headshotby Marcie Colleen

Many of us struggle throughout the year to find the time to write. We struggle to utter the words, “I am a writer.” We feel like we are not progressing. We don’t feel like we have a real writing routine and we fail to write daily.

But for the month of November you are given a gift. It’s like going to the writer’s spa.

Your challenge: create one idea for a picture book each day. One. That’s it. You can do it.

You’ll be amazed at what this little challenge can do for your writer’s morale. Once you put up that antennae you become a lightning rod for inspiration. Thirty days of inspiration! Fill yourself up.  Gather. Slather. Enjoy.

This year will be my third participating in PiBoIdMo and I cannot wait. One look at my desk and you will see…I am ready.

I know. I just made you panic. You are thinking, “I haven’t done anything to prepare my desk! Am I supposed to? Am I failing at this challenge already?!”

Hush, my fellow Type A’s.

Deep breath. Remember, you are going to the writer’s spa. It’s time to indulge your writer’s spirit. So put on some calming music and read through my list of ways to prepare your writing space for PiBoIdMo.

Marcie’s 5 Tips for Preparing your Writing Space for PiBoIdMo 

desk pic

1) Clean the Clutter.
If your brain is cluttered there is no room for new ideas. Same can be true for your work space.So clear it all out. You have a week. It’s not an impossible task. And shhhh…no one said you can’t shove it all under the bed or into the oven (don’t fool yourself, you aren’t going to do any cooking during PiBoIdMo…just cooking up ideas!).  You can always bring back the clutter on Dec 1st.

2) Gather your Gear.
Make a small pile of resources.These are items that will help you with ideas when you are depleting. As a marathoner, I think of this pile as my “Mile 20 pile”. When it’s November 25th you might need one of these “idea joggers”. Some of my favorites are:

originofeverydaythingsOrigin of Everyday Things (Sterling, 2006)

14,000 things to be happy about. by Barbara Ann Kipfer (Workman, 1990)

Rory’s Story Cubes game (Gamewright, 2010)

3)  Schedule some Search Parties.
That’s right. It’s time to explore. Get out. Go to a museum, a cemetery, a garden, etc. And now that the government shutdown is over, you can even go to a National Park or monument! Schedule it now before the month even begins…and don’t cancel. If you are like me, your area has some wonderful places to visit that you never go. Maybe you only go to these places when you have visitors in from out of town. But this month, try to schedule two to four “search parties”. Go and let the ideas come to you.

4) Harvest the Heap of Ideas.
You are going to need some place to collect all of your 30 ideas. There is no right or wrong way here, it really has to do with what works best for you. The first year I used index cards bound by a rubber band.  I loved it because it gave me a full card, front and back, for one idea. Plus, it left room for me to make notes on the card as the idea grew in the coming year. It also allowed me to isolate each idea and not create idea gridlock.  My second year I used a notebook. I know this is what most people do. However, I am the type of person who can easily stick a notebook on a shelf and forget it exists. This year I plan to use a bulletin board. As I create an idea, I will write it on a slip of paper and pin it to the board. That way I can have the ideas visible throughout the coming year and therefore they are more apt to be made into stories in 2014. We’ll see how it goes. Again, it really is a personal thing and it might take some experimentation. The most important aspect is that you write every idea (even if it seems awful) down!

5) Connect with your Cause.
In the coming week, think about why you want to write picture books. Look for a trinket or talisman that reminds you of your crusade. Give it a prominent place on your desk. I, personally, have many reasons why I write for children, but one particular reminder has sat on my shelf by my desk all year. It is a red mud-caked LEGO brick. One year ago Hurricane Sandy ripped through my area and changed life for many.  As I was supposed to run the NYC Marathon (which was canceled, albeit too late in my opinion), my entire team chose on November 4, 2012 to travel to Staten Island, not for the start of the marathon, but to help with clean up. For hours I helped one family empty their basement of their muddied belongings. Heaps of mud-soaked toys, holiday decorations, and memories. Before taking a wheelbarrow-full to the already overflowing piles on the curb, I pocketed this red LEGO brick. To me it symbolizes the hardships in life that affect us all, even children. If I can ease that, even slightly, I will have done what I set out to do.


In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher and a theatre educator, but now she splits her days between chasing the Picture Book Writer dream and chasing toddlers on the playground as a nanny. Both are equally glamorous!

Her blog, The Write Routine and her Teacher’s Guides, can be found at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.  (She created a teacher’s guide for Tara Lazar’s THE MONSTORE.) You can also follow her on Twitter. Additionally, Marcie is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month (www.picturebookmonth.com) and contributes monthly, as a Blogette, to The Picture Book Academy’s blog (www.picturebookacademy.com/blogettes), posting on humor in picture books.

She lives with her fiancé and their mischievous sock monkey in Brooklyn, NYC.