Can you believe it? I finally have the opportunity to announce and congratulate all the daily Storystorm winners! And I could not have done it without the assistance of Urania Smith from KidLitNation.com. So please check her out!

Now, it’s time for my favorite GIF!

No, wait. I think this is my fave…

And away we go!

Storystorm 2019 Winners

Day 1:  Cathy Breisacher
Winner: Jennifer Phillips
Winner: Elizabeth Saba

Day 3: Tammi Sauer
Winner: Nancy Kotkin
Winner: Jen Bagan

Day 5:  Mike Allegra
Winner: Nancy Rimar
Winner: Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan

Day 7: Jen Betton
Winner: Kellie Nissen

Day 9: Nancy Churnin
Winner: Marty Lapointe Malchik
Winner: Kelly Conroy

Day 11: Shutta Crum
Winner: Carlie Cornell
Winner: Aileen Stewart

Day 13: Ashley Franklin
Winner: Becky Hamilton 
Winner:Tina Cho

Day 15: Andria W. Rosenbaum
Winner: Janie Reinart

Day 17: Nina Victor Crittenden
Winner: Carole Calladine
Winner: Kim Pfennigwerth

Day 19:  Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan
Winner: Kim Pfennigwerth
Winner: Marsha Elyn Wright

Day 21: Chana Stiefel 
Winner: Johnell DeWitt

Day 23: Julie Segal Walters
Winner: Supermario6 (Dayann9)

Day 25:  Alli Brydon
Winner: Katie B

Day 27: Juliet Clare Bell
Winner: Heather Stigall 

Day 29:  Diana Murray
Winner: Jen Fier Jasinksi

Day 30:  Linsay Bonilla 
Winner: Laurie Bouck
Winner: Katy Tanis

Five Winners from the Posts of Storystorm Past:
(You will receive books, glorious books, from Tundra and other publishers.)

Tanya Konerman
Janet Al Junaidi
Genevieve Petrillo
Natalie Lynn Tanner
Debra K Shumaker

Post-Storystorm: Laurie Keller
Winner: Donna Marie (Writersideup)

Congratulations! You’re all winners! (But sorry, no chicken dinners to give away.)

I will be emailing you over the next week to arrange delivery of your prizes!

And that officially concludes Storystorm 2019. I hope you’re still brainstorming ideas, though! You can always come back here to taralazar.com to read the posts and get a little extra oomph for your imagination.

See you back here for Storystorm 2020!

 

by Marsha Diane Arnold

Recently, I was sharing with students how writers rewrite and rewrite more, trying to get our books perfect for our readers. A first grader raised her hand and sweetly commented, “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.”  What wisdom from one so young. This is exactly what Badger learned in Badger’s Perfect Garden.

As readers will discover, Badger’s garden might not have turned out as perfectly as his original vision, but it is spectacularly beautiful, thanks to serendipity, Mother Nature, and Badger’s initial work.

Badger is a perfectionist. He had planned long and worked hard for his perfect garden. He had a plan—a garden plan. But sometimes when we hold too tightly to an outcome, things take a course of their own, or in this case Mother Nature takes a course of her own.

Of course, Badger is devastated when his vision is destroyed. He does what many of us do or would like to do. He stays inside, “busying himself with this and that,” so he doesn’t have to think about his perfect garden ever again!

When Badger’s friends show him a garden surprise, Badger realizes the truth that “letting go” can be a celebration, full of jubilation. Once he lets go of the outcome of a perfect garden, he is also free to let go of worry and to enjoy “a hodgepodge of garden games, jumbly-tumbly dancing, and muffins and mulberry juice.”

Ramona Kaulitzki’s illustration of Badger as he embraces his mixed-up garden shows him caught in a swirl of flowers and vegetables. His expression is one of serene happiness. Indeed, Ramona’s art beautifully captures Badger’s feelings from beginning to end—from hopeful, studious, and excited, to dejected, to that tranquil contentment.

Writers must also learn to “let go” when a publisher purchases their story. They must surrender their story to an editor, an art director, and an artist who bring their vision to the story as well.

I sometimes use art notes in my manuscripts, but Sleeping Bear Press removes all art notes before giving a manuscript to an artist. This is part of the “letting go” and the trusting that authors need to accept. Ramona Kaulitzki understood so much of what I wanted to show. For example, I had written, “Red Squirrel helped Dormouse gather string,” with this art note: Red Squirrel and Dormouse tangle the string. With the art note gone, I prayed Ramona had a similar sense of humor to mine. She did. When the sketches arrived, I saw Red Squirrel and Dormouse tangled in string on the page and the following spread.

There are also times when the artist’s vision is slightly different from the author’s. I had written, “Weasel found twigs to make holes for the seeds,” as my original vision was for a couple of the animals to make holes. But the art only showed Weasel making holes and previously walking just one twig. When I received the art, I simply asked my editor to change the wording from “twigs” to “twig.”  Ramona’s art was perfect and it was a simple thing to let go of my illustration vision and an “s.”

I did a lot of research on seeds for this book; I wasn’t sure how much information I’d use. In case the editor wanted to name specific plants, I kept a list of possible plants for Badger’s garden and images of seeds. In all my research I learned a lot, like the names of five edible burrs. We didn’t use this research in Badger’s Perfect Garden, but who knows in what future manuscript my gathered “seeds” will ‘rearrange themselves,’ just as Badger’s did.

“They just rearranged themselves,” said Red Squirrel.

“If you hadn’t planted them over there, they wouldn’t be here.”

Thank you, Tara Lazar, for inviting me to visit your wonderful website and blog. May all your plantings produce beautiful gardens!

Thank you, Marsha, for blogging today and also giving away a copy of your new book BADGER’S PERFECT GARDEN!

To enter, please leave one comment below. A random winner will be chosen in “April showers bring May flowers.”

Good luck!


Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “whimsical” and “uplifting.” Described as a “born storyteller” by the media, her books have garnered such honors as Best First Book by a New Author, Smithsonian Notable, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and state Children’s Choice awards. Recent books include Galápagos Girl, a bilingual book about a young girl growing up on the Galápagos Islands and Lost. Found., a Junior Library Guild book illustrated by Caldecott winner Matthew Cordell.

Marsha was raised on a Kansas farm, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, a place Luther Burbank called “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned,” and now lives with her husband, near her family, in Alva, Florida. You can often find her standing in her backyard in the midst of dragonflies or purple martins swooping for insects. She can also be found at marshadianearnold.com.

by Lori Mortensen

I love picture book biographies. They’re right up there with chewy, chunky chocolate chip cookies.  With those first delicious lines, I’m drawn into someone else’s world that reveals what shaped them and why their story is important. Unlike biographies for adults that pack in everything but the kitchen sink, I love picture book biographies because there’s only room for the good stuff.  The best stuff.  Stuff that allows readers to sidle up to remarkable people, past and present, and wonder what they might do with their own lives. Short as picture book biographies are, writing them can be challenging. Here are my tips for writing picture book biographies:

Who

Deciding who to write about is BIG. If they’re well-known like Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln, there’s a million books about them already.  If you’re determined to write about them, you need to find an intriguing episode of their life that hasn’t been told before.  The other option is to write about someone who isn’t well-known, but still has a great story to tell. Whatever it is, it needs to connect with young readers.

How Much

Although you may be tempted to tell someone’s story from the moment they’re born to their last breath—reconsider. Most trade picture book biographies either highlight the time of the accomplishment, or the formative years which led to their accomplishment. Not always. But mostly. The point is, there are options. One great example of highlighting the important moment in someone’s life is Ruth Law Thrills a Nation by Don Brown, one of my favorite picture book biographers. He opened Ruth’s story with these lines:

On November 19, 1916, Ruth Law tried to fly
from Chicago to New York City in one day.
It had never been done before.

There’s no growing up. No wanting to fly. No wondering whether to do it or not. Ruth Law was ready. Making the flight was the story. Page by page, Brown lets us see what happened the day she flew to New York City and the challenges she faced.

A great example of the second approach is also written by Don Brown in his book, Odd Boy Out, Young Albert Einstein. He opened the story with these lines:

On a sunny, cold Friday in the old city of Ulm, Germany,
a baby named Albert Einstein is born.
It is March 14, 1879.

Why the difference? By starting from childhood, Brown showed readers how Einstein’s brilliant mind worked even at a young age, and how it led to his Theory of Relativity. 

Beyond the Facts

Lastly, when you start writing picture book biographies, it’s tempting to stick close to the facts as if you’re on the ledge of a tall building.  Stray too far and you won’t be safe. Stray too far, and you can’t cling to the pillar of facts. However, the only way to succeed is to step off into the literary void and find your voice. How do you want to tell the story? Let yourself go and find out. It’s okay. That’s what editors and readers want.

This idea was a turning point when I sold my latest release, Away with Words, The Daring Story of Isabella Bird, about the first female member of the Royal Geographical Society.  My first versions were lyrical, but very conservative and I revised the manuscript so many times for my agent, I lost count. Each version was lovely and dramatic, but something was missing. More revisions and rejections followed. In time, I parted ways with my agent and put the manuscript away.

Then, a few months later, I got it out again. I loved Isabella’s story too much to give up on it completely. At that moment, without an editor or an agent waiting for results, I felt a certain freedom to change things up. How did I want to tell her story? When I looked at it again, a metaphor sprang to mind that became the opening heart of the story.

Isabella was like a wild vine
stuck in a too small pot.
She needed more room.
She had to get out.
She had to explore.

You won’t find these words in the research. That’s me, letting go, telling Isabella’s story my way. It made all the difference.

So, the next time you’re writing a picture book biography, remember the good stuff. The best stuff.  And treat yourself to a chewy, chunky chocolate chip cookie.

We are giving away a copy of Lori’s new book AWAY WITH WORDS: THE DARING STORY OF ISABELLA BIRD!

Leave one comment to enter.

A winner will be selected at the end of the month.

Good luck!


Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than 100 books and over 500 stories and articles. Recent releases include her picture book biography, Away with Words, the Daring Story of Isabella Bird (Peachtree), about the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society, If Wendell Had a Walrus (Henry Holt), Chicken Lily, (Henry Holt), Mousequerade Ball (Bloomsbury) illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator Betsy Lewin, and Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range (Clarion, 2016) a sequel to Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, one of Amazon’s best picture books of 2013. When she’s not letting her cat in, or out, or in, she’s tapping away at her computer, conjuring, coaxing, and prodding her latest stories to life.

For more information about her books, events, critique service, and upcoming releases, visit her website at lorimortensen.com.

 

Thank you for your patience, Storystormers!

Let’s not waste any time! Here are your Grand Prize winners and the agents with whom they have been paired:

Brenda Miller → Holly McGhee
Tanya Shock → Ammi-Joan Paquette
Krista Harrington → Ammi-Joan Paquette (Joan is taking two winners)
Amy Bradshaw → Tricia Lawrence
Stephen Cravak → Erin Murphy
Debra Katz → Liza Royce Agency
Sarah Hoppe → Linda Epstein
Helen Ishmurzin → Victoria Selvaggio

Congratulations! I will be contacting you via email shortly.

Many thanks to Urania Smith of KidLitNation who helped pull the winner’s names. 

If you’re a writer of color, please check out KidLitNation for support and resources!

More daily prize winners to come soon!

 

One of my favorite picture books of all time is ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT, cooked up by the inimitable Laurie Keller. (Why hasn’t it become a major motion picture? I sniff the heavenly aroma of sugary fried dough and box office smash potential!)

So while you wait for the selection of Storystorm prizes, I invited Arnie to the blog to interview Laurie’s latest character, Potato, about his quest for the perfect pair of pants. Take it away, boys!

 

Hey Potato! Thanks for meeting me at the bakery. Did you have any trouble finding it?

No trouble at all! I just took a Tuber Uber.

 

I see you have your new Potato Pants on! I was hoping you’d wear them.

Oh, yeah––I never leave home without ‘em! Pretty snazzy, aren’t they? Yep, when it comes to designing flattering pants for potatoes, Tuberto is your go-to tater!

 

I heard you almost didn’t get your Potato Pants––something to do with an eggplant. What was the problem?

He was waiting for me in Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store on the ONE day they were selling Potato Pants and I didn’t want to go in there because I was afraid he’d push me like he did the day before and ruin my brand new Potato Pants!

So, he’s a pretty pushy eggplant, huh?

Well, I thought so but it all turned out to be a silly misunderstanding. I’m a big enough spud to admit that. We’re actually friends now!

 

That’s cool! So, you really wanted this stripey pair with the stripey suspenders. Why do you like stripes so much?

I can’t explain it, Arnie. They just make me happy!

I feel the same way about my frosting and sprinkles!

I see you’re doing the Robot––I mean the PO-bot! Can you teach me how to do it?

 

No.

 

But I can teach you how to do the DOUGH-bot!

 

 

 

Oh, no! I laughed so hard I ripped my Potato Pants!

 

I’ll call for help! Oh, YOO-HOO, MAKEUP!

 

No, I’ll just scooch right over to the Tater Trouser Tailor. Thanks for everything, Arnie!

Thanks, Potato!

What is it now, Arnie?

Oops, sorry, Makeup––problem solved. But as long as you’re here…do you mind arranging my sprinkles into stripes? Diagonally? By color? Pretty please with frosting on top? Thanks!

 

I LOVE ‘EM!

But I wonder if vertical stripes might be better on me?

 

Oh, YOO-HOO, MAKEUP!

 

Well, we all know that Arnie is a diva doughnut (just like Mariah Creamy).

Thanks for stepping in to interview Potato, Arnie!

Since I am such a ginormous Laurie Keller fan, I am so mashed today to offer a copy of POTATO PANTS! 

Just leave a comment below to enter! A random winner will be selected after the Storystorm prizes!

Good luck!

 

Now that you have your ideas written down, it’s time to flesh them out.

Need help deciding which ideas have potential?

Check out Laura Purdie Salas’s post Seeds vs. Pebbles.

And Laura Gehl’s Diagram Method.

Plus, if you’ve registered and signed the Storystorm Pledge (posted January 31), you’re eligible to be randomly chosen for a Grand Prize

The Grand Prizes for Storystorm are feedback on your best five ideas from one of these amazing picture book literary agents! So start expanding those ideas into elevator pitches. Don’t know how to do that? Check this out:

Pitch Like Paula Yoo.

Without further ado…which is certainly NOT about nothing…let me introduce the Grand Prize agents to you.


Holly M. McGhee, President and Creative Director, Pippin Properties

Holly M. McGhee still carried MADELINE around in 3rd grade—until Mrs. Carrier, her school librarian, tricked her into reading longer books by giving her one with her name on it, HOLLY IN THE SNOW. After college, Holly headed straight into the book world of New York City, where she has enjoyed being a secretary, an advertising manager, a sales rep (for one month), and in the six years prior to opening the doors at Pippin, an executive editor at HarperCollins.

Now, as the President and Creative Director of Pippin she is dedicated to shepherding books that make a difference into the world.


Ammi-Joan Paquette, Senior Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Ammi-Joan Paquette is a senior agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency, representing all types of children’s and YA literature. She is also the author of the Princess Juniper series, the MG novel The Train of Lost Things, and picture books including Ghost in the House, Elf in the House, Bunny Bus, and The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies. With acclaimed author Laurie Ann Thompson, she is also the co-author of the “nonfiction with a twist” series, Two Truths and a Lie. In her agent acquisitions, Joan is particularly drawn to richly voiced, unforgettable characters and settings, as well as tightly-paced, well-plotted stories with twists and turns that keep you guessing right until the end. Visit her on the web at: ajpaquette.com. (P.S. Joan represents Tara.)


Tricia Lawrence, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Tricia is the “Pacific Northwest branch” of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 22 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist.

As agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go.

Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves. You can find Tricia’s writing about blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and other social media topics (for authors and the publishing industry at large) at authorblogger.net and tricialawrence.com.


Erin Murphy, President, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Erin was born and raised in Arizona, and founded EMLA in Flagstaff in 1999. She cut her teeth in regional publishing at Northland Publishing/Rising Moon Books for Young Readers, a beloved decades-old Flagstaff company that was bought out in 2007, where she was editor-in-chief. As founder of EMLA she has focused not just on publishing books, but on building careers—and creating a sense of community, as well. In 2016, she relocated the agency headquarters to southern Maine.

Erin represents writers and writer-illustrators of picture books, novels for middle-graders and young adults, and strong nonfiction. Her favorite reads feel timeless, have strong voices, and express unique creative visions. Because of her full client list, she rarely signs new writers or illustrators, but she is particularly interested in adding cultural diversity to her client list. In addition to reading, her interests include traveling, knitting, walking, kayaking, watching movies, and figuring out How People Work.


Liza Royce Literary Agency

Liza Fleissig, with her partner Ginger Harris-Dontzin, opened the Liza Royce Agency (LRA) in early 2011. A cross-platform company providing development, representation, and strategic career management for clients in all media, their goal is to represent clients in all stages of their careers, from the most established to those developing their craft, as well as debuts. Both former partners in NYC based litigation law firms, Liza and Ginger bring a combined 40 years of negotiating experience to the field. This background, along with connections rooted in publishing, movies and television, allowed them to focus and build on a referral based clientele.

From picture books through adult projects, fiction and non-fiction, screenplays to stage works, LRA welcomes strong voices and plot driven works. Their inaugural books became available in stores January 2013. Their first was an Edgar nominee, another was an Indie Next Pick, and two others were optioned for film. LRA’s success began right out of the gate. Here’s to more great projects!


Linda Epstein, Agent, Emerald City Literary

Linda is the eyes and ears of Emerald City Literary Agency in the east. Even though she’s a life-long New Yorker, her breath is still taken away every time she sees the New York City skyline. Besides being an agent, she’s also hard at work writing manuscripts of her own.

Linda represents picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as children’s nonfiction. She does not represent adult literature. Since joining the agency she has toyed with the idea of adding a G to the beginning of her name, but has come to the conclusion that she’s not exactly the good witch.

The archive of Linda’s blog, theblabbermouthblog.com, will give you a good sense of who she is, and you can follow her on Twitter @LindaEpstein, and at Manuscript Wish List. (P.S. She is not currently open to submissions.)


Victoria Selvaggio, Literary Agent/Partner, Storm Literary Agency

Victoria Selvaggio, previously with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, was drawn to the publishing scene first as an author. She is a prior Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio, where her desire to help writers and illustrators reach their publications goals inspired her to become an agent.

With over twenty-five years as a business owner, Victoria is excited to help grow the agency’s client base with talented writers and illustrators, while also helping build the agency from within with motivated agents who possess the same ideals, literary interests, goals, and approaches to the industry.

As a frequent presenter at conferences, library events, contests, etc., Victoria is always interested in meeting writers and illustrators, and hearing about unique projects!


A sincere THANK YOU to all the participating agents!

Storystormers, get down to work refining, polishing and fleshing out your best ideas so you will be ready if you are randomly selected a Grand Prize Winner! Prizes will be announced next week!

Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

If you didn’t get to 30 ideas yet, you have a few more days!

Go back and re-read posts, browse posts from previous years (see category drop-down menu in the left column), or just take a shower. Showers ALWAYS work.

(See? Even this guy’s excited.)

When you have 30 ideas, you can qualify for one of our AMAZING Storystorm prizes (the daily giveaways and the Grand Prizes, feedback from a kidlit agent) 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 Storystorm 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 February 5th at 11:59:59PM EST to sign the pledge by leaving a comment on this post.

PLEASE COMMENT ONLY ONCE.

The name or email you left on the registration post and the name or email you leave on this winner’s pledge SHOULD MATCH. If you want to check the registration post, it is here.

Again, please COMMENT ONLY ONCE. If you make 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 drawings for the daily giveaways and the Grand Prizes: feedback on your best 5 ideas from a literary agent. (I will announce the agents tomorrow.)

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.

The daily giveaway prizes include picture books, manuscript critiques—all the stuff you saw during the month. All winners will be randomly selected by Random.org and announced next week.

So, sign away and pick up your winner’s badge to proudly display anywhere you choose:

(Once again, thank you to Melissa Crowton for the Storystorm 2019 logo and badges!)

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE EARNED IT, STORYSTORMER!

But remember, Storystorm doesn’t necessarily have to end here. Hopefully idea generation has become a habit and you will continue to jot down ideas throughout the year. Don’t stop! Keep it going!

by Lindsay Bonilla

Hello Storystormers!!! You did it! You’re rounding the bases, and it’s time to bring it home. Can’t you hear the roar of the crowd cheering you on??

Wait! Is that the roar of the crowd or the sound of stampeding hooves??

When I think about ideas, I like to think of them as wild horses galloping across my mind. Growing up, I remember reading Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague and being introduced to the idea of an island full of wild horses. Imagine the freedom, wildness and possibility of such a place!

Well, our minds are just that—islands of cavorting, galloping, prancing wild ideas just waiting to be discovered. But half the time we’re so distracted (mobile phones, social media, etc, I’m looking at you!) that we don’t even recognize the brilliance that is racing around in there.

Ideas are just like wild horses—blink once and they’re gone! How many times have you had that AMAZING idea that you promised yourself you’d remember when you woke up in the morning or as soon as you got back from the grocery store? Yep, not gonna happen. If you’ve got an idea, you need to rope it, and rope it QUICK!

So grab your lasso (ie; trusty pen and notebook, voice recorder, a new doc on your computer) and get that horse into a stable. You don’t need to know all there is to know about your new idea, but you do need it in a safe place so you can come back to it later!

Now that you’ve roped that horse (or 30!),  it’s yours! Woohoo! Time to start training. WHOOOAAAAA!! Just where do you think you’re going?

All I can tell you about this step is—prepare for a WILD ride! No two horses are alike. Every idea is going to require its own special treatment. So you, as the trainer, must be FLEXIBLE!

There are some authors who are very methodical, using the same process for every project they approach. That has never been my experience. Every idea I’ve worked with has been completely different and has required something different from me.

Some horses are docile. They’ll let you take the reins easily. (I have one PB under contract right now that was like that. I wrote it in one afternoon in between working on other ideas.)

But other ideas (dare I say, the majority!) WHOAAAA NELLIE! Hold onto your hats because they are like bucking broncos. You try to climb on but end up on the ground. UGH! But this was such a great idea!! Why isn’t it coming together?

That’s when you have a choice.

Will you. . .

A) steer clear of that horse?

B)  climb back on?

I know what you’re thinking. The right answer is B!!! Well, not always. Sometimes when a horse keeps throwing you to the ground, it’s best to move on for awhile. Give that horse some space. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and wild horses aren’t trained in a day either.

Sometimes ideas need to breathe, and sometimes, you, the trainer, need the fresh perspective that comes from time, space and experience in order to make your idea work.

The best part about Storystorm is that you’ve got 30 ideas to work with. 30 different horses to choose from. In this moment, don’t stress about which one’s going to get you the agent or the big contract. Instead, look at your stable and ENJOY your horses. They’re yours! And now it’s time for the fun to begin  – take them out for a ride. You may find yourself galloping, trotting, or getting pulled in a direction you never imagined.

So climb on and enjoy the ride, because as my almost-2-year-old already knows, horses (and ideas!) are the coolest!

NOTE: This post is not an endorsement for capturing/training wild animals! It is an endorsement for capturing/training WILD IDEAS! 

Lindsay Bonilla spent her childhood voraciously reading books, scribbling stories, and taking the lead roles in her solo front porch stage plays. While a theatre major at Northwestern University, she fell in love with folktales and world travel. Later she spent a year and a half touring Spain and Portugal teaching ESL with the audience-participatory theatre company, Interacting. Since then she’s had the opportunity to tell stories to school children in Haiti and Ghana, teach workshops to youth pastors in Guatemala and El Salvador and even perform street theatre in Puerto Rico and New York City. All of these experiences have made her passionate about building understanding and relationships across cultures while inspiring the imagination. When she’s not telling stories or acting them out with her sons, she’s busy writing them from my office or a library in North Canton, Ohio.

Lindsay is a member of the National Storytelling Network (NSN) and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She is also a teaching artist with Arts in Stark. Visit her at lindsaybonilla.com.

Lindsay is giving away a copy of her newest book POLAR BEAR ISLAND and a Skype session with the classroom of your choice. 

There will be two winners of one prize each.

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 Diana Murray

I recently found an old high school journal in my basement. In it are some real gems, such as quotes from my awesome 11th grade Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Zavatsky. He once said, “Don’t wait for flaming asteroids to fly down and sit on your tongue.” I thought that was a delightful way to put it! Basically, you don’t need to sit passively waiting for inspiration. Sure, sometimes inspiration hits out of the blue, but you can also go out there and seek it or actively drum it up. Here are just a few ways to do that, as well as some personal examples.

Recycle by Switching Genres:
A few years ago, I had a pun-filled, garden-themed short poem published in Highlights magazine. It was one of my favorites. I liked it so much, I thought, hey, maybe I can recycle this idea into a picture book. And that’s when I began to write  “Goodnight Veggies.” The new manuscript was also pun-filled and garden-themed, but it had all the elements one commonly finds in a picture book (story arc, take-away message, enough room left for illustrations, etc.). I’m happy to say it will be published by HMH in 2020, and illustrated by the amazing Zachariah OHora. I was recently reviewing rough illustrations and noticed that Zach placed the garden on an urban rooftop. I thought that was brilliant! So I took THAT idea and wrote another short poem about a child planting a garden on his roof. Double recycling! Yet another time, I took a short High Five poem that I wrote (“Four Fun Chicks”) and re-imagined it as a goodnight/counting concept book (FIVE FUZZY CHICKS, Imprint/Macmillan, 2020). Again, this meant starting from scratch and adding things like a climax, and giving thought to page turns and so on. It’s not just a matter of slapping a different label on it. But if you have favorites in one genre, see if you can rework them to fit into another.

Pop Out a Character:
You can take a secondary character in an existing work and give them their own story. What if the cat in my witch story had an adventure on his own? Or what if he had to adjust to a new pet in the household? Or what if the shy turtle in PIZZA PIG had her own story in which she had to overcome her shyness? You don’t have to approach this with “sequel” mentality. You can just pull on character traits that you’re already familiar with and create something completely new and different. When I was first looking at illustrations for my forthcoming book UNICORN DAY (Sourcebooks, June 2019), I was immediately drawn to a particular background character–an edgy, goth unicorn that the illustrator, Luke Flowers, imaginatively included toward the end. My kids commented on their love for the character, as well. I mean, come on. How cool would that be to give the goth-icorn his/her own story?! If only I had a knack for writing novels.

Look for Holes in Your List:
What don’t you have yet? Surely anyone can put their own unique twist on a pirate book or goodnight book or holiday book. Think of all the super common themes that you always see in books. If there’s a theme you haven’t considered yet, consider it! Bring your own perspective to it. While I’m not a knitter, I used to work in the fashion industry and that helped inform my unique take on a pirate book with NED THE KNITTING PIRATE. You can even take an idea you already have and apply one of these second themes to it. What would happen if you turned an existing idea into a goodnight book? Or what if you turned your characters into pirates? Or dinosaurs? How would that change the story?

Have you tried a cumulative tale yet? A mirror tale? A circular story? A concept book? A fractured fairytale? Exhaust all possibilities! Go to the extreme. And don’t let your inner critic get involved at this point. Let your mind roam free, because even a bad idea could lead to a good idea in the end.

Many years ago, before I had an agent or any published books on the horizon, I had a book idea about a chef who was a cow. Her name was “Chef Moodette” and she made perfect dishes for everyone who came into her cafe. I kept wondering what the twist would be. Would a pair of human kids finally walk in? And she wouldn’t be able to figure out what they wanted? Did they want milkshakes? Ewwwww. No! I kept trying to make “Chef Moodette” work (I’m talking, over the course of a few years), but it was just terrible. I couldn’t get the ending right. But my work was not wasted. Years later I began to write PIZZA PIG and “Chef Moodette” jumped back into my mind. But this time, I finally figured out the ending (and lots of other issues)! So keep returning to your old manuscripts, folks. You never know when something will finally click. When you re-read your work, the stories simmer in the back of your brain, just waiting for the right moment to surface.

So don’t sit around waiting for “flaming asteroids” of inspiration. Get out there and wrangle them!

And in case anyone is interested, I’d like to note that I will be leading a detailed, online rhyming picture book workshop for the Highlights Foundation this fall. And here’s some fantastic news: Tara Lazar will be joining me on-site to lend her expertise! 

Diana Murray is the author of over a dozen books for children, including CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown, 2016), GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH (Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2016), NED THE KNITTING PIRATE (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2016), PIZZA PIG (Step-into-Reading/Random House, 2018), and UNICORN DAY (Sourcebooks, 2019). Her award-winning poems have appeared in magazines such as Highlights, High Five and Spider. Diana grew up in NYC and still lives nearby with her husband, two very messy children, and a motley crew of pets. Visit her at dianamurray.com.

Diana is giving away an advanced edition of UNICORN DAY (Sourcebooks, June 2019).

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 Julie Gribble

I write picture books. That means that my readers are very short. I remember what it was like to be a kid, but it’s not as easy to remember what it feels like to be little in a world of big people. What do kids notice at that height? And more importantly, what am I missing? It was time for a change of perspective.

On my way to the New York Public Library, I stopped by Bryant Park to find out what a walk through the park would look like through the eyes of my readers. I held the camera at about 33” from the ground, and here’s what I saw…

The first thing I notice is legs. And butts. And the ground is much closer. Then I notice a little bird preening under a cafe table. Then a white wall—and I had to see what was on the other side of it. But first I had to chase a pigeon—I just HAD to.

I took a peek over the wall, and I saw one little fellow ice skating with a penguin. Then I’m drawn to the lights and sounds of the carousel with it’s toads, rabbits and horses flying through the air, and notice one unusual rider, as well.

A vine running up the side of a building is tempting to climb. I watch friendly jugglers and dream about joining the circus. And at the end of the day, I meet a friend and we play. Which is what our readers love to do most of all.

I hope this helps you come up with even more ideas this month. Our little ones are counting on you!

Julie Gribble produces works for children and the children’s literature community in both the United States and Great Britain. While a Children’s Literature Fellow at Stony Brook Southampton, she founded KidLit TV to help inspire children to learn and read. Julie is also founder of the upcoming TeenLit TV which will feature video programs for YA fans. Julie has been nominated for two Emmy Awards and is a multi-award-winning writer, screenwriter, filmmaker, and producer. Her charming picture book, Bubblegum Princess, is based on a true story about Kate Middleton and was released on the day the first royal baby, who we now know as Prince George, arrived. Copies of the book have been donated to underprivileged children in the US and to children’s hospices in the UK.  In addition to producing KidLit TV’s original shows, Julie co-produced Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg, a feature film shot in Dorset, England with Bonnie Wright of Harry Potter fame, and DOG BOWL, a short film by Gordy Hoffman which premiered at the 2015 Raindance International Film Festival in London.  Julie sits on the Children’s Committee of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA-NY and is a member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, New York Women in Film and Television, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has presented at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, NYC School Library System Spring Institute, Connecticut Library Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference.

Find her on Facebook and Twitter @JulieGribbleNYC.

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!

 

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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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