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Three attempts to solve a problem—you’ve been told thirty trillion times this is the way to build a picture book plot. I even covered it in an earlier post.

It’s a tried-and-true method for telling a story. But does an editor reviewing all these similarly-structured submissions feel like she’s been there and read that? Well…….maybe.

There are other ways to frame picture books by using different story structures, as Tammi Sauer once pointed out during Storystorm.

But if those formats aren’t right for your story and you choose a more traditional arc, when is it OK to abandon the “three attempts”? When is it reasonable to break free from this rule?

First, we have to look at the why.

Why do we employ the “three attempts” structure? TO BUILD TENSION.

The main character tries to solve their problem and fails, repeatedly. This tension invests the reader in the protagonist’s struggle. It compels you to turn the page.

However, I wrote a manuscript recently where the protagonist doesn’t even realize she has a problem. The reader sees the problem, but the character is oblivious. It doesn’t make sense for her to attempt multiple solutions because she doesn’t see anything wrong in the first place!

Remember, three attempts builds tension. But that’s not the only way to achieve “what happens next?” excitement and anticipation.

In my manuscript, the humor comes from the reader knowing more than the main character (that’s a kind of “superiority humor”). The humor builds because the protagonist keeps mistaking her surroundings for something else, something that’s familiar to her. That escalating humor adds to the tension—OH NO! DOESN’T SHE GET IT YET?!

There’s also a deadline, an end goal that the reader and the main character both know. But can she get there if she’s so confused? You don’t know. More tension.

Bottom line—if you’ve built tension into your story via another means, you don’t need the three attempts. It certainly didn’t make sense for my story. Who tries to get out of a jam they don’t know they’re in?

Let’s look at picture books that build tension in different ways.

[Meta Device]
THE PANDA PROBLEM by Deborah Underwood & Hannah Marks

In this meta tale, the narrator and Panda argue about who’s the main character. The narrator wants Panda to be the protagonist with a problem to solve. But Panda thinks the narrator is the main character because uncooperative Panda is the narrator’s problem. This story mocks our “problematic” picture book rule. It keeps the tension high as both characters wrestle to control the story.

[Versus Device]
FIRE TRUCK VS. DRAGON by Chris Barton & Shanda McCloskey

A follow-up to Barton’s popular SHARK vs. TRAIN of 10 years ago (wow, time flies!), this new “battle” features a stand off between the reader and the characters. The reader understands what the two friends excel at, but the fire-starter and fire-squelcher don’t ever mention THOSE skills. That’s “superiority humor” again, with the reader knowing more than the characters. The tension arises from wondering if fire truck and dragon will ever get to what’s downright obvious to everyone else.

[Chronology Device]
THE END by David LaRochelle & Richard Egielski

This story is a fairytale told backwards. There’s a surprise each page turn as you discover what happened immediately prior to the current sticky situation. Does that create tension? You bet, as each spread also displays a new predicament.

[Parallel Structure]
OPERATION RESCUE DOG by Maria Gianferrari & Luisa Uribe

The parallel picture book tells two tales which eventually converge. The tension is kept high by a back-and-forth narrative between the two main characters. In this book, Alma misses her military mama. She and Abuela decide to adopt a rescue dog as a surprise for mama’s return. The rescue dog, Lulu, is lonely and afraid, without a family. Both characters face delays in their journey to the dog rescue rendezvous. But at the end, Alma and Lulu finally meet and it’s destiny!

Some of these stories also employ the classic “ticking clock” or deadline to achieve tension. THE END ends at the beginning. OPERATION RESCUE DOG has two ticking clocks—Alma wants to adopt a dog in time for her mother’s return…plus, the Dog Rescue Truck is only open for a limited window. Will they make it there on time?

For the “ticking clock” device, think of Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin at midnight!

So while you’re reading new picture books, pay attention to the building of tension. Did the author use three attempts to solve the problem, or a different device? Were you still riveted? Compelled to turn the page? Invested in the main character’s plight? Then take note and try to break free in your own writing!

 


Guess what? I’m giving away an hour-long kidlit career consultation via video chat.

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!

The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is offering a new award that honors the wonderful spirit and work of late children’s book author Kate Pohl Dopirak. The Kate Dopirak Craft and Community Award will offer one picture book writer:

  • Full tuition to the SCBWI International Conference in L.A. in 2020
  • A 20-minute phone consultation with Tracey Adams of Adams Literary (Kate’s agent)
  • A 20-minute phone consultation with Andrea Welch of Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster (one of Kate’s editors)

The #KDCCAward will alternate yearly between picture book and middle grade/YA. Submissions will be accepted for this inaugural award from September 1 to October 31. 

Please consider applying…and please help spread the word.

Thank you.  ️ ️ ️

#KDCCAward20
#katedopirakaward
katedopirakaward.com

I’ve spent the last several months with my head deep in a dictionary, editing THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK, so excuse me if I’m a little definition-sensitive these days. But hear me out. This is important stuff.

How many of you have done this—set arbitrary goals that signal, in your mind, that you’ve become a success?

If I get a literary agent, then I’m a success.
If I get one book deal, then I’m a success.

And then you hit those goals, and suddenly, that definition of success gets tossed out the window.

No, one book deal isn’t successful! Two book deals would be!

And then you get those two deals. But again, it’s not enough to be deemed a success in your eyes.

So you compile an entire list of criteria for success.

A lead title!
A starred review!
Two starred reviews! Three! Four!
An Indies NEXT selection!

A Junior Library Guild selection!
A New York Times bestseller!
A Caldecott!!!!

The bar of success keeps inching higher. You are forever chasing it, feeling like a failure for not being successful!

But I’m here to tell you, YOU ARE A SUCCESS.

OK, I’m not telling you this just because *I* think you’re a success and I want to be all warm and fuzzy.

Let’s look at the WORD.

Notice that “success” is part of “succession”:

And that the meaning of succession is someone or something that follows another.

The Latin root of both words is succedere, which means to “come after or follow after.”

So all those goals you’ve lined up? And the ones you’ve already hit? They follow one after another after another and they’re the original definition of success—to continue to reach those goals and thus, form new ones.

You cannot say you’re not successful if you have conquered at least one goal on your list. You are.

The real meaning of being successful is forming goals, reaching them, and ascending to a new level, with loftier goals. As long as you are striving, you are succeeding.

Success is not stagnant. Success is always moving forward.

So FOREVER ONWARD, writers!

Here’s to being a SUCCESS—many times over!

Yeah, I may receive a “cease and desist” letter from the Peanuts people any minute for using that image as my header, so let me get right to my first “write” gift…the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.

What kidlit writer doesn’t love Schultz’s merry misfit, his pilot puppy, and a girl named after candy?

You get the sensation, right?

Oh geez, those York folks may be after me now, too.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree With Blanket Tree Skirt

Available from Vermont Country Store. (And you may be reminded of Christmases past when I say “some items sold separately” and “some assembly required”.)

Now, time for booties.

No, not baby booties. Book booties…

bookbooties

Available from Groove Bags.

 

I’m not the most organized writer, but this looks like it can help. It features an area for notes plus numbered pockets for keeping mind memos and snippets—maybe to represent each chapter?

Industrial-Inspired 12-pocket Wall Memo Board

memopockets
Available from Overstock.

 

You’ve probably heard the writing advice “B.I.C.”: BUTT IN CHAIR. But your butt may hurt after sitting a while. This funky stool by ErgoErgo “encourages you to make small movements that help circulation, breathing, and keeping your mind more alert. And unlike a stability ball, ErgoErgo looks cool and won’t roll away.”

Adult Active Sitting Stool

Available from The Grommet.

 

A good game during the holidays brings family together…so you can show off your word superiority and crush them all in a pile of defeat!

Anagram, The Ingenious Game of Juggling Words

anagramgame

Available from The Literary Gift Company.

 

I know, we writers have high shelf esteem.

Available from LookHuman.

 

Perhaps the writer you know is seeking a little R&R (wRiting and Relaxation). What better place to get away than the Highlights Foundation? Your own private cabin, three scrumptious meals a day, hikes through the countryside, a poetry garden…it is a marvelous retreat. When Highlights isn’t hosting a workshop, anyone can visit and create their own private UNworkshop. Genius idea for genius ideas to flourish.

Highlights Unworkshop

Available from Highlights Foundation.

 

Now, lemme ask some writer friends what they recommend.

How’s about Katey Howes, author of the upcoming BE A MAKER?

“For the writer with published books to promote, these tabletop chalkboard signs are a godsend. They pack up easily for travel to book festivals, conferences, and anywhere else you find authors and illustrators tucked behind tables of books and swag. Add a pack of brightly colored chalk markers and even the most introverted writers can get shoppers’ attention and communicate prices and details—without having to make eye contact or speak above a whisper. Not published yet? Use these chalkboards to post a motivational message on your desk or a Do Not Disturb: Writer At Work sign for your children to completely ignore.”

Mini Chalkboards

Available from Factory Direct Craft.

“Also essential for the writer on the go—this folding dolly can haul boxes of books to school visits, fairs and festivals. The removable bag is great for storing the posters, promo items, snacks and cardigan sweaters essential for author events.”

The Trolley Dolly

Available from dbest products.

 

‘Scuzi, Tara here again…Katey’s suggestions reminded me about these sturdy and portable book display stands. Bookstand.net displays are invaluable at book festivals and events. Your book gets displayed face-out and tilted slightly upward for passers-by to notice, plus there’s space on the front of the wood base to put a little sign. You can stack a few books on the stand so if one person picks up a book to read, there’s still another book on display. The dowels are removable so everything can be packed away flat and neat. These wood stands are far better than flimsy plastic photo holders (that keep falling over). My local indie uses them throughout their store, too. They come in various sizes and configurations for books big and small.

The Bookstand

Available from TheBookstand.net.

 

Next up, Laurie Wallmark, who will release HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE in February

A woman of few words (well, she is a picture book author), Laurie simply told me her husband received a several-month iPenBox subscription and loved it.

Good enough for me.

From the website: iPenBox is a curated subscription box for the pen, paper and ink enthusiast, delivering a monthly box of products to your door. Each month this mystery box will be filled with new, innovative, and sometimes unusual items from the pen, paper and ink world. We hand pick 4-10 items around a fun monthly theme! This way you’ll be able to discover and sample new items that you might not have heard of or tried before.

iPenBox Monthly Subscription Box

Available from iPen Store.

 

If you have any vegetarian writing friends, please shield their eyes. (Look away, Josh Funk, LOOK AWAY!) Paul Czajak, author of MONSTER NEEDS A CHRISTMAS TREE, is a real weisenheimer. And a hungry one, too. He sent me this gift suggestion with a short testimonial: “Because cooking with duck fat makes everything taste better. And yes, I mean everything.”

OK, so maybe your writer friend is looking a little under-nourished. Paul’s got your solution.

Antibiotic-Free Duck Fat

Available from Good Vittles LLC.

 

Then Jarrett Lerner, author of ENGINERDS, chimed in and said he would like ANYTHING from Montague Workshop. From duck fat to the whole kit and caboodle. Only here, folks.

“Brad and Kristi Montague are the brilliant individuals behind Kid President, and since then, they haven’t stopped creating more brilliant things. Whether it’s T-shirts, prints, cards, pins, stickers, or stationery, everything they make is warm, joyful, and inspirational. Their stuff is like the material equivalent of a good hug and an encouraging pat on the back. It makes me happy, and I just love it so much.”

I love it too, Jarrett. So I picked out this little goody…

Don’t Hide Your Magic Enamel Pin

Available from Montague Workshop.

 

We all need to be reminded of that, don’t ya think?

What would be a great gift for a writer? (OK, I mean, what do YOU want for the holidays?) Please share your selection below in the comments!

And HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Skipping around the interwebs, I stumbled upon a magical discovery. Kate DePalma, Senior Editor at Barefoot Books, tweeted about their new Build-A-Story-Cards, and I gasped at the adorableness.

Always on the lookout for tools to create better stories, I immediately seized the opportunity to investigate.

I’m a fan of Rory’s Story Cubes and Storybird, as both improve literacy skills without children even realizing BECAUSE THEY’RE SO MUCH FUN. Barefoot’s Build-a-Story Cards snap right into this category, too.

Aimed at kids aged 3-10 (or, obviously, 48), Build-a-Story Cards help create an engaging story with all the essential elements—character, emotion, setting—and a little sprinkle of magic.

Kate put me in touch with the product team: Lisa Rosinsky, Senior Editor, and Stefanie Wieder, Senior Director of Product and in-house early childhood development expert.

Stefanie and Lisa, on my blog I talk a lot about how ideas originate. What was the genesis of the Build-a-Story-Cards?

Stef: Before we developed our own deck of story cards, we tested the existing cards on the market with kids of various ages, and we discovered something interesting. Whether they were 3 years old or 7, kids had trouble creating stories that made sense. This left kids frustrated and limited their attention span. We thought, how can we improve on this?

With our story cards, we wanted kids to have fun with storytelling, while also learning about the structure of stories because this was going to help them create stories that make sense and become better writers. So we asked the illustrator, Miriam Latimer, to create these adorable pictures of a magical world filled with unicorns, dragons, castles and potions. We divided the images into three categories: characters on red cards, objects on blue cards, and settings on yellow cards. We also created a robust instructions booklet full of activities for learning about and playing with these three key story elements.

Lisa: We knew we wanted to work with beloved Barefoot illustrator Miriam Latimer for this deck, so we could tie it in with two popular series Miriam also illustrated: our Ruby series (Ruby’s School Walk, Ruby’s Baby Brother, Ruby’s Sleepover) and the Prince books (The Prince’s Bedtime, The Prince’s Breakfast). We asked her to start with those characters, and then we added in lots of classic fantasy/fairy tale elements—witches, dragons, and unicorns, oh my—for extra storytelling potential!

  

Stef: At Barefoot Books we always like to have multiple layers of learning in our products, and so we also included a social-emotional element as well. Our Magical Castle Build-a-Story Cards includes character pairs. Each pair shows different emotions for kids to identify and build stories around. In the instructions we encourage kids to create stories about friendship and conflict resolution. So, in a nutshell, this product was born of us wanting to improve on existing story cards out there by creating a product that teaches early writing skills while also reinforcing social emotional learning. And, by the way, this is only the first in a series of these Build-a-Story Cards. Future decks will feature different imaginative themes and other key early learning skills.

That’s smart to include emotions—every writer knows it’s a required element for successful stories. Your audience must feel the character’s struggle and develop empathy for them.

What else (besides these cards) do children need to become successful storytellers?

Lisa: Story time! Reading to children helps them build early literacy skills, and when kids listen to stories, that helps them learn how to tell their own stories. Stefanie has created a series of story time videos for us that model engaging storytelling by asking questions, modeling predictions, and noticing elements of the artwork. You can check out a few of our most popular story time videos on our Facebook page.

Do you have any sneak peeks at images from future decks?

Lisa: Yes! We are working on two more decks right now, due out Spring 2019. Both will feature artwork by classic Barefoot illustrators, and both will follow the same basic setup as the first deck: 36 wordless story cards, including 12 characters, 12 objects, and 12 settings. One has an “Ocean Adventure” theme and includes ideas for lots of different math games, ranging from early counting and sorting skills to more advanced word problems. The oceans deck is illustrated by Debbie Harter.

Well, being that it’s Shark Week…let’s debut this guy’s sketches…

 

The other is titled “Community Helpers” and is illustrated by Sophie Fatus. The Community Helpers deck includes all sorts of community heroes, from service dogs and firefighters to teachers and janitors, plus games that help kids learn about people and places in a city.

      

I know these cards are aimed at kids, but how do you think they will be valuable for adults, too? 

Lisa: The cards are quite versatile! They’re great for engaging kids in solo play, whether at home, in a classroom, or traveling on a family trip. They’re also helpful tools for educators and curriculum creators, from preschool to upper elementary. Writers of any age, at any stage of their career, can use them as story starter prompts. And finally, in our experience, adults have a lot of fun with these cards, too. We even used them as an icebreaker at a company event recently, and everyone really got into it!

Ha, I’m going to try that at my next barbeque! “Pass the ketchup—and the message-in-a-bottle card.”

Plus, I can easily create additional cards using your red/blue/yellow model. (Did I say “I”? I meant “kids”.)

Thank you Kate, Lisa & Stefanie for introducing me to Barefoot’s Build-a-Story Cards. Learn more about them here.

And now let’s introduce my blog readers to them. Comment below to enter a giveaway for a pack of Magical Castle Cards. (One comment per person, please.)

A winner will be drawn at random next week.

Good luck!
 

by Tracy Marchini

I’ve worn a number of hats in my career—and for the most part I have always had at least two hats on at once.

Now, I’m a children’s author who is celebrating her picture book debut, CHICKEN WANTS NAP, and a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary representing fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens.

But I’ve also been a newspaper correspondent, a children’s book reviewer, a freelance copywriter, a literary agents assistant, a freelance editor and a communications manager. (Well, and a pharmacy tech—which has nothing to do with this post—and very, very briefly an assistant at a wedding dress preservationist’s—which is the only job I’ve ever been let go from. I was relieved.)

Anyway, so many of these hats forced me to learn to write in a different way. Feature pieces vs. event wrap ups, editorial letters vs. pitch letters, book reviews vs. press releases—everything had a different format or tone, but there was also a lot of overlap. Ultimately, I think all of the above experience helped me with my writing and agenting career, and I hope that some of the below helps you too!

Character
I would get my newspaper assignments on Friday, do interviews and write the story over the weekend, and submit on Sunday so it’d be in my editor’s inbox by the Monday deadline. (Monday I’d be commuting to work as a literary assistant.)

My favorite pieces to write were feature pieces that honored another person’s life. People were generally so happy to talk about this person that they loved or admired, even though we’re all flawed, and I usually left the interviews feeling pretty inspired. I also felt like there was a little more room for creativity in a feature piece. A good features makes the reader feel like they’ve met the person, too.

Looking back on feature writing makes me think about a character exercise that I was once assigned in undergrad. The exercise says to pick a person you know and write about them as they would write about themselves. Then write about them through the eyes of someone that hated them. Then again through the eyes of someone that loved them. You have three different people on the page—or four, right? Because the primary subject is actually probably closer to a culmination of those three pieces than any one particular view—and I think that’s why the exercise can be so helpful when you’re struggling with rounding out your characters. Remember, even antagonists think they’re the hero of the story.

Hook
Book reviews, newspaper pieces, pitch letters, press releases, copywriting—all of it relied on being able to find a hook that was going to grab a reader and make them want to read more, attend the event, buy the book, click a link, etc.

As an author, particularly as a picture book author, you have to be thinking about what is going to make your story stand out on the shelves or in the submissions pile.

That said, your hook is not the plot summary. For example, I’ve pitched CHICKEN WANTS A NAP as “Remy Charlip’s Fortunately set in the barnyard,” but that’s not the summary.

One exercise I’ve done with friends when they’re having trouble with finding a strong concept for their own WIPs is to go through the bookstore or their own shelves, pull out and read a picture book, then find a hook. For example, DUCKS’S VACATION is THERE’S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK set on the beach. NUT JOB is “Ocean’s 11” with squirrels. Or, if I were to pitch a book without a comparison, I might say something like HOORAY FOR FISH is a fun and heartwarming celebration of a fish’s love for their mom.

Once you’ve had practice with some books on the shelves, tell your friend the hook for your WIP. If it’s a plot summary, your friend should make you try again. And if you can’t find the hook for your WIP—that thing that’s going to make it stand out from all the other queries/manuscripts in an agent or editor’s inbox—then perhaps it’s time to take another look at your WIP’s concept.

In truth, you might not use this hook in your query letter at all, but if you find that a common theme in your rejection letters is “not sure it can compete in the marketplace,” this is an excellent exercise to help punch up your concept!

Word Choice
Almost everything I wrote had a standard structure and/or expected word count, be it a press release, feature story, book review, pitch letter or pieces for a social media campaign. Just like in a picture book text, EVERY WORD COUNTED. I had to be concise—looking for that one perfect word instead of two to four less precise words.

So take out your picture book WIP. Are you in the sweet spot (300 – 500 words for fiction*)? Does every word convey the exact meaning you intend? If you’re using repetition, is it done in a way that builds tension, humor or otherwise adds to the story? If you’re not sure about a word or line, delete it and then read the story aloud (or bring it to somebody else). Does the story lose anything? If not, then permanently delete that line, phrase or word.

*CHICKEN WANTS A NAP is 165 words, and my current WIP is 600. CHICKEN is a read-aloud for younger picture book readers and the story just did not need another 140 words. My WIP is for older picture book readers who are starting to read by themselves. So I guess I’m saying to use the words you need and not one word more!

Speaking of one word more, I had started a different draft of this post where I went through each job individually and it quickly became a novel. And as I’m hitting that point again, I think it’s best to close here. I hope that these tricks help you in your own writing, and if you have the time or opportunity to do some freelance writing in another format—I say, why not! You’ll exercise a different writing muscle, and I’ll bet it’ll improve your current children’s writing as well!


Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary, where she represents fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens. She’s thrilled to represent a list of debut and award-winning authors and illustrators, and is currently open to submissions. To get a sense of what she’s looking for, you can follow her Twitter #MSWL, see her announced client books, and read her submission guidelines.

As an author, her debut picture book, CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, was called “A surprising gem” in a starred review from Kirkus. She’s been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer’s Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric.

Tracey is giving away a signed copy of CHICKEN WANTS A NAP.

Leave one comment below to enter and a winner will be chosen next week.

Good luck!

***STORYSTORM Registration is closed for 2018. You can still participate in the challenge by reading the inspirational daily posts, but you will not be eligible for prizes. Thank you.***

 

What a glorious feeling!

It’s that time of the year again, when you will be showered with inspiration!

Story ideas are gonna rain down like cats and dogs! (And maybe some will be about cats and dogs!)

Last year I changed the name and month of my annual writing challenge, from Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) to Storystorm. Why? Answer’s here.

Any writer interested in brainstorming new story ideas in January is invited to join. Any genre, any style; student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author or professional.

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 (right here at taralazar.com) in January 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 (the annual CafePress journal will be linked here when ready), 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 January, if you have at least 30 ideas, sign the STORYSTORM pledge I will post and qualify for prizes.
  • Prizes include professional consults, signed books, original art, writerly gadgets and gizmos.

Remember, do not share your ideas publicly in January. 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.)

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 9TH.

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

*Storstorm 2018 logo courtesy of Ross MacDonald, illustrator of 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY.

Hiya, friends and writers! It’s Kidlitbot here. I’m brand-new to your world, recently created by my editor-friend Alli Brydon! As she’s been oiling my joints, polishing my chrome, and booting up my systems, I’ve had a chance to take a peek around your human world a little bit. And boy, is it full of awesome stuff! Dogs, amusement parks, beaches, outer space, school…Twitter. I want to learn about it all! And I’ve heard that you folks love telling stories.

So, Alli and I have decided to bring you #kidlitbot. Here: I’ll let her tell you more about it, since it was kinda her idea.

Since starting my new children’s book editorial business, Alli Brydon Creative, I’ve been thinking about ways I can give back to a community which has given so much to me over the span of my career. So, I dreamed up #kidlitbot with the hopes of bringing more children’s book stories into the world! There are quite a few great picture book writing challenges already out there (like Tara’s own Storystorm), which energize authors to conceptualize book ideas and execute them. But I wanted to offer a new kind of challenge to kidlit writers, one that supplies prompts to help inspire those who might be stuck for ideas.

Introducing…#kidlitbot, your weekly kidlit writing prompt!

At 9am each Monday, we will post to Twitter a little tidbit to inspire you to start a writing exercise which will then hopefully wind up as a story. #kidlitbot is an idea generator for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators to use as a springboard to write a first draft. If the prompt inspires you, please feel free to “like” it, retweet it, or comment on it using the hashtag. You can even, if you’re comfortable doing so, post a line or two from your work-in-progress. Our hope—mine and Kidlitbot’s—is that our kernels of ideas will encourage and aid you in your writing process.

OK, back to you, Bot!

Thanks, Alli. 😊 (← I just learned about emojis while she was talking to you!) And big thanks to Tara for allowing us to spread the word here on her blog.

The best way to participate is to follow Alli on Twitter @allibrydon and look out for the hashtag #kidlitbot (named after me) every Monday morning! Write me some cool stories, OK guys?

Alli Brydon is an independent editorial professional located in the New York City area. With nearly 15 years of experience developing, editing, and selling children’s books with US publishing houses, she has spent a large part of her career nurturing writers and illustrators to reach their potential. Having worked both as an acquiring editor and as an agent for children’s book author/illustrators, Alli has a unique blend of skills and an insider’s view of the industry which she brings to all projects. Please drop in at allibrydon.com to learn more to say “hi!”

***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.***

dorothytoto

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 (taralazar.com) 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.

storystorm_calendar_v4

  • 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.)

storystorm_participant

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

storystormjournal

Go to the CafePress STORYSTORM Store here: cafepress.com/storystorm.

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 cafepress.com/storystorm. 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!

wizard

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.

joy

steam

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

 

 

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

santaslamdunk

SANTA SLAM DUNK!

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…

storystorm

Did that just blow your mind?

amypoehlerhead

I hope so!

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

Now, I hear you asking some questions.

WHY THE NAME CHANGE?

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.

WHY THE MONTH CHANGE?

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.

IS IT STILL FREE TO PARTICIPATE?

ABSOLUTELY.

WHEN CAN I REGISTER?

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.

staytuned

 

 

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

BLOOP!
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

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

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