kristivaliantby Kristi Valiant

Are you ready to jump in? Do you have a few picture book ideas you’ve been keeping secret so you can write them down today and count them? Now for some more…

Start an ongoing list of things you adore or loathe or laughed out loud at or evoked some kind of emotion that stuck with you. Is there a tradition or memory from childhood that comes to mind? What about that time your friend got in trouble for something silly? Write down that funny thing your grandchild or pet did that you keep telling everyone about. It could even be a ridiculous incident your cousin’s yoga instructor mentioned in a Facebook post that you’re still laughing about.

For example, my adorable 2-year-old girl in pigtails walked up to some older kids on the playground and growled in their faces so they’d move and she could play on the slide by herself. I then explained to her that we don’t growl at people. We aren’t bears or monsters. I wrote that down as a picture book idea. But it’s not really a whole picture book, and having Mommy step in to fix the problem is a big no-no in picture books. I can use that real-life experience as a starting point for a character whose personality doesn’t match her appearance, and then make it a better story.

Don’t be afraid to change the way something happened. Writing fiction is lying in a good way. Sometimes we get so stuck on basing our manuscript on a real-life experience or a sweet person or animal we love, that we’re preventing our manuscript from becoming a fully realized, great book.

I illustrated a picture book written by Danielle Steel that just came out this week called PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS. (Cue the celebratory chocolate lava cake!) This book is based on Danielle’s own teacup-size Chihuahua named Minnie. Did Danielle write Minnie true-to-life? Nope!


In the book, Minnie loves being out and about in Paris, but Danielle’s real pet Minnie is squeamish about touching sidewalks or even being set down outside. In the book, Minnie is a fashionable pup with an outfit for every occasion, but when I visited Danielle and the real Minnie in Paris last year, Danielle had a blast dressing Minnie up for me, but Minnie was mortified! She is not a fan of doggie clothes. Minnie has even rolled on her back and refused to get up when Danielle dressed her in a snowsuit before. That one tidbit made it into the book, but the rest of the book is mostly made up.


If you’re basing a story on real people or animals in your life, you may have a tendency to try to protect them in your story or to make them too perfect. I have a sketch dummy ready to submit that’s based on my husband and daughters and a chasing game we play. I have to admit it was a bit hard to make my little girl shed tears in that story. I had to keep telling myself it’s not really her. Don’t go easy on your characters. They aren’t your real kids or pets.



To sum it up, be inspired by real-life incidents, people, and animals, but then ask, “What would make this an even better story?” That’s where the fun starts.



Kristi wrote and illustrated the picture book PENGUIN CHA-CHA and illustrated Danielle Steel’s picture book, PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, as well as the Little Wings chapter book series, THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN, CORA COOKS PANCIT, and others. Her books received a Starred Review from School Library Journal and won some shiny awards. Kristi graduated magna cum laude from Columbus College of Art & Design with a major in Illustration. She grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Ohio, danced in Texas, taught in China, and now lives in Indiana with her husband, daughters, and a room full of hippos, monkeys and sneaky penguins.

Visit Kristi online at or on Facebook at

PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS has its own website ( with a look inside the book, Minnie’s map of Paris, and a paper dog activity in which you can print out Minnie and dress her up in lovely outfits. Oh la la!



Kristi Valiant will sign a copy of PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS for a lucky winner!

This prize  will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!