by Josh Funk

The most common question I (and probably most authors) get asked by children (and adults) is: “Where do you get your ideas?” I tell them that I get ideas from silly autocorrects and typos, things I’d like to see illustrated, or things that would make terrible picture books and see if I can make them work (all of which I’ve talked about in previous Storystorms).

I also tell students that another place I turn to for inspiration is reading. Many amazing books are published every year—and I try to read as many (picture) books as I can (I don’t read anything with kissing—ew). It’s not only great for market research and a good way to learn from talented creators, but reading published books can be incredibly inspiring—which gets my own creative juices flowing.

Speaking of creative juices, my creative juice is iced coffee. I sometimes joke that I spy on people at the coffee shop to get ideas, but the truth is I’ve never gotten a good one by doing that. Most people just talk about their families or gossip about their neighbors or tell their children to stay away from the creepy, lurking guy with the iced coffee listening to everyone’s conversations.

But it turns out that snooping can help spark ideas. And my favorite people to spy on are artists on Instagram. There is soooo much talent out there, it’s mind-boggling—just head over to Instagram and scan through hash tag #kidlitart.

Note: I am in no way suggesting that you can take someone else’s picture and write a story about it—that would be wrong so DO NOT DO THIS.

I am suggesting that you scan through all of the images as a buffet of what’s possible—just as you would when you read published books as research.

You might find a hungry dragon by Doreen Buchinski …

… or some fan art from NaShantá Fletcher …

… or a self-portrait of Renée Kurilla …

… or a warm nap from Angela C. Hawkins.

Maybe one will spark an idea for a character. Or a feeling or emotion you want to write about. Or maybe you’ll even write a story with a style of art in mind.

Then follow those artists. And look up your favorite artists and follow them. And follow the artists Instagram suggests you follow to find even more. Soon your feed will be filled with more inspiration than your scrolling thumb can handle.

And if your local coffee shop has good WiFi, then do it there—and like me, you’ll be searching for ideas while spying on people in a coffee shop.

Josh Funk is a software engineer and the author of books like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the ​It’s Not a Fairy Tale series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series, Dear Dragon, Pirasaurs!, Albie Newton, and more.

Josh has written a comprehensive “Guide to Writing Picture Books” that’s available for free on his website’s Resources for Writers section.

For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at, on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks, and of course, on Instagram at @joshfunkbooks. (Photo credit: Carter Hasegawa.)

Josh is giving away one of the following books each to five lucky winners!

Leave one comment below to enter.

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

Good luck!

Special announcement!

Josh will be teaching at our premiere Storystorm Retreat at Highlights Foundation, March 5-8, 2020.

Learn more about our fun and intensive picture book retreat here!

This event will fill up quickly. Sign up today!

Hope to see you there!

Photos from the Highlights campus by Melissa Sheperd.