Dear Readers,

Because we’re weird like that, we did an interview with ourselves for this post. And because we are technically two individuals, it is twice as long. (Either you’re welcome or we’re sorry, whichever applies.) Enjoy the post.

The Pauls

Baptiste: Where do we get our inspiration? Real life. Every single book we have written can be traced back to real life.

Miranda: ONE PLASTIC BAG is about a woman from the Gambia, whom I actually know. WATER IS WATER stems from my love of science and poetry. 10 LITTLE NINJAS was based on the premise of parents having 10 children—Baptiste is the youngest of ten. BLOBFISH THROWS A PARTY is based on the telephone game that I played as a kid.

Baptiste: The idea for THE FIELD came from playing outside in the rain with my kids. Immediately, I was transported back in time to my childhood days. My experiences as a child were very similar to children everywhere. Although I grew up in poverty, I still enjoyed playing outside in the dirt and mud. I love kicking a ball, whether it was a homemade one or a regular soccer ball.

Miranda: TRAINBOTS came about because my toddler son was obsessed another train book. It was his suggestion to add robots to my story. Inspiration for ARE WE PEARS YET? came from my son’s arsenal of “Are we there yet?”

Baptiste: Not every memory is a simple inspiration, though. Some are complex. It can be difficult to talk about my childhood challenges, because people start feeling sorry. Not every child who grows up in poverty is sad! When I reflect on our new book ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL, which is inspired by more than a dozen extraordinary stories from around the world, I am inspired by my own journey. I was that child who walked barefoot or with hot rubber shoes to get to school. And now I write books for children; I’m the first from my village to publish a book. My story is their story and it needs to be told.

Miranda: For ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL (releases May 1) we tapped into our global network of friends and family who hail from or are living abroad. Sometimes, inspiration is easier to grab on to if you’ve built up resources to wield that far-flung idea into what you envision.

Baptiste: People ask us why we, personally, seem to be showered with so many ideas. Like every parent, those precious moments of raising children are filled with countless inspiring opportunities. We find ourselves laughing and joking at some of the silliness that randomly comes out of the kids’ mouths. We are open to possibility seven days a week.

Miranda: I use good, old fashioned spiral notebooks for ideas and drafts. I also use my Notes App on the iPhone to record things. If you’re not a person who journals, you probably still have a pretty accurate record of your daily comings and goings—scroll through the emails or the photos on your phone! They’re all dated. Take 15 minutes and find what you were doing at this moment, last year. These “throwbacks” are designed stir up old feelings—which often spark fresh ideas.

Baptiste: I walk around with a pencil tucked behind my ear and a memo book in my pocket. Whether it’s inside or outside, at work or at play, observing that moment when an idea comes to mind and recording it is important.

Miranda: Caveat here: With so many ideas, I treat them with little value until they earn their worth. If I tried to create something from each inspirational thing individually, I’d be overwhelmed. Try to group some into similar or related categories if possible.

Baptiste: I have a caveat too. Sometimes, you must get out of your comfortable chair and plan the event or make the memory that will inspire your work on a deeper level. Over Christmas break, I went back to the island (St. Lucia) to visit family. While there, I climbed Gros Piton with my kids, because I’m working on a manuscript about a kid climbing a mountain.

Miranda: People associate inspiration with a lightning strike. But my best work comes from ideas that diffuse slowly over time. Nine years ago, my daughter kept asking about Truckie, the name she’d picked out for the baby growing in my womb. How big was Truckie today? Could Truckie hear us? What about next week? The science of fetal development kept a place in my brain for six or seven years before I found the format for that idea. NINE MONTHS will finally be born next year, illustrated by the fabulous Jason Chin. (Thank goodness real babies develop faster than picture books—“Truckie” is now eight years old.)

Baptiste: Slow and steady is right. Eight years ago, we met a very inspirational person named Farmer Tantoh. We were very interested in the work he was doing and stayed in touch. Miranda even joked back then that maybe one day there’d be a book about him. Instead of saying more about how we found inspiration for I AM FARMER (Millbrook, 2019), we’ll let you be inspired for yourself in this video.

Miranda: There’s a lot of Internet advice warning picture book writers against taking real life or their own memories and turning them into books. Most of that advice is very solid. But I do think that many writers interpret that by staying away entirely from letting real life inspire them. Go live life deliberately and ideas will find you.

Baptiste: And don’t forget to record snippets for later use!

Baptiste Paul is a man of many talents—from woodworking to gardening to entertaining children for hours on end. Born and raised in the West Indies (St. Lucia), Baptiste is a native Creole/Patois speaker and enjoys roasting his own coffee and chocolate. Baptiste holds degrees in environmental studies and political science from Bucknell University and currently resides with his family near a wildlife sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Follow him on Twitter .

Miranda Paul is an award-winning picture book author whose titles include One Plastic Bag, Water is Water and The Great Pasta Escape. Her work has received recognition from the Junior Library Guild, and has appeared on lists curated by the American Library Association, School Library Journal, Charlotte Zolotow Award Committee, the International Literacy Association, and several state reading associations. Her family enjoys her sense of humor—which, she claims, only comes out on days that end in y. Learn more at and follow her on Twitter @Miranda_Paul.

The Pauls are giving away five 15-minute Skype sessions, with each winner to also receive a “Reading Makes Your World Big” poster.

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

Good luck!