For the most part, it was the traces my students left behind in my heart that inspired me. Every once in a while, though, the physical objects they left behind in my classroom played a role.
I’ll never forget finding a note from one of my male students to his girlfriend (also a student) that was so sexually explicit I struggled to look her in the eye after reading it. The intense bravado and sexism of that letter was something I returned to as I wrote in Azael’s voice — especially before he gets so scared that his macho persona starts to slip away.
Another time, one of my students — one who was constantly writing and drawing on my desks — left behind his black book of designs for me to look at. Even though it didn’t change how I felt about him marking up my desks (or how often he had to clean them) it gave me a different perspective of his need to make a mark on the world around him. That’s something that definitely impacted how I portray Azael’s street art and tagging.