by Monica Acker

Sometimes lightning strikes. An idea hits fully-formed. Beginning, middle, and end flow on the page.

That is what happened for BRAVE LIKE MOM. A family member was sick and the emotion overflowed into a story.

Brave Like Mom cover: young daughter and mother embracing while sitting on the girl's bed, a small stuffed lion sitting nearby. Illustrated by Paran Kim.

But what do you do when lightning hasn’t struck for a while? You could wait for a storm to roll in, but weather can be very unpredictable.

Or you could go shopping.

Hear me out.

A trip to Target, the mall, or an online retailer could yield you a new sweater, that throw blanket you didn’t know you needed but totally completes the room, and a few story ideas.

The trick is to check out the children’s section. The images on the graphic T’s, dresses, sweatshirts, and bathing suits are rife for the imagination. Bonus: someone has already done the market research so the images will likely appeal to children.

Let’s do some online story shopping.

Boy wearing blue shirt: a painting polar bear creating the aurora borealis.

A painting polar bear creating the aurora borealis. This gets my imagination stirring with questions. I want to know more about this polar bear. Are there other things the polar bear paints on the sky? Is this their masterpiece? Does the polar bear like playing with color because their fur is devoid of color? I think there’s a story here.

"Positive Proton" shirt in tie-dye yellow and white with blue and green proton orbital paths.

This “Positive as a Proton” t-shirt has my neurons buzzing. What has this proton feeling so optimistic? What happens when it comes across an electron with its negative charge? What obstacle might a proton come across? Is it looking to bond with another? I’m positive a story or two might spark from this shirt.

S'More-o-Saurus Rex shirt in yellow wiith light red writing and a dinosaur covered in chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers.

Two childhood favorites combine in this one. What happens when you mix a popular camping treat and a dinosaur? Apparently, the result is a S’more-o-saurus Rex. This king of the dinosaurs has to figure out how to be fierce and sweet. Will they cover the land in gooey footprints? Is this creature the result of a preschooler who just wants to play s’more with their dinosaurs? Are there other s’more creatures out there? I know I want to know s’more. What’s your story?

So, when it feels like lightning hasn’t struck in a while, go shopping. Grab a warm beverage, the to-do list, and your idea notebook. You never know what idea is lurking on a shelf waiting to spur something inside you. You might find a two-for-one deal; something cute for the littles in your life and a shiny new story idea.

The best thing about this post-holiday shopping is that shopping for ideas is 100% free.


Monica Acker is the author of BRAVE LIKE MOM, an educator, and mother of three. She loves writing, reading, baking and scoring a good deal. When not writing, she can be found strolling the aisles at Target turning a trip for paper towels into an hour-long adventure. Visit her at, follow her on Twitter @MonicaAcker1 and Instagram @MonicaAcker1.

Monica Acker is giving away a non-rhyming picture book critique under 600 words.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm 2023 participant and you have commented only once below.

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.