The Puddle Club – behind the imagination of Michael McGruther

Creative writing is one of the more mysterious (and difficult) crafts for many to learn.

The idea of sitting down, staring at a blank page and bringing it to life with words, arranged in such a way that draws the reader into an emotional journey — is incredibly daunting and the process of writing is different from person to person.

In the next few blog posts I am going to reverse engineer The Puddle Club and take you on my writer’s journey within the journey so that I can share my process with you.

In order for this to make sense you should go back to the first Puddle Club posts by clicking HERE. Once you’re caught up, come back to this page.

The premise and the real world collided in my mind when I first noticed my own reflection in a puddle and realized that PUDDLE THEORY applied to me in the writing of this book as well as being a central theme in the story.

For the longest time I would talk about my secret desire to write books instead of screenplays. I would flirt with writing a book but never truly went for it until I decided to write The Puddle Club after my walk on that damp spring morning.

It was time for me to stop talking and start doing. I needed to jump right in and follow through on a dream I’ve had for a long time. I’m experienced enough to know that process over outcome would save me from losing focus — so I began to tell my story, projected onto the hero, who is based upon my daughter in real life – the same girl I have been teaching these hard-leaned life lessons since her birth.

Jumping in…

Skyler, the book’s hero, travels through a puddle and lands somewhere in a mystical golf course.  I started to connect the plot to real life locations I knew from walking my dogs around my home course.

What you see below is the 9th hole tee box at Applecross Country Club. I liked this hole because it is a very long par 5 and really is made of “rolling hills of green” If you knew nothing about golf (like Skyler) you would not know this was a golf course if you were magically transported to this spot.

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After Skyler lands in the general area of the image above – she is naturally curious about where she is. The question in her head (if I’ve done my job right so far) is the same as the question in the reader’s mind and that is the perfect moment to create more questions that need to be answered by the hero, who in turn answers the reader’s questions.

The only structure Skyler can see is a shed that sits at the top of a winding trail. In the book the shed is more rustic and has smoke coming from a chimney to signal to her that someone is there. In real life this is the grounds-keepers shed where he stores all of the golf course maintenance equipment.

Skyler starts walking to the shed. Along the way she meets Ralphie the talking golf ball. In my next post I’ll show you the exact spot where Ralphie was found.

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The story behind The Puddle Club – Part 2

      Anytime I was at the clubhouse with my daughter, Gregg Russell and I began to talk about his dream of getting a helpful book for junior golfer’s into the world. He and his wife have run many of the US Kids Golf tournaments in the Philadelphia PGA section, and have years of experience working with youth development.  Gregg had seen so many kids have their journey into the game ruined by overzealous parents who think their child is the next Tiger Woods.  This invisible pressure then strangled all of the fun in pursuit of an elusive goal which is meaningless to the young player.

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 I saw this first hand too. I caddy for my daughter in her summer travel league.  The joy of playing seems lost to so many adults, who then impose their non-fun on their children and then joylessness prevails.

So I started to break down the book “I’m Only 8” which was going to be essays and reflections on junior golf. It was called “I’m Only 8” because an 8-year-old junior golfer can navigate a golf course like a mature adult  — but on the car ride home is likely to return to fascination with boogers and fart sounds. A book needed to be written to help parents understand this dynamic and not expect their little future pro to always be “on”.

But every single time I would talk to Gregg about “I’m Only 8”, digging for bits to write about, chapters, etc., he would always talk about the puddle metaphor that communicated what he was truly hoping to get across.

The metaphor is this: when you were young and found a puddle you would jump right in because puddles are fun. When you grew up, you no longer jumped right in. Why? The puddle never changed – you did.

I now call this “Puddle Theory” and the idea stuck in my brain like a hot poker for weeks. I didn’t know where it fit or how to incorporate it until one day I had a eureka moment that meant the death of “I’m Only 8”.

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I walk my dogs through the woodland trails that encircle our country club on a regular basis. One morning after a night of rain I decided to head out. When I approached an area where the trail was flooded and I could see my own reflection — it hit me like a ton of bricks — this book would not be essays and musings on junior golf but instead a fantasy story about a mystical golf club you can only enter through a puddle! I decided right then and there to pursue this idea.

And that is how The Puddle Club was born.

(In my next post I will tell you about how Ralphie the golf ball came to be a major character in the book.)

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