by Abi Cushman

Are you stuck? Don’t have a single good idea today for Storystorm? Well, worry no longer. All you have to do is ask yourself, “What am I obsessed with right now?” And that’s your answer.

Think about that thing that’s been on your mind lately. You know… that thing you can’t stop thinking about. The one where your spouse/friends/cat just nod along absent-mindedly and/or scratch the furniture when you start talking about it again.

“Oh, but Abi, I’ve been thinking about 13th-century button fashion a LOT lately. Is that a good story idea?” you are most likely wondering. And the answer is, YES! Probably! Maybe!

See, this is where it gets fun. What do you do with the topic you’re obsessed with? If you’re writing for kids, then the first thing you need to figure out is if the topic is kid-relatable or if you can find a way to make it relatable to kids. Can you make medieval buttonry (yes, I’m going to make that a word) fascinating for kids? Maybe! You just have to think of a creative way to tell that story. And if you really do find the subject so compelling, chances are other people/your cat will too.


Is it a Book Idea?

My upcoming book, WOMBATS ARE PRETTY WEIRD, due out on May 23, 2023 from Greenwillow Books, came about because I’ve been obsessed with wombats ever since I studied abroad in Australia in 2001.

When I first arrived in Australia, I went on a guided hike where we happened upon a pile of cube-shaped poop. The guide told us that they were left there by a wombat, and that wombats were the only animals in the world that had cube-shaped poop. That was just the weirdest thing I’d ever heard. How do they even make it that shape? Do they have square-shaped butts?

I ended up thinking about this cube poop fact a lot, and in 2018, I made this graphic and posted in on social media:

I wasn’t sure if there was enough there for a book. Or if a book was really the right format. I considered making a website devoted to wombat facts or strange animal facts in general.

But I thought I’d try it as a picture book just to see. I researched and organized more weird wombat facts and put them together in a book dummy where the wombats talked and made jokes about each factoid. I added in a snake character as a stand-in for the audience also learning these bizarre facts for the first time. I thought it was great! It was funny! It was wombatty! There were poop jokes!

I decided it was time to get feedback, even though I was pretty sure I’d nailed it. The reaction I got was…

“Hmm… well it is funny, BUT…”

“Are wombats a strong enough hook? People don’t really know what they are.”

“I don’t know where this would go in a bookstore. Is this fiction or nonfiction?”

“What age group is this for? Is the audience too old for picture books?”

“Can you make this just a story with a wombat in it?”


Is it a DIFFERENT Kind of Book?

After that feedback, I tried rethinking how it might work as a book. I tried it out as a fictional picture book with some facts loosely peppered throughout. I tried it as a young fictional graphic novel as well. There was a lot that I liked about these versions, but I couldn’t quite make them work.

My agent ended up submitting the original informational picture book version to Greenwillow. And I had a phone call with an editor there who asked if I’d mind turning it into a young graphic novel. I asked if it was okay if it was still informational and if I still kept the same voice of the narrator, and she said yes! So I went to work and provided a 20-page sample that had the information and jokes paneled out. It meant adding more jokes and reformatting how I set some of the jokes up visually, but I liked it!

Thumbnailing before making a new dummy.

She ended up taking the sample to Acquisitions, aaaand… I got an offer! For the original picture book version! Yes, in the end, after trying it out as a fiction picture book, a fiction graphic novel, and an informational graphic novel, it was the original informational picture book that won out.

So the moral of the story is that if you’re obsessed with something, and you can make kids love it too, then this IS a good book idea. And, in fact, this idea may actually turn into several different possibilities. Play with the age group. Play with the format and the voice of the book. Perhaps you write it as a funny, informational picture book. Perhaps you write it as a heartfelt graphic novel story. Perhaps it’s a whole chapter book series! You don’t have to give up on an idea just because it might not work in one way or in one format.

So go ahead and brood about that thing you’re obsessed with. You just might end up with more than one Storystorm idea with potential.


Abi Cushman is the author-illustrator of SOAKED!, ANIMALS GO VROOM! and WOMBATS ARE PRETTY WEIRD. She has also worked as a web designer for over 15 years, and runs two popular websites of her own:, a pet rabbit care resource, and, which was named a Great Website for Kids by the American Library Association. In her spare time, Abi enjoys running, playing tennis, and eating nachos. (Yes, at the same time.) She lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her family.

To learn more about Abi and her books, visit her website at If you like secrets, exclusive sneak peeks, wombats, and special giveaways, subscribe to her newsletter.

Abi is giving away a signed copy of her book, WOMBATS ARE PRETTY WEIRD, upon its release (pub date scheduled for May 23, 2023).

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.