Friday, September 3

The Chrysalis of an Idea

by Margie Senechal

I love ideas.

Ideas begin as a caterpillar walking across the sidewalk. They’re a bit plain, really. Maybe just a word or a phrase. Just enough to get the cogs turning.

Sometimes the idea has a stripe or two and the more you think on it, the more beautiful the stripes become.

When I was working at Burlington, I loved it when we got new suitcases in. Which is weird, because it had been years since I’d gone anywhere, and I certainly didn’t have the money to travel then. But I’d walk through them, imagining places waiting for me to explore them.

And that was when I thought, “I could collect suitcases like some women collect purses.” And I went to my locker and wrote it down. On my lunch, I fleshed it out to a third person paragraph about collecting suitcases but never going anywhere.

The next day I brainstormed and wondered why I—well, my character, Analise—never went anywhere. Now, I love brainstorming. I use an array of pens in all different colors and textures. I write upside down and sideways on the paper. I add notes along the margins of the paragraphs, insert notes in-between the lines of sentences and draw arrows, flowers, and houses. I’m a writer, not an artist as my doodles will prove.

With Ana, I considered having her be a sleeper spy—because that’s right in my wheelhouse and the mother character was her handler. And there might have been a code word that activated her.

Once I eliminated the sleeper agent storyline, I focused on the mother-daughter angle and began developing my storyline. Which to me is just getting the words on the paper without a map or outline.

I added Danny, the love interest in the second chapter. He'd lost his hand, his wife, and his daughter in a horrific car accident. And because of the accident he's unable to drive or even be in a car. 

 And there's a sweet little open market with a few quirky characters, Hope, a really bad-at-her-job Soul Retrieval agent, long-jumping, softball, a kitten who just appeared this week, and eventually a happy ending. 

And so, I’ve been working on this book without an end in sight for years. And years (just ask my bff Chris, who keeps asking/begging for the end).

Thanks to our writing retreat a few weeks ago, I think I’m finally on the right track and a bright light is leading me toward the end of my very long tunnel.

Then I will send my book out (be watching your email, Chris) and there will be a chrysalis period and then if I'm lucky, it will be a beautiful butterfly floating onto the bookshelves.


Until then, stay safe and find your own butterflies to follow.



  1. Oh, I love this. I can't wait for Ana's story to reach its happy conclusion. And you, my friend, are one of my favorite butterflies!

  2. What a cool concept--ideas are indeed caterpillars that become butterflies and I'm so glad that Ana's story got such great traction at retreat! It's time for that butterfly to grow wings!

    1. Thanks to you and Liz for setting such a great example. Amazing what sitting down at a keyboard every day will do. LOL.

      I'm ready for her to take flight. I have other ideas knocking on the door, but I'm trying to stay faithful.

  3. I read a version of Suitcases a couple of years ago and I thought it was great. Can't wait to read the ending!

  4. Yes!!!! I can't wait. I love Ana and I can't wait to see how her life turns out.