It’s that season—the sniffling, sneezing, coughing cacophony of wintery colds. Your household may have already been hit. And, yes, it may be hit again. The germ mafia is on the loose.

So what’s a parent to do? Well, you can ensconce yourself in Purell and pull that germy Kindergartener on your lap. SICK SIMON by Dan Krall is here to delight and educate you both with disgustingly charming clarity.

sicksimon

Kids love oozing yuckiness and ridiculously-behaving characters, so you can say SICK SIMON has it all.

Simon begins his week thinking it will be the best ever! But his nose becomes a bulbous faucet of green slime. An eerie radioactive glow surrounds him as he trudges through school. His sneezes coat the classroom in a putrid fog. Kids shriek and escape in horror-movie-style terror.

Simon remains germed up as the school eventually empties, leaving Friday’s highly-anticipated kickball game with just one player—the baron of bacteria himself, Sick Simon.

Of course, the germs are THRILLED. They hail Sick Simon as their hero!

Author-illustrator Dan Krall even drew these microscopic cretins of crustiness with amazing accuracy. Just look at these guys and their real-life counterparts!

virusprotozoa giardiabacteria

germs

Being that we are obsessed with story ideas on this blog, I asked Dan what prompted his newly-released viral sensation. It was none other than his young daughter, who became a bacterial beacon as soon as she began school. (We parents know this all too well.)

I asked Dan if we could see early incarnations of his main character. Was his nose always so gross?

simon characters studies

You betcha!

GROSS is GREAT. Kids love it.

And you’ll love it, too, because SICK SIMON teaches kids how colds and viruses get around in an entertaining, silly, slimy way. You’ve got a hapless character, oozing greenish gooeyness, and grateful germs.

And, if you leave a comment below, SICK SIMON may show up on your doorstep!

Don’t worry, though–we’ll wash it off with an antibacterial wipe first. We’ll throw in a laminated poster, tissues and hand sanitizer to ensure you stay healthy, too.

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Sick Simon Poster

dankrallDan Krall is an author, illustrator, and an animator. He worked as a character designer on the popular films How to Train Your Dragon and Coraline. He was also the art director for the television shows Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated; Chowder; and Samurai Jack; as well as a Development Artist for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, The PowerPuff Girls, and Dexter’s Laboratory. He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles.

His newest book, SICK SIMON, is available now from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

 

 

 

by Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg

You have an idea for a book! Yahoo! It’s one of those ideas that hits you so deep in your gut that you immediately scribble it into a little notebook. Your stomach bubbles, not in an indigestion sort of way, but in a nervous-happy–giving-birth-to-a-germ-of-an-idea way. So how do you know if the idea is really picture book idea? What if it’s actually a chapter book or a middle grade novel, how do you know?

Well, you don’t. Not right away.

Of course, there are the obvious tip-offs that your idea is not a picture book. Take your idea through this list and see how it stacks up.

  1. Age of the protagonist.

These days picture books are generally geared for ages 2-7, although there are still picture books geared towards older elementary school, especially in nonfiction. Still, there’s no question that picture books are skewing younger with shorter word counts. If your primary character is in first through third grade (or ages 6-9), and is longer than 700 words, chances are you have a chapter book. And if your character is a fourth or fifth grader, chances are you have a younger middle grade novel (for ages 9-10). Now sometimes, often, older chapter books overlap with middle grade. Is Stuart Little an illustrated chapter book or an early middle grade? There is no hard and fast answer here, especially since the term chapter book has often been used in a general way to indicate a book for elementary school children that has chapters. However, often in publishing when we say chapter book, we often mean an early chapter book. Think Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones or Geronimo Stilton. Of course, exceptions apply in everything (and really, would it be any fun if there weren’t?). But read on to help you determine where your idea fits best.

magictreehouse

  1. Interest of the main character.

Is your main character interested in something that will be appealing to younger children? E.g. If you’re story is about a child who’s excited about writing cursive, this means the main character is probably eight, and chances are it’s a chapter book story. If you’re an author/illustrator who has created lots of charming or edgy black and white illustrations to go with the story, chances are it’s a chapter book. Early middle grade books are also starting to feature illustrations more. This is great news for illustrators.

Page from "Notebook of Doom" chapter book series by Troy Cummings

Page from “Notebook of Doom” chapter book series by Troy Cummings

  1. Period of time.

Does your story occur over a year? Six months? You may have a chapter book or young middle grade on your hands. Now there are exceptions, picture books such as Diary of a Worm, which chronicles a character over a large period of time, or nonfiction picture books that occur over a long time like biographies. The majority of contemporary picture books take place over a brief period of time, while chapter or middle grade books usually have the luxury of taking their time with a story.

diaryofaworm

  1. Type of protagonist.

Are your main characters animals or personified objects? Chances are it’s either a picture book or an early chapter book. Older kids generally want to look more sophisticated with “grown-up” books, but of course there are always exceptions, like the fresh middle grade graphic novel Low Riders in Space, which features a dog, an octopus, and a mosquito as main characters.

lowridersinspace

Generally, if you like writing really short manuscripts with simple plots, often with animal characters on topics of interest for very young kids, you’re a picture book person. If you like the luxury of time and space for writing slightly longer books (from 1500 to 15,000 words) that still have pictures for slightly older kids ages 6-9, with or without animal characters, then you’re a chapter book writer (or maybe even an early reader person, but that’s a post for another day). And if you like much more complex plot lines, much longer storytelling, stories for early middle school kids, then you have an older middle grade idea.

So…what kind of ideas do you have?

Bonus info: Mira and Hillary will be co-teaching an outrageously fabulous interactive e-Course, the Chapter Book Alchemist, starting January 12th. Together and with the help of Mandy Yates, they make it ridiculously easy to write a chapter book or early middle grade during the 5 fun-filled weeks. The course features optional critique groups, weekly live webinar critiques, lots of lessons and exercises, the option for critiques with Mira or Hillary (with a free Scrivener course) and Golden Ticket opportunities to submit directly to agents and editors. Click here to find out more about this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with potential life and career changing benefits! Click here to find out more

Hillary Homzie photo by Suzanne Bronk

Hillary Homzie photo by Suzanne Bronk

Hillary Homzie is the author of the chapter book series, Alien Clones From Outer Space as well as the middle grade novels, Things Are Gonna Get Ugly, The Hot List, and Karma Cooper Unplugged (forthcoming). Some of her books are currently being made into an animated television series. Hillary teaches in the graduate M.F.A. program in children’s writing at Hollins University as well as for the Children’s Book Academy. She is also a former stand up comedienne. Visit her at HillaryHomzie.com.

mirareisbergMira Reisberg is an award-winning children’s book creative, a former kidlit university professor and a former literary agent. She is also the Director of the Children’s Book Academy and has taught many now highly successful authors and illustrators. Visit her at childrensbookacademy.com.

 

 

zuzu

“Look, Daddy! Teacher says every time a bell rings, a PiBoIdMo’er gets a prize!”

That’s right, Zuzu. It’s the final prize announcements for PiBoIdMo 2014! Sit back and scroll down. I hope you find your name!

I will be emailing all winners within the next week to arrange prize delivery. Be on the lookout for an email from me.

Congratulations to everyone and see you next year!

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Kristi Valiant’s PRETTY MINNIE Winner:

MARY ZYCHOWICZ

.

Kelly Bingham’s Critique Winner:

JENNIFER SWANSON

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Karen Henry Clark’s SWEET MOON BABY Winner:

ANDREA MACK

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Pat Zietlow Miller’s Book Winners:

LORI ALEXANDER (SOPHIE’S SQUASH)
KATHY HALSEY (WHEREVER YOU GO)

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Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s PB Course at Kidlit Writing School Winner:

KATHRYN AULT NOBLE

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Jennifer Arena’s 30-Minute Consult Winner:

CATHY BALLOU MEALEY

.

Deborah Freedman’s THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL Winner:

KRISTI VEITENHEIMER

.

Molly Idle’s FLORA & FLAMINGO signed poster Winner:

EMILY KEEL

.

Tammi Sauer’s NUGGET & FANG Winner:

SHEL LEDREW

.

Josh Funk’s PB Winners:

MATTHEW WINNER (MONSTER NEEDS A CHRISTMAS TREE)
MARIA J. CUESTA (THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL)
ANDI BUTLER (REX WRECKS IT)
MARY JANE MUIR (RUTH THE SLEUTH)
DEE KNABB (ESTHER’S HANUKKAH DISASTER)

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Corey Rosen Schwartz’s NINJA RED RIDING HOOD Winner:

SUSAN HALKO

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Barbara Krasner’s GOLDIE TAKES A STAND Winner:

SUSAN SCHADE

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Shelley Moore Thomas’s NO, NO, KITTEN! Winner:

LAURA PURDIE SALAS

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Deborah Underwood’s Book Winners:

DARYL GOTTIER (EASTER CAT)
ANITA BANKS (SANTA CAT)

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Dev Petty’s Critique Winner:

JANET SMART

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Kelly Light’s LOUISE LOVES ART Book and Holiday Print Winner:

HAYLEY BARRETT

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Henry Herz’s Critique Winners:

RON TUCKER
JAMIE DEENIHAN

.

Emma J. Virjan’s NACHO THE PARTY PUPPY Book & Tee Winner:

SHARON GILTROW

.

Marsha Riti’s THE CRITTER CLUB Books Winner:

CARRIE CHARLEY BROWN

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Diana Murray’s Critique Winner:

SARAH SKOLFIELD

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Liz Garton Scanlon’s GOOD PIE PARTY Winners:

CAROLINE LEE WEBSTER
CELESTE BOCCHICCHIO-CHAUDHRI

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Ruth McNally Barshaw’s ELLIE FOR PRESIDENT Winner:

ELEANOR RUBIN

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Mylisa Larsen’s Critique Winner:

KIRSTEN BOCK

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Aaron Reynolds’s Book Winners:

BETH GALLAGHER (CREEPY CARROTS)
MARTY MCCORMICK (CARNIVORES)
WENDY FEDAN (DESTRUCTOSAURUS)

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Trinka Hakes Noble’s THE ORANGE SHOES Winner:

ROSIE POVA

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And now the prizes you didn’t even know about!

A picture book critique <800 words, donated by Alayne Kay Christian:

LYNNOR BONTIAGO

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A complimentary stay at Palm Creek Cottage on Tybee Island, a “Writer’s Getaway” donated by Elaine W. Duree:

AMY MARIE SMITH

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A copy of Jaqueline Woodson’s THE OTHER SIDE, signed by illustrator E.B. Lewis, donated by Sally Flannery:

DIANA DELOSH

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Remember, even if you didn’t win a prize, you’re still a winner because you’ve ended the year with more picture book ideas! Yes, it really is a wonderful life!

itsawonderfullife

 

 

Thank you for your patience with the PiBoIdMo winner announcements. I intend to get to them prior to year’s end, so I hope you’ll stick around just a while longer. Here, have a cookie. If you can catch him, that is.

gingy

All grand prize winners plus Pre-PiBo and Post-PiBo winners have been notified via email. If you were a winner and did not receive an email, please contact me.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a gentle reminder (which you don’t really need, do you?) to give a book as a gift this holiday! Garrison Keillor said it best…

bookgift

And since it’s almost 2015, here are sneak peeks from my upcoming titles to be released in August, September and October (talk about bada-bing, bada-boom-boom-BOOM!). Funny how these books were each signed within one year of each other, but they’re being released within one month of each other!

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S, August 2015)
illustrated by Benji Davies

bearyellowstone

NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, September 2015)
illustrated by S.Britt

normandunebuggy

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House, October 2015)
illustrated by Troy Cummings

wolf (1)

Once again, thanks for your patience with the PiBoIdMo winner announcements.

And may you and your family have a joyful holiday season!

(I hope you receive some really cool writerly gift!)

Oh, this doggie is persistent! He is so eager to know if he won!

doggie2

Well, let me tell you if YOU won…

Timothy Young’s Prize Winners: One picture book each

JENNY SEIGER (The Angry Little Puffin)
ELIZABETH BROWN (I Hate Picture Books)

Carol Gordon Ekster’s Prize Winner: One signed copy of Before I Sleep

SHARON PUTNAM

Laura Zarrin’s Prize Winner: “Winter Dancing” print

ASHLEY BOHMER

I will be  contacting you via email in the next few days to arrange delivery of your prizes.

Congratulations!

More prizes to come…

I know you’ve been waiting patiently…

doggie

So here are the Pre-PiBoIdMo Winners!

Matthew Winner’s Prize Winners (say that 10 times fast!): One picture book each

RITA ANTOINETTE BORG
KAREN CALLOWAY

Margie Myers-Culver’s Prize Winners: One picture book each

SHERRI JONES RIVERS
LAURIE SWINDLER
CAROL FEDEROFF
MIKE KARG

Lauri Meyers’ Prize Winner: PiBoIdMo Mug

PAM MILLER

Darshana Khiani’s Prize Winner: One picture book critique

SYDNEY O’NEILL

I will be  contacting you via email in the next few days to arrange delivery of your prizes.

Congratulations!

More prizes to come…

by Deb Lund

Amplify the Longing

“Amplify the Longing!” That was the first card I randomly pulled from my Fiction Magic card deck for writers on the first day of November. Jan O’Neil and I were hosting about a dozen writers for a PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo kickoff at the Diamond Knot Brewery next to the Whidbey Island ferry.

Diamond Knot

Good thing I pulled that card before everyone got there. It didn’t take long for Jan and I to discover the afternoon would be more of a social event than an idea-gathering one. Fortunately, using the Fiction Magic cards got us half way through our 30 ideas in record time so we could be social along with the rest of them!

When Tara asked me to write about using Fiction Magic for a Post-PiBoIdMo post, I said yes, because I always say yes to Tara’s challenges. In this case, though, I knew the cards would work well for generating picture book ideas, but following up on those ideas? My first thought was that it would be challenging. That’s good and bad.

It’s difficult for me to resist a challenge.

Fast forward to the last day of November, with my unfinished PiBoIdMo list. How could I write a Post-PiBoIdMo post if I didn’t complete the challenge myself? With my crazy schedule (and clothes-dryer mind), I hadn’t touched that list since our gathering. There’s nothing like a deadline to make a challenge even more exciting!

I pulled out my cards and completed my list in one short sitting. (Should I be admitting that to Tara?)

And then I heard from Jan:

“I had 30 ideas done in 28 days, with the last 11 ideas coming on day 28. That’s the day I was sitting in line for a ferry, pulled out your cards, and whipped out those last puppies.”

cards and card set

All that is great, but I still had the new challenge from Tara ahead of me.

I did say I like challenges, right?

I decided to keep going with the unknown (always a good thing to do when creating) and randomly drew a different Fiction Magic card to apply to each of the original ideas.

Remember the “Amplify the Longing” card? My PiBoIdMo lists in past years were a few words at the most. Not this year! The original idea from that card was:

Kid is never satisfied, wants more, more, more. Parents get run down, tired of trying to keep up with his demands, and when they can’t give any more, he gives them more and more love.

Jan revealed another similar experience:

“In the previous three Novembers, I finished all of the challenges by the skin of my teeth and came to understand that I am not one of those people for whom ideas come fully formed. Most of my ideas fit on one line of my journal paper. Later they may have notes written in the margins, but not at the time the idea first comes. This year, using the Fiction Magic Cards, my ideas are way more fleshed out. I mean, some even take six lines in my journal!”

So I held my breath, reminded myself that I love challenges, and drew a card as a follow-up to “Amplify the Longing.”

“Revolt!”

Yes! I could revolt and pick a different card, right? No? But the guidebook has creativity coaching tips following each craft suggestion! Couldn’t “Revolt” be a coaching tip?

Okay, okay…

My first thought was to have the parents go on a strike, but I didn’t want them to have any direct part in solving the problem, so I decided my main character needed to revolt. Maybe he’ll throw a tantrum until he’s all tired out, too. Then he can relate to how they feel and figure out that they all need love.

Don’t we all?

Here are a couple more examples of my PiBoIdMo ideas and how I used Fiction Magic cards to flesh them out:

“Speak the Unspeakable”

Original Idea: This little girl can only say no.

This little girl can only say no. When it’s time to go? No!
This little girl can never say yes. Clean up your mess? No!
This little girl can only say no. Would you like ice cream? No!
This little girl would like to say yes. Does she? No!
Can she still have ice cream? No!

The additional card I selected for this idea was “Take a Break.” I thought the girl could insist that she can’t say yes, but when she gets tired of all the no’s, of not getting all she wants, she stops talking instead of saying yes, and later, when she finally says yes, she saves face by saying the change was because her tongue needed a break. I also decided that I needed to take a break from all the “This little girl…” lines—and maybe a good long break from this idea!

Are you getting the idea that you have to come up with a lot of bad ideas in order to get a good one? Good! That’s one of the reasons Tara does all this work.

Okay, one more…

Risk it All 

Baby learning to walk. It’s a risk for the baby, and the artwork could show the determination and obstacles to walking.

I thought this would be a story from the Baby’s point of view, but then I knew it had to be a sibling watching the baby learn to walk. The sibling, of course, is not happy about the baby getting all the attention until the baby chooses to walk to the sibling.

Well, there might be a little hope for that idea.

The card I chose to follow up on that one was “Provoke a Response.” That’s exactly what the baby does. Naturally, there would have been a response from the sibling, but because of the second card, I’ll make sure it’s big enough. And maybe the baby will even say the sibling’s name as the first word. Hmmm… And that means I will work in a little bit at the beginning about how the baby “can’t even talk” and just “makes noise.”

See how this works? Fiction Magic isn’t magic. It just feels that way because it triggers new ways of seeing and deepens the concept and plot by combining ideas to create what Tara and I call “High Concept Picture Books.”

Will I work on any of these stories? Maybe. Will any of them be published? It doesn’t matter. It’s all practice. You have to mine a lot of rock to get at the gems.

Keep adding to your ideas, keep writing badly (you have to reach your quota!), and go where your magic leads you.

guestbloggerbio2014

Deb Lund may be best known as the author of All Aboard the Dinotrain and other picture books, but she has taught writing (the focus of her master’s project) to teachers and writers of all ages for 25 years. Deb is also a creativity coach whose mission is to get everyone claiming their creativity. Visit her at DebLund.com and follow her on Twitter @DebLund.

Creativity Deb

Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers is a 3.5” x 5” boxed set of 54 cards with a 60-page guidebook. Fiction Magic card “tricks” help writers raise the stakes in their writing with phrases like “Alienate an Ally” and “Remove the Moral Compass.” The guidebook provides possible interpretations for each of the 54 cards, followed by creativity coaching “tips” to help writers apply the cards’ messages to their writing lives. It’s like having two decks in one!

For a limited time, Fiction Magic is 50% off.

 

***THIS POST CONCLUDES PIBOIDMO! THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING AND GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR IDEAS! PRIZES WILL BE ANNOUNCED ALL WEEK, SO STAY TUNED!***

It’s the moment you’ve all been anticipating!

montyhall

Monty, show ‘em what’s behind door number one!

broyhill

Why, good golly, it’s a Broyhill bedroom set!

What better place to read a picture book, right?

OK, sorry, just kidding. That is not your grand prize.

You know what the grand prizes are all about—you win a review of your best five PiBoIdMo ideas by a picture book agent! So much better than a stained oak nightstand!

How were the PiBoIdMo 2014 GRAND PRIZE WINNERS selected?

Every participant who signed the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge was assigned a number based upon the order in which they commented. I then used Random.org to generate 10 random numbers. The numbers were checked to their corresponding name, then I ensured that name was on the PiBoIdMo registration post. If the name had been registered, then I double checked to make sure they had not commented on the winner’s pledge multiple times (thus giving them extra chances to win). If all checked out, the winner was verified. (And they all checked out!)

Without further ado, here they are! Please congratulate them!

SANTIAGO CASARES

LOUANN BROWN

ALEXANDRA KOTANKO

AMANDA SMITH

CHERYL MICHAEL

HOLLY MCLAUGHLIN

NICOLE POPEL

ANGIE JONES

LAURA WYNKOOP

TERESA DAFFERN

I will pair each of you with a PiBoIdMo agent and contact you via email.

If you are a grand prize winner, please read the following carefully:

You will have one week (from the date of my email) to contact your agent with your FIVE best ideas. I suggest you flesh them out into a paragraph each, like an elevator pitch. Something short and snappy. The agent will then provide feedback on which idea(s) may be the best to pursue as manuscripts. The agent may provide short and sweet feedback like a simple “Go for it!” or more lengthy feedback providing suggestions. I don’t know what’s in store for you–but there’s one thing for certain–their feedback will help you determine what to begin writing!

Thank you all for participating this year!

Remember there are PLENTY more prizes to come throughout this week—everything you saw during the event plus even a few more!

Maybe even a Broyhill living room!

broyhill2

LauraZarrin-in-pinkby Laura Zarrin

Picture Book Idea Month is over. You have ideas waiting to be developed. Now what?

As a kid and all the way through college, writing came easily. Essays or essay questions? No problem. I loved to really pad those answers. Fast forward to now and that ease is completely gone. Sometimes I have no words, not even a decent name for the file I’m writing in. What happened to the free flow of words? Maybe they shriveled up and died from lack of use. Maybe I spend so much time drawing that the words have gone to sleep? I’m sure it’s a lot of things, but one thing that’s different is that while the more words the better method worked in school, it’s the wrong approach to writing picture books where brevity rules. As a mom and an illustrator, I appreciate brevity. Short books were my favorite since I’d have to read the same book over and over and over again.

As an illustrator, I approach my stories through pictures first. I ‘see’ them before I write them. I’ll sketch out the character or a scene and see where it leads. Sometimes I’ll be so inspired that I’ll write a quick first draft. It’ll be horrible, but that’s ok. The point is to get something written out. To begin. I can always go back and edit it or completely rewrite it. Mostly, I have to let the ideas marinate in my head for awhile, sometimes years, to figure out what the real story is. I turn it around, hold it up to the light, add and subtract characters, try various what ifs, and grill it with questions until it feels solid. I really wish I could just snap my fingers to create the book dummies, but it just doesn’t work that way. Even though picture books are ‘simple’, they’re anything but easy. It’s like saying it’s so easy to draw in a simple and childlike way when it’s anything but. It takes a ton of work to get to the point where one can pull off ‘childlike’ effectively. One has to have a solid grasp of anatomy, technique and design to make it work. The same can be said of writing. It takes some serious chops to write a story in it’s simplest form.

Toilet-paper-mummy-LauraZarrin

cuddle-LauraZarrin

On-the-potty-LauraZarrin

diaper-pig-LauraZarrin

I wish I could give you a formula. Heck, I wish I could give me a formula, but as it stands, my formula is to scribble, sketch, make lists, make notes, outline, research, work on character design, write then delete, draw, and draw, and draw, cry, give up, try again, and eventually there’s this thing that actually becomes a story.

My suggestion to you is to just begin. That’s often the hardest part of any project. Draw your character or a scene that’s calling out to you. Write the character’s bio, outline your plot or write a synopsis. Whatever feels like the easiest entry point to begin. Good luck!

guestbloggerbio2014

Laura spent her childhood in the St. Louis area exploring creeks, woods, and attic closets, with plenty of tree climbing and digging for artifacts in the backyard all in preparation for her future career as an archeologist. She never became one because she realized she’s much happier drawing in the comfort of her own home while watching TV. Obsessed with the Little House books and Native American cultures, Laura drew lots and lots of pioneers and studied pictographs and books about that time period. When she was 12, her family moved to the Silicon Valley in California where she still resides with her very logical husband and teen sons, and their illogical dog, Cody.

Visit her at LauraZarrin.com and follow her on Twitter @LauraZarrin. She blogs at Creative Whimsies and Simply Messing About.

prizedetails2014

Laura is giving away an 8×10 print of “Winter Dancing”.

dancing-winter-LauraZarrin

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge.

Good luck, everyone!

 

Elizabeth_Dulemba-den-250by Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a picture book that I know is a winner! I scramble to write the key lines, the story’s premise, its arc…and then, something goes wrong. There’s a piece that’s missing, or elements that aren’t quite gelling. Maybe the ending isn’t satisfying enough. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. So I save it.

I have a “Pre-pubbed Books” file in which I keep folders brimming with ideas. In these folders I’ll put sketches, various story versions, images of books I think might be similar, or reference photos that fit the story. You name it.

Of course, not all ideas come in whole. Some arrive as only a title or simple phrase. For those I have an “Other ideas” file. Inside are the years: 2004—2014. In those folders, I just save Word documents. Sometimes it can be one phrase or a character idea, but it was something that made my brain light up, so I keep it too.

And then there’s my dummies wall. Sometimes a story is so strong, I’m dying to illustrate it. Maybe I just do character sketches, or a few spreads. Sometimes I sketch out the entire dummy and even take a few pieces to final. This can lead to a lot of paperwork with no place to put it. This is when bulldog clips become my friends. I collect everything together, clip it, and hang it on the wall on a pushpin.

Manuscripts2

I’ll often sit back to look at these works-in-progress hanging on my wall and wonder if I have a new seed or tweak that might help them along.

Some of these folders, documents and dummies have been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean they’re dead. Sometimes it takes combining ideas, or swiping a phrase from one story to make another story stronger. So, I keep them organized so that I can mine them whenever I want to.

Manuscripts1

I also firmly believe some of them are ready to be published, but for whatever reason, the publishing world isn’t ready for them yet. Because of trends, word counts, a hit book that is too similar… whatever the reason, I’ll let them wait until trends circle back around and they become relevant again.

The irony is, with all these attempts at creating stories I’ve trained my storytelling muscles. I tell kids that writing is like lifting weights. The more bicep curls you do, the stronger you get. The more you write, the more those writerly muscles seem to know what to do. I’ve written so many picture book manuscripts that now, when I write, it seems stories come out of me in just the right word count and just the right number of page breaks. I’ve trained my brain to the structure of picture books.

But that still doesn’t mean they all work, hence, my folders and files and dummy wall. Sometimes a story will sit for a day, sometimes for years before I figure out the key that unlocks whatever was wrong and makes the story work. But I’ve learned to be patient with myself. Some stories, even the simplest (seeming) ones, need more time.

So, if you know deep down inside that your story isn’t there yet (don’t ignore that little voice), put the manuscript aside. Put it somewhere where you won’t forget about it, and let your brain work on it—while you sleep, or garden, or take a shower, or just get on with life. It doesn’t have to be perfect straight out of the box, few stories are.

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I call it putting the clay on the wheel. You’ve got the idea down, you know its missing or lacking something. So knead it in the back of your mind, for however long it takes, until you get your story just right. You’ll know when.

And then, then you send it off to a publisher or to your agent. And maybe that manuscript that you struggled over, that you let simmer, will finally be so perfect, so right, they will buy it and publish it and you will get to share it with the world!

guestbloggerbio2014

Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning children’s book author/illustrator with two-dozen titles to her credit. She is a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, and Visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University in the MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating program. Her latest picture books are a series of books for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and LULA’S BREW. Elizabeth gives away free coloring pages and hosts interviews, guest posts, and giveaways on her website each week. Sign up for her weekly newsletter and learn more at Dulemba.com.

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Follow Me on Pinterest As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books


Available now at:

Coming Soon:


I THOUGHT THIS
WAS A BEAR BOOK
illustrated by Benji Davies
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015

NORMAL NORMAN
illustrated by S.Britt
Sterling Children's Books
September 2015

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
illustrated by Troy Cummings
Random House
October 2015

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY
illustrator TBA
Disney*Hyperion
2016

WAY PAST BEDTIME
illustrator TBA
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
2016

My Other Books

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