Picture Book Confessional
by Jacqui Robbins

Here is a confession: I have problems. And I want you to have them too.

I know it’s PiBoIdMo. But I don’t get ideas, really. I get problems, and characters that have them.

It starts with a voice whispering. Usually it’s one line.

twoofakind“Kayla and Melanie are two of a kind.”

There’s a rhythm in the line and it gets stuck in my head. I try to ignore the voice, but it chases me around. It talks at me while I drive, when I run, when I’m on my fiftieth game of Sorry with my son. I hear the voice, and I start to fall in love with the character behind it. “Who is this poor girl who wants so badly to be the third in the two of a kind?”

Well, once I’m in love with my character, I can’t just leave her there, stuck in her problem. I have to write her out of it.

“What can she do?” I ask myself. And the book is born.

You’ve been thinking of picture book ideas all month. If you’re anything like me, you’ve used up your “been saving this one a while” ideas. You’ve gone through your “Hmm, that might be good” ideas and are starting in on your “well, it’s something, I guess” ideas. By next week, you’ll be on your “please, lord, don’t let anyone read this even if I’m dead I’ll be so embarrassed” ideas.

So today, try this. Start with a character.

Who is he? Where does he spend most of his time? What does he think about? What does his voice sound like in your head?

Now, what does he love more than anything else in the world?

Well, he can’t have it.


Ooh, now he has a problem. Poor guy. You can’t just leave him there. There’s only one thing to do.

Write him out of it.

jacquirobbinsJacqui Robbins has filed resumes, sold books, written grants, worked the grill at a snack bar, and taught students from ages 6 months to 65 years.

Jacqui’s first book, The New Girl…And Me was published in June, 2006 (illustrated by Matt Phelan, Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books). Jacqui’s next book, Two of a Kind, came out in July, 2009 (also illustrated by Matt Phelan, Atheneum).