Where do ideas come from?
Without them we have nothing to write.
But where do they come from?
For me, ideas come from asking questions.
Dear Papa grew out of the questions, why would a nine year old write a letter to her father after he'd died, and what would she say to him?
I was visiting my Aunt Betty and asked her what it was like for her when her dad, my grandfather, died when she was in elementary school. She told me she'd written him a letter before he died and I asked to see it. We searched everywhere but couldn't find that letter. In the process, though, we found lots of photographs and she told me stories about my grandpa and life in the 1940s.
Later, back at home, I kept thinking about that letter. I misremembered the details and thought she'd written to him after he'd died. So I wrote a letter, making up what I thought a girl like her might have wanted to say. My own father had died not long before and what I missed most was not being able to tell him all the little details of everyday life so that's what I had this girl talk about. When I got to the end of the letter, I signed it with the first name that popped into my head, Isabelle.
Then I kept wondering what happens next, so I kept writing letters.
The cover photos for Dear Papa are family photos.
This is Aunty Betty and my mom. Sorry you didn't make the cover, Mom!
My grandpa, like Papa in the book, had a filling station in St. Paul, at Randolph and Griggs.
When I was a kid, my mom would drive us past her childhood home at 1234 Palace in St. Paul. I grew up on a street named 37th Avenue. I was sure living at such a romantic address as 1234 Palace would add tremendous excitement to my life. This is a photo of 1234 Palace in the 1940s and the fictional Isabelle's home.