by Laura Zarrin

When I started participating in Storystorm in 2012, I was completely convinced that I was not a writer. I was an illustrator and storytelling was not in my wheelhouse. Color me surprised when I managed to come up with 30 ideas that year and every year since. Where had they come from?

Deciding that maybe I was a writer after all, I started writing. Just a bit here and there. I went on to write a few stories that went out on submission. One that made it to an acquisition meeting, but no sales so far. That’s OK. (It’s not really OK, it’s annoying, TBH, but I digress.) I wish I could say that I look forward to sitting down with a pad and pencil and some tea to happily write, but that would be a bald-faced lie! I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into it. Just ask my critique group. Currently looking for a better ritual, ahem.

When I started writing, I noticed that my art began telling more of a story than it had previously! What a wonderful surprise! A critique partner recently told me that my illustration ideas should come with a Powerpoint presentation to get through all the story I’m packing into my descriptions.

I have found that the only way I can get a story out of my head is to take a blank piece of very non-precious copy paper, start playing the story out in my mind like I’m watching a movie, and draw it out in scribbles. It’s been surprisingly helpful to do it this way. Words almost always come last for me. My drawings are doing all the heavy lifting. I seem to draw everything out like it’s a graphic novel without any boxes or lines. Any type of formatting or layout stops me in my tracks. I completely freeze up. Even though I don’t really read graphic novels (except for the early reader ones), and that I swore I would never make one, it turns out that that format is very conducive to my way of working. Even my picture book dummies have a bit of comic formatting. (Sadly, I still can’t binge while doing this.)

Next I cut up the scribbles and arrange them in order, adding or subtracting where needed. As I work on the story, I refine the sketches and start to add words and formatting. After a lot of trial and error, I have a completed dummy.

I’m becoming more and more of a storyteller every year and I owe it all to Storystorm and a very patient critique group who listens to my whining. I am currently working on three early reader graphic novels that started as Storystorm ideas!


Laura Zarrin is the illustrator of the WALLACE AND GRACE series by Heather Alexander and the KATIE WOO’S NEIGHBORHOOD series by Fran Manushkin.She’s now writing her own sweetly subversive stories. Laura has illustrated over 30 books for children including board books, picture books, and chapter books. She’s happiest illustrating characters with subtle and not-so-subtle humor.

Visiit her at, follow on Twitter and Instagram @LauraZarrin. You can find her art in her Etsy shop here.

Laura is giving away a hardcover copy of WALLACE AND GRACE TAKE THE CASE by Heather Alexander, Bloomsbury.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm 2023 participant and you have commented only once on today’s blog post. ↓

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.