by Becky Levine

Here you are, participating in PiBoIdMo. All you have to do this month is come up with ideas. Okay, you have to come up with 30 ideas. But still—short, sweet; bing-bang; and you’re there.

There’s a second goal, though, behind these 30 days. And that goal is that, once the month is over, we will all take at least one of these ideas and turn it into a story. Which means, first, writing that story. And then…yes, eventually, revising it.

We could debate for hours whether it’s harder to write a novel or a picture book. We could debate for more hours which is easier to revise. Especially when you’ve got critique feedback about that project staring you in the face.

Sure, when your critique partner tells you to work on dialogue in your novel, you know you’re facing a lot of dialogue over a lot of pages. That’s work. On the other hand, when your critique partner tells you to fix the dialogue in your picture book, you’re staring at ten, maybe twelve words, with which to get it right.

Let’s face it. Revision, any revision, is hard.

But…the thing I love about revising a picture book is actually the thing that seems the toughest—the tiny number of words you have to write with.

When I critique a novel and pass that feedback onto the writer, I tend to talk about the big things that aren’t working yet. I’ll tell them that I think their hero needs a more specific goal in each scene, or I’ll talk about weaving any necessary background information into the action. And then I’ll make this suggestion: Take one chapter and play. Figure out your hero’s goal in one scene, set up some obstacles, and then revise that chapter until you have the pacing and tension just right. What have you done? Well, you’ve successfully revised a scene, yes. But you’ve also taught yourself a lot more about scene structure, and now you can go on to all the other scenes in the story and make them tight and tense and active.

When I first started getting critique feedback on my picture book, I felt overwhelmed in a kind of backward way. I was used to thinking on the bigger scale of a novel, feeling that I had plenty of time and space to understand that feedback and revise around it. With the picture book, all that time and space was suddenly compressed. I felt like a Mime-in-a-Box; every time I made a turn or tried to stretch, I ran into an invisible, but very solid wall.

The freedom came when I realized that, I needed to tackle the revision in the same way I attacked novel rewrites. I needed to take one scene and revise one problem. The only difference was that my one scene would be 150 words, instead of 1,500. Yes, that was a challenge, but it was also doable. If I needed to make my dialogue more powerful, sure, I only had a dozen words to play with, but those words were right there for me to see, in one tiny chunk on one page. Instant feedback. Change one word and see if it makes things better. Nope? Change it again. Yes? Great. Move on to the next. Yes, every word matters (and I do think it matters more than in a novel), but every word also makes a difference. A big difference. And you can see it happen, or not, really, really fast.

And guess what? You know when I said, above, that I recommend revising a novel by working on one problem in one scene, then extrapolating what you’ve learned to all the other scenes in the story? Well, how much easier (and faster) does that become in a picture book? Especially if you’re using a repetitive structure and some repetitive wording? Once you figure out, in your teeny, tiny picture-book scene what isn’t working and how to fix it, carrying that change through the rest of the story can be greased lightning.

For me, it’s become like a jigsaw puzzle, except that each piece has a complete word on it, rather than an unrecognizable shadow or color-blur. Put one right word in its right spot, and you—suddenly and dramatically—see a huge chunk of the picture, and a dozen more pieces fall into place.

Working on a picture book is working in a tight space. But compression catalyzes an explosion, restrictions spur on creativity. The challenge, once you open yourself to it, can work magic.

Which, after all, is pretty much the definition of a picture book.

Becky Levine is the author of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback. Becky also writes fiction for children and teens, and finally stepped into the world of picture-book writing (and revising!) last year. She lives in California’s Santa Cruz mountains with her husband and teenage son, who still happily reads the picture books she brings home from the library.

Becky is generously giving away a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. Just leave a comment to enter and we’ll randomly select a winner one week from today. At the end of the month, if you complete the 30-idea PiBoIdMo challenge, you can win a picture book critique from Becky, too! Lucky you!

by Mary Rand Hess, editor, Story Pie Press

Oh, hi there! You must be a children’s writer, too. I bet you feel like part of a rather special group of kids who pretend to be adults, right? You’re supposed to do adult-like things such as pay the bills, fold laundry, and scrub toilets. Instead, you find yourself imagining finches that perform operas at dawn, or a secret tunnel that leads to an underground zoo of zombies. If only your family and friends knew how important it was to write down these stories before adult-like memory sets in and foils your attempts.

As I was saying, you are special because you have been given the gift of story. And not just any type of story, you have been given the gift of writing stories for children. These stories inspire those future adults who will one day be responsible for our nation and other nations. Does that feel like a heavy burden? Well, it might, but it shouldn’t. We’re not writing about hedge fund fraud, tax cuts, Medicare, and unemployment. We’re writing about things that strike the heart cord, like bravery, happiness, love, fun, sadness, acceptance, and healing. We’re writing stories that every adult, who reads to a child at night, clings to in remembrance of his or her own childhood. Picture books are for everyone, but especially for children, even big children like you and me.

Now let me say, I completely understand you because I sit on both sides of the table, as a writer and editor. I understand the toiling away at words, the mania of wonderful ideas pouring into the mind like a chocolate river, tempting you to abandon all else. And here it is the month of Thanksgiving and you’re willing to risk failure on Turkey Day for a chance to write 30 picture book ideas in a month, one each day…even on Thanksgiving Day. So Cheers to all that we are thankful for this Thanksgiving, including an abundance of story ideas. Just remember to set the timer on the oven.

As you set out to conquer this challenge, keep in mind that as a writer you have one responsibility…tell a good story, a story only you can tell. Words are free. You don’t have to go to your neighborhood art-o-rama store and buy hundreds of dollars worth of word supply. You only have to pay in time, time spent in your story zone with words… thousands and thousands of words…beautiful, descriptive, hungry words. Perfect words that make your readers say, “Please pass the book.” Because at the end of a day, and whether it was a rotten one or an exceptional one, everyone could use a good read, especially one that comes from an excellent picture book. When one reads a picture book, all seems well with the world, right? Add a little chocolate, tea or coffee, and there is no question the world is right. You have survived another day. Children need this sense of comfort, too. They often have heavy burdens that we don’t know about. Being a kid is not always bubblegum and water balloons. A good book proves to a child that knowledge grows from words. And knowledge, as they say, is power. A child needs to feel that empowerment and to live in the shoes of a favorite character. Might a child run away to an island where the Wild Things are gnashing their teeth, and return to find his supper still hot? Unlikely, but a child can tell you what that experience was like in Max’s clawed feet. And that same child recognizes himself in Max, still loved even after getting in trouble. That’s what we strive for as writers, relatable characters…no matter the circumstances.

As an editor, I look for the same things I look for as a writer, characters and situations that inspire me, pulling me into a world I want and need to know about. When I sit down to write a story, I always pick the characters that reside in my heart. As an editor, I want an author to give me a story that’s truly special, one that an author couldn’t say no to when the story whispered, “I’m here. I know it’s not convenient right now, but you need to write me.”

I remember when Samson’s Tale and Good News Nelson came across my desk. Both stories had something undeniable about them, both were stories that only those authors could write. Both were my immediate favorites, made me cry, made me laugh, and when they went off to the focus group, they resonated the same way with those parents, librarians, teachers, and kids. Pure magic…the gift of story that roams in the soul, that doesn’t mimic the next great thing, but instead mimics the beat of the author’s heart and the dance of the author’s own authentic imagination.

Before I close, I want you to imagine, in this magical month of November, that a mysterious tree has appeared at the center of your favorite park (or garden), brimming with interesting colors. These colors aren’t just any old autumn colors, they are personal to you: cadmium red, Paris gray, burnt umber, diarylide yellow, turquoise, the color of love, the color of surprise. Only you know what that tree looks like, as each leaf represents an idea. There are hundreds of those leaves falling, falling into a pile begging for you to jump in. In that pile is the promise of a great story.

So please jump in already, and allow yourself to relish in the freedom of endless story ideas. And remember to write the stories only you can write.

Happy writing,
Mary Rand Hess

Mary Rand Hess is editor at the deliciously scrumptious Story Pie Press. She’s also a children’s author, creative writing and drama teacher, allergy awareness advocate, mixed media artist, and MOM (a title that rightfully deserves to be in all caps).

Story Pie Press is an independent publishing house that strives to produce children’s books that will entertain and empower readers from generation to generation.

Our Mission is to publish great books, printed in safe, eco-friendly venues within the United States. Each book that is published will be associated with a charitable cause. A portion of the proceeds from each book will go to various organizations in an effort to help raise awareness for causes related to education and health.

Our Motto is heart-filled and good for the soul…“baking” stories that will have a positive impact on the lives of our readers, the organizations and charities we support, and the world around us. 

by Tamara Ellis Smith

Here is a joke for you all:

Why did the picture book writer wait and then cross the road?
To get a PiBo Idea!

I do a lot of hanging out within my landscape: small-town rural Vermont. I spend time in the cornfield behind the farm at the end of my block, out on the river trail at the edge of our town park, in the red pine woods, and up the various local mountains nearby. (Okay, maybe not as often up those mountains, but I just climbed one last weekend so it is still fresh in my mind…and in my achy thigh muscles!)

I get much of my inspiration from being inside my landscape.

This has been clear to me for a long time. The natural environment is full of tiny and majestic muses—the trees, rivers, flowers, blades of grass, ferns, rocks, and wind—all of them hold images, voices and ideas within them. I even have a blog about this, called Kissing The Earth, which I created with fellow children’s book writer, Sharry Wright. In it, we explore how landscape inspires writing, and how landscape in its own right can play a vital role in story-telling.

Today, though, I want to share a new revelation about landscape with you all.

So back to that aspiring writer-chicken. The one who waits on one side of the road before crossing. She waits. She sees the blue-purple chicory flowers at her feet. She hears a pair of squirrels chattering in the tree above her. She sniffs in—do chickens even sniff?—the rich, earthy smell of the woods just across the road.

As we continue on with this amazing PiBoIdMo challenge, I want to urge you to cultivate the art of waiting. And specifically, to cultivate the art of waiting within a landscape. As I said earlier, I truly believe that the trees, rivers, flowers, blades of grass, ferns, rocks and wind all hold stories within their ancient and organic roots and leaves and layers and flow. But in order to be privy to those stories, we have to be willing to create a space for them. And that’s where the waiting comes in. Waiting creates that space—a time-space, a physical-space, and a magic-space—and it is within that space that the alchemy of our imaginations and the earth’s secrets come together. Sparks fly, bubbles rise, and the best—oh the best!—ideas burst forth.

Ideas that feel brand spanking new and inevitable all at the same time.

In practical terms, I am talking about a change in perspective. An openness. And the search for the link between the child-within and the child-like quality of the story. Sometimes when I am mulling over an idea for a picture book, or a draft that isn’t quite working, or staring at a blank page all it takes is being quiet and still somewhere outside to make all of that shift. The experience of waiting within the landscape really can bring forth ideas. It also re-ignites that incredible sense of wonder and possibility that playing outside stirred up in us when we were children. And it also creates a sense of gratitude—for the world, for yourself, and for the way we are all connected.

Won’t you join me in the wide and wonderful Out There?

Tamara Ellis Smith has written a middle grade novel and several picture books, all pre-published. Her picture book manuscript, Milo’s World, was a finalist in the 2006 W.I.N. competition. Her middle grade novel won an honorable mention in the 2008 PEN New England Discovery Awards and was a runner up for the 2008 SCBWI Works-In-Progress grant. Tamara is represented by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literacy Agency. You can learn more about her at tamaraellissmith.com and can read more about landscape and writing at her blog Kissing the Earth.

by Jean Reidy

1. YouTube
Kids say and do the darndest things, right? And so often, they provide tender or hilarious or wonder-filled inspiration for picture books. But why limit yourself to the kids you know. More than ever, proud parents and brilliant marketers are happy to share a little one’s latest escapades. While I’ve never derived a direct storyline from YouTube videos, I do find in them that wacky lens through which to view a kid’s world. Here are some of my favorites:

2. Artist and Illustrator Websites
Three of my six picture books were inspired, in part, by browsing illustrators’ websites. Whether or not a particular illustrator ends up paired with my text, by studying the works of today’s most celebrated artists, I enter an altered state (Twilight Zone!) of visual creativity that triggers my muse. In the process I often discover a tone, emotion, whimsy or character that might just complete my story.

3. Beat Boxing
Whether they rhyme or not, most of my picture books have a distinct rhythm. And every so often that rhythm comes to me before the story. Listen carefully to your life. Do you hear the thump bump of your feet hitting the stairs each time you go up and down? Do you hear the crunch and shush of your shovel in crusty snow? How about the screech and thrum of an old file drawer? Beat box, then play with those rhythms to see if they have a story hidden inside them.

4. The Timeout Corner
Kids adore naughty characters. Whether we’re seeing ourselves or giggling with relief at another’s foibles, we all love stories with a little mischief in them. “Do some time” with a kid in timeout and you might just find a story there. Or think back to your own timeout corner—come on, fess up—we were all there once. What got you there? What were you feeling? Just remember, keep messages light. Because even a little mischief needs to be a fun read.

5. Your Day Job
Okay, let’s face it. Few of us get to take a morning stroll along the beach or dream by the hour under the old oak tree. Instead we might get regular face time with a subway hissing and shrieking during a crowded commute. Or the steely skyscraper out our window. Or the deli man who serves us pastrami on rye. Or a carpool of crack-me-up kids. Or even a baby giggling at the garbage man. Whether your day job is at home or away, it’s those “regular” experiences that often provide fodder for great picture books. Keep your notebook handy!

Jean Reidy is the author of the newly-released LIGHT UP THE NIGHT  from Disney-Hyperion, which Kirkus calls a “gorgeous, mesmerizingly rhythmic read-aloud” in a starred review.

Her other picture books include TOO PICKLEY!, TOO PURPLEY!, and TOO PRINCESSY!  from Bloomsbury.

Please join Jean at LIGHT UP THE LIBRARY, her online auction benefiting literacy in Africa and a library at Musana Children’s Home in Iganga, Uganda. She has something for everyone— including terrific items for picture book writers. The auction runs 11/7 – 11/18 at http://lightupthelibrary.blogspot.com.

by Jed Henry

Before we get too serious, I want to show everybody the fully animated book trailer I just finished. It’s super cute! (Note from Tara: Adorable—and one of the best picture book trailers I’ve ever seen.)

Back to business!

It’s a great honor to be a guest on the PiBoIdMo blog. I hope my comments prove helpful for all you dedicated writers out there. For the sake of clarity, I’ll keep it short and sweet with a list of things I learned from last year’s PiBoIdMo.

1) It’s a numbers game.
The genius behind PiBoIdMo is that it requires you to think up THIRTY different ideas. One big difference between amateurs and pros is the number of works they’re juggling at once. Amateurs jealously guard their one precious book idea for decades, certain that it’ll be the next big hit when they finally submit. It rarely (NEVER) is. Pros know that writing is guerrilla warfare – they have to keep moving or they’ll die. They get a good idea, dump their whole soul into it, submit it for publication, and move onto their next big idea. Here’s the key: you never know what an editor will like, so it pays to have a whole arsenal of books to show off. So far, I’ve completely written and sketched out TWENTY complete picture books, and only two have been published.

2) Quality is just as important as quantity.
Don’t get discouraged by my previous point. Writing is a ton of work. The good news is that by producing a great volume of work, you’ll gradually improve your craft. It’s just like any other talent – the only way to become proficient is to do it on a daily basis.

3) We need a healthy balance of input and output.
All writers write because first and foremost, they love to read. In order to produce, they need to consume inspiring works. My advice is to visit the library regularly, and see what’s popular. Read book reviews by Kirkus, School Library Journal, Hornbook, etc. Find authors who appeal to you. By knowing what’s out there, your work will remain relevant in a fast-paced industry.

WHEW—now that I said all of that, let’s have a GIVEAWAY!

I’m giving away one set of limited edition coasters, commemorating the fall 2012 release of my book, “Cheer Up, Mouse!” Coasters are lame, you say? Well, these are super-deluxe. They’re custom letter pressed on high quality archival lithography paper. They’re the perfect thing to frame for a nursery. Have a look!

All you have to do is comment on this post, and we’ll randomly choose a winner with a little help from Random.org.

Jed Henry is a fairly new name in the world of children’s book illustration. Already, he has worked with Penguin Putnam, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, and many others.

by Karma Wilson

When I do author visits the kids often ask how I come up with story ideas. I always tell them about the magic question.

“What if?”

It’s often the foundation of a story.

I asked myself just that when I wrote my first published book, BEAR SNORES ON. What if a bear were asleep in a cave? What could happen? Maybe some other animals could sneak in with him to get out of the cold. What if they threw a party while he was asleep? How would he wake up? As I kept asking questions a story was born!

Really, writing a story is just like pretending when you are a kid. Remember walking down the sidewalk or a dusty road with a group of childhood friends and saying things like, “What if we were stranded on a tropical island?” Do you remember the excitement such questions generated? A barrage of answers would volley back, “We could build a fort and eat coconuts!” “Our clothes would disinigrate then we would have to wear leaves! Or maybe be naked (gasp! giggle! gross!).” And on and on the answers would come, slowly creating a fantasy world, piling on juicy and funny details until the world was complete, and then—only then—could you step into the imaginary land and start to pretend you were there. Here are some more “what if” examples from my books:

What if a frog were sitting on a log eating innocent bugs? What if the log were really an alligator? — A FROG IN THE BOG

What if a hippo loved to dance, but was so loud and big that it bothered all her jungle friends? —HILDA MUST BE DANCING

What if a penguin were lost and alone, and asked all the other arctic animals where home was? —WHERE IS HOME, LITTLE PIP?

So, what if an author were to pretend she were a child again and ask “What if?” She just might answer that question with an amazing story that children of all ages can relate to. So often the very best and most fun parts of writing are in the fundamentals.

Happy writing!

P.S. Be sure to enter my Facebook contest here to win signed books:  http://karmawilson.com/goodkarma/

Karma Wilson writes humorous, rhythmic picture books for the very young and books that share her faith in a fun, understandable way with the youngest readers. Karma is also pursuing her love of outrageously silly but sometimes philosophic poetry for older children (i.e. Shel Silverstein).

Karma lives with her handsome husband Scott, and her three not-so-young-anymore children, two dogs, one cat and four horses on a small ranch in Montana. Her hobbies include reading (of course), photography, baking, and training Mixed Martial Arts (a combination of boxing, jiu jitsu, muay thai, and wrestling) with her family.

I’m so pleased to bring you the PiBoIdMo Cafe Press shop this year!

There’s mugs, t-shirts, journals and totebags with Bonnie Adamson‘s adorable firefly logo, and every purchase earns $3.00 for two charitable causes: RIF and Mount Prospect Elementary School library.

RIF has lost its federal funding grant, and Mount Prospect’s library budget has been slashed by 80% over the last 2 years. (I volunteer there once a week.)

Proceeds from the shop will be evenly split between these two charities.

So if you need a hot cup of java to get your creativity flowing, what better mug than this one?

by Carol Hampton Rasco
President/CEO, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF)

What a special week in the Children’s Literature World…two of my favorite “specials” this month are the start of Picture Book Idea Month (plus two days!) and the birthday of Reading Is Fundamental where the 45th birthday will be celebrated Thursday, November 3 with Lilly and her famous purple purse with lots of children and special guests at the Library of Congress!

And you know what? I see PiBoIdMo as seriously connected to RIF and our mission. Each time I write or talk about this year’s major milestone birthday of 45 years for RIF, I talk about the 380 million magical moments, the 380 million books placed into the hands of children over these 45 years RIF has existed. And guess what? The majority of those 380 million moments have been brought about by picture books given our primary audience of birth to 8 years of age.

Within that age group, RIF seeks first to serve those children most in need and sadly, with poverty the greatest indicator of probable difficulty to read well and independently by the end of third to fourth grade, it means according to the latest poverty reports we have that even more children by comparison in years past to ignite, to motivate, to inspire to learn to read. This means in reality, we need so many different books in order to strike that chord deep within a child, to create the birth of that “aha!” moment, that “wow!” experience that has a child believing “If I can read, I can do anything, be anything.”

Last year I wrote in my guest post for PiBoIdMo noting three types of picture books we hear about most as on the “wanted” list by teachers, reading specialists, PTA parents, Kiwanis Club members—RIF volunteers of all stripes and professions: nonfiction that is “eye and mind catching”, bilingual books, and multicultural books. The requests continue to be the same. All three categories are also critical to the family involvement component RIF believes critical to the success of our mission in motivating children to love reading.

Last weekend I saw again in person the beauty of a picture book that had four generations of individuals pouring over a book, sharing common knowledge and experiences elicited by the book in front of them. It is a picture book about animals in winter—“it doesn’t look like a true fact book, they’re usually boring” as generation two noted in his 6-year-old voice. Generation one was intrigued by the pictures, generation two was eager to learn more about the animals he already had discovered, parents of gen two had no idea about some of the more unusual facts and gen three had information to add about ways these animals were viewed in “the olden days.” After going through the book the family discovered information added by the author at the back and headed to the computer, four generations together again! Gens one and two were reading the text even…what a great experience for the family together…it was a spontaneous activity shared following a meal and lasted with no whining for more than 30 minutes. This family is not unique, no reason this animal book would have been predicted to be the one to “catch their eyes” over others. But it connected for them; it was a prolonged magical moment. And to serve the children and families who need us most, we need lots and lots of books portraying life and our surroundings in oh, so many different ways!

With Thanksgiving now on the horizon, our Hampton multi-generations will for the 32nd year read sometime before the meal begins “Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’” by Eileen Spinelli (1982 version) which was given to my son on his 6th birthday that year. It is a tradition every child entering the family savors when old enough to follow the laugh lines and even more when old enough to be a reader!

A magical moment…that is what you are creating in a picture book…memories that plant the seeds of a lifetime love of reading. My best wishes to all of you as you put those ideas into writing this month! Hurray, more magic is on the way!

Happy Reading!

Happy Halloween!

It’s time for ghouls and ghosts, Linus and the Great Pumpkin, Milky Ways and Kit Kats…and speaking of cats, black ones might cross your path today. That’s because The Lucky 13s are here!

The Lucky 13s are debut 2013 kidlit authors in the picture book, middle grade and young adult genres. (It used to be just MG & YA debuts, but I butted in.) They’ve started a kidlit blog, Twitter account, and picked out a spiffy superstition-spoofing logo designed by Wendy Martin.

For PiBoIdMo, I asked some of The Lucky 13s what being creative meant to them…

Rachele Alpine: Making, living and getting lost in a world that is one big game of make believe!

Elsie Chapman: For me, creativity is never a constant. Sometimes it takes a bit of work to get the words to come. Music always works—songs I already know and love and connect with certain memories, new ones that make me sit up and really listen. Amazing lyrics can recreate a moment or emotion that just make me want to write.

Emma PassFor me, creativity means freedom; life in full colour instead of just black and white. Although writing is my main creative outlet, I also love to draw and play the piano, just for myself, and I can’t imagine a world where I couldn’t do those things (well, actually, I can… and it’s a very scary place!).

Kristen KittscherI like to remember that creativity isn’t some rare non-renewable resource that only a select few can access. We’re all imaginative, as long as we stay open-minded. For me, being creative means giving myself permission to be messy, make mistakes, and generate thousands of bad ideas for every clever one.

Jessica Young: I think creativity has to do with curiosity and playfulness—thinking “what if” and then trying it. For me that often means connecting elements or ideas in a new way, or following one small clue and discovering where it leads, but also taking the risk of it not working out, or leading somewhere I didn’t expect.

Liz Coley: I tap into my well of creativity by remaining open to outside courses of inspiration, especially NPR radio interviews and random discussions with strangers. Somehow these cross fertilize in the shower or car, when my mind can wander and free associate. Turning this into something written requires a foamy latter, a comfortable chair, and, seasonally, a fire. Sitting in a noisy Starbucks for four hours and blocking it all out works wonders as well.

Elisabeth Dahl: Creativity means letting your mind off-leash. In the case of writing, this can mean allowing your mind to root around for interesting associations. If you’re telling a story about a widow and you suddenly picture the Venus de Milo, ask yourself why. What’s the connection? Should the statue figure into your story somehow? The unconscious mind is so smart.

Sarah Skilton: Being creative means a fresh piece of blank notebook paper and no expectations, restrictions, or judgment. It means writing whatever happens to pop into my head, without any audience in mind, and without wondering what anyone else will think about it. Being creative means creating just for me, to mark a moment.

Jennifer McGowan: Being Creative to me means giving a dream life—putting ideas into action or thoughts into form. It’s not enough to imagine something; being creative actually involves ensuring that the product of one’s imagination becomes a tangible reality for all the world to see. 

Nicole Maggi: Creativity is feeding my inner Artist and giving her an outlet. It doesn’t matter if that outlet is coloring in a coloring book or writing a story that no one else is going to read. My inner Artist doesn’t care about book contracts or bestseller lists or gallery shows.  She just wants to dance.  

Megan Shepherd: Lately I’ve come to see creativity as an alternate way of navigating the world. In school you learn skills like memorization, critical thinking, and how to provide the “correct” answer. But creating art means seeing the world through a different lens, where there are no rules or guidelines, and, in fact, stepping outside the normal lines of thought are essential. Creativity is both terrifying and freeing.

Steven dos SantosCreativity is like a key to me that unlocks a mental door into worlds I can only dream about, or nightmares I dare not speak of. Being highly imaginative can be a powerful gift, as it allows me to breathe life into blank pages and hopefully fill them with enough emotion, mystery, adventure, suspense, humor, and horror, to spawn a visceral connection with people I’ve never met before.

Brandy Colbert: Creativity allows me to craft a bit of sense from the people, words, and ideas that float around in my head. It assures me that daydreaming is never a waste of time.

That kinda leaves me. If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t have asked the question!

But seriously folks, to me, being creative means being out on the fairway during a thunderstorm and raising your 9-iron to the clouds. Take risks. Go out and seek the lightning. Because it does strike, but only if you’re lucky*.

* Definition of lucky: when preparedness meets opportunity.


by Mindy Alyse Weiss

When I first discovered this challenge, I couldn’t imagine coming up with a book idea every day for a month. But something wonderful happened…my brain soon went into picture book mode and the ideas started flying.

I’ll admit, it was a little scary at first. Then an idea hit when I was showering. By the time I made it to my computer, it turned into one great idea and two possible companion books. Wahoo! Other ideas came to me while driving, walking my dog, and attempting to sleep. Some hit while reading stacks of picture books, checking out the list of 400+ Things That Kids Like and 79 Things Kids Don’t Like on Tara’s site, or watching children and animals. If I felt stuck, I’d force myself to type for five minutes without stopping. Then, I’d nix the thoughts too silly to use and play around with the others.

Sometimes, I could visualize the characters and potential plot arcs and jotted down the info in detail. Others were little more than a title and a short sentence or two. I’d love to say they were all incredible ideas…but I know some will never turn into manuscripts. I’m not even a tiny bit sad about those, because it feels wonderful to have so many ideas to choose from whenever I’m ready to dive into a new story!

After PiBoIdMo, I fleshed out the ideas. I was tempted to dig into my favorite ones, but decided to concentrate on existing picture book and novel manuscripts until May 1, when Paula Yoo’s National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee) began. I was thrilled to complete eight shiny new drafts by the end of that challenge! They’re in various stages of revision now. PiBoIdMo definitely sparked ideas that are turning into gems.

I used to spend so much time revising manuscripts, I’d only write a couple new ones a year. This is fantastic motivation to keep the new ones coming. I hope you’ll all join in the PiBoIdMo fun!

Here are my top ten reasons why you should try PiBoIdMo:

  1. You’ll have at least 30 ideas to play around with by the end of November.
  2. This could lead to amazing new manuscripts and help you avoid Blank Page Syndrome the next time you want to start a new project.
  3. Challenges are a fun way to kick start your writing.
  4. It will help train your brain to look for ideas everywhere.
  5. Meet lots of friendly, supportive writers through Tara’s blog and the PiBoIdMo Facebook group.
  6. You’ll have cool PiBoIdMo participant and winner logos to display online.
  7. You can tell everyone you’re busy with a challenge and need help with laundry and chores (shh…they don’t need to know it won’t take up too much time every day).
  8. If you do receive some household help, use the extra time to come up with more ideas, flesh some out, or work on a manuscript.
  9. You could be a future PiBoIdMo Success Story! Keep your eyes open for a post full of great news about past participants. This challenge has sparked ideas that have led to agents, book contracts, and contest wins!
  10. If the above reasons aren’t enough to motivate you to join, you can win PRIZES…including critiques from authors and feedback from agents!

I’d like to hear what you love most about this fun challenge and any tips you have. For those of you taking the plunge for the first time, what are you looking forward to the most? You can also post any questions you have here or on the PiBoIdMo Facebook group.

If you think you’re too busy to tackle this challenge…I dare you to try it anyway. Last year, I wrote over 50,000 words of a novel for NaNoWriMo and completed PiBoIdMo with 38 ideas! Look back at all the writers who won the challenge in 2010. This year, you can be a winner, too. And Tara decided to give us two extra days, so you can start RIGHT NOW! Don’t forget to sign up here, so you’ll be able to win some amazing prizes. Then start a PiBoIdMo file or open a journal and go, go go! I know you can do it. 🙂

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes quirky picture books and humorous middle-grade novels.

She’s constantly inspired by her daughters, adventurous sock and stuffed animal munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets.

Two of her picture book manuscripts placed in the 2011 80th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Visit her blog, Facebook, or Twitter to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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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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