by Serena Gingold Allen

I have a secret. But in the interest of inspiration, I’ll share it with you. I used to dislike board books. Which isn’t really a big deal except for the fact that, it turns out, I’m a board book author. I used to think that board books were lame. After my first child was born, I found that my husband also didn’t like board books (I think we must have just had a poor collection of them). But there we were, knee deep in diapers and board books we didn’t like. It finally occurred to me that since I was a children’s book writer, I could write one. I asked my husband what he would like in a board book. He said something like, “I want a book that has more than one word per page, isn’t boring, and is fun to read aloud. Oh, and if I learned something new, that would be great too.”

I had exactly zero ideas. But I didn’t forget what he said. Some time passed. Then one night, I was awake breastfeeding and I found myself morosely thinking, “I’m the only person awake in the whole world.” Then I thought, “Well, who else is awake right now?” I started imagining all these nocturnal animals romping around the neighborhood having fun. And then a rhyming couplet popped into my mind (which was really weird because I had never written in rhyme before).

This idea quickly took shape and the couplet became the opening lines of MOONLIGHT PRANCE. Revisions flowed and a few months later, I submitted Moonlight Prance to a handful of publishers. It was plucked from the slush pile at Chronicle Books by my editor, Ariel Richardson. She not only wanted to acquire it, but offered me the opportunity to write a companion title. She wanted another book with movement, but this time with a daytime setting and a spring-y feel.

I had absolutely no idea what to write, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Also, the idea of writing in rhyme again was daunting because I still didn’t consider myself to be a rhymer. I had made it work once by having a pretty good ear for listening, but I wasn’t sure I could do it again. I was overcome by feelings of self-doubt. I knew I needed to teach myself more about rhyming, rhythm, and meter. And I needed some inspiration. I remembered how I started MOONLIGHT PRANCE with the idea of writing a book for my husband to enjoy and I thought, What if I write this one to entertain my son?

From the time my son learned to crawl, he made a beeline to his bookcase every day upon waking. A lot of the books we had were bedtime books, but we didn’t have any books about mornings. That’s when I knew I wanted SUNRISE DANCE to not just take place during the day, but first thing in the morning. I wanted more fun words to express movement and settled on a dance theme. It took a lot of revisions, but with my editor’s feedback and direction, I eventually wrote a version that we both liked.

Since writing my debut books five years ago, I’ve read hundreds of board books and I now have a huge appreciation for the genre. It’s hard to imagine that I used to dislike board books. Being inspired allowed me to write in a style and genre that I never would have otherwise. I’ve shared all this with you in the hope that you’ll be inspired to try writing something outside your comfort zone. Be courageous and you might discover something new about yourself and your writing.

Maybe you’re thinking, Thanks for sharing your story, but where can I find my next idea? I too appreciate the Storystorm posts that include a practical aspect, but I wasn’t sure what advice to give when I began this post. For some reason I grabbed my dictionary to look up the definition of “inspiration.” But as I started flipping through, I remembered this thing that my best friend and I used to do when we talked on the phone in high school. We’d each open our dictionary and take turns trying to read every word on the page as if it were part of a story. This memory made me giggle (life before text messages and social media sure was different). So I opened to a random page and starting reading. When I got to the word “jumble” I stopped. It made me think of this game that my son plays with his grandma and BAM! I had a new idea for a story.

So here’s my challenge for you: open up your dictionary and choose a random page. Scan until a word captures your attention and then let your mind go. Write down anything that pops into your head and maybe, just maybe, your next idea for a story will be staring up at you.

Serena Gingold Allen is the author of MOONLIGHT PRANCE and SUNRISE DANCE (Chronicle Books, April 2022), both novelty board books about wild animals. Growing up in the foothills outside of Yosemite, Serena spent her childhood observing the natural world. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she still spends a lot of time in the great outdoors hiking and rock climbing with her husband and their two children. Visit her at and follow her on Instagram @serenagingoldallen and Twitter @serenagingold.

Serena in giving away a copy of MOONLIGHT PRANCE to one winner and a copy of SUNRISE DANCE to a separate winner once they become available (release date is set for April 5, 2022).

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

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.