I started writing for kids over a decade ago and soon started meeting other people who also wrote for kids. When they talked about how they had so many ideas and not enough time to write them all, I secretly wished I could pinch them. A really mean pinch—a tiny bit of skin squeezed and twisted brutally between thumb and forefinger, the kind of pinch my sisters and I used to give each other when we were furious.
Too many ideas was not the kind of problem I had. I didn’t have enough.
A decade later, I’ve learned that picture book ideas come to me when I’m supposed to be working on a novel. I’m proud of my subconscious for being so clever. In the past few months, when I was supposed to be toiling on a middle-grade novel, I’ve written drafts of three picture books.
If you felt like you were moving well beyond your comfort zone when you signed up for PiBoIdMo 2012, please know that you are not alone. I’m not very good at public writing events. I don’t generally participate in such things—my process is more private-feeling and works on its own clock. But last year I decided to give it a try. In the end, I really liked the way PiBoIdMo pushed out the walls to provide a bigger creative space for me.
And if, in the early days of November, you find yourself worrying about how lame your ideas are or how you have no idea how to get from that idea to a finished manuscript, take heart. It took time for my PiBoIdMo ideas to marinate. If I had started writing FIRST GRADE DROPOUT immediately after jotting down the idea last November, it would have been awful. My PiBoIdMo idea was, I now know, more like half an idea. It was what happened in the book. It took nine months of my brain silently working away to figure out how to tell that story. In this particular case, the how was more important than the what. (I’d tell you all right now, but that would be giving away the punch line years ahead of pub date.)
I’m participating again this year, even though I’m supposedly hard at work on finishing up this novel. PiBoIdMo still scares me. I just know that on one (or more) of those days, when I can’t think of anything new, I’m likely to steal from myself to pad out the list—dig up old ideas that didn’t work to give them some new attention. (I did this last year. Shhhh. Don’t tell Tara.)
But on those days when I run into a writer who has so many ideas and not nearly enough time, well, it’ll be nice to think of my overstuffed PiBoIdMo file. I won’t gloat though, as that’s just awful for those suffering through an idea drought. And I really hate being pinched.
Audrey Vernick is the author of six picture books, including IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?; SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCKSTAR; and BROTHERS AT BAT; as well as the middle-grade novel WATER BALLOON. Her next picture book, out in June, is BOGART AND VINNIE: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship, with EDGAR’S SECOND WORD following after that. A two-time recipient of the New Jersey Council of the Arts Fiction Fellowship, Audrey lives in a house full of inspiration: one husband, one son, one daughter, and two dogs. She blogs about writing buddies at Literary Friendships.