It all began with “archipelago.”

You remember “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” right? The stop-motion animation special remains a beloved holiday favorite. If you recall, the Island of Misfit Toys existed in a far-off ARCHIPELAGO, and as a child, “Rudolph” exposed me to that word for the first time. ARCHIPELAGO felt mysterious and magical, this secret land where sentient toys longed to be played with and loved. “I’ll love you!” I shouted at the TV.

That warm, fuzzy feeling of childhood resurfaces every time I hear the word “archipelago.”

Then, a few years ago while I was reading, I stumbled across “archipelago” and immediately wrote it down. I wanted to keep it close.

This practice of jotting down words quickly became habit—I recorded every crazy word that made me feel something light and fun, every word that delighted my tongue. Soon I had a list of over a hundred words. And then, knowing how the internet loves lists, I threw it up on this website as “List of 200+ Fun, Cool and Interesting Words.

Through the years, I’ve added to that list. It exploded to over 500 words. And then it became the single-most accessed page on my site (yes, even more so than the picture book page layout post).

Thousands of people visited my site every month just to peruse “the word list.” Now, you’d think they’d buy a book while here, but NAH. As I’m sure many of you authors have learned, just having a website doesn’t guarantee book sales. (Oh, how I wish it were that easy!) So I thought—I should make the list into its own book! BUT HOW???

Of course, the words should be defined. And used in silly sample sentences. With cartoons. Yet, a plain dictionary isn’t very fun to read. But fun facts are entertaining to read (after all, they’re not called “boring facts”)! And organizing the words into common themes meant the entire thing didn’t have to be a list from A to Z…

After YEARS of collecting words, researching their origins, grouping them and sharing the coolest nuggets of I-can’t-believe-that info, ABSURD WORDS is FINALLY HERE! Today is publication day!

This is where ONE WORD can take you.

As I write in the introduction for ABSURD WORDS, words equal power. Every single word in this book had some kind of power that made me include it. And by “power,” I’m talking about the strength to make me FEEL. Each of these words plucked my heartstrings in some profound way.

MUUMUU reminds me of my grandmother, preparing my favorite meals in her kitchen.

LABYRINTH reminds me of that frustratingly exciting wood-and-silver-ball maze I would play with my best friend.

BAUBLE reminds me of the chest of costume jewelry I dug through while playing dress-up.

Yes, these words are fun to say, and they’re unusual enough to add sparkle to a picture book manuscript…but they also evoke a certain emotion. And picture books are about evoking emotion. A good picture book makes the reader FEEL. The character in the book has grown through the tale, but hopefully, so too has your reader.

You might think this Storystorm post is all about getting you to use uncommon, interesting words in your manuscripts. While that’s an idea I endorse—using a difficult word in context helps young readers understand new vocabulary—that’s not the point here.

I’d like you to find words that make you FEEL, and then run with that emotion. What scenario does that word conjure for you? Can you create a story about it?

I encourage you to use words that evoke the mystery and magic of an archipelago!

I am giving away an hour Zoom call to anyone for any reason. We can talk about publishing, picture books, figure skating, the legacy of Betty White, anything!

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