Brief Encounters of the Picture Book Kind
by Melissa Azarian

I think you can find a picture book idea in even the briefest encounter, and I’ll prove it.

Years ago, I celebrated my best friend’s birthday at Lucky Cheng’s, a Drag Queen Cabaret Restaurant. Lucky Cheng’s was not so lucky for me. All day long, I had a migraine brewing, and shortly after ordering dinner, I could not fight it off anymore. I ran downstairs to the bathroom, shut the stall door, and prayed to the porcelain Goddess of Migraines.

When I finally emerged from the stall, I realized I was not alone in the ladies room. A 6 foot 1 drag queen—6 feet 4 in those stilettos—was reapplying lipstick. He turned around, gave me the once over, and said, “Honey, you don’t look so good.”

As ill as I was, I had to smile. I don’t look so good? Certainly, I could’ve said the same to him. He overdid his makeup (such a pretty face didn’t need so much makeup), and that V-neck dress was all wrong for him! But why ruin the moment?

I told him that I’d had a lot of migraines and this was another doozy. He sympathized.

So how do you turn a migraine, a drag queen, and bathroom bonding into a picture book? Easy. Just view the whole scene from a child’s perspective. And tweak it a bit.

It could be a picture book about a girl who is excited to go to a party because she bought the perfect gift. She loses the present on the way, but she meets an unlikely friend, who makes her laugh and saves the day.

Maybe it’s about a quiet girl who gets paired up for a class project with a talkative, confident kid. She doesn’t think they can work together until she discovers that they each have something unique to contribute.

Or it’s about an outspoken child who is always hushed, but in the end, his outspokenness helps prevent a mishap at the park.

I could probably come up with ideas all day, based on this one incident. And it’s because, at its core, this is a story about a memorable character.

Think about someone you met briefly and have never forgotten. What quality makes this person so unforgettable? Maybe—if you tweak it a little—the brief encounter will inspire your next picture book.

Melissa Eisen Azarian is the author of The Amistad Mutiny: From the Court Case to the Movie (Enslow Publishers 2009). A former assistant district attorney, legal editor, and newspaper reporter, Melissa is now a children’s writer. She co-chairs her local PTO’s Visiting Authors Committee. Besides occasional migraines, Melissa suffers from revisophobia, a condition that causes her to write new manuscripts rather than revise existing ones. She is thinking of starting a support blog for fellow revisophobics.