Many times, works of fiction begin someplace real. That was definitely the case for Stinky Cecil. I was visiting extended family near Hammond, New York and became fascinated by this pond. I’d already been thinking about climate change and how we may all be affected by it someday, but I had become even more interested about how temperature change is already affecting the least among us: amphibians.
As a kid I would visit my grandparents in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the summer months. They had a large creek running through their property, fed by a fresh water spring. I spent many hours playing near that spring, flipping over rocks to find salamanders and frogs underneath. Mostly salamanders. Now when I visit that spring there aren’t any salamanders. Or if you’re really lucky, you might see one, but that is very rare.
I’d been thinking for a while about doing a story featuring frogs and salamanders. For me, it’s very important to picture a specific place when I’m writing a story. I want to know where their home is and be able to visualize it as I write and draw. I knew I’d found Cecil’s pond when I discovered this spot on my brother- and sister-in-law’s property in upstate New York. The whole scene is even Cecil’s signature color — bright green!