Last year I was a lurker on the PiBoIdMo site. The posts were inspirational. But I couldn’t (more accurately, I wouldn’t) do the listing of ideas. I taught elementary school for 35 years. My days lacked flexibility and overflowed with structure. Bells rang throughout the day telling me where to go and what to do. Perhaps too many years in a classroom have left me seriously resistant to following directives. And even though I‘ve been retired for a few years, my mind and body bolt to such demands: “Gather an idea a day”. Ha! I’ll wait until they come to me!

I like my ideas to come from a place of trust. I trust that when I finish a manuscript, another idea will present itself. I let my ideas float in on a dream when they are ready for me. My favorite stories have come to me that way. The pad and pen next to my bed sits nightly hoping to be written on.

Unfortunately, I have lost more than one story when I was away from home and a pad was not nearby. As many times as I repeated that idea before slumbering off again, it was completely forgotten by morning.

Typically, I am hesitant to join things, even something as motivational as PiBoIdMo. But then I read one of the posts on this site…and I decided to look more carefully with my author eyes that day. As I left my health club after yoga, I noticed the person at the front desk was wearing an unusual witch costume. Yes, it was Halloween. I looked at her and told her she just might be the inspiration for a new story. I got home and started my PiBoIdMo ‘12 ideas folder. I wrote down my thoughts for that story. And in the days that followed, because of all the pouring out of picture book love and posts on coming up with ideas, I started looking more actively rather than waiting for a story to hit me over the head. I believe wholeheartedly, whether we search with intention or passively, that the stories that are meant for us will find us.

Picture books touch me. I used them daily when I taught 4th grade to enhance every subject, or to make a point when a social situation arose that needed to be dealt with. Picture books are a quick and sweet way to avoid lectures or a boring review. Just read a book! It can touch upon a myriad of bases.

I think about the many gifted picture book authors and pause to contemplate their stories and what I might learn from their work. Can I move others to tears like Patricia Pollaco does in many of her stories? She writes about what she knows. My favorite story of hers is THANK YOU, MR. FALKER. That was her story as a child. And when I read the amazing picture book, IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? by Audrey Vernick, it spun out a new idea in my brain. Yes, I’m gathering ideas while I’m reading other author’s picture books. That’s a creative thinking skill… it was called piggy-backing when I taught it. It’s not that different from Diana Murray’s clever concept “mash-up” from Day 10, which brought forth more than one listing for my 30 stories in 30 days.

Once I determined to take on this PiBoIdMo commitment, I began observing the world more intensely. As my husband drove us to NY one weekend recently, I sat with my laptop as billboard signs and store names brought forth more to add to my PiBoIdMo file. I watched the kids play with their iPods in a waiting room when I sat patiently to get blood drawn for my yearly physical. I was almost sorry when they called me rather quickly. I was like a detective on a case…there might be more for me to see! I jotted down a story title sparked from an article in the AARP Magazine. Anyone under 50 doesn’t know what they are missing! I was more open to collecting from the universe of ideas. Thank you, PiBoIdMo, for your push to participate in this structured activity that can only help me grow as a writer. I hope to start the seed of a story that will touch little lives.

After all, that is why I’m writing.


Carol Gordon Ekster’s first published book, WHERE AM I SLEEPING TONIGHT? A STORY OF DIVORCE, Boulden Publishing, Fall 2008, was an finalist for best book for single parent families. Another story, “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, February 2010. A picture book, RUTH THE SLEUTH AND THE MESSY ROOM, December 2011, was part of the debut list by the innovative publisher, Character Publishing. Now retired from teaching, Carol is grateful that her writing gives her a way to continue communicating with children. She also hopes to spread her love of picture books, as she did earlier this month at the Literacy For All Conference through Lesley University in her presentation, Using Picture Books to Enhance Curriculum for Grades 3-6. She lives in Andover, MA with her husband Mark. Learn more at
and follow her on Twitter @CEkster.

Carol is generously giving away a picture book critique to a lucky PiBoIdMo’er who completes the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Leave a comment on this post to enter…and if you also take the PiBo-Pledge in early December confirming you have 30 ideas, you’ll be entered to win. Good luck!