Author Interviews about Inspiration (Episode 3.5)

A “talking tales” episode in which guest authors Cary Fagan, Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Raquel Rivera, Ishta Mercurio, and Robin Stevenson answer the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” 40 minutes. All ages.

A full transcript of this episode is available at

[0:00] Introduction

Welcome to Cabin Tales: Spooky Stories for Young Writers. This is Episode 3.5: “Author Interviews about Inspiration.” I’m Catherine Austen. And my guests today are Cary Fagan, Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Raquel Rivera, Ishta Mercurio, and Robin Stevenson. They’ve written over 70 books—picture books, short story collections, non-fiction, and novels for children, teens, and adults – and their advice on where to find ideas for stories, where to keep them once you find them, and how to create fiction from your real-life fears, is coming up right now on Cabin Tales.

[1:15] Interviews about finding inspiration for stories

[2:10] Cary Fagan on finding inspiration from his own childhood

[5:30] Robin Stevenson on finding inspiration in life and news

[7:50]: Raquel Rivera on finding inspiration inside and out

[10:10] Ishta Mercurio on walking into inspiration

[13:25] Wendy McLeod MacKnight about being nosy

[16:15] Quote from Jack Gantos on eavesdropping

[17:00] Interviews about finding inspiration in real-life fears

[17:10] Robin Stevenson on her apocalyptic fears

[18:05] Raquel Rivera on writing from fear

[19:45] Wendy McLeod MacKnight on giving characters her phobias

[20:35] Cary Fagan on using fear directly and indirectly

[22:05] Ishta Mercurio on needing distance from fear

[23:20] Tapping into fear and other emotions to inspire stories

[24:20] Quotes from S.E. Hinton and from Peter Sears’ student handbook

[25:40] Interviews about journals

[25:55] Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s embarrassing journals

[27:35] Robin Stevenson on the need to write ideas down

[28:55] Raquel Rivera on writing, drawing, and designing ideas

[30:25] Ishta Mercurio’s many kinds of journal

[32:55] Cary Fagan’s journal is called a notebook.

[35:45] Things to do in journals

[36:30] Find inspiration by reading

[39:05] Start with a prompt

Download an Object Study exercise template at

[40:10] Thanks and coming up on the podcast

Next week it’s Plotting in Episode 4: “Bad Things Happen.” Thanks for listening

Guest authors:

cary-fagan-small.jpg Photo by Mark Reynes Roberts

Cary Fagan has written many books for children, including The Hollow Under the Tree, Mort Ziff is Not Dead, and Wolfie and Fly. His many awards include the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, the IODE Jean Throop Award, the Betty Stuchner–Oy Vey!–Funniest Children’s Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for his body of work. Cary lives in Toronto. Find him online at


Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a small town with a library card as her most prized possession. She worked for the Government of New Brunswick for twenty-five years until the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. She is the author of three middle grade novels: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! (Sky Pony Press), The Frame-Up and The Copycat (both from Greenwillow Books). In her spare time, she gardens, hangs with her family and friends, and feeds raccoons. Visit Wendy online at or on Twitter @wendymacknight or Instagram @wendymcleodmacknight.


Ishta Mercurio was born and raised in an interracial family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she developed a love of reading and books and big ideas. After leaving for college at the exactly right age of 16, she went on to explore the world and, with it, to explore various ways of storytelling, from dance to theatre to poetry to prose. She now lives and writes in Brampton, Ontario, where she serves as the Chairman of the Board for The FOLD Foundation, a non-profit whose mandate is to lift underrepresented and marginalized voices in Canadian literature. Her picture book debut, Small World, illustrated by Jen Corace (ABRAMS Books for Young Readers), was selected as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019 and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the Canadian region.

Find Ishta online at or on Facebook at @theoneandonlyishta/, on Twitter @IshtaWrites; or on Instagram @IshtaMercurio.

raquel-small.jpg Photo by Katya Konioukhova

Raquel Rivera is a writer, artist and performer based in Montreal since 1999, where she has published five books for young readers. Prior to this, she lived and worked as a copywriter in Washington DC, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, and she taught ESL in Barcelona. Raquel also writes about books for Constellations, a library and online database of quality children’s literature, for use by teachers, librarians, and the public. When she’s not reading, writing, practising acrobatics, or drumming, Raquel leads creative workshops for children, youth, and adults around Quebec and across Canada. Visit her online at


Robin Stevenson is the award winning author of 29 books, including board books, picture books, early chapter books, middle grade fiction and non-fiction, and young adult fiction and non-fiction. She lives on the west coast of Canada with her family: her partner, teenage son, a cat, and a very loving and slightly needy spaniel who is usually lying on her feet. Robin is launching three new books in 2021: a picture book, PRIDE PUPPY (Orca), a middle-grade non-fiction book, KID INNOVATORS (Quirk), and a young adult novel, WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE (Running Press Kids). Find Robin online at or on Twitter @robin_stevenson, on Facebook at @RobinStevensonAuthor/, or on Instagram: @robinstevensonwrites.

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