mollyby Molly O’Neill

It’s day [whatever] of PiBoIdMo when it finally happens . . . you run out of ideas.

The blank page. It mocks you. And you’re panicked, because you’ve already plundered every cute/amusing thing your kids/pets have ever done, looking for inspiration. You’ve already turned your own experiences into rollicking, rhythmic (but never rhyming!) texts. You’ve perhaps even transformed Buzzfeed videos about unexpected animal friendships into whimsical odes to human emotions.

what now

So now what? Well, now comes inspiration in the form of one of my favorite quotations:

 The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.                                                                                                                                                     Marcel Proust

Even though this quote is nearly 100 years old, it’s meaningful, especially for a writer. In fact, Proust probably made this observation because as an author himself, he knew well that reaching past one’s initial, obvious, or cliched ideas to a place of true, fresh, personal creativity is among a writer’s greatest challenges—and greatest triumphs, when achieved. So, in Proust’s spirit, here are 5 tips to train your eyes, make new discoveries, and ultimately shape your words as a writer.

  1. Warm up your vision. Take one of your favorite ideas from a previous day’s writing and spin it into something fresh and new by changing one key element—like the point of view, the setting, or even a character’s identity. Switch the narrative voice from first person to third person, or turn from a contemporary setting to one that’s exotic or faraway or historical or fantastical. You can even turn human characters into animals and vice versa, or swap who the reader will see as the story’s hero/villain. And since the shape of your story was already established in your earlier creation (whether it was a full manuscript or just a simple outline), you’re temporarily free from thinking about plot and can instead play with transformation-enhancing details of voice and language. You may even realize that you enjoy the resulting version of the story more than your original! (An aside—one of my favorite books on writing covers similar ground: exploring how shifts in perspective can spark your creativity: check out 99 Ways to Tell a Story by Matt Madden.)
  1. Train your new eyes in real life. For one week, outlaw yourself from taking even a single photo. Every time you reach for your phone or other device to take a photo, force yourself instead to capture the moment differently, using only words! At the end of the week, select your favorite of these moments-turned-into-words on Facebook or Instagram and ask your friends and family if they can “see” the moment through your words alone. (If you like, snap a photo of your screen or notepad for more effective/visual social sharing.)

new eyes

  1. Watch for details that make you ask “why. Stories don’t always arrive in your mind, fully-imagined. Often, they start with a simple-but-intriguing image or detail, and the author’s curiosity to explore the story behind it. So study everyday life for places where paradoxes happen and tensions meet—for moments are memorable and yet unexpected at the same time. If you’re writing a humorous story, these details can sometimes add a layer of ridiculousness or absurdity that picture book readers will delight in. But more importantly, they make readers ask “why” enough to keep on turning pages. For example, imagine: Best friends who are suddenly not speaking, and no one knows why. A castle with a doorway that’s too small for any of its inhabitants to walk through. An abandoned home with a gift-wrapped package waiting at the door. With any of these jumping-off points or thousands of others like them, you can often reveal an interesting story to yourself (and your future readers) if you ask enough whys or what-ifs.
  1. Reverse the story-making process with visual storytelling. Many writers are accustomed to thinking that text always precedes art. But exercises in visual storytelling can engage your creativity in entirely different ways—making art an integral part of your creative process. To try this type of hybrid creativity, explore Storybird, which houses a curated collection of high-quality, original art and offers free and simple creative tools for authors. Simply select an image that catches your eye, and then use the art to enable your writing in one of countless ways—it can help spark or inspires story ideas; help you “unlock” or puzzle your way through a story, offering visual clues and perspective to offset your own imagination and talent with words; or simply enhance a story you’ve already been imagining. You can keep a story private, and share the link only with those you choose (like critique partners or friends/family); or you can add your stories into Storybird’s public library to get swift feedback from millions of young readers worldwide who use the platform.


  1. Remember that less is more. In art or photography, “negative space” is the white space in and around an image’s subject that helps viewers focus. For writers, there is sometimes a temptation to think that more words = better. But just like negative space can enhance artwork, sometimes a few well chosen words will say far more than an endless ramble. Fewer words means that each carries more power, so their precise selection and arrangement matters more. Similarly, remember that what’s not on the page is just as important as what is, and if a detail of your story can be portrayed through artwork, then it rarely needs to be repeated in the text. Your job as an author is to decide what does not belong in a story, as much as what does!

Here’s hoping you arrive at the end of these exercises—and PiBoIdMo—with powerful new eyes that would make Proust proud. Questions? Thoughts? Please share them, and your own suggestions to fellow writers seeking creative vision and unique perspectives, in the comments.


Molly O’Neill is Head of Editorial at Storybird where she works at the intersection of story, art, technology, and new publishing opportunities for authors and artists. Previously she was an editor at HarperCollins, where she launched the careers of talented authors and illustrators including bestselling phenom Veronica Roth (author of Divergent), heartwarming award-winner Bobbie Pyron (author of A Dog’s Way Home), and the distinctive narrative and visual voices of S. J. Kincaid (author of Insignia), Hilary T. Smith (author of Wild Awake), Sarah Jane Wright (illustrator of A Christmas Goodnight), and many others. Follow Storybird on Twitter for daily thoughts on art, writing, and creativity.

darshanaby Darshana Khiani

Memories are those things sitting in the back of your mind collecting dust … until something in the present triggers them forward. Some of the best books act as that trigger; they awaken those memories that represent “universal truths”. These truths are what you want to capture in your writing.

So where do you find these universal truths?

They are happening all around you every day! They can be a little tricky to spot especially when you are rushing to pick-up the kids, rushing to meet a deadline, rushing to cook dinner, etc. But if you stop to listen to the singing child at the check-out stand or observe the toddler watching the mall Santa from behind his parent’s legs, you will see the universal truth standing there naked in front of you.

How do you know what experience is worth capturing?

Look for the emotional clues in any situation.

Search for the unusual in the usual. Is a child practicing their handwriting interesting? Probably not, but what if there was a rip in the paper from being erased upon so many times (frustration) or a drawing of a rainbow unicorn in the margins (boredom). These little details can be the key to something bigger.


Notice repetitive behaviors. Lately, whenever anything goes wrong for my 6-year-old daughter—stumbles, makes a mistake on her drawing, breaks something, stubs her toe—she blames it on me. I also noticed my daughter spends a lot of time on her penmanship (determination). Or that she worries about not getting a 100% on a test (nervousness). By noting down these observations, I realized that my daughter is a perfectionist who can’t handle making mistakes. Now I have the seeds for developing a strong character. And because I wrote down those incidents, I have a springboard upon which to generate other zany challenges/obstacles for my character.

How best to save the memories?


For the past few years, I have kept a journal where I store my observation of kids. I have a terrible memory, and my biggest fear is that once my kids are older I will forget what picture-book aged kids are like. So I write down any tidbit that is interesting, odd, funny, or sad so I can refer to it later. These observations will help make my characters feel alive.

Here are some examples:

  • 5-year-old dances in front of mirrored closets, at the dinner table, in-line at the grocery store, teaches her classroom teacher, etc.
  • 3-year-old told me to whisper since her Minnie baby doll was sleeping.
  • Both girls cried the day the ducks at school left for the farm. The 6-year-old said “I will miss the ducks” while the 4-year-old said “The ducks will miss me.”

Video Clips
With the prevalence of smart camera phones, it’s easy to take a video anytime, anywhere. My husband took a ton of movies when our girls were babies and toddlers. One of my favorite videos, from their pre-school era, is a two-minute rant of “I Want Pizza” for dinner.

Once in a while, I still eavesdrop on my school-aged girls’ conversations with my smartphone or journal. Fodder in case I ever decide to write a chapter book. (Note: Do not take videos of kids other than your own without permission from their parents.)

Don’t have kids? No problem.
If you don’t have kids, no problem! There are plenty around – storytime at the library, afternoons at the playground, babysit for a neighbor. Just observe them.

Also, in this day of the Internet, there is soooo much on-line. You can get ideas from other friends’ Facebook posts, websites such as the Honest Toddler, and YouTube, which has a plethora of silly, quirky, and inspiring videos.

Here is video that went viral. It’s just full of awesomeness.

Hope you find these tips helpful of how to look for ideas, save them, and find the universal truths within. Have a wonderful PiBoIdMo!


Darshana Khiani is constantly journaling about her silly, adorable daughters and the world from her home in California. You can find her on-line at and on Twitter @darshanakhiani. She is represented by Jodell Sadler of Sadler Children’s Literary.


Darshana is generously giving away a picture book critique! Leave one comment to enter. A random winner will be selected at the conclusion of Pre-PiBo!

Good luck!

Lauri Meyersby Lauri Meyers

I’m totes ready for PiBoIdMo. I’ve got my notebook, my combo pen/highlighter, and a jumbo bag of turbo boost coffee. But has anyone seen my muse?

Perhaps buying her a Cloak of Invisibility for Halloween wasn’t very smart, but I couldn’t resist. (She’s such a Potterhead.) I’m sure she’s doing super important invisible things, like reading subversive picture books or gorging on the trick or treat Snickers or playing Candy Crush in the bathroom.

Luckily, I’ve got a handy flowchart to help me summon my muse.


Click to view full size.

Hey! Here’s my muse! If there’s one thing she loves more than a Weasley, it’s rainbow flatulence.

You’ll have no problem finding your muse during PiBovember, but in other months try these tricks (Meditate, Play, Build, Ideate, Pass Gas) which have been highlighted in amazing PiBo posts of the past.


Lauri Meyers is a children’s writer living part-time in New Jersey and part-time in the made-up world in her head. She enjoys making people laugh until milk squirts out of their nose holes. She is hoping an agent will fall in love with her picture book A HOLE IS MORE THAN A HOLE which she dug out from a PiBo 2013 idea. Julie Rowan-Zoch, who illustrated How to Summon Your Muse, is the illustrator of the YOU’RE HERE! board book series.


Lauri is giving away a PiBoIdMo Coffee Mug to fill with your own turbo coffee.


Leave one comment to enter. One winner will be randomly selected at the conclusion of Pre-PiBo.

Good luck!

bMargieandXena10192014y Margie Myers-Culver

Some form of picture books have been a part of my life for more than sixty years. We had little extra money for books when I was younger but I still have my copies of The Tall Book of Nursery Tales pictures by F. Rojankovsy, The Tall Book of Make Believe selected by Jane Werner, pictures by Garth Williams, The Tall Book of Christmas selected by Dorothy Hall Smith, pictures by Gertrude Elliott Espenscheid and The Tall Book of Bible Stories retold by Katherine Gibson, illustrated by Ted Chaiko. I took numerous trips to the tiny one room township library in our small community quickly reading through all the books in their children’s section. Our elementary schools had no libraries. In fact when I was in junior high school my mom was the first librarian, library clerk, in the very first library in my elementary school, Sycamore Elementary School, before she moved to Wilcox Elementary School.

Picture book 1    Picture book 2

Picture book 3    Picture book 4

She brought in authors and illustrators like Tomie dePaola, Eric Carle and Jose Aruego for her students and staff, staying in touch with them for decades, as well as Pat Hutchins and Dick Gackenbach, who dedicated a book to her. It came as no surprise to me when in college I switched from studying to be an elementary school educator to a K-12 certified librarian. My courses examining picture books increased, as did my affection for this format. Regardless of the level library in which I have served—high, middle or elementary—picture books have always been a part of my collections. I have watched my listeners, no matter their age, sit in total stunned silence. I have seen their eyes fill with tears. I have heard their gasps, giggles and bursts of laughter.


In August a tweet appeared in my feed where another supporter of children’s literature, educator Terry Shay, commented that my blog posts were like love notes. In my way of thinking if an author or illustrator spends years bringing their work to readers, if they are willing to put bits and pieces of themselves on a printed page, the very least I can do is thank them for their marvelous efforts. Your books change lives, book by book, reader by reader. Here are three of many reasons why.

1. Picture books are an entire world you can hold in your hands. Tweet:

Whether a picture book is a work of fiction or nonfiction for the minutes it is read, readers step into another place, another time, with characters they may or may not know. Your stories bridge the generation gap, break our hearts and heal them again, make us laugh ourselves silly, empathize with sibling problems, make the smallest everyday things beautiful, enlarge our understanding of other cultures, and acquaint us with specific people and the most intricate phenomenon in our natural world. Your works make us truly feel the wonder of a sunrise, believe we can dance with a flamingo, think we can sneeze so hard the shock will be felt miles away, want to shop in a store filled with monsters, and understand a boy and a robot, a bear and a bee, a duck and a goose, or a zebra and a moose can be friends. We want to be like an intrepid tractor, a chicken with arms, a whale finding serenity, a penguin who knows his heart, a protective mama squirrel, a brave mermaid, a boy who tames Toads, lots of dogs and a very special imaginary friend. Your pages make us want to learn more about artists like Horace Pippin, Henry Matisse or Edward Hopper, religious holidays like Passover, significant events in the Revolutionary War, the changed status of bald eagles, the Japanese internment camps, baseball and prominent figures in the game, songs like Sing, Yankee Doodle, America The Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner, miraculous days like the Christmas Truce in World War I, rain forests and chocolate, dinosaurs, frogs, trains, butterflies and bees.

2. Picture books contain power. Tweet:

Those words you choose, selected with care, connect with readers on an emotional level you may or may not fully understand. We know each reader brings to a book their own personal experiences, but I don’t think we can ever fully predict how they will react to a story. Therein lies the power.

When illustrations become part of the story, or perhaps they tell the entire story, each one, no matter its size, is a piece of art to be enjoyed. I simply marvel at the combined use of color, various techniques and styles, layout and design. How can we not feel sadness when a small dog gets lost, the outrage of cranky crayons, the plight of parrots, the delight of a small girl wearing a red knit cap, the frustration of a days gone wrong, the panic of swallowing a seed, the comedy of a fractured fairy tale, the pure pleasure of discoveries during a nighttime walk, the security of having an alligator, the joy of finding a friend and cupcakes, the fearlessness of a ninja, the promise that comes with wearing a hat, the despair of moving, the love of a grandfather or grandmother, the warmth of family, the purpose of gravity, roots and so many wonders in our world, or the passion of pursuing art.

3. Picture books transcend their intended audience. Tweet:

The truth of this was never more apparent than the last two months of my ninety-four-year-old mom’s life. Every day I would read her at least one picture book I had recently read or was planning to use for a blog post. On the last evening I spent with her, when I arrived in her room, she was lightly sleeping with her head to the side of her raised bed. When she saw I had three picture books with me, her entire demeanor changed. For the time I spent reading those stories with her, she was lively, filled with smiles and laughter. We chatted about how children would feel about these books. As I was leaving her room with my hand on the door knob, I suddenly stopped. Mom had not told me she loved me like she always did. Her bed was around the corner so I called out to her, “I love you, Mom.” She replied with her favorite phrase, “I love you a bushel and a peck.”

So to all you authors and illustrators who create the magic we will always need, who take “what-if” and boldly go forth: “I love you a bushel and a peck.”

I will champion you and your work for as long as I can to anyone who will listen.


Margaret M. Myers-Culver, Margie Culver, has been a teacher librarian for thirty-four years. She did her major course work at Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University. She is head-over-heels in love with talking about books at Librarian’s Quest. For picture books reviewed in 2013 and 2014 you can follow her Pinterest boards. She maintains two! magazines, All Things Caldecott and Gone To The Dogs. Links to her current Goodreads challenge and Learnist board for this year’s Mock Caldecott can be accessed from her blog. She has read so many books her students frequently ask her if she’s read everything in the library. They really enjoy coming to her house on Halloween when she hands out books instead of candy. When not reading or writing she shares the great landscape surrounding Charlevoix, Michigan with her sweet dog, Xena.


Margie is generously giving away four picture books to four winners: Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light, The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo, Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix, and The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.

Comment below ONCE to enter. Four random winners will be selected at the conclusion of Pre-PiBo!

Good luck!

MWinnerby Matthew Winner

I think picture books rock.

Except for the ones that aren’t good and, as a parent, you dread reading even a second night in a row to your kid. And you try to sneak the book from his bedside stack and back into the library bag, but somehow he keeps pulling the book back out because heaven forbid our bedtime routine goes one night without a digger book. Oh, the digger book! With its droning text that stretches on and on without ever really saying a single thing. And is my kid actually paying attention to the words? Of course not! He’s looking at the pictures of the cool diggers. Yet we can’t skip a line of text because if there’s words then he wants to know what they say. Is it wrong for me to change the words on the page? What if I change the words on every single page?

Okay. Maybe I should rephrase that.

I think good picture books rock.

This is a reader who knows what ROCKS!

This is a reader who knows what ROCKS!

Except for the ones that are really good and you think to yourself as you read to your kid, “Ya know? I bet the other adults in my book club would really like this book. It’s got historical accuracy. It’s got no less than fifteen SAT words. Why, I feel like my kid should be pre-admitted to Harvard on the grounds alone that he has parents so adept at selecting reading material of such academic merit.” At which point you realize that your kid actually has a different book in his hands. And is sitting on the other side of the room because your reading aloud of the picture book clearly not meant for children is drowning out his ability to concentrate on something he’s interested in…wait a second. Is he reading that diggers book again? Where in the world did he get that book? I thought I put it back in the library bag.

Let’s try this again.

I think good picture books written with children in mind rock.

Except when they’re forgettable. Because nothing is sadder than getting to the end of a beautiful picture book and experiencing the dry, hollow “huh” of a story that has done little more than take up mental shelf space in your brain that you cannot reclaim. And while you read page after endless page, waiting for the story to pay off or for, oh my word, ANYTHING to happen in this book. I thought it was going to be our next favorite book ever. Its cover was so beautiful. The text was simple and poetic. The illustrations were… are you kidding me? The digger book? Again? You know what? I don’t think I can blame you. At least that one sends me to sleep thinking about operating heavy machinery I probably need a permit just to dream over.

Scratch it. Time for a new draft.

I think good, memorable picture books written with children in mind rock.

Oh, who am I kidding!?

You're writing for these kiddos. Make it count. Make it AWESOME!

You’re writing for these kiddos. Make it count. Make it AWESOME!

I think a good, memorable picture book written with children in mind that creates a connection with the reader through shared experiences, showing them something new, inviting them to play or interact with the story, entertaining them by making them laugh or think or be in awe or any combination of the three, or by in some way changing the reader through content that is thought-provoking, historically significant, or is just outright awesome ROCKS!

PiBoIdMo 2014 is upon us and whether you walk away from this experience with 30 picture book ideas or 300, it’s up to you to make sure you’re working on something that you think is awesome. Because if you don’t think it’s awesome, what’s the chance that idea has of growing into something more beautiful? I’ll answer that one for you. Zero chance.

To young readers, a picture book is a mirror. Readers see themselves and the people they know in the characters and situations that inhabit the story. In this way, readers expand their experiences by reading about things they may never encounter in their actual lives. They explore worlds they’ll never set foot on. They experience perspectives that build empathy for things they haven’t actually been through. They meet people who help them understand themselves better, and, more often than not, these people are complete works of fiction. It’s important that children of all ages are exposed to these diverse experiences so that they, in turn, can become better grown-up people.

And when you write a picture book, you’re committing an act that is profoundly important. It is an act that inspires awe and wonder to young and not-as-young children alike. And it all comes from a single idea. One that, perhaps fleeting, came to your subconscious.

Over the next month or so, listen to those ideas that tickle the back of your neck. The ones the bring on an audible chuckle. The ones that make your brain feel heavy. The ones that curl the ends of your lips. The ones that just won’t leave (and the ones the appear suddenly and clearly).

Just like the dots we create for International Dot Day, no idea should be overlooked. There's a just-right idea for every reader out there. You've just gotta make the match.

Just like the dots we create for International Dot Day, no idea should be overlooked. There’s a just-right idea for every reader out there. You’ve just gotta make the match.

Write them down. No matter how you feel about them at the time, write them down. Those words are gifts. And they are important. Some will become stories. Some will change and dance about and change some more. Some will lay still on the page, perhaps just to mark a moment in time where those words felt important or necessary.

And even if those words are “Hector was a nasty fartbutt,” you write them down. Because, know it or not, there’s a kid out there who needs to hear that Hector was a nasty fartbutt. Because those words will mean something greater than you may have been able to anticipate.

Picture books are full of moments exactly like that. Ones that the author couldn’t have ever anticipated would be so transformative or powerful or meaningful or poignant.

And that’s why picture books are important.


Matthew Winner is an elementary school teacher librarian in Elkridge, Maryland. He’s the author of the Busy Librarian blog and the host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, where he interviews authors, illustrators, kidlit notables, and everyone in between. Follow Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewWinner and Like the Busy Librarian on Facebook.


Matthew is giving away two mystery picture books that are AWESOME! Two winners. Two mysteries. Two totally awesome and amazing picture books.

To enter, leave ONE COMMENT below. Two random winners will be selected at the conclusion of Pre-PiBo!

Good luck!


Registration for PiBoIdMo 2014 is open! Let’s go!!!


But wait!

First, let’s review our guest blogger line-up, shall we?




These authors, illustrators and picture book professionals will provide daily doses of inspiration to help you along on your 30-day idea journey this November.

And don’t forget—there’s Pre-PiBo beginning tomorrow, to get you organized and ready. And then in early December, there’s Post-PiBo to help you organize and prioritize your ideas.

Participants who register for PiBoIdMo and complete the 30-idea challenge will be eligible for prizes, including signed picture books, original art, critiques, Skype sessions and feedback from one of ten picture book agents. This year’s agents are:

  • Heather Alexander, Pippin Properties
  • Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
  • Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency
  • Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
  • Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
  • Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency
  • Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
  • Jodell Sadler, Sadler Children’s Literary
  • Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
  • Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Plus I still hope to add a few more!

Need more info about PiBoIdMo before you register? Read this.

So are you ready to register? You need to do THREE THINGS:


This is so you don’t miss any of the daily PiBoIdMo posts. If you already follow another way, via RSS or a blog reader, no need to do it again via email. And if you already follow via email, obviously skip this step.


Be sure to comment with your FULL NAME in the TEXT of the comment. This is how you will be identified for prizes.

Please, leave ONE COMMENT ONLY on this post.

DO NOT REPLY to other comments.

DO NOT COMMENT AGAIN if you forget to leave your FULL NAME. (I will fix it and/or contact you.)

If your comment DOESN’T APPEAR IMMEDIATELY, it means I have to moderate it. Check back in 24 hours to see if your comment appears. It probably will.


Here is the badge, designed by Vin Vogel! Right click to save to your computer and then upload it anywhere you please–Facebook, Twitter, your blog or website, etc.


If you do not have a place to display the badge, you can skip this step.


4. Purchase PiBoIdMo merchandise, like the official journal. All proceeds ($3 per item) benefit RIF, helping to put books into the hands of underprivileged children.

5. Use the #PiBoIdMo hashtag when tweeting about the event….and follow @TaraLazar on Twitter.

6. Join the PiBoIdMo Facebook discussion group. This is a closed group meaning you must request to join and I will approve you. (Note: the name says “2011″ but it is the current group.)

7. Repeat after me:

I do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge,
and will, to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into
picture book manuscripts
throughout the year.

 That’s it. You’re golden!

REGISTRATION REMAINS OPEN THROUGH NOVEMBER 7th. You can still follow along if you’re not registered, but remember, those who register and complete the challenge are eligible for PRIZES.

Visit this blog for daily inspiration from the guest bloggers, then keep a journal or computer file of your ideas. There’s no need to post your ideas online or send them to me. KEEP YOUR IDEAS TO YOURSELF! As Sheena Easton croons, they’re “for your eyes only.”

At the end of the month, I’ll ask you to sign the PiBo-Pledge confirming you did create 30 ideas. You’re on the honor system.

Thanks for joining! I hope you enjoy this year’s PiBoIdMo! As always, if you have any suggestions for this event, please contact me at tarawrites (at) yahoo (dot) com or post a question on the PiBoIdMo Facebook group.

I will leave you with a quote that serves as PiBoIdMo’s motto…from Roald Dahl’s THE MINPINS…


*Photo credit Alessandro.

I needed a kick in the pants to host a kick-off party. I never even THOUGHT about it until Leeza Hernandez asked me to host a PiBoIdMo Party for NJ-SCBWI. So to inspire you, I’ve created a three-page handout that you can use to host your own kick-off event. Writers, librarians and SCBWI devotees rejoice!

The first page contains the FAQ—what is this strangely-named online writing challenge all about? (Sorry, no instructions on how to pronounce it. I have no idea how to pronounce it myself!) This FAQ can be hung in your local library or writerly cafe to let others know about PiBoIdMo.

The next two pages provide exercises and tips from The Ghost of PiBoIdMo’s Past. I went through these exercises with my party peeps last Monday and they came up with some fabulous ideas for new stories already!

To access this free 3-page PiBoIdMo pamphlet, just click here:


And I just had another idea! Perhaps your kick-off party can include a kick ball! Hoverball, anyone?



Let me know if you’re planning to KICK IT with PiBoIdMo this year! I’d love to hear what you’ve got goin’ on!




Who can believe it’s almost November? I know, it was just November last year, right? And we had a whole buncha fun creating new picture book story concepts! (Need a recap? Look here.)

I’m still firming up the festivities for 2014 and will post the guest blogger line-up soon. But while you wait for that and for registration to begin (on October 25th, right here), here’s a peek at this year’s logo, created by the talented Vin Vogel, whose new picture book MADDI’S FRIDGE is out now from Flashlight Press, with author Lois Brandt.

Each year  I ask the logo illustrator to include an important detail—a lightbulb, to represent ideas being created. This year, Vin had a delicious idea! (Was it from the FRIDGE? Sure seems like it. Well, maybe it was from the FREEZER.)


Registration for the November PiBoIdMo online event will commence October 25th. Individuals AND classes are invited to register. All registration requires is your name (or teacher’s name in the case of a class) on the registration post’s comment thread, plus you must also follow my blog (handy-dandy button in the left column). The “Official Participant” logo will also be available at that time for you to download and display on your website or social media platform.

Registration entitles you to PRIZES along the way, from signed books, critiques and author/illustrator Skype visits, to the grand prize–an idea consultation with a picture book agent. Last year we offered nine grand prizes!

Also, October 25th will kick-off “Pre-PiBo”, a week-long series of posts intended to gear you up for the month of idea-generating.piboidmo2014journal

Need somewhere to record your brilliance? The PiBoIdMo Cafe Press shop is open, featuring this year’s Official Journal of Ideas. Remember that all proceeds ($3 per sale) are donated to RIF, Reading is Fundamental. So your purchase benefits an excellent cause!

If you want to discuss the event with kindred spirits, please join our PiBoIdMo Facebook Group. (Please note it *is* the current group although the name on Facebook, which cannot be changed, says 2011.)

Well, that’s all for now, PiBoIdMo’ers. Except, can we think of a better name for y’all?

I’m thrilled to welcome Steve Barr today with an idea that will touch the hearts of many…

As a professional cartoonist and the author of 13 “How to Draw” books, I’ve spent my entire life trying to make other people laugh and smile. While this has been an extremely satisfying endeavor over the years, it’s not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme! My path along the way has had many ups and downs, triumphs and failures. But the rewards—those smiles on other people’s faces—have always made me feel like the roller-coaster ride we know as freelancing was worth it.


However, lately I’ve found myself longing to do something with a much more profound, longer-lasting impact. I’ve begun to feel drawn (no pun intended!) to begin working with pediatric patients and their families. Art activities, as well as music therapy, has been shown to substantially reduce stress in young children who are battling really difficult diseases. Drawing and painting has even been proven to have fairly long-lasting effects involving pain reduction.

Find that hard to believe? Check out the results of this study that was released by the National Institute of Health!

I can’t think of a better type of art therapy than teaching children to draw cartoons! It’s easy to do, entertaining and distracting. When kids are in the hospital, they have very little control over anything in their life. They’re expected to follow orders, and do whatever they are told. But when they’re drawing cartoons, there are NO RULES! Cartooning is one of the only art forms I know of where someone’s art is not expected to look exactly like someone else’s. Every successful cartoonist I know has a very distinct style that is easily recognizable as their own.

That’s why I’ll be teaching the children to experiment, to try different techniques, explore options and just have fun with their creations. Their drawings will begin with simple lines and shapes, and we’ll build on that to come up with characters that they can bring to life! The lessons are so easy to follow, I’ve had five year-olds grasp them immediately and amaze me with their natural talent.


Click image for full page, printable version.

Once the patients and their families feel comfortable with the cartoons they’ve drawn, they’ll be encouraged to experiment by making slight alterations to their creation to change them into other characters. That will let them have hours of fun on their own after I’ve left.


I want to provide these services completely free of charge to the hospitals, patients, their families and the art therapy groups that serve the facilities where they’re being treated. I’m dreaming of also sharing them with the surrounding communities and bringing more attention to the lingering benefits these classes will have.

But I can’t do this alone. I need help. I’ve begun researching grant opportunities and funding possibilities, but those can be very difficult for individuals to qualify for. With that in mind, I decided to set up a “Go Fund Me” page and seek funding from other people who would like to help me make this happen. If you’d like to take a peek at that campaign, here’s a link:

When children are hospitalized and fighting diseases like cancer, they often have a difficult time expressing how they are feeling. Art therapy can often help them open up and share their emotions. When they’re drawing cartoons, they can do that simply and easily with just a few shapes and lines. This can help both the medical staff and their therapists determine where the kids are in the process, and address any problems they’re having in dealing with their treatments.


I am hoping that this idea will continue to grow. If it really takes off, I would love to involve other cartoonists and illustrators in the effort. It has already become quite a time-consuming process, but I know the rewards will be fantastic.

If you’d like to help, but can’t contribute, please feel free to share the link with your friends: Any exposure will be helpful, and together we can put smiles on lots of little faces and laughter in their hearts.


I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend the next few years of my life. And perhaps even longer than that!

Note: Please feel free to use the drawing lessons I’ve included in this blog if you are an Art Therapist, Child Life Specialist, Teacher or Nurse who works with children. Parents and guardians are also welcome to share the lessons with their kids. It’s not to be republished commercially without permission, but I’d be quite happy if it was shared personally with kids who would enjoy it.

You get a lot of spam, right? (Don’t worry, this isn’t spam.)

I do, too.


But lately, the nature of the spam has changed. I’m receiving all kinds of press releases from companies who want to announce products on my blog. And, these folks have really done their homework! (No, they haven’t, just like my new middle-schooler. Sigh…a story for another time.)

They’d like me to blog about their moto-scooters, high-tech floss, fireplace pokers, vegan wallets (they’re no longer called “vinyl”), birdhouses and beanbags. You name it, they think you, my readers, would LOVE it! The mistake they make is not even reading my blog or relating their story to this blog’s readership. They’re all “thrilled to announce” their stuffy stuff but fail to convince me why *I* should be thrilled.

And then, I received an email from They offered to design a quote image for my blog. Why, here’s something I would actually use! That my readers might actually want, too!

I spend a lot of time searching for re-usable images on which to overlay a quote.

Like this:


And this:


(Ugh, I’ve misplaced the image credits, which were all Creative Commons-ified.)

But here’s some folks that will do this for me. And make it look all cute and jazzy. So I said YES! And I sent them my very own quote!


Isn’t it wonderful? (I imagine that’s a little girl doing “the wave” with a wave.) Feel free to use the image quote yourself! categorizes all these lovely quotes for us. They have a plethora of profound, beautiful quotes prêt-à-porter, for use in your social media communiques. (Those are such fancy-schmancy words! But when quotes look so fancy-schmancy, you need to keep up.) Here are 57 awesome quotes about creativity, like this one I picked just for you:


I’m so pleased contacted me.

They get us. They really get us.

And they will REALLY get you. They’re offering to make a custom image quote for one of my lucky blog readers! Just enter the quote you want to be picture-fied in the comments by October 1st. A random winner will then be selected. Good luck!


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

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Coming Soon:

illustrated by Benji Davies
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015

illustrated by Troy Cummings
Random House
October 2015

illustrated by S.Britt
Sterling Children's Books

illustrator TBA

illustrator TBA
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

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