You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘PiBoIdMo 2013’ category.

Hey look, Jerry won a prize in a box of cereal!


Well, he’s going to be mighty jealous of you PiBoIdMo’ers—because your prizes sure beat a Honey Comb tattoo. (Your prizes are BIG, yeah-yeah-yeah. They’re not SMALL, no-no-no.)

It’s time for the final prizes of PiBoIdMo, the ones offered by our guest bloggers during the month of November. There’s artwork, signed books and critiques galore!

How were the winners selected? I used to pick a number that corresponded with the order in which you commented on each prize post. Then I checked the winner’s name against the list of registered participants and those who signed the Winner’s Pledge. The name had to appear in both places. If the person commented twice on any of those three posts, they were disqualified. Winners were eligible for one prize only. If a name was selected twice, they were removed and another number was picked by

All winners will be emailed within the next few days. If you do not receive an email from me, first check your spam folder, then contact me directly.


OK, so let’s start with the PRIZES YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT! These are prizes offered by people who did not guest blog but felt compelled to contribute to the event. Thank you Tamson, Suzanne and Alayne!

First, editor Tamson Weston offered a picture book critique for manuscripts under 1000 words. The winner is:

Next, illustrator Suzanne del Rizzo offered a signed, personalized copy of her picture book SKINK ON THE BRINK. It goes to:

Finally, Alayne Kay Christian offered a picture book critique. The lucky one is:


Now let’s move on to the prizes offered by PiBoIdMo guest bloggers.


Tammi Sauer’s Prize

NUGGET & FANG Prize Pack


Greg Pizzoli’s Prize

Hand Screenprinted Cards


Ryan Sias’s Prize

Original ZOE & ROBOT Drawing


Michael Garland’s Prizes

Signed Hardcopies of the Following Books:






Todd McQueen’s Prizes

Signed Hardcopy of BE IN CHARGE (Five Winners)


Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s Prize

Signed Hardcopy of HENNY (when released)


The Jenneweins’ Prize

Signed Hardopy of CHICK-O-SAURUS REX and a personalize illustration by Daniel Jennewein


Dorina Lazo Gilmore’s Prize

Signed Hardcopy of CORA COOKS PANCIT


Melissa Guion’s Prize



Pat Miller’s Prizes

Choice of Picture Book with Audio CD

Picture Book Critique


Steve Barr’s Prizes

Signed Copy of DRAW CRAZY CREATURES (Two Winners)


Kelly Light’s Prize



Maria Gianferrari’s Prize

Picture Book Critique


Wendy’s Martin’s Prize



Renee Kurilla’s Prizes

8.5 x 11 Print from her Etsy Shop (Two winners)


Annette Simon’s Prize



Joni Sussman’s Prize

KAR-BEN Books Prize Pack


Kami Kinard’s Prize

Critique of Kidlit Manuscript – 10 Pages


Laurie Keller’s Prize




Well, that’s all folks! This officially concludes PiBoIdMo 2013. It’s been a blast! Thank you for your enthusiasm throughout the event, in your comments and your participation in the Facebook group. I could not do it without you—and that’s not cliché, that’s TRUTH.

Please remember to contact me should any of your PiBoIdMo ideas win a contest, an agent or a contract. I love highlighting your success stories!

But for now, write on! Be sure to consider some of these other picture book writing challenges offered throughout the year:

…and, of course, PiBoIdMo 2014! See you next November!

Who shall roll the drums this time?


Sorry, Anna Kendrick canceled last minute and this is all I could get on short notice.

So there’s more prizes to give away…all the Post-PiBo goodies!

Again, winners were selected with the help of and double checking and blah-di-blah-di-blah-blah. You know the drill by now.

So let’s go…


Ame Dyckman’s Prize



Stacy McAnulty’s Prizes

Signed hardcopy of DEAR SANTASAURUS

Picture book critique


Kristi Valiant’s Prize

Picture book critique


Corey Rosen Schwartz’s Prize



Weeeeee! Congratulations to the winners! Be on the lookout for an email from me.

That’s all for today, folks. Stay tuned for the rest of the PiBoIdMo prizes!

I’ve already asked Animal for a drum roll twice on this blog, so it’s time to give someone else a chance. Take it away, Mr. Astaire!


What poise! What grace! What shiny white spats!

So here are the prize winners for those goodies given away during Pre-PiBo in late October.

How were these winners selected? Again, I used to draw numbers which corresponded to the order in which a person commented on the prize post. Then I checked to ensure that the participant had officially registered AND completed the challenge and had only commented once on each of the three posts. If all checked out, they were named the official winner!

All winners will be receiving an email from me today. Please be on the lookout for it. If you don’t receive it, please contact me.

Without further ado…


Leeza Hernandez’s Prizes


Skype visit


Julie Hedlund’s Prizes

GOLD 12×12 Membership for 2014

Signed hardcopy of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS


Betsy Devany’s Prizes

Picture book critique #1

Picture book critique #2


Kayleen West’s Prize

Signed hardcopies of ADOPTIVE FATHER and WITHOUT ME?


Julie Falatko’s Prize

Picture book critique


Dianne de Las Casas’s Prize



Congratulations to all the Pre-PiBo winners.

MANY more winners to come so stay tuned!

Drum roll,  please!


(Did I ever mention I’m a huge Muppets fan?)

It’s time to announce our PiBoIdMo 2013 GRAND PRIZE WINNERS!

How were these winners selected? Every participant who signed the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge was assigned a number based upon the order in which they commented. I then used to generate random numbers. The numbers were checked to their corresponding name, then I ensured that name was on the PiBoIdMo registration post. If the name had been registered, then I double checked to make sure they had not commented on the winner’s pledge multiple times (thus giving them extra chances to win). If all checked out, the winner was verified. (And they all checked out!)

Without further ado, here they are! Please congratulate them!


piboidmo2013-lightbulb-laugh-200x254KAREN MAE ZOCCOLI










I will pair each of you with a PiBoIdMo agent and contact you via email.

You will have one week to contact your agent with your FIVE best ideas. I suggest you flesh them out into a paragraph, like an elevator pitch. Something short and snappy. The agent will then provide feedback on which idea(s) may be the best to pursue as manuscripts. The agent may provide short and sweet feedback like a simple “Go for it!” or more lengthy feedback providing suggestions. I don’t know what’s in store for you–but there’s one thing for certain–their feedback will help you determine what to begin writing!

Thank you all for participating this year! I daresay it was the best year ever!

Remember there are PLENTY more prizes to come—everything you saw during the event plus even a few more! Signed books and critiques and art, OH MY! More to come all this week…

***blows into hankie***

Yes, I’m emotional because the 5th annual PiBoIdMo has come to a close. It’s been an incredibly satisfying few months for me—from organizing guest bloggers, to reading their sage advice, to receiving thankful emails from you, the participants. I am grateful for your feedback. Knowing that the kidlit writing community has benefitted from this challenge is my greatest reward. It means there are many more fabulous picture books on their way, into the eager hands of children.

As a newbie kidlit writer, I had to discover much of the information you’ve learned here on my own. There were few picture book blogs when I began my journey seven years ago, and most of the craft knowledge I gained was from SCBWI events. I would take copious notes then dash home to transcribe them with lightning fast fingers. Doing so helped the information soak into my brain. Then I decided to slap my notes on a blog for others to benefit. After all, not everyone is able to attend SCBWI events.

To this day, the most popular post on my blog remains the one I created when I learned about picture book construction from an editor—the difference between a self-ended picture book and one with colored ends—and how you do not have 32 pages to tell a tale in a 32-page picture book. No one had ever bothered to explain this to me before, and I had never seen it diagrammed. That post from February 2009—almost five years ago—gets the majority of this blog’s traffic, even during PiBoIdMo!



But I’m also emotional because—hey—picture books crave emotion. A story is truly defined as an emotional journey. The character in the beginning of your story is not who she is at the end. She has grown. Changed. EVOLVED.

Your picture book should contain a universal emotional truth to which a child can identify. The reader must empathize with your character. They must know how your character feels. They must become invested in the emotional journey.

Let’s examine some emotions in popular picture books:


The premise:
Emily’s favorite toy Stanley gets bunny-napped by mean old Queen Gloriana.

The emotional truth:
Children understand the love and joy a cherished toy brings. And they understand the misery of that kind of loss.

Other lost-toy tales:
EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
I LOST MY BEAR by Jules Feiffer



The premise:
Ruby is the new girl in school and she just wants to be noticed. But she goes about it the wrong way—by copying everything Angela wears, says and does.

The emotional truth:
Children feel trepidation surrounding new situations. Being young, their lives are full of “new”. Many books deal with this issue, from welcoming a new baby into the family (be careful, this topic is overdone), to being the new kid in school. Other emotional themes in these books are loneliness, fitting in, and being yourself.

Other making-friends/new kid tales:
NEVILLE by Norton Juster and G. Brian Karas



The premise:
Everything was always quiet on Earmuffle Avenue, that is, until the Louds moved in. The quiet neighbors became quite upset. They asked the Louds to tone it down, but once silence descended, the neighbors realized they missed the boisterous family.

The emotional truth:
Children must constantly adjust to a variety of people, ideas and perspectives around them. And they have to assert themselves and grow into their own little personalities. They understand how “different” some people can be. They understand how they can sometimes be the “different” one. Books like THE LOUDS demonstrate how it’s OK to be whom you are, and that it’s possible to appreciate people who are different from you. And the book does this without being preachy. In fact, it’s mighty good, rowdy fun.

Other being-different/being-yourself tales:
CALVIN CAN’T FLY by Jennifer Berne & Keith Bendis
COWBOY CAMP by Tammi Sauer & Mike Reed



The premise:
Zack is tired of his pesky little sister overtaking his bedroom. So he buys monsters to scare Gracie away. But the monsters don’t do their jobs. In the end, however, the siblings learn to appreciate each another and to cooperate.

The emotional truth:
Many children have siblings and they understand the contentious nature of that relationship. They can relate to a sibling either being pesky, or being shunned and teased by an older sibling. So they can understand Zack’s eagerness to spook Gracie and Gracie’s desire to be around her brother. And they also know that sometimes a sibling can be the best playmate ever.

Other sibling tales:
THE CHICKEN OF THE FAMILY by Mary Amato & Delphine Durand
SCRIBBLE by Deborah Freedman
DAFFODIL by Emily Jenkins &  Tomek Bogacki

These stories aren’t just about a toy rabbit, a classroom, loud neighbors or kooky monsters. There is an emotional layer woven into each tale. The child reading the story can empathize with the characters because they have felt similar emotions. Sure, they may never have been visited by the Queen’s footmen or crawled into a trap-door monster store—those are the fantastical elements of the stories. But these elements are grounded in reality by EMOTION.

Other emotions in picture books:

  • Fear/Worry
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Disappointment/Loss
  • Sadness
  • Embarrassment
  • Impatience
  • Nervousness/Anticipation
  • Loneliness
  • Excitement
  • Thankfulness/Appreciation
  • Pride
  • Love
  • Happiness

And there’s more. This is by no means an exhaustive list!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the emotion in random picture books. Go to the library, pull some off the shelf and read. What emotions are in the tale? How easily can a child relate to these emotions?

And don’t forget a box of tissues. Some books are so lovey-dovey, I can’t help but choke up.

***blows into hankie***


Here’s a request from me—if you have enjoyed PiBoIdMo 2013 and reading this blog, I ask for your nomination for “The Top 10 Blogs for Writers” over at Write to Done. Please note the nomination will not count without the link to my site ( and a comment regarding why you are nominating it. And of course, feel free to nominate someone else’s deserving blog instead of this one. Only one nomination counts, so make it count!

Also, signed and personalized copies of THE MONSTORE are available for holiday purchase directly from The Bookworm in Bernardsville, NJ. Just give them a call at 908-766-4599 and I’ll run over there to sign your copy. (Don’t worry, it’s not far. And besides, who doesn’t love spending time at a bookstore?)

Thanks again for participating in PiBoIdMo 2013! It’s your enthusiasm that makes this such a worthwhile event. Prize selections will begin this week! Good luck to all!

artiebennetby Artie Bennett

It’s only fitting that Tara would choose me, the author of THE BUTT BOOK, to bring up the rear, closing out the guest blogs of Post–Picture Book Idea Month—or Post-PiBoIdMo, to the cognoscenti. And I’m pleased as punch to oblige—and grateful for the opportunity.

I wasn’t always a picture-book author. I spent my days chiseling away at the manuscripts of others, fashioning them into presentability. And at night I would dream. I would dream that someday, some blessed someday, I too would write a picture book. Inspiration struck while reading Dr. Seuss’s wacky anatomical series. You know, The Foot Book, The Eye Book, The Tooth Book, The Eyetooth Book! They’re a goldmine of zaniness and fun. But something was missing. And that something was . . . THE BUTT BOOK. Now, I know it was presumptuous, even cheeky, of me to think that I could write it, but someone had to. Dr. Seuss would have penned it himself, I’m sure, had he not passed away in 1991, when the zeitgeist was less disposed to the duff. So I wrote THE BUTT BOOK, and the rest is history. Bloomsbury Children’s Books selected the superb illustrator Mike Lester to bring pictorial life to my words, and it published in January 2010. There would be no stopping me now. I had a cranium full of ideas—and several new notebooks.

ButtBook CMYK

While THE BUTT BOOK still had legs (and long ones at that), it was now time for my second act. I didn’t want to be a one-trick pony. I cast about for the perfect follow-up. What should it be? Should it be . . . naaaah. Or maybe . . . naaah. But then I had a brainstorm. Perhaps a children’s book in verse about poop might be the ticket! After all, what more fertile topic could there be for one’s “number two” picture book. And there seemed to be a natural progression. Butts yield poop. So I was thinking about answering the call of doody. And when the word “poopendous” came to me out of the poo—I mean, out of the blue—that clinched it! I raced to Amazon to see if anyone had written a book called POOPENDOUS! And I kept checking, day after day after day, as I set about researching and writing it. Then began the Sisyphean task of finding a publisher, all the while praying that no upstarts would trump in with a Poopendous! of their own. Could there be room in this wide world for two Poopendi! (the plural)? Blue Apple Books bit and matched me up with the super-talented artist Mike Moran, who brought a large dollop of goggle-eyed charm to the proceedings. POOPENDOUS! popped up in March 2012.

I do love writing nonfiction in verse on unmentionable topics, and the books have been very well received, but I’ve decided to take a detour with my next picture book. It will be a more traditional storybook, though still in verse, with appealing animal characters. PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN!, illustrated by the wonderful John Nez, will be coming out in February 2014. Its protagonist is a pettish panda prone to periodic paroxysms. Will he learn to calm down before much put-upon Mama Panda melts down herself!? Time will tell.


But the detour will be short-lived. I happily get back on track with BELCHES, BURPS AND FARTS—OH MY!, which will disgorge in July. My Old World grandmother would have said, “From this he makes a living?” And she would’ve been right to ask. Still, readers may wonder if I had, say, some posterior motive in writing THE BUTT BOOK. Or perhaps a natural poopensity for its sequel. I think, though, that the truth is deeper—and darker. You see, somewhere inside my stodgy exterior lurks a juvenile delinquent. In fact, scratch the surface of any do-gooding milquetoast of a man and you find a rip-roaring rapscallion. What I’ve seen also is that all boys—and intrepid girls—are drawn to these topics. It’s nature’s way. And the books bring a unique perspective to these matters, melding humor, wordplay, fun facts, and verse.

One of the great joys is getting the occasional piece of fan mail. The other day a young mother wrote to say how much she and her three-year-old son are enjoying POOPENDOUS! But she added, with a hint of exasperation, that all he says now is “Hey, farmer, have you tried manure?” So I offered a sincere apology for the disruption.


And I have admirers. After my reading at Celebrate Children’s Book Day at Sunnyside, a mommy eagerly approached me, with her adorable little towhead in tow. Little Samantha, all of four years old, stood shyly before me and began to recite Poopendous! “Poop is yucky, poop is foul. Step in poop and you will howl. To read this book, you must be strong. Just hold your nose and come along!” Apparently, she and her mom had picked up a copy while summering in the Hamptons, and she was so taken by it that she had committed it to memory. I was deeply moved by her recital.


But I’ve also had hecklers. The very first time I read THE BUTT BOOK before a live—and sizable—audience was at a synagogue for a Purim celebration. I was nervous, never having done anything like this before. I had just completed the opening verse—“Eyes and ears are much respected. But the butt has been neglected. We hope to change that here and now. Would the butt please take a bow?”—when a small boy, sitting right up front, yelled out, “That’s not possible!!!”

Copy of BUTT - Copy_Page_03

And I have to admit, it shook me up just a little bit. So I would tell that story at subsequent appearances and say how I hoped there were no hecklers in the audience today. Then one day, during an appearance at the Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island, a young mom, flanked by her small daughters, raised her hand just as I finished relating this anecdote. “Yes, what is it?” I asked. “Our last name is Heckler. We’re the Hecklers!” she proclaimed. “You’re the good Hecklers, You can stay!” I told her.

Well, I think it’s a wrap. It’s way past my bedtime. Time for milk and cookies.

In conclusion, I believe we’ve seen how ideas for great picture books are everywhere—and how inspiration surrounds us. We’ve only to greet the world with compassion, courage, and humor, and our dreams may all come true.

Happy reading—and writing!

Artie Bennett is the executive copy editor for a children’s book publisher and he writes a little on the side (but not the backside!).

Artie, who would be hailed as “the Dr. Seuss of your caboose,” wrote THE BUTT BOOK, his first “mature” work, which published in 2010. THE BUTT BOOK was showered with praise and won the prestigious Reuben Award for Book Illustration. His “number two” picture book, fittingly, was entitled POOPENDOUS! What more fertile topic could there be but poop!

His third picture book, the much-anticipated PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN!, illustrated by the virtuosic artist John Nez, publishes in February 2014. His fourth picture book, the uproarious BELCHES, BURPS AND FARTS—OH MY!, will publish in July 2014.

Artie was the youngest (at age thirteen) person to originate and sell a crossword puzzle to the New York Times. He went on to sell several dailies and two large Sunday puzzles to the Times before he began college. It’s been downhill ever since.

He and his wife, Leah, live deep in the bowels of Brooklyn, New York, where he spends his spare time moving his car to satisfy the rigorous demands of alternate-side-of-the-street parking and shaking his fist at his neighbors.

Visit . . . before someone else does!

ame dyckmanby Ame Dyckman

There they are! Your PiBoIdMo ideas! Staring at you with perky eyebrows and expectant smiles and wiggling like puppies.

Now, whatddya DO with ’em?!

Your 30 ideas all have potential for something. (Except that 11:59 PM idea about the talking toilet. Let that one go.)

Your 29 ideas all have potential for something. But no matter how rockin’ each of them may be, you really can’t develop more than a few of them into picture book manuscripts at the same time. And you don’t know to choose just two or three to focus on now.

So you try my patented Idea Herding Method® and bang your head on the table*, causing most of your PiBoIdMo ideas to run and dive into various folders in your brain:

  • Possible Future Manuscript Ideas
  • Possible Tweet/Post/Social-Media-of-Your-Choice Ideas
  • Possibly Too Weird To Share With Anyone Else Ideas

*You agree that Ame shall not be held responsible for damage to your forehead—or table—and acknowledge that suing Ame would be pointless as she spends all her money on books and candy.

These hiding-in-folders ideas aren’t gone gone. They’ll probably peek out to say, “Howdy!” from time to time. (And the ideas in the last folder are bound to pop out and create Very Embarrassing Moments at parties. Nuthin’ you can do.)

But a few of your PiBoIdMo ideas don’t run away. They rush over and give your poor sore head a reassuring pat.

’Cause they really like you.

And you realize you really like them, too.

So be a good host and offer your Special Ideas a little something. Like opening lines.


No, not “Hey, baby. Come ’round my brain often?” I mean opening lines for the stories your Special Ideas want to tell.

Genius opening lines, ones that set up worlds where each of your Special Ideas can hang out and grow.

Got ’em? Awesome! Looks like you and your Special Ideas are bonding.

Write each Special Idea’s opening line (and title, if you’re feelin’ it) on its own piece of paper.

Now fetch a roll of tape. And this is the Really Important Part…

Tape your nose like a pig.

Yeah, it has absolutely nothing to do with writing. But it’s FUN! And having fun is Really Important!

Right. Back to writing.

Use the tape that’s not on your nose to tape each of your Special Ideas’ opening line pages to a door in your home.

Yeah, I’m being serious. (What? It happens occasionally.)

You don’t get to make any excuses for not doing this. ’Cause I’ve already made them—and countered them—for you:

  • “I don’t want people to see my ideas.”
    Your signings are gonna be interesting.
  • “I might scuff my door.”
    So repaint it when you’re done. Purple would be nice.
  • “I don’t have a door.”
    Really? I will be right over to investigate your freaky slide-in-the-windows-General-Lee-style home. And then I will find something in your home to tape your opening lines to:
  • Your fridge.
  • Your TV.
  • Your pet. (Sorry, Fluffy!)

Because this is the Really Important Writing Part: when you feel your Special Ideas can stand up to the Blood (paper cuts, yo), Sweat, and Revisions necessary to try to bring them forward, then they’re worth keeping them where you can see them—and sharing with the Special Folks that supported your participation in PiBoIdMo in the first place:

  • Your family.
  • Your friends.
  • The delivery guy with the sideburns that look like Peru. (Okay, maybe not him. But definitely your family and friends.)

And with your continued work and your Special Folks’ continued encouragement, your Truly Special Idea has the potential to become an Amazing Manuscript—and hopefully, more.

So, get to taping! Then say it loud, say it proud:

“This is the Future Published Picture Book I’m writing. And here’s how it starts…”

GOOD LUCK, GUYS! I can’t wait to see ’em on the shelves!


TEA PARTY RULES COVER FOR TARAAme Dyckman is the author of BOY + BOT (Knopf; 2012); TEA PARTY RULES (Viking; 2013); WOLFIE THE BUNNY (Little, Brown; 2015); and HORRIBLE BEAR (Little, Brown; 2016). Her Super Agent Guy is about to sub her latest manuscript, previously taped to a purple door in Ame’s house. (The manuscript. Not her agent.) Find Ame sitting on the floor of her local library, or on Twitter: @AmeDyckman.


Ame is giving away a signed copy of TEA PARTY RULES (brilliantly illustrated by K.G. Campbell), and a TEA PARTY RULES prize pack: bookmark, sticker, button, and squeeze cookie. (If you win, do not attempt to eat the squeeze cookie. Ame says they taste gross.) This prize pack will be given away at the conclusion of Post-PiBo.


You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You have signed the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge.)

Good luck, everyone!

Stacy_McAnulty_72 webby Stacy McAnulty

When I tell people that I have a mechanical engineering degree and that I’m also a picture book author, they look at me like I’m trying to mate two different species. Like I’m part alligator and part butterfly. (That would be one scary insect/reptile.)

But as an engineer, I relied heavily on my creative gifts and as an author I can use engineering skills to organize and tackle writing projects. November and PiBoIdMo were about the creativity. Now in December, let’s use our engineering skills to tackle the what-is-next problem. (Don’t worry. You DO have engineering skills. You just don’t know it.)

When I worked as an airline seat engineer I had to create a bill of material (called more affectionately a BOM). A BOM was used by purchasing to order all the parts needed to create an airline seat—everything from nuts and bolts to cushions to motors. (These were the awesome first class seats that fully recline and offer in-flight entertainment.) I’m suggesting a BOM could also be used to create a children’s picture book.

Let’s look back at our ideas from November. This is our inventory from which we can create a BOM. I like to use a spreadsheet, but you can do the same thing with paper, pen and a straight edge. Make a list of all the characters that sprung to life in November and put them in column A. Then make a list of other components needed in a book: settings, problems, titles, goals, situations, emotions, other, etc. It’s OK if you have fifty characters listed and only five settings.


(click to view chart at full size)

Now we have a list of components we can use to build a story. By creating your spreadsheet, you might see that you have a great character and interesting problem that you do not previously consider putting together. Your cookie-loving shark might be the perfect hero to free Mars of aliens.

Or maybe not.

Engineers—like authors—also go through numerous revisions. And every part you need to build your picture book will not be in your inventory list. Your BOM for each story will require the creation of new components. Your goal and your setting may work, but you may need to create a new character (a character not created in November, but in December).

So don’t be afraid to engineer your picture book. In the end, creativity and structure can live happily ever after.


santasaurus3x3Stacy was a mechanical engineer for 8 years before becoming a full-time writer. DEAR SANTASAURUS, her first picture book, was released in October from Boyds Mills Press. She has also engineered two other picture books to be published in 2015 by Random House and Knopf. Stacy lives in a messy house in North Carolina with her 3 messy kids, 2 messy dogs, and 1 messy husband. Visit her at


Stacy is giving away a signed copy of DEAR SANTASAURUS and a picture book critique. Leave a comment to be entered.

You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You have signed the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge.)

Good luck, everyone!

kristivaliantby Kristi Valiant

Isn’t it fun to hone and revise your hilarious dialogue in your manuscript until it’s just perfect? To give your character another tiny quirk that makes them that much more them? To make sure every little word is important and cut each unnecessary one?

I love details, but they can drag me down too soon.

Most of us have truckloads of ideas now that PiBoIdMo is over. We want to jump into the tastiest one and get writing!

That can be a wonderful way to write a first draft. Find an idea you love for a picture book and jump in headlong. Let the joy of doing your craft show!

But then comes revising, and that’s where the dragging down can happen. I had a bad habit of looking at my first draft and trying to fix the tiniest problems first. I’d fix all my grammar mistakes and look for just the right nuance for every word in each sentence.

I was failing to look at the big picture first: plot and story, a strong or unique concept, character development, an element of surprise, pacing, and so on. Not all of those are right in the first draft. Most, if not all, need some heavy work right away. I was wasting time perfecting tiny details in my manuscripts that needed to change later anyway after I fixed the big problems.

Now I try to look at the big picture first and talk out the major points with my agent before I even write the story. My agent knows the marketplace and can advise me on what might work and what might not before I pour time into a manuscript. You can do that with a trusted writer friend or even by yourself.

When I wrote PENGUIN CHA-CHA, I was figuring out my approach to writing picture books (still am, actually). I knew I wanted to write about dancing penguins, and that was all I had to start. I wrote about penguins dancing in a talent contest, perfected the tiny details, and then realized my story wasn’t unique enough to make it in the market.


I wrote a whole different story about a brother and sister who bought dancing penguins from an exotic pet store, and again, discovered the big overall problems with the story after I spent loads of time sketching up the story into a dummy. (Since I write and illustrate, I submit my stories as a sketch dummy. If you aren’t an illustrator, you submit just the manuscript to publishers without illustrations—the publisher picks the illustrator.)

My final PENGUIN CHA-CHA book is very different than any of my earlier versions. It’s now about a girl who is determined to jitterbug with the penguins at the zoo after she discovers they’re secretly dancing. Random House published the book a few months ago.


I think these processes were necessary for me to learn, and it was fun working those tiny details, so maybe the time wasn’t exactly wasted.

A lot of illustrators go through this same learning experience. I love drawing faces the most. After all, eyes and facial expressions show emotion and the character’s heart. It’s so tempting to get lost drawing those tiny details on a face before I even plan out the rest of the illustration. If you watch kids draw, they start with the faces too. And then later they realize they should have drawn the face smaller to fit everything else on the page or drawn their character in a different spot.


It’s hard to start over with an illustration after you’ve put so much time into drawing the details on the face.

It’s hard to start over with a manuscript after you’ve put so much time into perfecting the written details.

Start with the big picture first. Unless you’re writing and drawing the details just for fun. Then by all means, get lost in those details! And maybe those details will lead to inspire the big picture. In that case, start with the details.

Oh my, we’re all confused now, aren’t we?

So maybe you need to do what you need to do to write your book best. And maybe that’s different than what I do. And that’s OK too.


penguinchachaKristi wrote and illustrated the picture book PENGUIN CHA-CHA. She illustrated Danielle Steel’s upcoming picture book PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, as well as the Little Wings chapter book series, THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN, CORA COOKS PANCIT, and others. Kristi volunteers as the Regional Advisor of Indiana SCBWI and is represented by Linda Pratt from Wernick & Pratt Agency. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbus College of Art & Design with a major in Illustration. She lives in Indiana with her husband, little girls, and a room full of hippos, monkeys and sneaky penguins.

Visit Krisi online at or on her blog at The penguins do their own dance at


Kristi is giving away a picture book critique. Leave a comment to enter the random drawing.

 You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge by December 3rd.)

Good luck, everyone!

by Corey Rosen Schwartz

So, you have your list of 30 or more ideas. Now what?


First of all, DON’T STOP. Your mind is fertile right now. This is when most of my ideas come… the week after PiBoIdMo.

The pressure is off, but the brain is still in idea-generating mode.

Take advantage of it. Keep your list in a handy place and add, add, add.


Check your list twice. Then check last year’s list. And the one from 2011. What pops? While some ideas may seem too overdone or too dull, there are likely to be two or three that jump out at you.

Tuxedo-saurus: too fancy
Hip-Hop-a-Saurus: too dancy
Ho-Hum-a-Saurus: a bore
Sashay-a-Saurus: too prancy
Piggy-Bank–a-saurus: too finance-y
Snooze-a-saurus: a snore
Poker-a-saurus: too chancy
Trig-a-saurus: too advance-y
Slobberdon: yes, score!!!


Look at your best options. Do some research. Have they been done before?

Explore. Check Amazon to see what competing titles are out there.

One year I had Panda-monium on my list. Done. Another, I had Dino-snores. Also done. Better to find this out BEFORE you begin.

This brings me to my final point…


Once you’ve got a solid manuscript, shop it to editors and/or agents.

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks was one of my favorite ideas from 2011. I wrote a draft, but wasn’t happy with it and put it aside. Turns out, I was too slow. Someone has now beat me to it!

So, if you have a winning idea, get rocking.


coreyCorey Rosen Schwartz is the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and the upcoming GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE
BEARS. Her singing is extremely pitchy, but she does hold Family Idol and X Factor events in her living room.


Corey will give away a signed copy of GOLDI ROCKS & THE THREE BEARS (as soon as it releases on Feb 6th).

goldi cover

This prize will be awarded at the conclusion of Post-PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

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