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by Laura Purdie Salas

Congratulations on completing PiBoIdMo!

This activity generates such a feeling of abundance. Ideas everywhere! Some of these ideas have great promise, and some of them…don’t.


Photo: Daniel Plazanet (Daplaza)

I characterize ideas as pebbles or seeds. Pebbles are hard and immutable. They might be shiny, or pretty, or just dusty. But whatever they are, they’re rocks. They aren’t going to grow into something different.


Photo: Mrmariokartguy

But seeds…oh, seeds! Some look like pebbles. They seem hard and small and nondescript at first. But if you nurture them with questions, and time, and creativity, the seed ideas can grow into more—like a picture book.

So, how do I sort them out? I ask questions. I play around with answers. I try to be honest, even when I don’t want to. Here are some of the things I ask:

One premise from my PiBoIdMo list this year is: “I Won’t Come Down: Rhyming pb from pov of a kitten stuck in a tree. With a refrain? Who tries to get me down? Kid climbs up, but I climb higher. Fire truck? Where’s the fire? Need a personality for the kitten. Is she witty and clever? Scared to death? Sassy?”

1) Who is my main character?

Does my idea or premise suggest a particular character? Does she fit the situation perfectly? Or totally clash with it?  In this case, as I re-read the idea, I know my main character kitten HAS to be a witty, clever girl. She appears to be stuck in the tree, but she’s really perfectly happy up there.

2) What is the conflict?

Easy-peasy. Everybody assumes she wants to get down, but she doesn’t. Sometimes the conflict isn’t obvious. Another of my ideas is about a pet cloud. Just an idea—but I don’t have a clue what the conflict would be (yet).

3) Does it make me ask more questions?

A good idea expands. It makes me want to explore possibilities. My treed kitten does that for me.

4) Has it been done a million times?

Uniqueness is key in publishing picture books. I’ve had manuscripts turned down recently that editors said they loved but that were “too similar” to books already published—even though the similarity is broad at most. In this tight market, publishers don’t want two “pet books” or whatever. I start on Amazon. I find 27 picture books including the words “kitten” and “tree” published over the past 25 years. Dang. That doesn’t mean any of them have the same premise, but I’ll need to do further research.

5) Can I see the book in my mind?

Picture books, of course, need pictures. Does my idea make me immediately visualize tons of images?

6) Is it a seed that will grow a short story instead of a picture book?

It can take years of reading to absorb the intrinsic difference between the two forms. Illo potential is part of it, but there’s more. If your idea depends on a twist/joke ending, it’s likely to be a short story. (The ending of a picture book should be surprising and satisfying, but not a joke/punchline.) If you can picture one great illo for it, but not 14, it’s a short story. If it involves complex plot points and many details, it’s a short story.

7) Does it stand up to repetition?

Will kids want to listen to this over and over? Will adults be happy to read it over and over? That’s a picture book.

As I play around with these questions, a seed idea will grow into the bare bones outline of a picture book. It will feel simple and essential enough to get a draft down in a single swoop. The manuscripts I’ve tweaked and tortured to death have just not cut it as picture books.

I’m not saying I don’t spend a ton of time revising! I do. I change points of view, try different main characters, etc. But if the essence of the conflict and character don’t fall into place quickly, I’ve come to accept that it’s probably just not a fantastic picture book idea for me to pursue.

So, read through your list of ideas. Play with them. Ask questions. Brainstorm conflicts and storylines.

Then, mark the ones that are ready to plant. They won’t all grow. But at least some of them are seeds, ready to bloom in the soil of your creativity, under the sunshine of your words.

As for the pebbles, don’t sweat it! They’ll make a nice little border around your garden of picture books!

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of many nonfiction picture books, but her first love is poetry and verse. Her newest book is BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Clarion, 2011), and coming soon is a rhyming nonfiction book: A LEAF CAN BE… (Millbrook, 2012). She is also the author of STAMPEDE! POEMS TO CELEBRATE THE WILD SIDE OF SCHOOL (Clarion, 2009). You can learn more about Laura at her website (www.laurasalas.com), her blog (http://laurasalas.wordpress.com), and her mentoring service for writers site (www.MentorsForRent.com).

I bet you feel like a winner just because you have a journal full of ideas!

But hey, you get some swell SWAG, too. (Well, it’s not stuff WE ALL get, it’s stuff WE SOME get, but SWSG is too hard to say.)

All winners will be randomly selected on DECEMBER 8TH from the WINNER’S PLEDGE post. You must have SIGNED IN at the beginning of PiBoIdMo and SIGNED THE WINNER’S PLEDGE by DECEMBER 7th to be eligible. Your name must be in both places. (Sorry, there’s gotta be rules sometimes.)

Enough legalese; onto the prizes!

First, there’s THREE GRAND PRIZES:

Feedback on your best 5 ideas from three literary agents: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Jennifer Rofé and Kelly Sonnack.

   

Each grand prize winner will be paired with an agent. The winners will send their 5 best ideas (written as pitches) to their agent and the agent will respond with brief feedback suggesting which ideas are the best to pursue as manuscripts.

But that’s not all!

There’s MORE!

FOUR FIRST PRIZES!

Picture book critiques from Tara Lazar (who the heck is that?), Brenda Reeves Sturgis, Corey Rosen-Schwartz and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen!

   

The following prizes have been generously donated, so please, if you like what you see, visit the shops and browse. If you don’t win on December 8th, consider making a holiday purchase from these lovely literary-savvy vendors!

MANY, MANY SECOND, THIRD, AND ELEVENTH PRIZES!

  • An original painting by MONSTORE illustrator James Burks

  • Colorful “Make Believe” print by Lily Moon

 

  • Super-Duper Reading Girl Hero brooch from Jam Fancy

 

Apples and Pumpkins
The Snow Angel
Fairly Fairy Tales
Catch that Baby
Aliens Love Panta Claus
Dinosaurs Love Underpants
Four Friends at Christmas
The Christmas Sweater
The Monster Princess
The Little Girl with the Big, Big Voice
Hootenannny! A Festive Counting Book 

PHEW! I think that’s it. I might find more stuff under my bed, though. Speaking of bed, goodnight PiBoIdMo’ers! And thanks once again for making this event a huge success. Give yourselves a nice pat on the back—and speaking of bed again—a good night’s sleep! You deserve it!

OK, time’s up, PiBoIdMo’ers! (PiBoIdMo’ites? PiBoIdMo’igans?)

Do you have 30 new picture book ideas?

You do? Excellent!

Time to take the PiBoIdMo winner’s pledge to qualify for one of our amazing-Ringling prizes! (Sorry, there are no circus animals to give away. I just felt like rhyming. I know, I shouldn’t rhyme.)

I do solemnly swear that I have faithfully executed
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge,
and will, to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into picture book manuscripts.

Now I’m not saying all 30 ideas have to be good. Some may just be titles, some may be character quirks. Some may be problems and some may create problems when you sit down to write. Some may be high-concept and some barely a concept. But…they’re yours, all yours!

You have until December 7th at 11:59:59PM EST to sign the pledge by leaving a comment on this post.

Remember, this is an honor system pledge.You don’t have to send in your ideas to prove you’ve got 30 of them. If you say so, I’ll believe you! (But for the record, I have no interest in purchasing a bridge at this time.)

Those whose name appears on both the kick-off post AND this winner’s pledge will be entered into the grand prize drawing: feedback on your best 5 ideas by a literary agent. There are three grand prizes! Thanks to Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency plus Jen Rofe and Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. for volunteering their time and talent to PiBoIdMo.

Other prizes include picture books, manuscript critiques, jewelry, journals, greeting cards and MUCH MORE! (Prize announcement post coming tonight!) All winners will be randomly selected by Random.org and announced on December 8th. And from now until the 7th, more guest bloggers will inspire you to develop your manuscripts.

But lucky you, you get your first prize now! This winner badge for your website, blog or social media site, designed by Bonnie Adamson. (If you display the badge, please link back to the PiBoIdMo page. You can make the badge larger or smaller…size it to fit anywhere.)

So what are you waiting for? Start signing…

…and start writing!

Thousands of children are depending on you!

by Pat Miller

It was the third week of January and I had asked my kindergarten students what special day was coming up on February 2. They guessed Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Mother’s Day. So I gave them a hint. “It’s the day when a small, furry animal pops up out of its hole to tell the weather.”

The five year-olds were stumped. Suddenly, one boy pumped his arm and said, “I know! I know!” When I asked him which animal popped up, he replied with enthusiasm. “It’s the armadillo!”

Not surprising for a child from Texas where there are no groundhogs. I jotted the conversation in my idea book, but left it there for two years until I needed to write a book for credibility in my local SCBWI. After 33 rejections and two more years, Substitute Groundhog popped up out of its hiding place in my writer’s journal and went on to become a Junior Library Guild selection. It was reissued as an audio book, and was translated into French. Not bad for a “wrong” answer!

So, you’ve made it through November and jotted down a lot of ideas and sparks of stories. Perhaps you’ve even earned your PiBoIdMo 2011 badge of completion. So why this post on December 1? (There will be another tomorrow.)

First, let me ask if you know the story of Petunia. She was a goose who thought that carrying around a thick book under her wing was enough to make her smart. It wasn’t till she deciphered the word “dynamite” as “candy”, that the disastrous results blew open the book. Only then did Petunia realize that she had to begin the hard work of reading the book to become smarter.

For us it’s now time to begin the hard work of writing or illustrating the book. It’s not enough to be smug about the ideas we have tucked under the wing of our writing journals. Today is the perfect day to take the next step.

Turn back to your idea(s) from Day 1 and add something to it. Extrapolate a plot point. Describe the main character. Write down what could go wrong for the character. No need to fully flesh out the story—unless it insists you do so. Repeat the process on December 2nd with your second idea. In spite of the holiday busyness, keep going to your desk each day, fanning each spark a little more until one catches fire.

This is the process that will take your November ideas and carry them through to possibility. Mining your ideas each day will eventually lead you to gold. You never know what will pop up out of the ground until you dig for it. Good luck with your own armadillos!

Pat Miller is the author of  Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, Substitute Groundhog, We’re Going on a Book Hunt, Library Monkeys, and A Pet For Every Person. She and her husband live near Houston where the heat has finally broken but the drought persists. Her three adult children are still readers and are busy raising toddlers who also love books. Visit her Pat at www.patmillerbooks.com.

 

 

by Deborah Underwood

It’s the end of the month. Hooray! And congratulations!

If you’re brilliant, you have thirty picture book ideas, all of which can be transformed into stunning manuscripts. If this is you, stop reading here; take the rest of the day off.

If you’re like me, however, you have thirty sparks. Thirty scraggly shoots. Thirty teensy brown-paper-wrapped parcels of hope.

Now it’s time to test them for viability.

Here’s the image that always comes to my mind during this part of the process: I’m in a dentist’s chair. The dentist pokes and scrapes at a suspicious tooth, gently at first, then harder, then really hard. I silently pray, “Please don’t find anything wrong. Please. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.”

My ideas are my babies. I love them. But my ultimate goal is to get manuscripts out into the world. If an idea isn’t strong enough, better to let it go than to spend the next month banging my head against my desk.

So here are some suggestions as you begin your deliberations:

1)  Check for competition.
If my idea hinges on a distinctive title, I Google and hope the title doesn’t turn up elsewhere. If it centers on an unusual animal or situation, I go to Amazon.com or Books in Print and search for similar books. If it’s a hook-y concept, and I can’t remember if I’ve seen it before, I ask around (a good children’s librarian can be your best friend for this type of thing).

2)  Make sure the plot—or the concept, for concept books—is strong.
Sometimes I turn an idea over and over in my mind and come to the sad realization that it’s just not different or special enough. Out it goes. But if you have a great character drowning in a mediocre idea, toss him a life preserver; maybe you can find him another home.

3)  Think about marketability.
We all know the picture book market is tough. If I have a choice between developing a high-concept story or a clever but obscure idea that will require a book with expensive flaps, pull tabs, and a triangular fuchsia mirror, I’m going to go with the former.

4)  Don’t think about marketability.
Ha—fooled you! It’s good to be aware of trends.And if an editor says she’s looking for a book about platypuses, and you happen to have one (or think you can write one), you’d be silly not to give it a shot.

But.

If you have a potentially hard-to-market idea that you really, truly love, an idea that floods you with energy and fills you with joy, here’s my advice, courtesy of Admiral Farragut: Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

We simply cannot allow our creativity to be controlled by conventional wisdom. I know everyone’s saying picture books need to be—what is it now, less than seven words long? Maybe it’s six this week.

You know what? I’d bet good money that in the next year or two, some brilliant, 2,000-word picture book will take the publishing world by storm. It will be a bestseller. It will be adored by both critics and kids. And it will exist because some writer had the courage of her convictions, and because some editor was gutsy enough to take a chance on it.

I adore Press Here by Hervé Tullet. Is it character driven? No. Did Tullet write it because he read a market update saying, “Editors are seeking unconventional, graphic-driven books that readers can poke with their fingers”? Unlikely.

I’ll bet he wrote it for one reason:

The idea delighted him.

And now it delights us.

We want to write great books. And greatness does not come from following trends. It comes from breaking boundaries. So let’s get out there and break some, shall we?

Deborah’s picture books include The Quiet Book, The Loud Book, A Balloon for IsabelGranny Gomez & Jigsaw, and the forthcoming Part-Time Princess and The Christmas Quiet Book. Deborah is the author of the easy reader Pirate Mom, and she co-writes the Sugar Plum Ballerina chapter book series with Whoopi Goldberg. She has also written more than 25 nonfiction books for kids. Please visit her online at www.DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com.

by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

I’m in the throes of marketing madness. It’s a whirlwind. The view from the eye of the cyclone is breathtaking! Ideas are swirling all around. Each wind gust propels me forward. However, promoting 10 TURKEYS IN THE ROAD is not something I have done alone. I’m certainly glad that I started the process a year ago, because marketing takes on a life all its own, and it’s imperative to have innovative and trustworthy people in your corner.

What did I write? Who was I? What did I stand for? What did I have to offer? These questions were always in the forefront of my mind. I wanted people to know exactly what they’d be getting from my book, a critique, or an author visit from me.

Each step has been its own adventure. All writers must walk their own steps, sing their own song, and dance their own dance. What I’ve learned over the past several months, as I’ve prepared for the release of my book, is that you can NEVER start marketing early enough. EVERYTHING takes a tremendous amount of time, along with a conscious effort and many different resources. I’ve met and worked with some of the best people in this industry over the last year—top-notch, top-of-the-line creators!

After assessing my web presence, I realized that the first thing that needed a complete overhaul was my website. My website is my business card. I surmised that it is my introduction to the literary world. Through it, librarians, teachers, editors, and parents would catch a glimpse of my life and my writing style.

I held to the old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and I kept that close to my heart. I needed and wanted to put my best professional foot forward, and so for me, this meant a completely fresh design.

I wanted a site that was colorful and fun in the same taste as the art of 10 TURKEYS, illustrated by the talented David Slonim. I turned to Donna Farrell who executed exactly what I needed and wanted. She did a superb job. We had the same vision, and she didn’t  disappoint. She goes over and above for her clients, and each website she designs is unique in its own right.

Marketing takes money, and you’ll want to make sure that you plan accordingly. I was fortunate to find talented people along the way that added a sprinkle of magic to everything that was created for my site. My teachers’ guides were written by my daughter-in-law, Whitney Reeves, a stupendous and creative educator and inventor. Whitney is not only a fabulous writer but also co-creator and founder of Bitzy Baby, a revolutionary company that provides safe sleeping and innovative crib bumpers for infants.

My friend, critique partner, and the very talented author/illustrator Carrie Clickard (Victrica Malica, Flashlight Press, 2012), created my puzzles, puppets, book trailer, and also my sorting game, along with some snappy songs. Carrie has a plethora of advertising knowledge, and she helped me compose fun activities for children of all ages.

I hired Renee Gray-Wilburn of A Way With Words to proof and copy edit content. Renee questions every comma and picks up on every grammatical error!  I was determined to give 110% to my site, just as I do to my writing because it is all interconnected. If you want your site to be the best it can be, you must seek out those who can add their own brand of magic to your work.

I made contacts with The National Circus Federation and The National Wild Turkey Federation, and I contacted reviewers. I also hired master marketer Kirsten Cappy of Curious City to help implement a strategy.

When I was not writing, I was planning and researching where I could market next, and every day I stepped on new stones. I kept climbing and continued plodding along the windy path.

My business cards were ordered through Vista Print with the cover of my book on the front of the card, along with a QR code, which links directly to my site. On each puzzle and activity page, not only was my QR code for Amazon added, but also my QR code for my website. When children bring home activity pages, I wanted their parents to have a way to wave their smart phone and order TURKEYS if they were so inclined.

In marketing, people want to purchase something WHEN they want it.  It is my job to make it easy for them to say “YES” without facing lots of unneeded clicks and unnecessary steps.

We’re all busy, and there are numerous wonderful books out there from which to choose. As a professional writer, I want to satisfy my audience, and so I think about ways to make EVERYTHING easiest for them.

Every day is a day for marketing madness. I’ve had fun, learned a lot, met great people, and have loved every second of bringing 10 TURKEYS IN THE ROAD to you! I appreciate all of you who have helped me in this endeavor. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a reader. I am sincerely and eternally grateful to each one of you that I now call friend!

Brenda is giving away a signed copy of 10 TURKEYS IN THE ROAD! Leave a comment to enter and a winner will be selected in one week!

As a child, Brenda Reeves Sturgis fell asleep with picture books in her hands and a thumb in her mouth. Now she’s a picture book author who recently won a Mom’s Choice Award. She lives on a lake in Maine with her husband Gary. When Brenda’s not busy enjoying life, she’s researching and writing, writing and reading, and she’s very busy grandparenting. Learn more about her books, school visits and critique services at http://www.brendareevessturgis.com.

by Aaron Zenz

Kids are an amazing source of inspiration.  They haven’t yet learned the conventions and “rules” that so often inhibit our own grown-up imaginations.  My kiddos constantly astound me with the creativity that pours forth from their pencils.

My kids have a couple of blogs where I showcase their art and ideas.   Two years ago I set up a challenge for professional illustrators to use a drawing from the kids’ blog to fuel a piece of “Fan Art.”

For example, this is a drawing my daughter Lily made:


And here’s my interpretation:


Here’s a drawing from my son Isaac:


And here’s my take:


I expected that perhaps a handful of people would join me in participating. Instead, over 70 pieces of amazing art poured in from people all over the world.  You can see the full results of the celebration HERE.

It was so much fun, we just had to do all over again two years later.  One of the illustrators who contributed both years is J.C. Phillipps of “Wink the Ninja” fame.  This year she chose to recreate an image by my daughter Gracie:

And here’s J.C. Phillipps’ version:


But then, something else happened…  Here’s what Mrs. Phillipps had to say:

“I decided to give the rabbit a girl.  As I was making the girl, she started to speak to me.  Turns out, her name is Esmerelda and she loves it when things go wrong.  As I was putting this collage together, all these little story ideas started weaving their way into my mind and I now think I have a new idea to write up.  Time can only tell where it all leads—but I think little Esmerelda and I are going to have a lot of fun together.”

Awesome!  And that gets me to thinking of a particular picture book idea that I’ve had rattling around in my brain for years, sparked by one of the kid’s pictures.  I’ve yet to work it up.  Perhaps PiBoIdMo 2011 is just the time to do it!

So here’s your challenge for the day.  Write up a story idea based on the random wonderfulness of a kid drawing.  If you don’t have a kid close at hand, here are a few drawings for inspiration:

by Lily:

by Gracie:

by Isaac:


Happy writing to you all!

Aaron Zenz is giving away a copy of his latest book “Chuckling Ducklings” PLUS an original sketch of a baby critter of YOUR choosing! (see examples)  Just leave a comment here to be entered! A winner will be randomly selected in one week.

Aaron Zenz has illustrated 14 books for children.  He is also the author of “The Hiccupotamus” and “Chuckling Ducklings.”  His kids review their favorite books at their blog Bookie Woogie and share artwork at their other blog Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty.

by Laura Crawford

What do the TV show Jeopardy, a friend’s Facebook post, my car radio and  five second-grade boys have in common?

The correct answer is….they are all places or things that gave me an idea for a nonfiction picture book!

I frequently hear about real life situations that inspire fiction authors…but that never happens to me. As hard as I try, I cannot think of funny stories or books that tell a lesson.  I am drawn to the strange and unusual facts.  I now have a list of thirteen nonfiction subjects (thank you PiBoIdMo!)

For example, in The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A to Z, readers are always shocked to find that the Pilgrims did not wear buckles or black and white clothing. Also, did you know that turkey was not served on the first Thanksgiving? In The American Revolution from A to Z, I discovered a fascinating young woman who dressed as a man to fight in battle…and I recently completed a picture book about her heroic life.  I love it when one book turns into two!

All six of my picture books support the science and social curriculum in elementary schools.  As I third grade teacher, I found the text books were sooo booooring!  It is now my goal to present the sometimes dry and dull material in a fun way and I always keep my eight year old students in mind.  And an added bonus:  since they know I’m an author, I always have kids coming up to tell me what to write! Moral of the story; ask them what they want…they will tell you!

Now back to the first question:

Jeopardy introduced me to Harriet Quimby, a female aviator. A Facebook post about eagles from a photographer friend inspired me.  Two years ago, I heard a story on the radio about an adopted goose named Harley who flies next to his motorcycle-riding owner. And thank you to the second grade boys who MUST know about a platypus’ eyeballs!!

You never know when a nonfiction picture book idea will pop up…

Laura Crawford is a reading specialist in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois. She has six picture books for children: In Arctic Waters from Sylvan Dell, The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving From A to Z and The American Revolution From A to Z from Pelican Publishing and The Postcard From Washington, DC series from Raven Tree Press. And….she just sold another ABC last week! Visit her online at wildaboutnaturewriters.blogspot.com.

by Linda Ravin Lodding

Here’s the problem with doing a PiBoIdMo blog post at the end of the month:

I was going to write about setting. But Tammi did that.

I was going to doodle. But Debbie already did that.

I was going to send you an Inspiration Fairy. But Courtney already sent you one.

I thought about chicken nuggets. But so did Sudipta.

So, what’s left?

Endings!  Big, bold, surprising, clever, tender, awww-inspiring endings!

As we ease into the final stretch of PiBoIdMo, like you, I have a list of ideas. Some I’ve even started writing. But none of them have endings. (Yet.)

Many of us experience the first flush of excitement when  a new idea tickles us until we have to put words down on paper. We have an idea! A character! A setting! Maybe we even have conflict!  But, if you’re like me, you hope that by the time you hit the 700 word mark the ending will just write itself. But here’s the problem with endings that just write themselves. They’re usually flat.

And no wonder. A great ending is as difficult to write as an opening sentence. And as important.

Here’s what’s on an ending’s “to do list”:

  • An ending has to resolve the story problem in a satisfying way (no plot points still hanging);
  • It has to have the main character solving the conflict by the last page;
  • It should either be predictable enough to emotionally resonate with the reader or unpredictable enough to delight;
  • If it’s a humorous picture book it needs to deliver the final punch line;
  • And, like a fine wine (or peanut butter fluffernutter sandwich), it needs to linger on your reader’s palette long after the meal in consumed.

So let’s think of how we can use page 32 to offer the perfect ending to your story.

Here are some possibilities:

Surprise Ending

Think beyond the obvious ending and offer the reader a surprise – the opposite of what’s expected.  It should still be logical, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Emma Dodd does that in “What Pet to Get” as does Cynthia Rylant in “The Old Woman Who Named Things.”  Both offer surprise endings but do so in very different ways.

Circular Ending

In my picture book OSKAR’S PERFECT PRESENT (2013), Oskar starts his journey looking for the perfect present for his mother. On the first page, he finds it—a  perfect rose! But as Oskar makes subsequent trades along his journey home, he is left without a present.  On the last page, however, he is reunited with the same rose he traded away at the start of his journey.  Circular endings—or those that somehow mirror the opening—are among my favorite endings since they offer closure in an often clever way.

Fulfillment

Sometimes a last page is simply the climax of the story, the fulfillment of the character’s desire. In “When Marion Sang”, Pam Munoz Ryan’s book about opera singer Marion Andresen,  Marion is denied to sing on many American stages because she was African American. The last page of the story reads, “. . .and Marian sang.”  In  my picture book THE BUSY LIFE OF ERNESTINE BUCKMEISTER, Ernestine is the queen of over-scheduled set, and she just wants to play. In the end, she does just that and the final words, “And sometimes she just played,” underscore that Ernestine is fulfilled.

Wordless

And ending can be wordless,  relying on a single-spread illustration to close the story. While the ending is wordless, it still needs to be “written” within the visual. This type of ending can be used effectively in both quiet books and humorous books. In a quiet book, the ending visual might be a sunset, an embrace, a child sleeping. In a funny book the last illustration can hint at a visual joke or twist.  In my picture book HOLD THAT THOUGHT, MILTON (2012) the final joke is embedded within the illustration which hints that just when the reader thought all was back to normal…it isn’t.

I love working on my endings. It never ceases to amaze me how changing the ending can change the entire feel of the previous pages.

You know when you go to a movie and it finishes? If it’s been a good movie, you want to stay seated in the darkened theater suspended in the magic of the story. You want to draw out the experience just a little longer. A picture book ending should do the same thing for the reader. It should offer the reader that all-important pause (for reflection, a hug, or a giggle) before they close the book.

What kind of endings do you like? What fits best with your story? What kind of ending gives your story a unique slant? Try out alternative endings and see how  the mood, the rhythm, the idea of the book changes. And revise until you find your happily ever after…

Linda has spent the past 15 years living in Stockholm, Vienna and now The Netherlands. She lives in a one-windmill town with her husband and 13 year-old daughter and helped to establish the country’s first SCBWI chapter. Her picture book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister (illustrated by Suzanne Beaky, Flashlight Press), debuted in October and was noted in the ABC Best Books Catalog 2011. Her next two picture books—Hold That Thought, Milton! (illustrated by Ross Collins) and Oskar’s Perfect Present (illustrated by Alison Jay) will be coming out in 2012 and 2013. And when she’s not working on her beginnings, middles and endings, she’s a public information consultant with the United Nations. Visit Linda at: www.lindalodding.com.

 

by Carolyn Crimi

Here are three of my favorite things to do to generate picture book ideas. Pick one and try it out!

1) One of the first things I do is look at problems I’m dealing with in my own life to see if I can turn them into a story. For instance, my husband and I sometimes have “disagreements” about how tidy things need to be. I am, well, a bit of a messy person. He is a neat freak. I have had this problem with neat freaks my entire life. (Why do they always think they’re right?) Anyway, I decided to turn this problem into a book titled BORIS AND BELLA. It’s about a very messy monster named Bella LeGrossi who lives next to a very tidy monster named Boris Kleanitoff. Nothing has more emotional resonance than writing about your own problems. I wrote ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MOLE after experiencing extreme stage fright. I still get stage fright every once in a while, but at least I’ve gotten a book out of it, too, and it’s a lot cheaper than therapy!

2)  I love picture books. Being surrounded by them feels like home. So I’ll often read all the books on the Barnes and Noble picture book wall. Reading them leaves me feeling buzzed and ready to create my own great book. I also like to see what books moms pick out for their children and what books the kids themselves want to buy. I’ve heard some writers say they don’t read picture books because they don’t want to be influenced by other writers. I think that if you’re writing enough you won’t have that problem.  Read the new books and the classics. Keep up with the genre.  And if you find a book you love, buy it, take it home and type it up. You discover all sorts of things about a picture book when you do this.

3) Keep an Image Board. I have dry erase board in my office. I stick greeting cards, magazine clippings, poems and titles on it. It sits right in front of me as I write. Whenever I find a card that seems like it might have the seed of a story in it I buy it and stick it up on my Image Board. I may not think of a story for it for years, but the act of collecting inspiring images is just plain fun and it fills the well. Even if you don’t want to make your own Image Board, I encourage you to look through the greeting cards at your local drugstore and buy a few for inspiration. The illustration style is often very similar to picture book illustration style, and of course they are usually about major life changes.

If all else fails, go for a walk! Ask yourself at the beginning of the walk for a story idea and see if you get one by the end of the walk. I get ideas this way all the time!

Have fun!

Carolyn Crimi writes about things that make her laugh, or about things she loved when she was young. Sometimes that leads her down strange, twisted paths, since the things that she loves, like monsters and Pop Tarts, tend to be a bit odd. In addition to writing books, she also teaches adult education courses on writing for children, visits schools for Author Talks, and writes stories and articles for children’s textbooks and magazines. Her picture books include HENRY AND THE BUCCANEER BUNNIES, THE LOUDS MOVE IN (one of Tara’s favorite picture books), WHERE’S MY MUMMY? and many more. Check them all out at CarolynCrimi.com.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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