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OK folks, time’s up!

November and the 5th annual PiBoIdMo have officially come to a close.


Well, do ya, PiBoIdMo’er?

Do you have 30 ideas?

If you do, you can qualify for one of our AMAZING PiBoIdMo prizes just by taking the following pledge. Put your right hand on a picture book and repeat after me:

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! Give them a big, fat, juicy smacker! SMOOCH!


You have until December 3rd at 11:59:59PM EST to sign the pledge by leaving a comment WITH YOUR FULL NAME on this post. PLEASE COMMENT ONLY ONCE.

The name you left on the registration post and the name you leave on this winner’s pledge SHOULD MATCH.

Again, please COMMENT ONLY ONCE. If you made a mistake, contact me instead of leaving a second comment.


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! Honestly, it’s that simple. (Wouldn’t it be nice if real life were that straightforward.)

If your name appears on both the registration post AND this winner’s pledge, you’ll be entered into the grand prize drawing: feedback on your best 5 ideas from a literary agent. There are NINE grand prizes! Check out all the agents here.

So what should you do now? Start fleshing out your best ideas! Write them as elevator pitches. Get ready because YOU might be a CHOSEN ONE.

Other prizes include picture books, manuscript critiques, art prints—all the stuff you saw during the month. All winners will be randomly selected by and announced NEXT WEEK.

And guess what, PiBoIdMo doesn’t end here! From tomorrow through December 6th, stop in for Post-PiBo, which offers daily posts about organizing and prioritizing your ideas.

Plus—you can claim your first prize now: a winner badge for your website, blog or social media site, designed by Joyce Wan. You can make it larger or smaller to fit anywhere. And if you want it on a mug, don’t forget to stop by the PiBoIdMo shop where every purchase benefits Reading is Fundamental (RIF).


Congratulate yourself on a job well done, PiBoIdMo’er. Take yourself out to brunch. Buy a new infinity scarf. Browse a bookstore. Pat your head and rub your tummy. Do what you want, you deserve it.

Go ahead, sign below and make my day! And your month!

And remember, stay tuned for Post-PiBo!

kami headshotby Kami Kinard

I’m one of those people who has always known I wanted to be an author. What? You too? It’s pretty common (but not necessary) among we writer types. When I first started out, more than a decade ago, I wasn’t exactly sure what type of writer I wanted to be. So I played around with different genres. It was a lot of fun.

But I wanted to do more than have fun. So I devoured Writer’s Market and Children’s Writers Market. I purchased books of writerly advice, and books featuring quotes from authors.

Whenever I felt inspired, I wrote and wrote and wrote. When I didn’t feel inspired to write, I used my free time to do other things. I took courses in metal working, I learned bead stringing techniques, I started a small jewelry-making business, and I even learned to play the banjo.

Then I purchased the book that changed my methods, and ultimately led to publication success.

You might say I experienced a lifestyle change because of this book. One of the quotes featured in it was just a few words from Jack London. Here, I’ve made a little poster of it for you, so you can print it out and hang in your workspace.


Reading this quote resulted in an important ah-ha moment for me. The reason I wasn’t moving forward with my writing was that I was waiting for inspiration to lead me. When it didn’t, I was wandering off of the trail. I realized that in order to capture my dreams, I needed to focus on my quest for inspiration. I gave my metalworking supplies to a cousin in design school. The banjo went to a friend who’d borrowed it a few times. The jewelry making business was sold. I kept the bead stringing supplies because—hey—everyone needs a hobby! (And if you’re serious about this, writing can’t be your hobby.)

Then, I grabbed my club and started spending my lunch break in libraries. I chased down inspiration between the covers of books, captured ideas, and caged them into poems that were soon published in children’s magazines.

I hunted down the idea for this poem, sold to Jack and Jill, on the “UBA” page of a rhyming dictionary. Scuba and Tuba? What’s not to love?

Tuba Scuba page 1

I stumbled across the idea for this story about gopher tortoises, published in Ladybug, while stalking a story about alligators. (The alligator story escaped me, but at least I didn’t come away from the excursion empty handed.)

Burrow Borrowers pages 1& 2

I tracked down inspiration in unlikely places, like the stroller handle where an inch worm journeyed, and an autumn maple that was reminiscent of a gigantic golden feather. Often, as in these two cases, the inspiration resulted in stories I was able to sell.

Eventually, my club and I apprehended inspiration between the pages of my old middle school diaries, and my trophy looks like this.

the boy project

My first published book!

You can find inspiration almost anywhere. But you have to stalk it. Sniff the air. Listen for it. Be alert to its presence.

Now, when people ask me, “Where do you find inspiration?”

I answer, “Anywhere I have five minutes of free time.” And this is true. I don’t wait for huge blocks of time, for peace and quiet, or for good atmosphere. Give me five minutes, and I’ll find inspiration. After all, I’m never without the tools of my trade. That’s the best thing about working with words: they’re lightweight, omnipresent, and free!

When Tara invited me to post for PiBoIdMo, my first response was, “I haven’t sold a picture book.” True confession. Notice I put this at the end of the post! Years ago, I imagined I would author only picture books and poetry. But pursing inspiration led me in an unexpected direction. My first published book was not the picture book I predicted it would be, but a middle grade novel.

November is filled with inspiration and ideas. As the month draws to a close, I invite you to pick up your club and keep chasing inspiration. Focus on your quarry. Be relentless. You never really know where the chase will lead you, but if you can capture your inspiration with words, the award is magnificent!

Bonus: If you’d like more PiBoIdMo tips, check out my blog for another post about writing.


Author Bio: Kami Kinard’s poetry, articles, and stories have been published in some of the world’s best children’s magazines. Her first middle grade novel, The Boy Project (Scholastic 2012), will soon be followed by a companion novel, The Boy Problem (Scholastic 2014). A former public educator, Kami currently teaches writing for children and adults and leads writing workshops at conferences and retreats. She lives in balmy, buggy, and beautiful Beaufort, SC with her husband, two children, and the world’s smartest dog. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting her website or her blog at


Kami is giving away a critique of up to ten pages of any single children’s manuscript. An experienced critiquer, Kami has critiqued picture books, novels, and poems that have gone on to be published.

This prize  will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

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

Good luck, everyone!

joni headshot 0709by Joni Sussman

As a children’s book publisher, I love the idea of PiBoIdMo! As a publisher of Jewish-themed children’s books, I love it even more. If you’re reading this post on the day it posted—Thanksgiving—you’re also reading it on the first of Hanukkah, an occurrence so unusual that it won’t happen again for another 77,798 years (yes, you read that right). So with the unusual situation of Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving this year, I’ve got Hanukkah—and Hanukkah books—on the brain as I write this. In particular I’m thinking of one of Kar-Ben’s new Fall 2013 titles “Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster” because it’s especially apropos to the PiBoIdMo theme: this book is all about having a gem of an idea and then writing a book around it.

Author Jane Sutton came up with a premise that, by itself, may have had nothing to do with Hanukkah: How about a funny story about the exact wrong gift one animal could purchase for another? A giant pair of socks for a tiny monkey? A jogging suit for a turtle? And then she wove this premise into a delightful Hanukkah story about Esther the Gorilla who goes off to buy Hanukkah gifts for her friends. Although this premise becomes a charming Hanukkah story including latkes and candles and dreidels, it’s really about a gorilla who—like most of the little kids who are going to read this story—usually means well but often misses the mark.

As Publishers Weekly said about this book, ”[Esther] happily chooses the gifts, but as she hands them out to her monkey, elephant, hyena, turtle, and zebra pals, Esther realizes that her gifts may not have been as perfectly thought-out as she had hoped. Esther’s innocent mistakes and her ingenious solution will prompt laughter.” Lots of laughter, as it turns out, because not only is the story funny, but the art by Andy Rowland is hilarious: the shopping list on Esther’s frig lists “bananas, bananas, bananas and bananas,” her bookshelf contains “Gorilla’s (instead of Gulliver’s) Travels” and ” Gorillas in the Mist,” the department store where she buys the gifts includes all sorts of sight gags that will likely be missed by kids but thoroughly enjoyed by parents. “Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster” is a great example of the germ of an idea that grows into a terrific little story.


At this time of year I always find myself thinking about the ongoing need for clever original Hanukkah stories that are not just about the Maccabees or lighting candles or eating latkes, and that are not a Jewish take on “The Night Before Christmas.” (You’d be surprised how many writers think that’s a new idea!) I’m always on the hunt for special/unique/unusual Hanukkah stories that are not only creative but that make kids revel in the fact that they’re Hanukkah celebrators in a world of Christmas celebrators.

So as authors, I give you this charge: no matter whether you’re writing for the religious or secular market: It’s all about having a gem of an idea and creating a story around it. The more gems, the more stories! Take advantage of PiBoIdMo and generate those ideas for titles, plotlines, subjects and/or characters. Put pen to paper (or finger to computer key) and get those ideas written down. Good luck and may the (creative) Force be with you. And if you come up with a Hanukkah or other Jewish-themed story to send me, I’d love to hear from you!


Joni Sussman is the Publisher at Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group. Kar-Ben’s concentration is Jewish content picture books for children, both fiction and non-fiction for preschool through approximately 4th grade, including holiday books, life-cycle stories, Bible tales, folktales, and board books. In particular, Kar-Ben seeks stories that reflect the wide cultural diversity of today’s American Jewish community. Joni invites PiBoIdMo participants with Jewish-themed manuscripts to submit to her—just contact Tara directly for the email address and subject line code.


Joni is donating a selection of Kar-Ben’s new Fall 2013 titles (including Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster) as a prize.

This prize pack will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

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

Good luck, everyone!

by Annette Simon

Thank you for asking. My work-in-progress? Uh, well….

1 (1)

Story limbo.


I don’t know why I’d thought this would work.

3 (1)

No, it’s awful. I’m a hack. #failure. Okay, FINE.

4 (1)

Maybe if I distract myself….

5 (1)

Random yelling is fun.

6 (1)

I need more.

7 (1)


8 (1)

And …




Could they be…?


I’m goin’ in.





It’s true.


At least until the next draft.




annette_simon_picAnnette is an advertising-creative-director turned picture-book-maker, and a BookSeller at The BookMark in Neptune Beach, Florida, where she took these photos. Her titles include MOCKING BIRDIES and THIS BOOK IS FOR ALL KIDS by Jack Simon, and she’ll follow up last year’s Indie Kids’ Next Pick and Buckeye Children’s Book Award nominee, ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN!, with an awfully loud read-aloud, ROBOT BURP HEAD SMARTYPANTS!, in February. Please see more at


A PiBoIdMo Prompt/Offer: Share your picture book spine creation for a chance to win a personalized copy of ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN! and related bling (robot chest panel iron-ons, child-size chef hat and apron, a mini notepad, a disguise, and foam shape stickers). Keep spine photos for yourself, but stack the picture book titles in the comments section below like this: HERE I AM / STUCK. While your local indie bookstore is a great resource, titles don’t have to be new ones—old favorites and library books are game, too. Meantime, you may find you’ve escaped story limbo. Plus, random yelling is fun.


This prize pack will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

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

Good luck, everyone!

by Renee Kurilla

November is my favorite month of the year because I get to celebrate everything I love all at once: falling leaves, picture books, novel writing…mustaches. I usually float through the entire month on a happy kidlit cloud, jotting down idea after idea and blogging about it, making it look like I know exactly what I’m doing.


This particular November, however, is hard. Life is extremely busy as I balance two book deadlines; work a full time job; pack my entire apartment to move from the city to the suburbs; and plan a trip to California with my husband that we booked before we knew we were moving. When your brain is all over the place playing the balancing game like that, your ideas don’t flow as freely, do they?

I know I’m not alone in having a hard time getting started, but I want to share the fateful event that ultimately got my idea engine revving. To do that I’m going to rewind and tell you a little story from the very first day of this year’s challenge.


November 1st was a particularly windy day here in Boston and I was driving around, running some errands. I had decorated my brand new PiBoIdMo notebook the night before and carried it with me in my purse, because you never know when a brilliant idea will surface. I was feeling rather exuberant as I usually do in this celebratory month, though I hadn’t had any ideas yet. I sang along to some radio pop song as I pulled into a parking space.

Gathering my things, I opened my car door the way I always open my car door…except this time it was stolen from my grasp by the strongest wind gust that was ever known to man. In less than a second, I heard a fast, loud, crunch sound. My door had wedged itself into the car I parked next to.

Everything in the world stood still for a moment….and then, it started to rain. This wasn’t just a normal rain, it was monsoon-grade rain that pelted on the windshield like hail. My immediate reaction was to rescue my door from peril and close myself inside. I tugged and yanked the door free and shut it hard, but instead of locking into place, it bounced. My door had dented on impact because, apparently, this wind was strong enough to bend metal.

As I held the door closed while the storm wreaked havoc, my jaw hung open, my eyes popped out of my head, and I started to think, “What did I do? What DO I do?” And though I am not a horrible person, my inner angel and devil popped in for a visit, saying “Leave a note!” “Drive away!” I might have actually shaken my head like a cartoon character to get my senses back.

I reached into my purse, hands wobbly, fumbling, feeling like a complete idiot for what just happened. I’m looking all over for paper and a pen and the only thing I could find was… my PiBoIdMo notebook: fresh, shining, empty and waiting for ideas. I think I even saw a little sparkle reflect off the cover. With deep, deep, remorse…I opened the blank book, flipped to the back, and ever so sadly tore the last page out to write a note that I would leave on my neighboring car’s windshield. All I could think was “I wonder what idea would have gone on this page.”

I plunged through the rest of the day in complete bewilderment, but by evening, I had straightened things out with the car’s owner and started to feel a little better. While I was explaining what happened to my husband, I proclaimed, “Man, wind is NUTS.”

And then, it hit me. Wind has the potential of being incredibly ridiculous. “Gotta go!” I exclaimed to him as I ran to the other room to jot down the windy scene I conjured up in my head. Out of nowhere I invented a city park scene in the middle of a crazy, unnatural wind gust —people’s pets flying all over the place, hair styles messed up, scarves fluttering, tire swings out of control, birds holding on to tree branches. My main character is a dog that has been waiting for this perfect wind gust so he could fly like a super hero. He’s wearing a cape and goggles and…

Once again in my happy little kidlit cloud, this is where my story fades to black.

What I have discovered is, for idea generation, the busier you are, the better. Billions of things happen to us in our lives. Use them all. Did you throw up in front of your second grade class? Use it. Did you get made fun of for wearing shoulder pads in middle school? Use it. Did you get attacked by one of those inflatable people with flailing arms? Use it. Did you learn something new about the health benefits of smiling? You get where I’m going with this!

The very best ideas can totally come from everyday happenings, all you have to do is pay attention. Write this stuff down all year long because it’s good and it’s real. The more real your story details feel, the more relatable they are to your readers. And the more you practice this habit, the easier it is to come up with new, unique ideas.

Just, for your own sake, try to avoid the really expensive weather-related kind. ☺


ReneeK_MePicRenee Kurilla is a published illustrator, dabbling author, and Lead Artist at FableVision Studios in Boston, MA. She is represented by Jennifer Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Her first picture books, three titles in the CLOVERLEAF BOOKS series for Millbrook Press, will be released in January 2014.

She is currently illustrating TREE DANCERS: ORANGUTANKA, written by Newbery Honor Award winner Margarita Engle and published by Holt Children’s. The book is due for release in 2015.


Tree Dancers: Orangutanka

Her work at FableVision has contributed to multiple honors, including ZEBRAFISH, a Junior Library Guild selection, and RANGER RICK’S TREE HOUSE app for National Wildlife Federation, which won a 2013 Parents’ Choice Award.


Ranger Rick’s Tree House

Renee also co-hosts an illustration blog called Simply Messing About with fellow illustrators Laura Zarrin, Christina Forshay, and Tracy Bishop.

Where to find Renee online:

Twitter / Instagram: reneekurilla


Renee is giving away an 8.5 x 11 print of your choice from her Etsy shop—to two lucky winners!


Two winners will be randomly selected at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes 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!


Maria_Nov2013by Maria Gianferrari

Embrace Failure: A Recipe for Success

Prep Time: Indeterminable

Yield: Infinite Possibilities


  • 1 cup of Inspiration
  • 10 cups of Perspiration
  • Spread with Failure
  • Sprinkle with Hope

With the lightbulb logo as inspiration, I thought I’d quote Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So get out that deodorant and sweat away!

Now that you have a bunch of ideas, it’s time to play with them, and fail. Most of the time, we have to fail before we can succeed. Let’s face it, failure sucks. I hate failing. It’s painful. I go through cycles where I feel like a fraud and a complete loser. Some days I still want to give up. But I can’t—it’s in my blood, and yours. Writers, Artists, Scientists, Musicians, Inventors, all creators, more often get it wrong before they get it right. Failure is integral to the creative process.

Giving ourselves permission to fail is very liberating. How can we fail at writing a sh*tty first draft? The only way we can truly fail is by not writing. Not drawing that first line. Not trying. Being too afraid.

So jump right in and fail! Here are some ways to embrace failure:


  • Keep Kneading: Change genres/formats

I had my first close encounter with a coyote on a moonlit night in January 2007. I became obsessed with coyotes. I researched—I even interviewed a biologist for the nonfiction article I’d be submitting to Highlights. I subbed. I waited. I hoped…REJECTION. But the coyotes kept howling in my head. This failure was an opportunity to begin anew. I re-worked the article into a poetic nonfiction picture book manuscript. I submitted, got rejections, revised. Three years later it received a Barbara Karlin commendation, and helped me land the incredible Ammi-Joan Paquette as my agent. In May 2013, COYOTE MOON sold to canine lover Emily Feinberg at Roaring Brook Press—six years after the early version failed.

  • Marinate: Let It Sit a Bit

I’ve love raptors, especially red-tailed hawks. In 2009, Highlights rejected “Highway Hawks” because they had too many bird stories. It sat for three years before re-surfacing as PiBoIdMo idea #21 last year: convert hawks article to a haiku picture book! It didn’t end up in haiku form, but it also sold to Emily at Roaring Brook this past summer—four years after the initial rejection. And even better—it will be illustrated by the phenomenal Brian Floca!

  • Fold in: A New Point of View

“Terrific Tongues” began as a poem in 2004 when my then 2 ½-year-old daughter became obsessed with tongues. Tongues everywhere were greeted with the German word “Zunge” since we were then living in Berlin. Inspired by her fascination, I penned a poem for Highlights, though I never submitted it because it felt incomplete. I toiled, researched creature tongues and it evolved into a nonfiction picture book. I revised, incorporating a second person interrogative refrain that gave the story an interactive feel. Though I received some nice comments from editors on its originality and kid appeal, it continued to be rejected.

In 2008, I submitted it to the PEN New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award contest. I received the form rejection letter and filed it away. A month later I received a phone call from Judge Susan Goodman explaining that my manuscript had been a contender, but for the failure of a too-technical ending. Grateful for her encouragement, I re-worked the ending and re-subbed it to the contest in 2009 when it was one of the winners! Though the award didn’t lead to acquisition, it was how I first met Joan. This manuscript sold to Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills Press in June 2013—nine years after the initial inspiration.

  • Set Aside: Take a Break and Procrastinate!

One of my all-time favorite movies is “High Fidelity,” starring John Cusack. It’s one of those rare movies that’s actually better than the book (no offense Nick Hornby!) The main character, Rob, is a charming cad who owns a record store and confesses to the camera like he’s our friend. He and his musical snob sidekicks, Dick and Barry, make “Top 5” lists for: Mondays, memorable break-ups, death. Watching the movie inspired me to insert lists into the picture book I was then revising. PENNY AND JELLY was my first sale, acquired in a two-book deal by the lovely Cynthia Platt at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! Newcomer Thyra Heder’s humorous and warm illustrations will accompany the text.

Find inspiration in creative procrastination: watch a movie; go to a museum; explore nature; read poetry; listen to/play music; dance; garden; bake; craft. If you’re an artist, try another medium: switch sketching for sculpting; exchange knitting for painting; choose collage over clay.


Here are a few other ingredients to spice up your failing manuscripts:

  • Stir in a new setting
  • Truss with structure: lists; recipes; manuals; formulas; diary/letter formats; musical compositions
  • Beat in a dance tempo: waltz; disco; cha-cha anyone?
  • Frost with layering or a dual narrative (works especially well for nonfiction)
  • Blend poetic forms: sonnets; haikus; acrostics; ballads
  • Render your MC from human to animal; female to male; animate to inanimate object (or vice versa)
  • Mince previous PiBoIdMo ideas together to form something new

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” said Thomas Edison.

Give yourself the permission to fail—you never know what you might discover in the process! It will take time, but don’t give up! You will get there! If you’re completely passionate, perhaps even obsessed with your manuscript, all the better. This energy will give you the momentum to glide over bumps in the road.

So try that picture book text, those illustrations, just one more time. Embrace failure, and you will surely find success!


Maria is currently failing on 2012’s PiBoIdMo idea #29. She is a nature, creature and dog lover who grew up near a farm in New Hampshire climbing trees, smelling maple syrup clouds, and slapping cow patties. She now lives in northern Virginia with her German-scientist husband, Niko, their artist daughter, Anya, their Dixie Chick rescue dog, Becca, and two rescue rats, Lucia and Nera. She has three fiction picture books forthcoming: two PENNY AND JELLY books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) as well as OFFICER KATZ AND HOUNDINI (Aladdin); and three non-fiction books: COYOTE MOON & HIGHWAY HAWKS (Roaring Brook Press) and TERRIFIC TONGUES (Boyds Mills Press). To learn more, check out her website:


Maria is giving away a picture book critique!

One winner will be randomly selected at the conclusion of 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!


kellylightby Kelly Light

I don’t want to talk about feelings. I don’t want to pamper you. I’m not gonna nurture your spirit. I’m not gonna help you find your happy place where ideas grow like flowers.

I want to make you work.

I want to talk about just how hard you are going to have to work if you really want to create children’s books.

I’m gonna get real here, folks. I could try to inspire you with lots of spiritual mumbo jumbo, but I’d rather kick you in the tuchus.

‘Cause that is what you need. I’m gonna be tough. I am gonna go all medieval on that butt.

I wish I could get Samuel L. Jackson to read this post to you…but this is just me, the voice of experience..sending you some tough love today.


You now have one week left of PiBoIdMo. You’ve taken on the challenge. When the month is over – don’t put down the pencil.

Never put down the pencil.

I am talking commitment on a new level.

Ten minutes a day is not going to lead to getting a book written or drawn or dummied or submitted. If that’s what you have managed to do everyday for three weeks, making children’s books may not be the job for you.

I know, I know….you’re calling me some choice words right about now. Hear me out.

This month is about coming up with ideas. Which is an important first step. What are you going to do with those ideas?

An idea is just a spark. You have to cut down the trees and chop them into logs until your blistered and bleeding and collect kindling and learned how to build the right wood pile tee-pee…to make a fire…to make that spark ignite into a blaze.

You aren’t gonna get warm with just a spark.

You are gonna freeze like a motha #$%&#%.

Don’t stop after ten minutes. Don’t stop after a month.

This is hard work. This is hours and hours of work.

If you want to get published, want it more than anything or want it more than everyone else, than this is the job for you.

Job. Not dream. Not hobby.

If you are in this for the long haul, start your haul now. You want a career in this? Act like you already have one.

Fasten your seat belts while you have your “Butt in Chair,” folks, and only get out of it to go to the john!

If you really want this, keep reading. If you think you may get to that book dummy you have had on your desk for the last two years or you might write down that idea you had four years ago that you know is genius and a best seller and the next Fancy Nancy or Diary of a Wimpy Kid and you’ll get around to it after you’ve decided “you’re ready” and you’ve taken 24 more writing workshops….you may want to stop reading now.

I’m about to get meaner.


I said you need to want this more than everyone else.

I wanted this more than you.

Harsh, right?

But true.

I wanted this so badly I was like a pitt bull. Jaws of steal clamped down on this career.

Who do you think of as the people successful in publishing?

Those people wanted to be in it more than everybody else.

They had the drive. The determination.

They were like dogs on a bone.

They write to write and draw to draw, day after day, after day.

They don’t just consider it a hard job that they love….but also consider it oxygen.

You can’t exist without oxygen. You can’t only breathe for ten minutes a day.

You are dedicating the month of November to generate picture book ideas. Dedicate the next 12 months to turning your ideas into manuscripts and book dummies.

Ideas are not delivered under your pillow by the Idea Fairy. Ideas are generated, manufactured by work. You need to be an idea factory. A word factory. An image factory.

You have to grind these ideas into something. You have to pound them into shape. You have to process them into something useful, intelligent, imaginative and appealing.

You have to billow steam and pollute your life to make something that matters.


The biggest pieces of the 1000 piece puzzle to publication are hard work, passion, believing in yourself, perseverance, persistence, patience and opportunity.

Talent—or a better word, SKILL—is the last and smallest piece of the puzzle. When all other pieces have been put in place…you need the the skills developed and ready for when opportunity knocks. Or YOU kick down the #@$@%*$ door.

You had better have the goods and be ready to work. You can only be ready if you are ALWAYS creating new work.


That’s in like, everyday.

I now work 7 days a week. 10 hours a day.

I worked hard to get here but I had no idea how much harder I would work once I got books.

So work that tuchus off this week. Don’t half-ass it.


What you have come up with this month will not be brilliant. But what you think has potential should not sit on your desk until the next PiboIdMo.

Finish it. Really, finish it. Finish one. The next one will be easier. And the next. Just finish.

Polish it. It’s no good until you rework it, over and over……..

Send it off. To a crit group. To an agent. To a editor. If you don’t submit, nothing will ever happen. Nothing. Ever. Nada. Zip. Ze-ro.

Believe in it and yourself. You are as much a work in progress as your work. Own your work where it is right now. Make no excuses for it or where you are in your development at this very moment.

The Beatles could never have made “Hey Jude” without first making “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.

Take your work in hand and hand – it – over – to be looked at by many people who know more than you.

Move on. NEXT! Next challenge, next idea, next month, next story, next project… you are factory now, remember? DO NOT PRESS THAT BIG RED STOP BUTTON. DO NOT SHUT DOWN THE LINE.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Think of me. By next PiboIdmo, I will have met 4 book deadlines working 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

I wanted it more than you. Now YOU go—beat ME at wanting it.

My inspirational foot is kicking your backside. Go to work.

Don’t make me come over there.


No Samuel L. Jacksons were harmed in the making of this post.


Kelly Light has a lot of books to work on. She is illustrator of “The Quirks” series from Bloomsbury. “Elvis and the Underdogs” from Balzer and Bray, her picture book “Louise Loves Art” is out next Fall 2014 from Balzer and Bray with more Louise books to follow,
“just Add Glitter” comes out 2016 from Beach Lane Books and the hits just keep on coming…

Check out Kelly’s work at

All opinions expressed above were solely Kelly’s and not the opinions of PiBoIdMo or it’s affiliates.


Kelly is giving away signed copies of “The Quirks” and “Elvis and The Underdogs”.

Two winners will be randomly selected at the conclusion of 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!

by Bitsy Kemper

Ah, the life of an author. Writing, creating…it evokes images of stretched legs and hammocks by the sea.


Yeah, right. Sometimes I’d rather clean the toilet. Let’s face it. No matter how much we love what we do, and no matter how easily words may flow, there are days when it’s still work. To be a good writer, nay, a great writer, we are faced with days and days of less fun and more work. But hey, it’s still fun. And usually better than grabbing a scrub brush.

With an easily-distracted brain (IS THAT CHOCOLATE?), my biggest challenge is focus. When faced with a deadline or obstacle, my mind tends to freak out. It wanders about like a baby that’s just learned to crawl. (“Oh, I need to see that up close. Oh wait, there’s something shiny, was that always there? Can I eat it?”) Sometimes it sprints like an escaped prisoner and doesn’t come back for days.

When I *have*to focus, I usually can’t.


I figured I could better harness that energy by creating a blog. After all, writing is writing, right? In July I created a WordPress account and literally went live within five minutes. Then I spent 105 minutes picking out a font. Background color? Agonizing. Theme? Changed it four times. I could easily spend five hours a day refining and fine tuning to get it just right. And not one minute would be spent writing. That recently-sprung prisoner called distraction would be laughing all the way to the bank.

oldmanwagfingerCreating or maintaining a blog isn’t the same thing as writing one. But you can’t do one without the other, not if you want to do it well. All the time I spent obsessing over managing formatting ate away at the time I could have spent writing it. Or better yet, working on a manuscript. There’s only so much time in a day, and we need to spend it wisely. (Oh, crap, did I just turn into my grandfather?)

Some of you are very good at writing a pithy post, hitting enter, and going back to your regularly-scheduled program. You impress me. But my brain won’t let me off that easy. “Was there an extra space after the fifth sentence? Would this look better in blue? Maybe I could take a few pictures to post along with it…hang on, I’ll grab my camera…” Next thing you know I’m knee deep in gifs and jpegs and have completely forgotten the purpose was to write.

Here’s the deal: WordPress ISN’T WHAT I DO. It’s not what defines me. Sorry, blog, I mean I like you and all, but you are not what I wake up in the morning eager to work on. You are not what I think about all day and can’t wait to work on again once the kids are asleep. You are not what kept me from falling asleep last night because of all those great story ideas resulting from an otherwise painful trip to the mall. Yes, I will tend to you, dear blog, but not at the expense of my other writing progress. I can’t hand you the steering wheel.

I set the blog up only to walk away because it aggressively detracted me from my one true love: working on my manuscripts. (To think they just waited patiently for my return! They are so good to me.) My blog is imperfect and I hate that. But sometimes “good enough” has to be, well, good enough.


Bottom line: if there is only enough time in the day to get one thing right, it’s gonna be my manuscript, not my blog. I won’t be a better writer if I use the blog as a distraction away from my “real” writing, the way I use my writing to distract me from cleaning the bathroom (honestly, you’d think it’d be spotless by now).

Maybe you can replace the word “blog” with “Facebook” or “crying baby” or something else from your own life; we all have that one big distracter that keeps us from staying on track. The trick is to fight the temptation, tame the beast, focus focus focus.

Make time for yourself, no one is going to give it to you.

Now I’m off to finish those revisions my editor needs next Thursday. Sorry, bathroom and blog, you’re gonna have to wait.


bitsykemperBitsy Kemper is author of six educational picture books and one nonfiction YA that’s due 2014. Interestingly, her passion is humorous middle grade and creative, fictional picture books, but real life (or is it her blog?) has a way of interfering with finding their perfect publisher…

Busy with three kids (four if you count her husband), Bitsy has stayed focused long enough to present at writer conferences and schools from NY to CA. She’s enjoyed using her corporate background to create custom business plans for fellow writers who would rather clean toilets than market themselves. Follow her at @BitsyKemper or

Now stop reading and get back to writing!

SteveBarrCartoonistby Steve Barr

I can’t really begin to pinpoint where my inspiration comes from. When people ask where I get my ideas, I don’t tend to have an answer ready. Ideas just seem to leap into my head out of nowhere. My best guess is that there’s some faulty wiring in my brain. That’s most likely due to the regular “thumpings” my older brother gave me on a daily basis as we were growing up. Perhaps he knocked a few screws loose.

I can get inspired by all sorts of things. Some of my best ideas pop into my mind when I’m driving down the highway with no music on, just daydreaming. Or when I’m laying in bed drifting off to sleep. If I had music blaring inside the truck, the lyrics would be too distracting and I’d just end up singing along with them. At home, when I’m locked away in my studio, I do listen to music. But it’s usually jazz, classical or new age. Anything that doesn’t have words blasting into my mind. I want all of the words that are rushing through my head to be my own.

I OBSERVE. By that, I mean I tend to truly look at everything around me. If I’ve hiked miles away from civilization and I’m sitting on a mountaintop watching a hawk fly above me, I’m usually thinking “Oh….THAT’S how their wings are shaped when they’re drifting!” and I incorporate that into my work later. You may sometimes see me sitting in a mall somewhere, and it will appear that I’m gawking at people passing by. Sometimes I stare. But what’s actually going through my mind is “So, that’s how the wrinkles on a coat look when someone bends their arm” or “What a crazy hat! I need to remember that and draw it later.”

I also LISTEN. When other people are talking, I really want to hear what they have to say. Their problems, their frustrations and the things that make them laugh. Because, after all, any of those conversations can be the foundation of an idea for a book or a cartoon. Inspiration is all around us, and we just need to learn how to harness it in our own way.

For instance, a friend was recently telling me that he was concerned that his wife was thinking of getting rid of him. On my ride home, the idea for a cartoon about that popped into my head and I drew it the next day.


Yet another acquaintance was complaining about having trouble getting to sleep. As I was approaching my cabin later that night, a raccoon darted across my path. Those two subjects merged in my mind, and another cartoon was born.


The process of creating books and cartoon ideas are very similar. It’s just that cartoons are compressed into images and thoughts that can be expressed quickly, while books use pictures and words to give a longer, more complete story.

But, like everyone else involved in creative endeavors, there are those days where I’m stopped dead in my tracks by a severe case of “writer’s block”. What do I do then? Well, sometimes I give myself a break, walk away from my work and let my batteries recharge. But if I’m faced with a tight deadline, whether it’s self-imposed or from contractual obligations, I do have a backup plan. I use a technique taught to me by another successful cartoonist when I was young. I take a sheet of notebook paper and divide it into columns. The columns are labelled “Main Character”, “Setting”, and “Supporting Characters”. I fill the columns with all sorts of possibilities, then either close my eyes and randomly circle sections from each column or I simply pick combinations that I think might work. This creates unique combinations I may not have thought about otherwise, and can help trigger new ideas and possibilities.

Cartoonists, like authors, are doing the same thing as a movie director. They created a cast, give them their lines and put them in the right surroundings.

Here’s an example of the chart:


Once one of the combinations begins to trigger ideas, I roll with it….trying to think of what the characters might be saying to each other or how they would be interacting. This method would probably work just as nicely for inspiring writers as it for helping cartoonists. I ask myself what the characters would have in common, or what issues they might be struggling with. And here are the results of combining a dog, a restaurant and a woman on a date:


So, my creative process is very similar to approaching a railroad crossing. Stop. Look. And listen!

Sometimes it results in wonderful inspiration. And other times it results in a train wreck. If the latter happens, I just dust myself off, tuck that idea away for a different time and start on another.

As the late great cartoonist Gil Foxx once wrote in a book he signed to me, “Persist. Over…..and over….and over…and over.” Just keep chugging away, and eventually you are bound to end up on the right track.

Another great source of inspiration can be your editor. (Or an agent, if you have one.) Something I think that many writers and artists tend to forget is that your editor is your best friend. They’re your teammate. You both have the same goal. You are both trying to develop the best product possible. I know quite a few people who like to argue with their editors when they’re given input, because they feel a bit insulted that someone is trying to change part of their creation.

I’ve never looked at it that way. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the finest editors in the field, and I would always listen to their suggestions because I knew they had my best interests at heart.


Do you know that Maurice Sendak had originally intended to call Where the Wild Things Are something totally different? Yup. He was going to title it Land of the Wild Horses. But when he started working on the illustrations, he realized that he wasn’t very good at drawing horses. It was his editor’s suggestion to change it to “WIld Things”, inspired by a Yiddish expression that referred to boisterous children.

Can you imagine the world of children’s literature without Where the Wild Things Are in it? I can’t. And it may never have happened if he hadn’t been willing to collaborate closely with his editor.

CrazyCreaturesCover2Christina Richards, my editor at IMPACT Books, edited my books perfectly and seamlessly. By the time I received the galley proofs for Draw Crazy Creatures, I could not tell which words were mine and which ones were hers. She had removed unnecessary and redundant text during the editing process, and had made minor changes to some of my sentences that had a major impact on them. A major impact that made them better. She made the book flow smoothly.

So I’d highly recommend that folks in the creative end of this business open themselves up to constructive criticism, helpful suggestions and any input from the editorial staff they are working with. These people are in the positions they are in because they know what they are doing. They are the inspiration behind the scenes, and when they’re done helping you, they will have played a huge role in making you and your work shine.


123drawcartoonpeopleSteve Barr is the author and illustrator of Draw Crazy Creatures and Draw Awesome Animals from IMPACT books. He’s also written and illustrated a series of 11 books in the 1-2-3 Draw line from Peel Productions.

Steve’s cartoons have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guides” and the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. He’s also done a lot of art for a wide variety of educational products and publications. You can take a peek at some of his work on his website


Steve is giving away two signed copies of Draw Crazy Creatures!

Two winners will be randomly selected at the conclusion of 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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