In 2009, I was humming the rejection blues when I spotted Tara’s post on Verla Kay’s Blueboards. PiBoIdMo sounded like just the sort of creative kick in the pants that I needed. And boy, am I glad I took up the challenge, because it started an exciting chain of events.
One of my ideas led to a picture book manuscript for which I was awarded the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant in 2010. I’m normally a pretty shy person, but after that, I would often catch myself singing “Zippity doo-da…” in public (much to the dismay of anyone within earshot).
When I emailed Tara to thank her, she invited me to share my story. Another exciting moment! And now, a few years and many revisions later, here I am with a sing-out-loud-worthy update. After signing with Brianne Johnson of Writers House, GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH—the manuscript I based on a 2009 PiBoIdMo idea—sold in a two-book deal to Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. Plus, another manuscript, NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: A SALTY YARN, sold to Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Both are scheduled to be released in 2014. I hope my neighbors have industrial-strength ear plugs.
Speaking of singing, here’s a bit of inspiration to help you begin your own exciting chain of events.
If you’ve ever watched Glee, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the “mash-up”. This is when you take two different songs and smash them together to produce something new.
Bon Jovi and Usher? Who knew that could work?
And it can work with writing as well. The great thing about mash-ups is that they can give your story an immediate sense of conflict. And when you mix concepts that don’t normally go together, you can potentially create something unexpected and fresh. You can also create something really weird, like “Trucks at the Ballet” or “Pet Rock for President!”. But remember, one person’s weird is another person’s unique, funny, and/or intriguing. It’s all about execution (well, and also personal preference). In order to nail the execution, it helps if the idea is something you relate to. Something you connect with on a personal level. That will give you the passion you need to see it through.
By the way, when I posted on Tara’s blog in 2010, I mentioned one of my “bad” ideas about a do-everything hat. I believe it was called “Mabel’s Amazing Hat”. Well, I ended up giving that idea a sporty twist. The new title is “Automatic Baseball Hat” and I recently sold it as a poem to Highlights magazine. So you can even make your bad ideas work for you! And I’m not so sure there’s such a thing as a bad idea at all.
Now get out there and mash it up!
Diana Murray is a picture book author and poet represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. She lives in New York City with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. For more information, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @DianaMWrites.