The idea for Totem began percolating in my mind back in January of 2011. I had a lot of the details worked out with the legend and fantasy end of the story, but I was missing the major conflict. Obviously no major conflict = no book. Over time, the characters kept coming back into my imagination and prodding me to fight through my writers block.
Fast forward a year in a half, In the summer of 2012, a large scale sand mine put in a request for a conditional use permit just 6 miles from our house. The town I lived in was in a bit of an up-roar over the proposal. As I researched the mine, the potential health hazards, the environmental impact and the likely changes that would come to town I became saddened and frustrated. The proposed mine was near a large State Natural Area that had been created on donated land. If the mine were to be approved, the donor's backyard would be against the sand mine.
I couldn't imagine how I would feel if the property I purchased was adjacent to the proposed site - an area that was currently zoned solely for agriculture. How I would feel about a mine that ran 24 hours a day? An operation that would require a parade of dump trucks to transport the sand, and floodlights that would illuminate the work-site all night long. It didn't fit with the values of many local residents - people who had chosen to live further from the convenience of the cities for the benefit of a quiet area where nature was just out their back door.
During the uproar, I read whatever I could get my hands on; but from what I researched, it seemed unlikely that the mine would be turned away. Even though there was no official outcome, I took the advice of a teacher who once told us to "Write about a time where things didn't go your way. Change your biggest disappointment." And so it began; in Totem, the five main characters, Ellery, Josh, Nodin, Sasha, and Cole work together to fight a mine that has been proposed in their town of Oshedina.
At this point in time the particular mine that inspired the conflict in Totem has has been "approved," BUT there is a legal battle waging between the county and a large group of land owners. I have since moved away from that town but I often think of the landowners who are fighting that battle everyday. And for their sake I hope someone like Cole or Nodin, or Ellery joins their fight.
Anyone that is interested in following the latest news on sand mining in Central Wisconsin can "like" the Preserve Waupaca County Group found on their Facebook page. I thank them for their permission to use the above photo in this post.
What about you? Have you ever found inspiration from conflict in your life?