People who aren’t directly involved in the publishing industry ask me where I get my ideas from all the time. I’m always tempted to respond with something like, “I steal them from first graders” or “I ask my Ouija board.” I think everyone reading this post knows that ideas come from absolutely everywhere and anything. From the mundane to the downright bizarre, everything is fair game. Consequently, writers are perpetual treasure hunters, the black crows of society.
Most writers I talk to can trace their treasure hunting days back to childhood. Once a seeker, always a seeker. When I was a kid, I had a secret drawer in my dresser where I hid my eclectic collection of treasures. It included things like my favorite Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers, sea glass, a cool cat’s eye marble, miniature Hello Kitty colored pencils, and a tiny box of Worry Dolls. There was no rhyme or reason to what I declared a treasure. They were just random objects that evoked feelings in me that really couldn’t be put into words. And for that reason, they were special.
If we’re really being honest with ourselves we know when our stories are rooted in something deeper than just a good idea. There’s an invisible connection to some intangible variable that we can’t always put our finger on. Love? Passion? Truth? Whatever it is, when it’s there, you know it. And for that reason, those stories are special.
While I believe that treasure hunting out in nature or out in the real world is infinitely more inspiring than virtual treasure hunting on the internet, physical expeditions aren’t always possible. So here’s what you do: Head over to Etsy, eBay, YouTube, Pinterest, Zappos—wherever your web weakness might be—and look for things you really love or really hate. You can pretty much find a story seed in anything that makes you ridiculously happy or sad. How do I know this treasure hunting exercise actually works? Meet French Bulldog Puppy Can’t Roll Over.
Holy cute, right?!
When I watched that video clip about two years ago, I wanted to reach into the computer screen and put that little hunk of sugar in my pocket. I was so punch drunk on puppy love I wrote a story about a French bulldog named Gaston. Just so we’re clear, GASTON isn’t a picture book about a dog that can’t roll over. Thirty-two pages featuring a beached dog may not be as endearing or as entertaining in print as it is on film. However, what YouTube puppy did do was inspire a new character and that character was very eager to tell me his story. The manuscript, which took several weeks to complete, sold to the first editor who read it. Christian Robinson is illustrating. The book will be published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster next year.
So that’s my advice on Day 12, PiBo people. Go treasure hunting and find the shiny things that make you swoon, swear, sigh, or smile.
If you’re still stuck after that, go talk to a first grader.
Kelly DiPucchio is the award-winning author of fourteen children’s books, including New York Times bestsellers, GRACE FOR PRESIDENT, and THE SANDWICH SWAP, a book co-authored for Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan. Kelly’s books have appeared on The Oprah Show, Good Morning America, and The View. Kelly’s new picture book, CRAFTY CHLOE, illustrated by Heather Ross, (Atheneum) received a starred review in Kirkus and was featured on The Martha Stewart Show. Visit Kelly at www.kellydipucchio.com, or follow her on Twitter @kellydipucchio.
Hey, crafty writers! Kelly is generously donating a picture book critique to a lucky PiBoIdMo’er who completes the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Leave a comment here…and if you also end the month with 30 ideas and take the PiBo-Pledge (posted for you to sign in early December), you’ll be entered to win. Good luck!