorry!)

I’ve had people ask me how long it took me to write it. Actually, oddly, that’s probably the most common question, next to the wisecracks about the dragon. People ask the same things about the sweaters and socks I’ve knit, which confuses me — both for the book and for the knitting — because I don’t work on one thing continuously until it’s done to the exclusion of all other hobbies, so the answer is often meaningless.

Oh, and the most predictable question of all, I guess: “But what’s the FIRST mango?” (To which I say: the first mango is the one you eat yourself, and the second is the one you give away to make a new friend. Both are important.)

About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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