I, Jerry Spinelli, am writing this myself without help from my wife and fellow author, Eileen, because I need to do some bragging about her. It was her idea that led to our first book together: Today I Will. She remembered reading daily devotionals, and it occurred to her that young readers might like a day-by-day book based on literature.
There's a page in Today I Will for every day in the year—that’s 366 pages/days, including leap year. Each page starts with a quote from children's or young adult literature. Then comes a commentary on the quote, followed by a resolution—that is, how you can apply the message to your day. The idea is that you take a minute to read the day's page when you get up in the morning. It helps to give your day a little direction.
Today I Will is just the latest in a long parade of ideas that Eileen has blessed me with. The sequel to Stargirl—Love, Stargirl—is one. The Stargirl Journal is another.
Speaking of Stargirl, I guess you could say she gave me the idea for that one too, even though she never realized it. Listening to her talk about her childhood over the years, and getting to know this special person I happen to be married to, I found myself using Eileen again and again as my model as I developed the character of Susan Caraway, who names herself Stargirl. Two examples: Stargirl keeps notes on other people, so she knows when their birthdays are, what they like to eat, etc; and Stargirl has a “happy wagon.” I lifted both of these features from Eileen’s personal history.
She does more than supply me with ideas. She’s my first reader and editor. When I finish a chapter, I put it on her desk. (We each have an office in our house.) She tells me if it’s good (I go, “Yes!”) or not (I re-write). I do the same for her. It works so well for us, I sometimes wonder how any author can manage without a writing spouse.
Sometimes we get asked: “Do you compete with each other?” The question always surprises us. The fact is, we are each other’s biggest cheerleader. If Eileen writes a bestseller, I’m probably happier about it than she is. There are no losers in our house.
People who know we have seventeen grandchildren (at last count) often want to know if we get ideas from them. The answer is: Yes, we do. But there are many more sources to get stories from. We get story ideas from each other and from reading the newspaper and from memories of our own kidhoods and just from ordinary everyday life.
With all this writing stuff going on in our House of Two Authors, you might wonder that it took us this long to write a book together. Actually, we did try it once before, years ago. It was a story about ideas in the form of cute, furry little creatures running around the house. That story was one idea we could have done without. It flopped.