Anna Staniszewskiby Anna Staniszewski

I’m sure you don’t have this problem, but I’m not exactly smooth in social situations. Not too long ago, for example, I complimented a friend by telling her that her hair looked like a tornado. For some reason she wasn’t terribly flattered. I’m certainly better on paper than I am in person–that might be the definition of being a writer, right?–but sometimes my tendency to say strange things is actually useful. In fact, two of my picture books came about that way.

Way back in 2010, Tara was nice enough to let me share the story of how I got the inspiration for my first picture book. The short version: I was getting ready to take the dog for our morning jaunt. (The word “walk” can no longer be uttered in our house.) As she whimpered in impatience, I told her, “Hold on, Dogosaurus Rex! We’re going!” During our stroll, my brain started churning. What would a Dogosaurus Rex be? A dino/dog hybrid? A dog that acts like a dinosaur? A dinosaur that acts like a dog? Whatever it was, I knew I had to write about it. And thus Dogosaurus Rex, my forthcoming picture book with Henry Holt, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, was born.

Fast forward a couple years. This time, as I was going to sleep, I turned to my husband and said in my best robot voice, “Dream sequence initiated.” My husband, who’s used to the oddities of being married to a writer, gave me a “yes, dear” look and started snoring. But my brain was churning again. Was there a Goodnight Moon about robots? When I looked it up, the type of story I was imagining didn’t exist. I knew I had to write it, and this past March, Power Down, Little Robot, illustrated by Tim Zeltner, was published by Henry Holt.

Power Down Robot final cover small

I have a theory about those moments when we do/say things that other people think are odd. I suspect our imaginations are to blame. While we’re trying to go along in our everyday lives, pretending that we’re just like everyone else, our imaginations don’t shut off. And sometimes the things that our imaginations concoct can’t help but burst out of our mouths. When this happens, you might wind up offending a friend when you’re trying to pay her a compliment, but it might also mean stumbling upon the kernel of a story idea.

So don’t be embarrassed next time you do or say something that makes others scratch their heads. Grab a pencil and write it down! You never know where that bit of strangeness will lead you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to brainstorm a story about a girl whose hair turns into a tornado. And if it ever gets published, I know exactly which friend I’ll dedicate it to.

Anna Staniszewski is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, the Dirt Diary series, and the Switched at First Kiss series, as well as the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and the forthcoming Dogosaurus Rex. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and eating far too much chocolate. Visit her at

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Anna is giving away a copy of Power Down, Little Robot.

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