Sandra’s puppy, Hailey

by Sandra Nickel

Last year was a little crazy. We brought home a new puppy. We had more guests than we’d had in the previous ten years combined. And, my daughter started a new school. By the end of October, I was desperate for some solid writing time on my new novel!

The problem: November and December looked like they were going to be just as crazy as the rest of the year. Then, my friend Lyn Miller-Lachman posted that she was joining in PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). I took one look at Tara’s smiley light bulb and knew I had my answer! Even if I didn’t have time to work on my novel, I could brainstorm picture book ideas. What a fabulous and inspiring way to be creative! I could do that while walking the puppy. I could do that while cooking for guests. I could do that driving back and forth to my daughter’s new school. I came straight to this blog and joined the 7th Annual PiBoIdMo. My first ever!


Like many of us, I find picture book ideas almost floating in the air. They seem to be everywhere. Ah, that would make a great story! Oooo, what a delicious picture book that would be! Oh, I’ve got to write that down! And, I did write the ideas down. However, as the month progressed, PiBoIdMo made me more…how do I say this? It made me more inventive. I went from being ‘passively’ inspired by life’s events to actively searching out things that are part of every child’s life. Like what? Like sneezing.

In fact, these ‘part of every child’s life’ ideas became my favorites. When PiBoIdMo came to an end and it was my turn to share with my picture book critique group, I turned to these. My sneezing idea turned into A PROUD FAMILY OF SNEEZERS, and it seemed to be loved by everyone who read it. Oh, it needed to be revised, and revised again and again, like any good story. But, it continued to get such fabulous responses that I started to think, Hmm, could I…dare I submit it for the Katherine Paterson Prize? I mean, it’s not a story about changing the world. It’s a story about a melting-pot American family of World Champion Sneezers whose newest member, baby Snookie, is—have you guessed?—not a sneezer.

Well, I dared. I sent in A PROUD FAMILY OF SNEEZERS. And then, I immediately put it out of my mind and dove into turning another ‘part of every child’s life’ idea into a story. Fast forward a few months. I open my email and surprise—jaw-dropping delight!—A PROUD FAMILY OF SNEEZERS won the picture book category for the Katherine Paterson Prize. So, thank you, Tara. And, thank you PiBoIdMo for inspiring me to be creative in a whole new way. I’ll definitely be joining the 8th Annual PiBoIdMo this November—and I hope to see you all there!

sandranotesThanks for sharing your success story, Sandra! Congratulations!

The registration for the 8th annual PiBoIdMo will begin in late October. Follow this blog and you won’t miss it! We also have a year-round discussion group on Facebook.

You can follow Sandra on Twitter at  @senickel and check out her website at