by Alexandra Alessandri

I’ve always loved the brainstorming part of the writing process. Endless possibilities! Bright, shiny story ideas! Hearts, unicorns, and rainbows! Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, later re-envisioned into Storystorm. A whole month devoted to brainstorming? Yes, please!

Storystorm has become such an important part of my journey as a writer. Many of the posts shared by fellow kidlit authors have served as inspiration diving boards for my stories. I’ve filled notebooks with countless ideas. Some are only a few words or a title. Some have more fleshed-out plots. Others, though, explode into fully developed stories.

In fact, both of my upcoming picture books, FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! (Albert Whitman) and ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL (Sleeping Bear Press) were conceived during Storystorm.

In Storystorm 2018, Debbi Michiko Florence (Day 4) explored Culture and Family Tradition, and boy did her post resonate with me! I discovered that my Colombian heritage and memories provided a fountain of ideas. All of the foods, traditions, and family sayings came pouring out, and a few kept poking me to write them: the Colombian Andes and farms of my youth, the Año Viejo and our New Year’s Eve traditions, the energy of holiday get-togethers with my large extended family. But while I knew I wanted to include these elements in a story, I had no idea who or what the story was about, nor did I have a vision yet for its “about about.”

Then, on New Year’s Eve 2018, a week before Storystorm 2019 started, I watched as a friend’s young daughter shifted from hiding-behind-Mom-shy (just like I was at her age) to bouncing and squealing with excitement as the fireworks swished above us. I remember telling her, “Ava, you found your voice!” And thus my debut FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! (illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda), which releases this October 2020, was born. It was the perfect mashup of memory, culture, and observation, and many of the details that came from Debbi’s post made it into the final draft.

That wasn’t my first experience with Storystorm, though. My very first was in 2015, back when it was PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). That year, Jessixa Bagley (Day 7) activated her muse and urged us to search [our] memories. Carter Higgins (Day 15) rewound things and guided us through finding a story’s “about about.” Both of these posts helped me develop a budding tale about a little girl who didn’t speak English and who was scared to make friends because of the language barrier—a story that blossomed from my memories of being a kindergartener in New York, coming from a Spanish-only home. I wrote and revised and revised some more (rinse and repeat) until it was ready. ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL releases Fall 2021.

I swear magic really exists. All you have to do is read through the posts of Storystorm and PiBoIdMo past to see it. Of course, you need more than a great idea to publish a book. You need perseverance, hard work, and heaps of patience. You need willingness to revise your words over and over (and over) again.

But it all starts with a seedling of possibility that Tara Lazar makes possible through Storystorm. I will always be grateful to her for creating magic. Thank you, Tara!

You’re welcome, Alexandra! And thank you for sharing your successes. I hope everyone will join us for Storystorm 2021 in January!

Alexandra Alessandri is a Colombian American poet, children’s author, and Associate Professor of English at Broward College. Her poetry has appeared in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, Atlanta Review, and YARN. Her debut Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! releases October 1, 2020 from Albert Whitman & Company, followed by Isabel and Her Colores Go to School in fall 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son. Visit her at