“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Alva Edison

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.” – Ben Kenobi

Happy Friday the Thirteenth and happy Picture Book Idea Month! My name is Ryan Hipp, I am an author-illustrator of picture books and today’s guest writer for Tara’s blog.

Black cats crossing your path, 13’s abounding, broken mirrors shattering, and walking under ladders are dangerous portents. To an author, these omens cannot compare to the terror of writer’s block! Today I will present the two most important words in picture book publishing: Ideas and luck…and I’ll share why I feel both of those words are meaningless superstitions.


Let’s start with IDEAS.

When people enjoy a book, they often say, “what a great idea.” As someone who makes books for kids, I often get asked, “where do you get your ideas?”

I answer, “Finding ideas is not the challenge for me. The challenge is knowing what idea is the one to build on.” (Tara’s note: see the PiBoIdMo grand prize announcement.)

I don’t know why I have come to this conclusion, but I never understood why so many people focus on the “idea” as being so critical to a successful book. I have exactly 47 great ideas and even more acceptably average ones; more than enough ideas to feed my family for the next 60 years. Unfortunately, before you can spend ideas, you have to invest them––and the exchange rate in the publishing world is blood, sweat, and tears.

Sometimes people want to share with me that they also, “have a great idea for a book.”

Similarly, I am not impressed with people with ideas. Never. Ideas are cheap. They come too easily to all of us. The truth is, there is not a shortage on ideas. Everyone has ideas. Everyone. I am more impressed with something more rare and valuable than an idea: perseverance, practice, dedication, commitment, hard work, and patience. The best idea in the world is a moot point until you start climbing that mountain and joining the other hard workers on the summit.

I don’t want to discount the importance of ideas. Every good book starts with a good idea; but they are just building blocks, not a castle. So my advice is to keep dreaming, and keep generating ideas; but don’t forget the more important step: bring those ideas to life.

Now let’s move on to LUCK.

“Luck is simply how something is explained after it has happened. It isn’t real,” says editor Tim Travaglini.

Your car breaking down is not bad luck. Finding a silver dollar on the ground is not good luck. These events are simply the eventuality of your radiator overheating and someone else having a hole in their pocket. It is that simple. Things happen.

I sometimes hear authors and illustrators humbly say, “I was in the right place at the right time,” when answering questions about their “good luck” in the world of publishing. Needless to say, talent and work may have played a more significant part. To get a picture book deal, good luck is not real. Bad luck is not real. Perseverance, practice, dedication, commitment, hard work, and patience are real.

So on this day filled with luck in this month filled with ideas, I ask of you: keep building, keep working, and have an unlucky Friday the Thirteenth!

ryanhippRyan Hipp is a published author-illustrator of picture books who lives in Grand Rapids, MI. His style is whimsical and obtainable for all ages. Another big part of Ryan’s career is giving presentations: Ryan has developed seminars for teachers, parents, and students––to get kids excited about creativity and to help adults facilitate creativity in kids, too.

(Ryan created the PiBoIdMo logos, so let’s hear a Hipp-Hipp Hooray!)