by Dawn Young

It’s 2020, a brand new year, and thanks to STORYSTORM we get off to a running start with a daily flash of inspiration and a stash of ideas to turn into stories.

Let’s imagine those moments when inspiration strikes. Do you envision a flurry of fairy dust? Do you picture rainbows and unicorns? Do you feel all warm and fuzzy? And when inspiration strikes…does everything fall neatly into place?

I like to think that my moments of inspiration will feel magical and I hope that someday inspiration will strike as the whole package‒‒an amazing idea, complete with the story beginning, middle and end‒‒and that I’ll be miraculously overcome by an endless flow of words. As if seeds would somehow transform into a glorious garden simply by opening the packet.

For some writers that may happen‒‒every idea makes them dizzy with delight, the words flow and entire stories are written, but it hasn’t happened for me. Not yet, anyway. My stories take time, and some have stemmed from ideas that came without fairy dust, rainbows or unicorns. No warmth. No fuzziness. The ones I believed were not really ideas but merely fillers for that day. Fortunately, I didn’t dismiss them but instead, feeling the pressure of meeting my daily quota, I wrote them down. And I’m so glad I did. Note to self and anyone else who may be guilty of dismissing ideas/words/snippets that don’t seem worthy… don’t judge, just jot. Jot them down. All of them.

That’s why Storystorm is so wonderful. When you acknowledge anything that stands out in your mind and everything that strikes you, whether it’s a snippet, a title, a silly word, a rhyming couplet, a pun, a character name, a sound and write it down on your Storystorm list, you’re collecting story seeds. Those ideas, as simple, random or obscure as they may seem, are worthy of being on your Storystorm list. So…

Write. Them. Down.

When they’re on a list they leave a mark and they marinate. They sit in your mind, like seeds sit in the soil, and they begin to grow. But just as seeds don’t become flowers because you opened the packet, ideas don’t become stories because you wrote them down. Like seeds need soil, water, sunlight and time to grow into a garden, ideas need nourishment and time as well. Feed your seeds by writing, reading and learning. Nurture them with your creativity and let time run its course and someday they may surprise you. While you’re sleeping, showering, walking, cooking, painting , doing something, anything‒‒usually something  other than writing‒‒your ideas may call on you. Maybe they teamed up or battled each other or became unlikely friends and the formed the foundation for a story.

I’ve been an active participant in STORYSTORM for years, going back to when it was called PiBoIdMo. Each year I completed my list of more than 30 ideas. One of my 2013 PiBoIdMo ideas, a battle book, like Shark versus Train, involved my other passion, math. But at the time I didn’t know what to do with it. How in the world would Addition battle Subtraction? Then in 2015, while feeling at a loss for new ideas, I decided  to visit my old PiBoIdMo lists, and that battle book idea spoke to me. Addition versus Subtraction was calling out to me. Pick me! It was ready to be a story.

As a writer and a math enthusiast, I brainstormed ways to merge my two passions. I thought about ways to convey the essence of addition and subtraction. I imagined an addition character, counting items, while a subtraction character made them disappear. Of course, having things disappear led me to magic and, voila, that’s when the magician became the nemesis to my counter. The elephants were in my head begging to be counted. I wanted chaos and miscommunication and most of all, tons of fun!

This year, I hope you build your Storystorm list without hesitation. Don’t judge your ideas, just jot them down. Jot down anything and everything that strikes you – those snippets,  titles, silly words, rhyming couplets, puns, character names, sounds that left mark on you, may eventually spark something in you.  Keep your old lists. Visit them and check on the seeds you planted in the past and someday, maybe even years from now, you may find that a story has sprouted.

Dawn Young graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. Counting Elephants is her second book. Her first book The Night Baafore Christmas released in October 2019. Find her online at, on Twitter @dawnyoungPB and Instagram @dawnyoungbooks.

Dawn is giving away a copy of COUNTING ELEPHANTS.

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You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Good luck!