One Vintage Photo Can Inspire a Best-Selling Novel

miss-peregrines-home-peculiar_book-coverDid you know that a vintage snapshot provided author Ramson Riggs with inspiration for his best-selling book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children?

Browse through the following collections of vintage photographs, and, who knows, one picture might be the inspiration for YOUR best-selling novel!

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) contains catalog records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and, in some cases, other units of the Library of Congress. The collections of the Prints & Photographs Division include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings.

National Archives Library Information Center

The National Archives site will keep you busy for hours with links to scores of additional vintage photo resources.

State Historical Societies


Suffrage parade, New York Historical Society

Search for any state historical society online, and you will find collections specific to the state and its cities.

Flicker Commons

In January of 2008, Flickr launched a new project aimed at increasing access to publicly held photography collections in civic institutions around the world. They called it The Commons. The idea was to provide a space for the public to contribute their historical knowledge to compliment the information the institutions already had.

Washington, D.C., 1922. “Department of Agriculture. First device to accurately measure a loaf of bread in cubic centimeters/SHORPY

Shorpy is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. It includes unusual, and even bizarre, photos not found in other sources.

Ancient Faces

Launched in 2000 as a place to share vintage family photos, this site now also includes family stories and even recipes. Photo tags make it easy to look for pictures of everything from cowboys to royalty.

Old Photo Archive

8 Things Parents Did In The 50s & 60s That They Could Never Do Today exists to preserve and share history by telling stories through old photos. Browse the Story Archive, and you’ll find plenty of inspiration!

And here are several other places to look:

Google images

Type in a decade or a specific year. You can also refine your search by topic (ex. 1940s fashion, cars, inventions, etc.)


Ebay is another source where you’ll find unique vintage photos (for sale). Search “vintage photographs” or “antique photos”. The collection is ever-changing.



ce6634cdf9dfd1f0d9e4415b4eb6f371Pinterest is the best site to find just about anything, and vintage photographs are no exception. Search “vintage photos” on Pinterest, and you’ll find plenty of pins that lead you to blog posts and other fascinating online destinations.

Visit my Pinterest board where I’ve collected photos of vintage Santas.

And a bonus site, not for photographs but for historical manuscripts online:

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation is an independent educational organization dedicated to the research, collection, and exhibition of original manuscripts and historical documents. The Foundation’s focus is on the histories of the United States and the Holy Land, with emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. Its extensive holdings include American presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln; Mark Twain; Albert Einstein; Custer and the Little Big Horn; and Theodor Herzl.

Now, get busy and start writing!
A picture is worth ten-thousand words.


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Filed under Inspiration, Movtivation, Tools for Writers, Uncategorized

How Autumn Can Supercharge Your Descriptive Writing

1Autumn is the best time to sharpen your descriptive writing skills. Stop whatever you’re doing! Follow this advice from poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Grab a notebook and pen, get outside someplace quiet, and write.

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

Let these poems guide you. Think about how the words transform into pictures and create specific moods.

b7de59d48ed1cea22aa91ad133972040.jpgLi Po, known as a poetic genius, lived in China during the Tang Dynasty. He wrote many of his poems while wandering the Yangtze River Valley. In this short poem, carefully-chosen words create a powerful image.

Autumn River Song
The moon shimmers in green water.
White herons fly through the moonlight.
The young man hears a girl gathering water-chestnuts:
into the night, singing, they paddle home together.

86378e3310293fcc925b5362baa288d6--goldfish-autumn-fallThe 20th century Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, is well-known for his lyrical style. Notice his use of comparisons.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling. 

700-00681295And, finally, study this poem by the contemporary British poet, Michael Shepherd. How do all five senses combine to create an image for readers?

Autumn Gardener

Gathering rosebuds with my rake; 
the wooden tines scraping
over the gravel path
bringing a token of order 
to the autumn of a life; 

rosebuds, nipped at the neck
by frost; dead leaves
curled like begging or covetous hands, 
coloured like rich memories, red, orange, brown, 
dry husks, spilt seed, 
now crisp, eager to surrender to the fire, 
its scented smoke curling like a pyre against
a cold blue sky now welcoming
a tidy offering up; 
how clean, how sharp the autumn air

478586728.jpgdarker under the trees
the leaves still wet
limp and flat as hope defeated, 
pressed together as
words not meant, or
something missed; 
next year the leaves
will remember innocence, 
the tree broader, eager, 
brown as wisdom tipped with exploratory green.

gathering rosebuds with my rake
the season with its woodsmoke, evocative, 
tempting to metaphor, hovering, 
a garden of lost meaning; 
no longer, this cooling autumn, a construction, 
but speaking its own seriousness.

how clean, how sharp the autumn air 
scented by surrender.
(© Michael Shepherd)

Don’t let autumn slip away.
It’s like a fire burning hot, awakening the senses,
fueling the desire to write.
But . . . it won’t last forever.


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7 Lessons Writers Can Learn From Football


It’s football season. Yea! Or, maybe you said, “Nay!” Whether you’re a fan of the game or not, football holds some key lessons for writers.

LESSON 1: Aim carefully.

The target in football is to gain points by moving the ball over the goal line. The head coach and his players have a plan, a strategy, to score points and win the game.

Writers also need a goal and a plan. What do you want to accomplish with your writing? How will you prepare to reach your goal?

LESSON 2: Make wise decisions.

Football is about playing smart. For example, a quarterback decides to which player he will attempt to throw the football. A coach decides whether or not to play through a fourth down. A poor decision can cost points or even the game.

Fiction writers, above all, need to make wise decisions when they write. A poor decision in creating the plot, defining the characters, choosing a point-of-view . . . . can ruin the whole story.

unnamed.pngLESSON 3: Don’t be afraid to take chances.

It’s the last quarter of the game. Your team is down by seven points and the clock is ticking off the final seconds. The only chance to tie the game is for the quarterback to throw a Hail Mary Pass (a long pass toward the goal line) hoping that one of his players catches it and carries it in for the touchdown. He takes the chance. He throws—and it works! The pass is caught and carried.

If a writer feels that adding something extreme, and maybe even a bit crazy, feels right, then he or she should be willing to be creative and take a chance that editors and readers will love it.

LESSON 4: Learn from the “greats”.

Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Johnny Unitas . . . . these are a few of the greatest football players of all time. Today’s players learn by studying the skill sets of the “greats”.

Likewise, writers sharpen their craft by reading and studying the work of great authors.

LESSON 5: You can’t always win.

Coach Vince Lombardi said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”

Think about it: Do you rise after you fall? If your book is rejected again and again will you keep getting up and moving toward your goal?

LESSON 6: Be respectful.

I’m a Green Bay Packers fan. I’ve always had respect for Coach Mike McCarthy, but last week after a bad call by the refs Coach McCarthy had a meltdown. He walked onto the field and shouted what I assume was profanity at a referee. His actions resulted in a 15-yard penalty for his team.

Like players and referees, authors and editors sometimes have salty relationships. Still, it’s important to show respect. A single tantrum can tarnish your reputation as someone who’s easy to work with.

gaming-laptops.jpgLESSON 7: Use the off-season to stay in shape.

What do football players do when they aren’t playing football? They’re working to stay in shape!

What do you do between writing projects? How do you stay fit to prepare for the next “game”?


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