I love November because it’s finally cool enough to do one of my favorite indoor activities – bake cookies with my kids. Nothing beats cracking eggs and getting flour everywhere. Then there’s the delectably fragrant aroma of melting butter and sugar as the cookies bake. And finally, the much anticipated cookie taste test. Yum!
I also love November because it’s time once again for Tara Lazar’s inspirational Picture Book Idea Month. When you think about it, these two loves aren’t all that surprising. After all, both involve batches. So in celebration of my two November loves, here’s my recipe for creating delectable batches of picture book ideas.
GATHER YOUR TOOLS
Before baking, my cookie-loving kids eagerly grab a sturdy mixing bowl, several measuring cups and spoons, a wooden spoon and the cookie sheet. Likewise, I need a couple of simple tools to maximize my PiBoIdMo experience. First, I recommend a new notebook, sturdy yet light enough to carry everywhere. I also indulge in new pen – medium point gel – so the words will flow.
PLAY WITH THE INGREDIENTS
My kids love creating new cookie dough combinations. “What’ll these taste like in cookies?” my daughter asks, pointing to mini-marshmallows. “Can we add Tabasco?” my son wants to know. Some combinations are successful, some aren’t. Either way, trying new recipes provides batch after batch of fun.
Likewise, PiBoIdMo is a great opportunity to play with story ingredients like character, setting, and plot. My goal for November isn’t perfection, so I don’t worry yet whether the story will taste good. Instead, I just enjoy mixing fresh ingredients and experimenting.
STOP, DROP, AND ROLL
Once the cookie ingredients are mixed it’s time to form the dough into cookies. This can be done by pressing with cookie cutters, dolloping with a spoon, or manipulating the dough into balls or or snakes or some other kid-friendly shape.
As a PiBoIdMo participant this means continuing to play with my fledgling ideas, molding and manipulating each idea, seeing if it has the potential to take shape. It’s not yet time to fully develop the story. My goal for now is simply to form the best batch of 30 ideas that I can.
BAKE AND COOL
Finally, it’s baking time. My kids dislike this step. “Aren’t they ready yet?” they ask again and again, peeking frequently through the oven door. Even more unbearable, once baked, I insist the cookies cool for a few minutes so they don’t crumble when taken off the cookie sheet.
Likewise my freshly mixed, newly-rolled batch of picture book ideas, needs time to bake and cool before I, at least, can get a good sense of how my “cookies” will taste. For me, this means waiting until at least December to re-examine them.
TIME TO TASTE
At last, it’s the moment the kids have been waiting for! With cold glasses of milk in hand, they select the best looking cookies from the batch. Some are scrumptious, some aren’t. So, as we nibble and crunch, we talk about what we might try next time. “More sugar, perhaps?” my son often suggests. “How about a little honey?” my daughter wonders.
At the end of November, we too, will find ourselves with a new batch of picture book ideas. With mouth-watering anticipation, we’ll select the best looking ideas from our batches. Taking a nibble, we’ll decide which fledgling ideas have what it takes to work-up into a full-fledged stories. Of course, that process, too, will involve it’s own multiple rounds of playing with ingredients and manipulating the dough until we reach that perfect combination of delectability.
Is all this cookie-story baking business worth it? I think so. Several of the ideas I generated during Tara’s first PiBoIdMo challenge, I later developed into scrumptious stories that helped me land my first agent. Even more exciting, one of those stories led to my very first picture book sale!
Laura Sassi is a children’s author with a passion for writing picture books, poetry, and rhyme. Her first picture book will be published by Zonderkidz. She also writes poems, stories, articles and crafts and has been published in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo. For her reflections on writing and life, visit her blog at laurasassitales.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @laurasassitales.