by Tammi Sauer

I am a huge fan of Storystorm (formerly known as PiBoIdMo). Many of my books started right here!

YOUR ALIEN, my book with Goro Fujita, for example, first appeared on my 2012 PiBoIdMo list. That year, I decided to step away from the classic picture book structure which has served me well in many of my books including BAWK & ROLL!, MOSTLY MONSTERLY, and PRINCESS IN TRAINING, and I challenged myself to try other approaches. I wrote ROAR! (Paula Wiseman/S&S, 2015), a book entirely in dialogue. I wrote MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM (Sterling, 2016), my first rhymer. I also really, really, really wanted to write:

  • a circle story*
  • told in second-person narration**
  • that starred a little alien***.

I mean, who doesn’t?!

To come up with the plot for this manuscript, I asked myself the biggest two-word question I know:


  • What if…a little alien accidentally crash-lands in a boy’s yard?
  • What if…the boy wants to keep him?
  • What if…the boy takes him to school?
  • What if…the boy and the alien have an amazing day, but, when nighttime comes, the boy discovers something is wrong with his alien?

Each of these questions pushed me to consider what happened next in the story. If one question took me to a dead end, I gave myself a detour. I simply asked myself a new “What If..?” question.

The sequel, YOUR ALIEN RETURNS, debuted in October. I used the “What if…?” approach for determining the plot for this book as well.



Maybe you’d like to give the “What if…?” approach a try.

Select one character and one situation (or choose your own!). Ask yourself, “What if…a (character) (situation)?” Next ask yourself, “And then what? And then what? And then what?”


*Circle Story: what happens at the very end of the story echoes something that happened in the very beginning of the story
**Second Person Narration: addresses the reader directly and uses the pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours”
_________________________________________________________________________tammisauer-authorpic-2015bwTammi Sauer is a full-time children’s book author who also presents at schools and conferences across the nation. She has sold 28 picture books to major publishing houses including Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. In addition to winning awards, Tammi’s books have gone on to do great things. CHICKEN DANCE: THE MUSICAL is currently on a national tour, NUGGET & FANG was a featured book at the 2015 Scholastic Book Fair, and YOUR ALIEN, an NPR Best Book of 2015, was recently released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, and French which makes her feel extra fancy.

You can learn more about Tammi and her books at

alienbuttonsAttention, earthlings! Tammi is giving away a signed copy of YOUR ALIEN RETURNS, a bookmark annnnd an out-of-this-world alien button.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!