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by Steve Barr (from 2013)

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.

Steve 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.

In the fall of 2014, Steve began taking free cartoon drawing classes to pediatric patients in hospitals and at camps. In a very short time demand for these programs increased dramatically, and other cartoonists and illustrators started asking how they could do something similar in their own areas. That’s how his non-profit organization “Drawn To Help” evolved into something really special that he’s taking nationwide. Learn more at

At the conclusion of Storystorm, prize packs will be given away (books, swag, writing tools). Comment once on this blog post to enter into the prize pack drawing.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Good luck!


by Bonnie Adamson (from 2010)

Those of us you who were children once upon a time will surely remember how frustrating it was suddenly to have been plunked down in a world where everyone knew more than you did—about everything. Children spend a great deal of time trying to figure things out: where does snow come from? Why can’t dogs talk? What happens next? Or, as we say in our family: “Who ordered the veal cutlet?”*

Kids develop their own little GPS-like subroutines, constantly recalculating to keep themselves on track—but sometimes, inevitably, they get it wrong. Misperceptions and missed information lead to misunderstandings . . . and—I won’t sugar-coat this—little misunderstandings often lead to:

Major Disappointment!

Total Humiliation!


(Yeah, I was grown before I figured that one out.)

Thank goodness for picture books!

In a picture book, you can check out your own real-live dinosaur any time from the Storybook Lending Zoo.

You can have the queen invite the golfer with the highest score to the palace for tea, and meet the prince, who is even worse at Goony Golf than you are.

You can become a super-hero in training, and rid the world of evil, baby-eating furniture.

How cool is that? As children’s book writers and illustrators, we get to do this all the time. So, having aired three of my own neuroses . . . er, picture book ideas . . . here is a tip for today: think back to those times in your childhood when things were not quite what you expected them to be—and imagine what it would take to discover a new, old friend . . . or have the last laugh . . . or fly to the rescue.

And then, for the love of heaven, explain to the little person in your life that dinosaurs are really extinct; that, as silly as it sounds, low score wins at Goony Golf; and that, yes, if necessary, a very tiny baby can sleep safely in a dresser drawer . . . but only if you take the drawer OUT of the dresser first!

*A line from Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie . . . um, maybe you had to be there.

Bonnie is the illustrator of Rutabaga Boo! by Sudipta Bardhan-Qualllen, Bedtime Monster by Heather Ayris Brunell, and the “I Wish I Was” series from Raven Tree Press. She is represented by Marietta Zacker of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @BonnieAdamson.

—> Bonnie then, practicing her skeptical glare; and now—an older and wiser children’s book illustrator.

At the conclusion of Storystorm, prize packs will be given away (books, swag, writing tools). Comment once on this blog post to enter into the prize pack drawing.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Good luck!


by Jen Betton

If you’ve been to any sort of children’s book writing event, you’ve heard how much editors and agents want character-driven stories. But what if that is hard for you? What if you’re like me, and you have a tendency to create characters who are just placeholders for the plot? What if you create amazing characters, but have a hard time getting the plot to work around them?

This is the story of how my first published book was written, which also happened to be my first truly character-driven manuscript.

In 2014, I lurked in the sidelines of Storystorm (PiBoIdMo at the time), and I read Diana Murray’s post about character-driven stories. She recommended creating a character with a personality trait that was in direct opposition to their goal. This struck a chord with me but didn’t result in anything much until a couple months later when I read the absolutely perfect LIBRARY LION, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. In it, the Lion (who naturally would like to roar) becomes a fixture at the library (a place of quiet) – boom, instant conflict! I adored this book, and thinking of Diana’s post, sat down to think of some animal characters who natural tendencies might lead to conflict.

I wanted to have an animal character because it allowed me to play with making an internal trait external. So I started brainstorming animals and inherent conflicts: A bear wants honey—no inherent conflict there, but a sloth who wants to race, aha conflict. Very quickly, I came up with a hedgehog who wants a hug!

The words weren’t right and I didn’t have an ending, but I immediately had a character, and a conflict, and HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG was born! After a lot of fleshing out, a persistent, prickly little hedgehog feeling down in the snout and droopy in the prickles tries to find a hug. He asks a number of places, gets discouraged, and eventually finds someone feeling the same way.

So get a notepad, and start brainstorming your own list—what is a trait that an animal or person might have? It might be something like this:

  • Sloth – slow
  • Lion – roars
  • Magpie – hoards sparkly things
  • Hedgehog – prickly
  • Matilda – messy
  • Victor – loud

The second step is to create a list of things that would make that natural trait difficult—it could be a goal or desire, or just a situation that makes that inherent quality problematic—anything that creates conflict. What if the sloth wants to hurry up? What if the lion loves a library and needs to be quiet? What if the magpie loses all her stuff? What if the hedgehog needs a hug? What if the messy girl needs to find her homework? What if the loud boy needs to keep his baby sister asleep?


If you start to look, you’ll notice a lot of characters out there have some sort of inherent conflict: in Anika Denise’s STARRING CARMEN, the main character loves being the center of attention, but needs to share the spotlight. In Lisa Anchin’s upcoming debut, THE LITTLE GREEN GIRL, the protagonist wants to leave her garden to see the world, but she is literally rooted in place, being a topiary. In Molly Idle’s PEARL, the mermaid wants to do something important, but is given a humble grain of sand to protect. Sometimes it could be two conflicting desires (instead of a personality trait and desire) like in Sherman Alexie’s THUNDER BOY JR, where little Thunder wants his own name, but doesn’t want to hurt his dad’s feelings.


Another variation on this exercise is to put two characters who have opposing traits or desires together: for example in Alexander Milne’s Pooh books, Rabbit loves order and Tigger loves to bounce on him—that creates an instant tension between the two.

I love this exercise because at the end of it you have a character (or two!) and the beginning of your plot! Happy story-hunting!

Jen Betton loves to draw and make up stories with her pictures. In Kindergarten she got into trouble for drawing presents on a picture of Santa, and she has been illustrating ever since. She wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, published with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and she illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT, an NCTE notable book, written by Holly Thompson, published with Clarion. You can find more of her work at, or on Twitter and Instagram @jenbetton.

Jen is giving away a signed copy of HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, with an activity kit and bookmarks.

Simply leave ONE COMMENT below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!


by Mike Allegra

Please forgive me for what I’m about to do. I am going reference a Christmas cartoon while we’re all still trying to recover from the lunacy of the holiday season.

I can’t help it, though. Sometimes inspiration comes from odd places.

My muse is the stop-motion holiday staple Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer—specifically the Island of Misfit Toys. From a narrative standpoint, the Misfit Toys part of the story is a lull in an already overlong cartoon, yet the Charlie-in-the-Box, the square wheeled train, and the doll whose misfitishness is never fully explained, have all aided my creative process.

Behold the Journal of Misfit Ideas! It’s never far from my side. It patiently sits there ready to record any and all of my brainstorms. Much more often, it records my brain drizzles.

Nothing is too stupid for the Journal. Nothing.

Will I ever write a picture book with the title The Sluttiest Mennonite? Nope, but it’s in the Journal.

Will I ever find a home for my parody lyrics of “The Candy Man?” Nuh-uh. (My version, by the way, is called “The Pickle Man” and it’s terrible. First line: “Who can make the sun shiiiine with cucumbers and briiiine.”)

Will any of my characters live in a 1/16th-wide trailer, a home designed only for people who weigh 130 lbs or less? Not likely, no.

And will I ever write a story about a Robo-Dragon Pie, a character who’s part robot, part dragon, and part pirate? No, sir-ee Bob! Never!

Oh, wait. I mean YES! I will write about a Robo-Dragon Pie! Because I did write about a Robo-Dragon Pie! A Robo-Dragon Pie is featured in my new picture book, EVERYBODY’S FAVORITE BOOK!

And that right there is why The Journal of Misfit Ideas is worthwhile.

The Robo-Dragon Pie isn’t the only idea I cribbed from my Journal. It’s not even the only dragon idea I cribbed from my Journal. My PRINCE NOT-SO CHARMING chapter book series features a dragon who knits. The Journal was the genesis of that idea, too.

Sometimes the Journal records things people say. I once overheard my grandmother describe a fretful mother: “She takes those kids to the doctor if they fart crooked.” And here’s how she described Grandpa: “He talks out of his butt so much, he ChapSticks his crack.”

Grandma’s comments are not picture book ready, of course, but they deserve to be remembered, so into the Journal they go. (And you can bet your bottom dollar that both of these quotes will end up in my writing somewhere someday.)

My Journal entries vary in length. Sometimes an entire entry is a single (made-up) word like “underqualidate.” Other Journal entries go on for pages, not only offering a basic book premise or title, but also a detailed synopsis with character details, swatches of dialogue, and cartoons in the margins. It all depends on my mood and, of course, the scope of the Misfit Idea.

I peruse my Journal often. I’ll thumb the pages when I’m looking for an idea or when I’m too tired to write, but still want to be in a writerly frame of mind. Doing so is always good for a chuckle and the Journal never fails to shove my brain in weird and unexpected directions.

The Journal of Misfit Ideas is always there for me. More importantly, The Journal of Misfit Ideas is there for only me. The Journal is a private document that allows me to get a little crazy without fear—and Fearless Crazy is sometimes where the best ideas come from.

I don’t pre-edit my thoughts. I don’t let the Journal decide what’s a bad idea or an inappropriate idea. The goodness and the badness will be sorted out at another time, after I’ve written it all down. The Journal’s only goal is to safely take in every stray without judgment—much like The Island of Misfit Toys does.

And, with a little luck, those ideas might someday find a proper home that will fully appreciate their unique, misfitty charms.

Mike Allegra is the author of the picture books Everybody’s Favorite Book (the home of Corky, the Robo-Dragon Pie), Sarah Gives Thanks, and Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist. He also writes the Prince Not-So Charming chapter book series under the pen name Roy L. Hinuss.

Stop by his blog at and say hi! He’s friendly!

princeprank  everybodysfavoritebook

Mike is giving away copies of two of his books! There will be one winner for each title.

Simply leave ONE COMMENT below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!


by Hannah Barnaby

Novels were my first love—as a children’s literature graduate student, as an editor, as a bookseller, and then as a writer. I loved long descriptive passages, the rising tension and angst, the unexpected twists and turns of complicated plots, and all the ways that casts of characters could clash, conflict, and come together. Novels were other worlds in which I could become fully immersed for long stretches of time, emerging only to jot down particularly beautiful sentences in my journal. However, these complications presented certain problems for me once I began writing my own novels.

image-1  image-2

It turns out that plotting is . . . not my strong suit.

While wrestling with the plot of my second novel, SOME OF THE PARTS, I turned to picture books for help. There were plenty in our house, but I knew those too well to read them objectively (and my kids kept interrupting), so I went to the library and gathered stacks of new ones, old ones, favorite classics and unfamiliar texts. I was searching for a sense of how stories were built, and I knew that picture books had patterns I could see clearly, structures I would recognize. The more I read, the more I fell in love. I felt like I was cheating on my novel, but I didn’t care. It was glorious—the humor, the energy, the sweetness, and unexpected twists and turns of uncomplicated plots were a revelation.

I began thinking in picture books, seeing new possibilities. My son’s preschool playground rule (“There are no bad guys at our school.”) sparked a story.


So did a conversation at an academic dinner, where I was seated between an astronomer and a marine biologist.


There were some practical things I did to put the picture books to work for myself:

  1. I typed out the text of books that were particularly successful in some way, so that I could see the words separately from the pictures. This is how picture book manuscripts arrive at a publisher (most of the time) and how mine look when I write them, because I am not the illustrator. When you can read the text alone, you get the clearest possible sense of how it operates, what jobs it has and what jobs it should not try to do (e.g. extensive description).
  2. I took note of elements like repetition, alliteration, rhyme, and plot structures to get a sense of what the rules were. I compared older books and newer ones, to see how the rules had changed. Word counts and formats vary wildly from then to now, and I wanted a strong sense of both the history of the form and the current trends, so I knew where my stories would fit.
  3. I allowed myself to start with themes and ideas that I knew had been written before. Because I had been reading so many picture books by other authors, my first efforts to write my own often mimicked what I’d read. (I could call it “an homage” and get away with it, right? Maybe?) But I let it happen, because I needed to warm up those muscles and strengthen them. It was like taking a class at the gym: for a while, I just followed along with what the instructor did. I couldn’t design my own routine right away.

Before long, I had a couple of drafts that I really liked (and several more that had yet to find their feet). I revised and fine-tuned them until I felt brave enough to send them to my agent. She replied almost immediately. “You’ve done it,” she said. “You’ve cracked the picture book code.”

So, what have picture books taught me? To be open to unexpected possibilities, to examine small moments and know that stories can grow out of anything that happens, and to be confident in my ability to structure a narrative. Writing both picture books and longer stories allows me a unique kind of balance between different forms, and has allowed me to see plot on a much smaller, more manageable scale and then expand that scaffolding to a larger one.

They’ve also taught me that sometimes you think your characters are elephants, but your illustrator has other ideas…


Hannah BarnabyHannah Barnaby is the author of WONDER SHOW, a 2013 Morris Award finalist, and SOME OF THE PARTS. She makes her double picture book debut in 2017 with BAD GUY, illustrated by Mike Yamada (coming in May from S&S), and GARCIA & COLETTE GO EXPLORING, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (coming in June from Putnam). Hannah lives in Charlottesville, VA, where she teaches creative writing and wrangles a variety of children and dogs. Visit her online at, Twitter @hannahrbarnaby and Facebook.

Her two picture books are now available for pre-order via Indiebound: BAD GUY and GARCIA & COLETTE GO EXPLORING.


Hannah is giving away her code-cracking secrets in a picture book critique.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!


by Deb Lund

I’ve been restless lately. Uncertain. Wondering what to work on next, but not taking action. Growing up in northern Minnesota, the outward version of that was an approaching storm—a blizzard, a tornado, torrential rains… It starts out in stillness and quickly gets dark.


There’s something in the air that you can’t quite identify, and then it whooshes in…


Energy builds. Everything whirls around you. There’s nothing to hang on to. It all feels impossible and there’s nothing you can do about it—except face it. Be brave! Lean into the wind! You got this!

Creativity needs chaos. It needs a storm. Once in a while we need to be shaken out of our pitiful patterns and hideous habits. You know what I mean. Those crazy excuses—I’m too old/young/busy/whatever. Or… just another game of Solitaire, or another snack. Yeah! That’s what I need!


When the storm hits, don’t hide out, and don’t run away. What matters to you? What’s your big dream? What would give your life more meaning? Claim it! Step into the eye of the storm.

Snatch the ideas flying by. Add more snatches to them. Don’t look for pieces that fit—go for curiosity, not judgment. Just grab them. Own the storm!


Are you wondering what you’re getting yourself into? Feeling lost? Unprepared? Me, too! When it comes to creativity, if you don’t know what you’re doing—you’re on the right path!

Still feeling anxious? What do you say to yourself? Here are some of mine…

  • “Who do you think you are?”
  • “It was only a fluke that you ever got published.”
  • “Someday they’ll figure out you can’t write.”

Change those conversations! We all run around scared that someone else is going to find out we don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re afraid we’ll die in the storm.

Take back that talk, and talk back!

It’s hard work finding your way through torrential rains, hail, sleet, or snow. The wind might mangle your umbrella. You might slip on the ice. You might end up in your own version of Oz. Do it anyway.


I grew up with stories of farmers tying ropes between their homes and barns so they could take care of their cattle during blizzards. We have no worries there. Tara is our tether, and she’s tenacious! You may feel lost now and then, but the rope is always within reach. Come back and read this post when your doubts drift up around your ears. I promise you can do this!

When a storm approaches, you get ready. You gather up all you need. You make a plan.

Here’s a short list to help you get started:

  • Piggyback on elements of your favorite stories.
  • Glance through book titles on bookstore and library shelves.
  • Start with first sentences from books you haven’t read.
  • Drag out past idea lists or folders to mix and match
  • Look at photos—your own, social media, online image searches.
  • Mine your memories.
  • Think emotions: Sad, angry, hurt, frustrated, relieved, determined, etc.
  • Search magazines, newspapers, and online resources for interesting stories.
  • Observe kids in libraries, stores, parks, schools, or your own at home.
  • Think “firsts”—teeth, steps, birthdays, school, friend, kiss, etc.
  • Identify epiphanies and turning points.
  • Ask kids, parents, teachers, librarians, friends, family—anyone!

I’m sure our amazing Storystorm line-up will cover some of these in detail and more. Still feeling anxious? Change your default reaction to calm. Tough order, I know. But it’s possible.


As tornadoes touched down around us on Minnesota summer days, neighbors without basements would run to our house and gather in ours. My mom would ask me to play the piano while we waited out the storm.


Playing through a storm is a pretty good analogy of the creative process.

Here’s how you do it…

Ignore the dangers around you. Stay focused, deny the distractions, and entertain yourself until the wind dies down enough to step out into the new landscape before you. And when you do, stay curious. If you label the storm a disaster, you’re not free to experiment and explore.

Keep an open mind as you assess the possibilities. You can shovel out a path or pick up pieces later. Until then, enjoy the wonder and the rainbows. After this month, you might just become a storm chaser.


Deb Lund is best known for her rowdy, rollicking dinoadventures. She’s helped many writers forge their way through storms with her card deck, Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers. Deb is a creativity coach who claims that outsmarting her own fierce inner critic makes her more qualified to lead storm troopers than all her training, teaching, and years of coaching experience. Visit Deb at


Deb is generously giving away three prizes: two 15-minute creativity coaching sessions and one set of Fiction Magic cards.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

***STORYSTORM REGISTRATION IS CLOSED. You can still join in the challenge by reading the daily posts and jotting down ideas, but you will not be eligible to win STORYSTORM prizes.***


Oh, Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…

That’s right, Picture Book Idea Month has been blown away by STORYSTORM! Need to know why? Check here.

STORYSTORM is a month of brainstorming new story ideas. This event is open to any writer seeking inspiration, support and community.

How does STORYSTORM work? It’s simple…

  • Register here by signing your name ONCE in the comments below. Teachers participating with a class can register under the teacher’s name.
  • Registering makes you eligible for prizes.
  • Visit this blog daily ( for inspirational essays by guest bloggers—professional authors, illustrators and experts in creativity.
  • Instead of visiting the blog directly, you can receive the daily posts via email by clicking the “Follow Tara’s Blog” button in the left column—look under my photo for it.


  • After you have read the daily inspiration, jot down a daily story idea in a journal, computer, anywhere you like to write. Some days you might have no ideas, but some days you might have five or more.
  • At the end of the month, if you have at least 30 ideas, sign the STORYSTORM pledge and qualify for prizes.
  • Prizes include professional consults, signed books, original art, writerly gadgets and gizmos.

Remember, do not share your ideas publicly. They are YOURS. No need to  prove that you have them at the end of the month. The pledge you will sign is on the honor system.

Are you in? Awesome. Pick up your Official Participant badge below and affix it to any social media account you wish. (Right click to save to your computer, then upload it anywhere.)


May I suggest a STORYSTORM journal to keep those ideas safe?


Go to the CafePress STORYSTORM Store here:

All proceeds ($3 per sale—only if you use our URL) will be donated to Reading is Fundamental (RIF), to help put books into the hands of underprivileged children. Please remember to enter the store via If you search CafePress instead, we do not receive the funds.

Other merchandise will go on sale once the event begins, but you can order your journal now.

The final piece? Join the STORYSTORM Facebook discussion group. You need friends for the journey!


The group is completely optional, but it remains a year-round source of writing information and support, mostly focused on picture books, I admit, because that is where this all began.

Registration will remain open through JANUARY 7TH.

What are you waiting for? Register and go celebrate! I’ll see you back here on New Year’s Day.



Many thanks to S.britt for the logo design and Troy Cummings for the banners and badges.



Sorry for the delay. I’ll have Alex Trebek entertain you while you wait…


Well, that was certainly interesting, Alex. Umm, thanks.

(P.S. This kid did it better.)


In the meantime, need to know why PiBoIdMo became STORYSTORM? Check it.



Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for…



OK, maybe not what you were expecting. A little holiday humor. Let’s move on…

Those of you who participate in Picture Book Idea Month already know I moved the annual writing challenge to January instead of November. And you also know I changed the name. The new, much-easier-to-pronounce moniker is…


Did that just blow your mind?


I hope so!

The new logo was designed by talented illustrator S.britt (of NORMAL NORMAN fame).

Now, I hear you asking some questions.


The original challenge—to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days—was named “Picture Book Idea Month” or “PiBoIdMo” for short. Everyone pronounced the awkward acronym a different way. And if you managed to say it, it didn’t make sense to others.

“STORYSTORM” is a portmanteau of story and brainstorm that is more immediately understood.

The new name signals a broader scope—any type of writer interested in being inspired in January can now join the challenge. Novelists, short story writers, non-fiction authors and even teachers and their students are welcomed. Any writer, anyone who wants to brainstorm for a month. 

The goal is for STORYSTORM participants to jot down 30 story ideas in January. Then everyone will have thirty new shiny ideas to ponder, flesh out and write in 2017.


PiBoIdMo was originally held in November because it was modeled after NaNoWriMo, which runs at that time. But November is so busy with the start of the holiday season. Starting fresh in January—a new year, new goals—will hopefully prove to be both inspiring and motivating.




After the slam-dunking of presents down the chimney is over. In other words, Boxing Day. In other, other words, December 26th.

Registration will remain open for the entire first week of January. You do not have to register, but doing so makes you eligible to win prizes—agent consultations, books, critiques, and a whole lotta fabulous stuff that even Santa can’t make possible.

So THANK YOU for being patient while I pondered these changes. More announcements soon—like the guest-blogger line-up!

But in the meantime, join our STORYSTORM Facebook group which is active year-round for friendly support and discussion.




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