I have always been competitive. Maybe it’s because I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers, which meant we did things like thumb-wrestle to see who would get the last bowl of Sunday Cereal…or battle it out in Easter Day relay races that required rolling eggs across the carpet with our noses. Or maybe it’s because my parents fell in love on the basketball court, where everyone said that if Patty really liked Harold, she would let him win. Well, she really did like him. Forty-years-together-and-counting-kind-of-liked-him. But she didn’t let him win. So I guess you could say it’s in my blood.
Is it any wonder then that I jumped at the chance to be a part of PiBoIdMo when I first heard about it in 2010? A challenge, you say? 30 ideas in 30 days, you say? Sounds hard. I’m in!
Know what else sounds hard? Marathons. Lucky for me, November is a month chock-full of ‘em, and I’ve got a husband who likes to run ‘em. (I’ve run a half-marathon, and that was hard enough for me, thank you very much!) So when November 5, 2010 rolled around, this is the idea I wrote down:
Marathon Mouse. Story of a mouse who lives in NYC right under the start line and decides that it is his life’s dream to participate in the NYC marathon.
What I quickly figured out about PiBoIdMo was that it wasn’t necessarily coming up with the ideas that was the hard part. But the sifting and sorting of ideas to figure out which were studs and which were duds??? That was the tough part. Once the challenge was over, I tried writing a couple of other stories first…ones that I deemed more commercial, more worthy of an agent’s or editor’s attention. But I soon realized that the story I really wanted to write was the one about the marathon. In the 2 years since my husband had taken up distance running, I had been in search of a picture book about the sport that I could share with my children. I was looking for something that reflected the early mornings, the intense training, and the roadside cheering that was now a part of our family culture. And I couldn’t find one, because one didn’t exist.
So I wrote it.
And I liked it.
It travelled with me to my critique group, as well as to our regional SCBWI conference. And it was there that I first heard the objection that followed this manuscript around for quite some time: “…but kids don’t run marathons!” Okay, fair point. Kids don’t run marathons.
Anyone who has ever been to a marathon knows that you will find yourself absolutely, without exception, knee-deep in kids…walking the course, holding cherished homemade signs, and searching the crowds of runners, hoping to catch a glimpse of their mom or dad, aunt or grandpa, teacher or friend. Kids may not run marathons, but they are an ever-present part of the running community. And that was the reason that I persevered through 26.2 miles of discouragement, and believed in my story.
Mercifully, there was an editor out there from Sky Pony Press who believed in my story too. And now I have had the wonderful privilege of experiencing my children’s delight as they turn the pages of Marathon Mouse…because, although they have never actually run a marathon, it is in those pages that they see their experiences reflected. And they love it.
Write the stories that you want to write. As the ideas fly off your fingertips and onto that spreadsheet this November, make note of the ones that spark something in your heart. They may not always be the obvious choices. They may not always scream commercial appeal. But one of them just might be the story you were meant to write.
And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s day one of PiBoIdMo, and I’ve got an idea for a story about a girl named Patty…and a boy named Harold…and the jump shot that launched an unending love…
Amy Dixon grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. Check her out at amydixonbooks.com.