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Where I find inspiration

By July 4, 2023December 15th, 2023No Comments


Where I find inspiration

July 4th. It’s quite the date.

The end of the book launch. The 21st birthday of Box of Crayons. The final day of the Ottoman Empire 105 years ago. Also, something something independence, something America.

And one other thing.

My grandmother, my Dad’s mum, had a spectacularly Scottish name: Maida Euphemia Kerr Stanier (neé Burnett). She was named after the wolfhound of Sir Walter Scott – one of the progenitors of modern Scottish identity (the man, not the dog) and celebrated by a huge statue on the main street of Edinburgh – who (the dog, not the man) was, in turn, was named after a battle in the Napoleonic wars … which was fought on July 4, 1806 … 117 years ago today.

But that wasn’t even her most interesting name. Rather, that was Culex, her nom de plume. “Culex” is Latin for mosquito, and it was the sobriquet she adopted when writing the “what’s news” aka “gossip and more” column for the Oxford Times newspaper.

Because Grannie (the name I knew her by) was a writer. She wrote non-fiction, fiction, plays, young adult literature, poetry, and journalism. We had assorted books of hers in our bookcase at home, and when she came to visit, she’d make up stories about her grandkids and tell them in her delightful rolling brogue.

I wouldn’t have known it then, but I know it now: in Maida, I had a role model, permission to claim the identity of a writer for myself.

I’m not quite there yet. I know I’m an author (I have books written); but I’m still edging towards the identity of being a writer, one who puts the acts of writing central to the way they design their life.

I’m still figuring out what to say Yes to and what to say No to. But as I try and get clearer on what that looks like, I think of Maida.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.