by Kirsten Pendreigh

I’m loving the inspirational Storystorm posts from successfully published creators! But I also know that the road from shiny new idea to publication is long and winding. There are potholes and wrong turns, dead ends and roadwork delays. So many delays! Sometimes you run out of gas. Sometimes you break down and wonder, should I take the offramp?

When my 2021 picture book debut got cancelled last summer, I had to pull over and refuel. I’d followed all the publishing advice. (Work Hard! Persevere! Be Patient! Toughen Up! Set Clear Goals!) It wasn’t enough. It was time to remind myself why I was on the road at all. Goalposts shift. Years of work can get swept away. Many things are out of our control.

I asked: What is it that sustains me and keeps me trucking along?

My answer? A lesson my son taught me years ago:

Joy in the journey.

Process over [unpredictable] product.

Kids model process over product all the time. My son loved to paint and draw and dig. But he never wanted to keep his paintings or drawings; he didn’t really care what we planted. To him, the joyful process of creating, of digging in, was more important.

What are the things that bring you joy on this writing journey?

For me it’s a long list, that includes:

  • creating funny characters and stories in my unique voice
  • playing with words: finding the perfect line, the perfect rhythmic pattern
  • puzzling out picture books:  page turns, art notes, pacing
  • diving down rabbit holes of research
  • editing and revising
  • sharing stories with critique partners, helping them shape their work
  • being part of a supportive and loving community of writer

But what do I love most? Generating ideas!

For me, Storystorm is the perfect way to rekindle my creative joy. In this tired old world, how magical, how hopeful, to join almost two thousand other people firing up their synapses and finding new stories to share!

This idea stage is free of judgement and full of possibility. Each new idea is a precious, fragile, exciting secret only your unique brain knows about. It could go anywhere!

Today I challenge YOU, fellow traveller on this long and bumpy road, to cherish this stage. Be open to the joyful sparks waiting for you—as you walk, as you eavesdrop on your kids, as you look out the window at birds, as you laugh about something you read. What calls to you? What triggers a faster thumpetty-thump of your pulse? What gives you that warm glow, that AHA moment?

Respond to those sparks. Nurture them!

Jot something down, even if it’s a fragment of a thought, a nonsensical doodle, or a question. And do it without judgement. Brainstorm like no-one’s watching!

Just for today, forget about all the webinars and craft books and agent/editor/author interviews you read. Forget about 3-act structures and hooks and pitches, and marketability. Forget about the destination.

Because if you start with joy, the rest will follow. Joy is contagious. Readers and editors and agents will feel it too. The stories I start with joy always fare better than the ones I try to “engineer” at the beginning. One of them landed my wonderful agent! Soon, I’ll be able to announce good news about another story, of whales who made my heart go thumpetty-thump. And that debut that got cancelled? It’s going out on sub again. If it doesn’t get picked up, that’s okay; I still love it. It still makes people laugh.

I’ve recently written a lyrical story about nurse logs—fallen trees that nurture new life in the coastal rainforests near my home. Clearly a metaphor for the poet in me! I feel my spirits lift each time I see this regeneration, even on these cold, dark days of isolation and uncertainty. It’s a gift to get to write about things I love. Maybe my log story will end up as firewood. I’ll try to bask in its warm glow. I’ll still be creating with joy. I hope you will too.

Happy Storystorm, fellow travellers!

Kirsten Pendreigh is a children’s author and poet who lives in Vancouver, BC. She is represented by Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Literary. Kirsten writes both humor and lyrical stories for children, in fiction and non-fiction. Her poems are found in multiple literary anthologies and magazines. Kirsten is an active member of 12x12PB and Storystorm and a regular on Twitter. Please connect with her there @kpiependreigh or through her website or Instagram where she posts pictures of things that bring her joy.

Kirsten is giving away two picture book critiques.

Two separate winners will be randomly selected.

Leave one comment below to enter.

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