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OK, time’s up! Do you have 30 new picture book ideas? You do? Excellent! Time to take the PiBoIdMo pledge to qualify for one of our winny-Kinney prizes! (Sorry, there are no Jeff Kinney books to give away. I just felt like rhyming. I know, I shouldn’t rhyme.)

I do solemnly swear that I have faithfully executed
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge, and will,
to the best of my ability, parlay my ideas into picture book manuscripts.

Now I’m not saying all 30 ideas have to be good. Some may just be titles, some may be character quirks. Some may be problems and some may create problems when you sit down to write. Some may be high-concept and some barely a concept. But…they’re yours, all yours!

You have until December 3rd at 11:59:59PM EST to sign the pledge by leaving a comment on this post. Remember, this is an honor system pledge.You don’t have to send in your ideas to prove you’ve got 30 of them. If you say so, I’ll believe you! (But for the record, I have no interest in purchasing a bridge at this time.)

Those whose name appears on both the kick-off post AND the pledge will be entered into the grand prize drawing: feedback on your best 5 ideas by a literary agent. There are three grand prizes! Thanks to Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc., and Joanna Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation for volunteering their time and talent to PiBoIdMo.

Other prizes include signed picture books, manuscript critiques, jewelry and greeting cards. All winners will be randomly selected and announced on December 4th. And from now until the 4th, more guest bloggers will inspire you to develop your manuscripts.

But lucky you, you get your first prize now! This winner badge for your blog designed by James Burks:

So what are you waiting for? Start signing…

…and start writing! Thousands of children are depending on you!

by Paula Yoo

Welcome to the final day of PiBoldMo! Congratulations! You made it! By now, hopefully you have come up with 29 fantastically fun and totally awesome ideas for future picture books. 🙂

So for Day 30, you need one more idea. Come on, you can do it!

But in case you are burned out, here’s one last idea sparker to help you make it through Day 30.

Have you ever heard of the “elevator pitch”? It’s a famous phrase used all the time in the writing industry, as well as in the business world. In a nutshell, the “elevator pitch” is how long it should take for you to tell someone what your book is about. By the time your elevator reaches your floor, you should have been able to “pitch” your book idea in that brief amount of time.

In other words, an elevator pitch should last about 30 seconds.

So look over your 29 ideas so far. Can you pitch each idea in 30 seconds?

Pretend you waiting for the elevator at the Society of Children Book Writers &Illustrators national conference. To your left stands a famous children’s book editor. The two of you engage in some small talk as you wait for the elevator. The editor learns you are a writer at the conference. Eager, he/she asks if you have written anything.

And then the elevator doors open.

Oh no! You probably have 30 seconds to pitch your amazing picture book to this editor before the elevator reaches his/her floor.

So how to craft your elevator pitch? Some tips to get you started:

1. Start with a cliffhanger “hook.”

This can be in the form of a question or a one-sentence “logline” that conveys your book’s main conflict. “What if a child loses her beloved stuffed toy animal at a laundromat and can’t tell her dad because she hasn’t learned to talk yet?” Or think of your hook in terms of theme or even a personal anecdote that relates to your book. For example: “I have the most stubborn cat who is convinced the full moon is a bowl of milk. She will do anything to reach that moon.” (Note:
Obviously I’m using “Knuffle Bunny” and “Kitten’s First Full Moon” as examples.)

2. Set up the main character and conflict.

Then launch into the heart of your story—who’s your main character? Why should we love him/her? What obstacle must they overcome in their quest? (“Trixie and Knuffle Bunny have never been separated… until now.”)

3. Leave ’em hanging. Don’t spoil the actual ending.

Conclude with an open ending—will Trixie learn how to speak before Knuffle Bunny is lost forever?

For Day 30, to get your brain ready for that final idea, why not take an hour or two to review your previous 29 ideas? See if you can “pitch” them to a friend. Sometimes I will take a friend out for coffee and pitch them some ideas I am working on to get their feedback on how clear and concise my ideas sound to them. I even have them “time” me with a stop watch!

When you are working on your elevator pitch, it will help you focus on what the heart of each book is truly about… you’ll learn quickly as to what the most important point of the book is.

Once you practice your elevator pitches for some of the 29 ideas you’ve already come up with, then try the same approach for your 30th idea. See if you can just brainstorm a fun 30th picture book idea in 30 seconds or under. You can even record yourself as you talk out loud. Or you can write them down. I’d say a written elevator pitch should be no more than one paragraph.

Make sure your elevator pitch is concise, uses clear language, and has a powerful visual image. Make sure there’s a clear hook that summarizes the main conflict and/or theme.

Good luck and congrats on reaching Day 30 of PiBoldMo!

P.S. And if you’re up for the challenge, please join me this May 1-7, 2011 for the 2nd annual NaPiboWriWee event sponsored by my website at! NaPiBoWriWee is short for National Picture Book Writing Week where I challenge writers to write an entire picture book every day for a whole week—7 picture books in 7 days!

Paula Yoo is the author of the YA novel GOOD ENOUGH (HarperCollins ’08) and the children’s award-winning non-fiction picture book SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY (Lee & Low ’09) and IRA Notable SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY (Lee & Low ’08). She is also a TV writer, whose credits include THE WEST WING, TRU CALLING, and SIDE ORDER OF LIFE. She is currently a producer on The SyFy Channel’s series, EUREKA.

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

If you’re like me, writing is work. By this I mean it is my job, my primary source of income (therefore, work) but also that it is just plain HARD. There is nothing so depressing as trying to come up with something new and fresh to write about—and coming up with nothing.

That happens to me a lot.

So what do you do?

Well, I really don’t know the answer. But here are some tricks I use to muddle through those times when I have nothing to write about.

1) Start with character. I truly believe that the most important aspect of a picture book, what drives its popularity the most, is a charismatic main character. The premise, the setting, the cutesy word play and rhyme—all of these are secondary to character. So if you need to brainstorm only one thing, work on that viable character list.

The trick to creating a truly charismatic main character is to blend flaws with flair. Don’t just come up with fifty cute character traits. Give your main character some faults, some defects—he will be infinitely more interesting.

2) Something old into something new. There are so many examples of authors who take an old idea and make it into something modern and fresh. The entire genre of fractured fairy tales is built on the premise that recognizable is always a benefit for marketing, but recognizable AND fresh is money in the bank. Now I’m not at all recommending that all you do is read a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales and add a hippopotamus to each story (don’t do that, because it was my idea first). But if you can take inspiration from something your audience will recognize and then take it to a brand new place, where is the downside?

Some examples of this in my own work:
THE HOG PRINCE – we know it’s a frog prince, not a hog prince, but Eldon does not.
QUACKENSTEIN – isn’t every monster story better with a duck?
THE TWELVE WORST DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – believe it or not, in addition to a Christmas song, this is a sibling story

3) Look at your own life. And I mean this as way to eliminate bad ideas. When you’re having a hard time with inspiration, there is the temptation to use your own children or grandchildren as your muses. Trust me, this is a bad idea. Because as cute as their latest antics are to you, they very rarely make for good picture books. Save yourself. Don’t do it.

4) Exercise. Well, do a writing exercise at least. When you’re really stuck you could reinforce your writing ability by taking a book that is perhaps not one of your favorites and then rewriting it the way it should be. Obviously, you can’t then try to publish your version of Dora the Explorer (because Nora the Explorer or even Eleanora the Explorer is simply not going to be fresh enough to merit a whole new franchise!). But the exercise will show you that you are not only able to create a new story but one that is better than something that was actually published (which means there is hope for you yet) and, again, you never know where that road will lead.

5) When all else fails, take a breath. Sorry, guys, sometimes the ideas are not going to come. No matter how much you force it. When you are really and truly stuck, stop trying so hard. Instead, work on revising older manuscripts—maybe you can whip one of those into shape. Or perhaps the something old that you will turn into something new will come from your own pile of older ideas.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is the author of 18 non-fiction books for children and several picture books. Her newest release, QUACKENSTEIN HATCHES A FAMILY, will be followed by CHICKS RUN WILD in January. Enter the CHICKS contest at!

by Michael Sussman
with illustrations by Casey Girard

The struggle for new ideas can frustrate even the most creative writers and artists. For PiBoIdMo 2009, I unveiled my revolutionary device—the IdeaCatcher™—employing the latest in windsock technology to snag ideas from the air. Despite a very reasonable price of $29.95, sales were disappointing.

Undaunted, I’ve returned to the drawing board, and this year am pleased to offer not just one but two ground-breaking products, available exclusively for PiBoIdMo 2010 participants and lurkers.

Exciting new developments in neuropsychiatric research have revealed direct links between literary genres and specific regions of the brain. Mysteries, for example, are generated by the prefrontal cortex, and science fiction is associated with the anterior hypothalamus.

The human brain is a remarkable organ, but to function optimally it sometimes requires a little prodding. That’s where Whack-a-Plot™ comes in! Using this ingenious device, you can stimulate your gray matter to spew forth a story in the genre of your choice.

The Whack-a-Plot™ kit includes a titanium mallet and a detailed map of the skull, pinpointing the exact region of the brain responsible for each literary category. Need an idea for a pop-up picture book? Simply locate your posterior cingulate gyrus and pound away! Within seconds of regaining consciousness, you’ll have your story.

There may be times, however, when your mind is so sluggish or crammed with useless information that no amount of whacking will do the trick. In such cases, you’ll need Brano™. Just as Drano® flushes out clogged drains, and high colonics rid the colon of accumulated waste, Brano™ purges your mind of stale ideas. Two squirts in each nostril and you’re good to go! Out with the clichéd phrases and stale storylines, and in with the brilliant epiphanies!

Kiss writer’s block goodbye forever! Purchase Whack-a-Plot™ for just four payments of $19.99, and we’ll throw in Brano™ for free! Call 1-555-IDEA-NOW today! (Offer not valid in Tennessee or District of Columbia.)

Michael Sussman is a clinical psychologist and writer who resides in the Boston area. His debut picture book—OTTO GROWS DOWN—was published by Sterling, with illustrations by Scott Magoon. Dr. Sussman is also the author of A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy, and the editor of A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice.

Casey Girard is a freelance designer and illustrator working out of Boston. Her main business is marketing design for trade books and she is currently working on polishing up her own book ideas.

By Tiffany Strelitz Haber

Hi Everyone!

So, in trying to figure out what to write for this post, I was forced to take a cold hard look at what really keeps me going. And the truth is….I have no freaking idea! It’s certainly not nothing. Is it everything?? Little things? Enormous things. Totally random, oddball things? I guess it’s a combination of things that make me want to start writing, and others that make me want to keep writing. And one thing that works wonders like a triple shot of red bull (which I actually find vile and disgusting, so—bad example)—is when I read an interview with an incredibly talented author that I admire and respect, and they say something that makes me think— “Yes! ME TOO!!!” I’m instantly overcome with a case of the warm and fuzzies, coupled with a heart pounding adrenaline surge. It must be something about feeling like maybe, you really do belong? So….to honor the people whose words have been the fuel in my own personal tank, I am going to shush now, and attempt to pay it forward with an assortment of statements that have calmed, excited, tickled, confused, comforted and without question—inspired me. I hope they work for you!

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” — Stephen King

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” — Christopher Columbus

“I make up a lot of s***.” — Maurice Sendak

“All really good picture books are written to be read 500 times.” — Rosemary Wells

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.” — Stephen King

“There are no rules here. We are trying to accomplish something.” — Thomas Edison

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” — Stephen King

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader that reads.” — Dr. Seuss

“This morning I took out a comma. This afternoon I put it back in.” — Oscar Wilde

“Follow your heart. It is the only right way out of darkness.” — Allison Milana

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” — Elmore Leonard

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” — Joseph Heller

“You fail only if you stop writing.” — Ray Bradbury

Well…there you have it. A selection of yummy tidbits to nibble on. And with Day 27 of PiBoIdMo officially in full swing, we’re in the homestretch now! The time to either slow down and crap out (26 is close enough, right? NOT.)…or push yourself harder than ever, and sail right through the finish line. Here’s to powerful endings!

Tiffany Strelitz Haber is a rhyming children’s book author, represented by Teresa Kietlinski of The Prospect Agency. She has two forthcoming picture books: THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN (Holt/Macmillan) Spring 2012, and OLLIE AND CLAIRE (Philomel/Penguin) Spring 2013. To learn more about Tiffany, please visit her website: and her facebook author page:

Tiffany is giving away a free, in-depth critique of a rhyming picture book manuscript. A winner will be selected at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo.

by Ame Dyckman

Hi, guys! Need picture book ideas? Me, too. So, I’m not going to be a grown-up today.

Today, I’m going to be a kid.

Wanna play? Go grab a towel. Tie it around your shoulders like mine.

Got your cape on? It’s time to:

Open all the cereal boxes—search for hidden passageways—whisper secrets to a dog—attempt a world record—pick up pennies—make a newspaper hat—sit on top of the monkey bars—build a fort—get fooled by pyrite—try to fool someone else with pyrite—sneak up on pigeons—blow a kazoo—roll down a hill—split your pants—eat a crust-less sandwich—pop bubble wrap—taste paste—rescue worms from puddles—draw the sky as a stripe—pee-pee dance—forget to flush—break a geode—spell Mississippi—beg a cookie—give sticky kisses—staple things—juggle oranges—throw a tantrum—wiggle a tooth—catch a frog—fall down laughing—wear olives on your fingers—race a friend—declare Backwards Day—cross your heart—mix baking soda and vinegar—collect pebbles—spin in circles—lose a sock—thumb wrestle—demand a do-over—run from bees—spray the hose—wish for stilts—build another fort—slide down the stairs—beat pots and pans—dig for buried treasure—help a robot friend who accidentally turned himself off—deny being tired—

Whew! I’m tired. I’ve got some ideas, though. Hope you do, too. Feel free to borrow from the list above. (Except the second-to-the-last-one. I already used that one.)

You can take your cape off now.

No? You’re going to wear yours a little longer?

Me, too!

Ame Dyckman is represented by Super Agent Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel NY. Her debut picture book, BOY AND BOT (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino), will be released by Knopf in Spring, 2012. Ame loves cryptozoology, peanut butter, and screaming at Japanese game shows on TV. She lives in New Jersey (“Go, NJ SCBWI!”) with her husband, daughter, black cats, hermit crabs, fish, and obnoxious-yet-endearing pet squirrel.

As a prize, Ame is offering a chat about… ANYTHING! From getting an agent/book contract to advice on love, money, and your manuscript, Ame answers ALL! (For entertainment purposes only.)

by Pam Calvert

So, today you’re supposed to be eating lots of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, dressing, pies (emphasis on the plural here)…AND talking (not fighting) with your relatives. Enjoying your day! But still…it IS Picture Book Idea Month and so you’re also supposed to be thinking of a blockbuster picture book idea today as well. But I’m not thinking about today. No. I’m thinking about tomorrow.



And in honor of Black Friday, I’m going to veer off from the normal “how I get my ideas” blog post to a more material slant—something all picture book writers should have sitting with them when they’re about to brainstorm. Something you should ask for Christmas so you can weave all those good ideas into editor-loving stories. It’s something I bought myself (SPLURGED on) several years ago and it helped me brainstorm two of my upcoming picture books.

It’s called the Magna Storyboard Pad (pictured). Notice it has three areas where you can draw and lines for writing. “But WAIT!” you say. “I’M NOT AN ILLUSTRATOR!”

Well, I’m not either, but if you’re going to be a picture book author, you better be visualizing your story even before you start writing. This pad forces you to think in pictures. A lot of times, it’s easy for me to get swept away by my words when I should be visualizing my story first. And since I bought this pad, thinking in pictures has never been easier. And another secret?

No one has to see your pictures!

But I’ll show you some of mine so you’ll feel better about your artistic talent (because it’s gotta be better).

When I started on the sequel to my math adventure, MULTIPLYING MENACE, my editor told me I needed to meld one of my contracted stories with an earlier version of the sequel, MULTIPLYING MENACE DIVIDES. The contracted story was entitled, THE FROG PRINCE IN FRACTIONLAND. That meant I had to apply frogs throughout my original (that didn’t even have a frog in the background.) And I had to apply fractions throughout. This required pictures. Oh yeah, and I needed another villain. Panicking, I grabbed my math books, desperately searching for an idea. But then I remembered the storyboard pads. I hadn’t used them (even though it was at the top of my things to do list). I started with the new villain…

Her name was Diva Divine in a feeble attempt to use a play on words with division. Of course, through revision her name ended up being Matilda, but this is what she ended up looking like in the book:

There’s quite a bit of resemblance and I never had a talk with the illustrator, Wayne Geehan, about the witch. He suspected what she’d be like from her actions. But without my visualization on paper, her character may not have come out so well.

Now, the witch was the easy part. So much fun. I had her reading In Stye magazine and wearing Jimmy Ooze shoes (um…that never made it in the book…ha!).

The next part was thinking in fractions. So, I plotted out every element. Here’s one page example when I had to show how the division magic worked with dividing twelve kittens. I brainstormed some ways I could show this on the storyboard paper:

Not only did I brainstorm dividing the kittens into frogs, but I had to divide things by fractions, which makes a larger number. In the storyboard picture I used frogs, but they ended up being pigs. Here’s the finished page of the kittens.

After I completed this story, I was hooked! I would never again brainstorm without my storypad.

Here’s another example using my newest PRINCESS PEEPERS book entitled, PRINCESS PEEPERS PICKS A PET. These are the initial thoughts. Notice, I’m terrible at illustrating, but the ideas flow much more freely when I use it, and I can tell if my story would lend itself well to illustration. You need at least sixteen different scene changes for a picture book.

Here is Peepers trying to find a pet for the pet show:

She’s frustrated because she can’t find anything (that’s a frog on her head!) In the finished book, she does find the frog and it looks like this:

Before I leave you with your Black Friday find, I’ll show you my newest picture book idea brainstorm.


Pam Calvert has written picture books and stories for over ten years. Her picture books include MULTIPLYING MENACE: THE REVENGE OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN and PRINCESS PEEPERS, a Scholastic Book Clubs selection and listed as a Texas Mockingbird picture book pick. Her newest picture books will be out in the spring of 2011 entitled, MULTIPLYING MENACE DIVIDES and PRINCESS PEEPERS PICKS A PET. She’s writing new picture books as well as longer stories from her home in Houston, Texas.

by Jannie Ho

I saw this quote the other day and it had a powerful effect on me. Whether you are a writer, illustrator, or both—in order to create something, you must follow through. It is almost towards the end of the challenge and most of you already have plenty of ideas on your list. Sometimes ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part is spending the time to sit with it and flesh it out, finish it, and get it out there into the world.

I participated in the PiBoIdMo last year and came out a with a few ideas. I even started a picture book dummy with one, but it is half way completed. My goal is to get that finished up, no matter what happens to it. Perhaps giving the time and attention to one idea will lead to many others.

Good luck to all!

Jannie Ho, also known as chicken girl, is an illustrator/designer specializing in the children’s market, with her work appearing in books, magazines, toys, crafts, and digital media. Her books include The Haunted Ghoul Bus (2008), and The Great Reindeer Rebellion (2009), both written by Lisa Trumbauer, published by Sterling. She is currently working on a picture book with Viking entitled Road Work Ahead, written by Anastasia Suen (2011), and a sequel to The Great Reindeer Rebellion (2012).

Jannie is generously giving away her signed illustration above. Leave a comment to enter. A winner will be randomly selected one week from today. A signed copy of The Great Reindeer Rebellion will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo 2010.

by Tammi Sauer

One of the ways I come up with picture book ideas is to push myself to put a twist on the familiar. This technique worked out well for me with my latest book MOSTLY MONSTERLY (Simon & Schuster, 2010) and my upcoming book ME WANT PET (Simon & Schuster, 2012).

The initial seed for MOSTLY MONSTERLY came from my editor wanting a young, funny Valentine’s Day book about friendship. She encouraged me to try to write one. Oh, the thrill! Oh, the pressure. I went to the library and read Every Valentine’s Day Picture Book Ever Written.

I discovered that most of those books were about cutesy things like kittens and puppies and mice. I knew my story had to be different, so I thought as un-cutesy as possible. And came up with monsters. Bernadette is an ordinary monster on the outside, but, underneath her fangs and fur, she has a deep, dark secret. She—gasp!—has a sweet side.

Even though my editor and I eventually decided to tweak out the Valentine’s Day references and make the book marketable year-round, the story is still very much the same. But it never would have come about if I wasn’t trying to find a way to make my story stand out from the competition.

ME WANT PET sprang from my desire to write a book about a kid who really wanted a pet. There was only one problem. Every publishing house already had a pet book. Once again, I knew my story had to be unique if I wanted any chance of selling it. So I brainstormed. And read, read, read, read, read, read. And thunked my head on the keyboard.

One day, it hit me. My pet story wasn’t going to be about a typical kid who wanted a typical pet. Mine would star a cave boy in pursuit of the perfect prehistoric pet. Ooga!

So give it a try. Come up with a basic topic (Valentine’s Day, pets, siblings, pirates, first day of school, etc.). See what else is already out there. Then brainstorm a way that sets your story apart.

Tammi Sauer spends the bulk of her free time hanging out with cowboys, chickens, monsters, ducks, princesses, three disgruntled chipmunks, and the occasional cave boy. Her next book, MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS (Simon & Schuster, 2011), debuts in January. To learn more about Tammi, please visit her at

Tammi will be giving away a signed copy of MOSTLY MONSTERLY at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo.

by Laurel Snyder

I’ll let you in on a secret—I’m not really an author. Actually, I’m a poet who has managed to trick a bunch of people (including some very nice editors and a terrific agent) into believing I’m an author. I’m sneaky like that.

For me, the work of writing prose is hard. All those words! My novels tend to shrink a lot, before they grow. I revise and edit myself so heavily that the pages melt away. My background in poetry, and my love of precise language, doesn’t lend itself well to the mad dash—the word-sprint—you have to do when you draft a novel.

But picture books? Ahhhhhh, picture books! Picture books are so much like poems. With their economy of language and their image-heavy text, picture books do much the same work poetry does. I actually enjoy the feeling of trying and failing and shelving an idea, because with picture books, you can just start over again with something else. I love seeing art come in from my illustrator, finding out what my words looked like inside an artist’s head. But best of all, I love the beginning of a picture book, the burst of a new project.

I have a huge junk file on my laptop called JUNK, and it is absolutely filled with documents that are “new beginnings.” Empty documents with only a title or a single line in them.

See, as a poet, I don’t really come up with “ideas for picture books” so much as I dream up little spurts of language, lines of text from which a picture book can grow. For me, the beginning is more about the way a few words sound together than it is about an “idea.”

Let me explain. I’ll use as my example my first book. INSIDE THE SLIDY DINER grew out of my career as a waitress, so if I had begun with an idea, I’d have written down, “make a picture book about a diner.” Instead I wrote down, “Inside the Slidy Diner, the Greasy Spoon of stuck.” I didn’t even know it was a picture book when I began it. At first I thought of it as the first line of a prose poem. I had no idea that I’d invent a character named Edie, or that the diner would be a kind of pseudo-magical place, or that there would be a funny cast of characters. I only had the internal rhyme of “sliiiiiiidy diiiiiiner” and the alliteration of “ssssssspoon of sssssstuck.” But the story sprang from that language.

Likewise, the JUNK file I mentioned earlier is full of lines that I’m not sure about yet. In each case, I don’t know what my idea is exactly, or what the story is about. I only know that I liked the way a few words sounded in my head. Maybe you can help me puzzle them out. Here are a few:

1. Doctor Delete
2. The spoon of wishful thinking
3. What the wind wants
4. The Boring Book
5. My Iffiest Scritch
6. Dirty Curls
7. Boy Who Caught His Death

See what I mean? These are not ideas. They could still head off in a million different directions. They’re just words, that sound nice, in the right order.

So now, as an exercise, for other folks who are equally language driven, I might suggest that instead of trying to think up a picture book idea every day, you can also try to revisit the way you describe things each day. You could spend the entire month describing the same thing differently, day after day.

Because each description might, in the end, give way to a different book! Language drives tone and voice, and those things can drive your idea and your story instead of things happening the other way around. For me, it’s much easier to make up a story to match a voice than it is to find a voice for a story.

Make sense?

Try it right now! It’ll only take a second. Go look at something—a squirrel, maybe, or the ground at your feet, or your closet door, and instead of trying to think of the idea it might lead to, try to think of different sets of words for what you see.

That squirrel? How might you describe him? Don’t try to be smart, just think of different ways to talk about him. Using as many different words as you can. It’s okay if they’re lame. Maybe that squirrel is:

1. A fidgety bit
2. A tree rat
3. Too loud
4. Fluffytail, the adorable poufypie
5. The fattest squirrel in the tree
6. The squirrel who lost his tail
7. A nut-thief
8. A nuisance
9. The one who wouldn’t leave
10. Harold

See what I mean? By the time you revisit your titles, Fidgity Bit might be a funny board book about a kid who can’t sit still, and Tree Rat might be about a rat who moves from New York to the country and wants to fit in with the squirrels, and Harold might be about a geeky squirrel who wants to study for the LSAT instead of finding nuts all fall.

For me, it is hard to think of new ideas, and far simpler (and more fun) to think of new ways to say things, and then figure out what they might mean.

Give it a try! Or a whirl! Or a go! Or set your pen scratching! Or dive into your dictionary! Or head off into the word mines! Or take a dip in the language lake.

Or… or… or…

Oops! There I go again…

Laurel Snyder is the author, most recently, of a picture book, BAXTER, THE PIG WHO WANTED TO BE KOSHER, and a novel, PENNY DREADFUL. Her next book, Nosh, Schlep, Schluff: BabYiddish will be out in January. She is also the author of a book of poems (for grownups), THE MYTH OF THE SIMPLE MACHINES. Laurel lives in Atlanta and online at and she tweets obsessively, if haphazardly. Follow her @laurelsnyder!

BAXTER art by David Goldin, SLIDY DINER art by Jaime Zollars (who also did the cover for MYTH). PENNY DREADFUL cover by Abigail Halpin, NOSH art by Tiphanie Beeke

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My Picture Books


illus by Mike Boldt
July 2021

illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown

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