I never had an ambition to become a picture book author. I know it is a thing that many people dream of doing. Their brains burst with rhythm and rhyme. They long to have their words matched with glorious pictures and put on shelves for children to love. I tumbled into it because I had a child and she desperately needed a story. She was struggling and hurting. I knew that the right story could help her. I looked for it at the library and in bookstores. I didn’t find it, and so I wrote it instead. This was how Hold on to Your Horses was created. I thought I was done, but my daughter still struggled and I knew there was another question to answer, so I wrote The Strength of Wild Horses. Both stories came directly from the need of a child. So that is my advice to all those participating in PiBoIdMo. If you’re struggling to find ideas, go spend time with some children.
I once read an article that described children’s play as taking place in the Future Possible tense. You can hear it in the intonations of the kids. They have an idea—something they hope will be accepted into the mutual game—So they make a statement, but give it the intonation of a question.
“And then I grew wings?” says one child.
The other nods and says, “And I pulled out my rocket pack and we flew to the mountain together?”
Each is part statement, part question. It is an expression of what might be possible in the next part of the game. Many adults would do well to think in the future possible tense. PiBoIdMo writers would do well to sit down with a note pad and scribble notes as fast as the kids can imagine. The games of children will teach you magic and whimsy that you can carry with you to the picture books you want to write. Children know that sometimes the best answer is to sprout a pair of wings (or a jetpack) and take off for the next mountain.
Stories are gifts to the children who read them. Your story may be a gift of whimsy or delight. It may be a solution to a problem. It may be a necessary lesson. Like gifts, these stories can come in all sorts of wrappings. They may be full of rhyme or they may be simple prose. The pictures may be simple or elaborate. If you’re not sure yet which story you want to tell, go spend time with the people you want to tell it to. Listen to them. Learn what they love, what they worry about, what they cry over. Throw all of this into the pot from which you draw your ideas and let it simmer for a while. The result will be something delightful or useful, and perfectly suited to your audience.
Sandra Tayler is a writer of essays, children’s books, picture books, speculative fiction, and blog entries, all of which can be found at onecobble.com . She has two picture books in print, two essay books, ten years of blog entries, and a novel in progress. Sandra can be found online at OneCobble.com or on twitter @SandraTayler. When she is not working, Sandra spends time with her house, her four kids, and her cartoonist husband, Howard Tayler.
Sandra is giving away a matched set of picture books Hold on to Your Horses and The Strength of Wild Horses. Perfect reading for anyone who has a child filled with wild ideas.
This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!