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by Adam Lehrhaupt & Ame Dyckman


Remember snarfing Cookie Crisp with your favorite stuffie and watching this guy—um, THESE guys on Sesame Street?


Yeah, our Moms wouldn’t let us have Cookie Crisp either—STILL bummed! But back to our point! These guys—

ADAM: “We have a point?”
AME: “’Course we have a point, Fuzzy! Now, pipe down! We’re in Narrative Mode!”

THESE GUYS were able to tackle ANY challenge!

Driving a car!

Spelling “CHEESE.”

Even PiBoIdMo.

ADAM: “The 2-Headed Monster did PiBoIdMo?”
ADAM: “What pseudonym?”
AME: *whispers*

So now, on PiBoIdMo Day 19, when your lone little head’s probably feeling pretty crunchy—

AME (wistfully): “Like Cookie Crisp!”
ADAM: “AME! Who’s interrupting now?”
AME: “Um, wasn’t me! That was a typo.”

SO NOW, ON DAY 19, how do you make like our co-cranium Henson hero?

You just need an extra head!

Luckily, heads are everywhere! That friend you made at the SCBWI event has a head. Your kidlit pal on social media?

ADAM: “They MIGHT have a head.”
AME: “Yeah. Avatars can be confusing like that.”

And if your writer buddy’s a fellow PiBoIdMo-er, it’s quite likely their lone little head could use a bit of help by now, too.
So why not put your heads TOGETHER? Approach—

ADAM: “I’ll get the pointy scissors and the sewing kit!”
AME: “IDIOM! And you’re not allowed to use the pointy scissors! And you still owe my cat an apology.”
ADAM: “Who you callin’ an idiom?!”

APPROACH your prospective extra head carefully. We suggest this unique technique:

Ask them.

AME: “Just… ‘Wanna be my extra head?’”
ADAM: “Worked on you.”
AME: “So THAT’s how we happened! Always thought it was voodoo…”
ADAM (hides pins): “Don’t be silly.”

Once you’ve obtained your extra head—

ADAM: “Play Pok-A-Tok! Like the Mayans!”
AME: “Pok-A-Wha?”
ADAM: “Ancient Mesoamerican ball game. Occasionally played with heads.”
AME: “Surrender the keyboard. NOW!”

DO NOT remove your extra head from the body where it lives.

DO NOT bounce your extra head through a small stone hoop as ceremonial sport.


DO use BOTH your heads to come up with new picture book ideas. How does a 2-Headed Monster do this? You can:

  • hang out.
  • call or Skype to chat.
  • text. (We do this every 17 minutes.)
  • use Google Docs. (This, too.)
  • e-mail.
  • practice your awesome psychic ability.

AME: “OW! Turn your psychic ability down! You’re LOUD!”
ADAM: “Sorry! I was excited. This is the good stuff.”

And what do you DO during these social interactions? Besides share festive beverages? You can:

  • brainstorm ideas together. (They ARE your Brainstorm Buddy.)
  • bounce those ideas off each other. (Gently.)
  • laugh at the funny stuff.
  • amp up the not-funny-yet stuff.
  • layer ideas to strengthen them.
  • share festive beverages.

ADAM: “We already said that.”
AME: “So nice, we said it twice. Like Duran Duran!”

Then, you simply write the idea into a story, edit a thousand times, get agent approval, survive Acquisitions and Contracts, edit another thousand times, get published, and promote like HECK! EASY PEASY!

And if you’re lucky, like we are, your extra head is right there for all of it, shouting in your ear (and to the masses): “Hey, YOU! Check out how RAD my extra head’s story is! And… STUFF!”

AME: “You’re THE BEST, Fuzzy!”
ADAM: “I know. Look! I even got you a present.”
ADAM: “Uh, the cereal. NOT the fingers, please.”
AME: “Sorry. The SUGAR! It’s WORKING!”
ADAM: “QUICK! To the Writing Cave!”
AME: “And then, maybe a game of Pok-A-Tok. For you.”

BYE, EVERYBODY! HAPPY WRITING! And please let us know how your extra head search goes in the Comments below!

Adam Lehrhaupt (TOTALLY the right head!) is the award-winning author of WARNING: DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK! and PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK! His next book, CHICKEN IN SPACE (illustrated by Shahar Kober; HarperCollins), blasts off May 17, 2016. Follow Adam: @Lehrhaupt.


Ame Dyckman (TOTALLY the left head!) is the award-winning author of BOY + BOT, TEA PARTY RULES, and WOLFIE THE BUNNY. Her next book, HORRIBLE BEAR! (illustrated by Zachariah OHora; Little, Brown), wakes from hibernation April 5, 2016. Follow Ame: @AmeDyckman.

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PRIZES! Adam and Ame are donating a signed copy of PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK!, a signed copy of WOLFIE THE BUNNY… AND a picture book manuscript co-critique! Lunch and festive beverages—if you’re so inclined—included if you live near ’em! (They said they’ll even TRY not to squabble and throw lunch—THIS time.)

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

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

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

Good luck, everyone!

Quick, think of a picture book with a long title!



Of course, Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz’s classic sports a long title for hyperbole purposes. The author wants you to know that Alexander’s day was straight-up disastrous…and that Alexander is perhaps a tad overdramatic. The title sets up the plot and character perfectly.

However, you don’t see long picture book titles like this one too often. Why?

Picture books tend to sell on concept. That concept must be communicated succinctly in order to capture a young child’s (and a parent’s) imagination. Yes, people really do judge a book by its cover.

If your picture book manuscript has an overly long title, it may suggest your concept is either too vague or too complicated for the format. You want to nail down your concept and make it snappy, catchy. BAM! SELL THAT BOOK!

Even though character name titles are short, I personally tend to shy away from them. The title ERIN & JOAN doesn’t tell my audience enough about who the characters are. Here’s an interesting case study: the talented Ame Dyckman’s WOLFIE THE BUNNY was originally called WOLFIE & DOT. The final title WOLFIE THE BUNNY practically sells itself (with Zacharia OHora’s bold artwork), whereas the original title doesn’t necessarily relay enough clues about the tale.


But there are exceptions when two names work. GEORGE & MARTHA, one of the most popular picture books of all time, totally blows a hole in my theory.

So does Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s upcoming LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST. But here the names give you a lot to go on.

Lady Pancake Cover Image (2)

Now let’s examine SLJ/Fuse #8’s Top 100 Picture Books. The majority of titles are between one and four words. The longest title? THE LITTLE MOUSE, THE RED RIPE STRAWBERRY AND THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR, published in 1984. But let’s take a look at the cover…


…interestingly, THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR is emphasized in larger letters, juxtaposed against the image of the delicious strawberry and an anxious-looking mouse. I’m going to predict that in today’s market, an editor might have cut that title down to just the BEAR part. (But alas, the world will never know. Just like we still don’t know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop!)


Now here’s a title for ya:


This isn’t a real title, but notice how long it is and how it fell into an alliteration trap! Ahhhhh! I tend to see this often with new writers’ manuscripts.



This is a real title. It’s long but it’s allowed to be. It features “stinky” and “stupid,” two words especially beloved by the target audience. (Plus it’s Jon Scieszka! You gonna argue with JON SCIESZKA?)


So take a close look at your picture book manuscript’s title. If you haven’t found a clever moniker, it may be that your story isn’t focused enough yet. If the title is long and complicated, maybe your story is, too. The title is going to be one of your most important selling points, so spend some time on it and get it right!

Bottom line: long titles can work, but be sure to know when they don’t.

Now it’s your turn:
What are some of your favorite picture book titles?

ame dyckmanby Ame Dyckman

There they are! Your PiBoIdMo ideas! Staring at you with perky eyebrows and expectant smiles and wiggling like puppies.

Now, whatddya DO with ’em?!

Your 30 ideas all have potential for something. (Except that 11:59 PM idea about the talking toilet. Let that one go.)

Your 29 ideas all have potential for something. But no matter how rockin’ each of them may be, you really can’t develop more than a few of them into picture book manuscripts at the same time. And you don’t know to choose just two or three to focus on now.

So you try my patented Idea Herding Method® and bang your head on the table*, causing most of your PiBoIdMo ideas to run and dive into various folders in your brain:

  • Possible Future Manuscript Ideas
  • Possible Tweet/Post/Social-Media-of-Your-Choice Ideas
  • Possibly Too Weird To Share With Anyone Else Ideas

*You agree that Ame shall not be held responsible for damage to your forehead—or table—and acknowledge that suing Ame would be pointless as she spends all her money on books and candy.

These hiding-in-folders ideas aren’t gone gone. They’ll probably peek out to say, “Howdy!” from time to time. (And the ideas in the last folder are bound to pop out and create Very Embarrassing Moments at parties. Nuthin’ you can do.)

But a few of your PiBoIdMo ideas don’t run away. They rush over and give your poor sore head a reassuring pat.

’Cause they really like you.

And you realize you really like them, too.

So be a good host and offer your Special Ideas a little something. Like opening lines.


No, not “Hey, baby. Come ’round my brain often?” I mean opening lines for the stories your Special Ideas want to tell.

Genius opening lines, ones that set up worlds where each of your Special Ideas can hang out and grow.

Got ’em? Awesome! Looks like you and your Special Ideas are bonding.

Write each Special Idea’s opening line (and title, if you’re feelin’ it) on its own piece of paper.

Now fetch a roll of tape. And this is the Really Important Part…

Tape your nose like a pig.

Yeah, it has absolutely nothing to do with writing. But it’s FUN! And having fun is Really Important!

Right. Back to writing.

Use the tape that’s not on your nose to tape each of your Special Ideas’ opening line pages to a door in your home.

Yeah, I’m being serious. (What? It happens occasionally.)

You don’t get to make any excuses for not doing this. ’Cause I’ve already made them—and countered them—for you:

  • “I don’t want people to see my ideas.”
    Your signings are gonna be interesting.
  • “I might scuff my door.”
    So repaint it when you’re done. Purple would be nice.
  • “I don’t have a door.”
    Really? I will be right over to investigate your freaky slide-in-the-windows-General-Lee-style home. And then I will find something in your home to tape your opening lines to:
  • Your fridge.
  • Your TV.
  • Your pet. (Sorry, Fluffy!)

Because this is the Really Important Writing Part: when you feel your Special Ideas can stand up to the Blood (paper cuts, yo), Sweat, and Revisions necessary to try to bring them forward, then they’re worth keeping them where you can see them—and sharing with the Special Folks that supported your participation in PiBoIdMo in the first place:

  • Your family.
  • Your friends.
  • The delivery guy with the sideburns that look like Peru. (Okay, maybe not him. But definitely your family and friends.)

And with your continued work and your Special Folks’ continued encouragement, your Truly Special Idea has the potential to become an Amazing Manuscript—and hopefully, more.

So, get to taping! Then say it loud, say it proud:

“This is the Future Published Picture Book I’m writing. And here’s how it starts…”

GOOD LUCK, GUYS! I can’t wait to see ’em on the shelves!


TEA PARTY RULES COVER FOR TARAAme Dyckman is the author of BOY + BOT (Knopf; 2012); TEA PARTY RULES (Viking; 2013); WOLFIE THE BUNNY (Little, Brown; 2015); and HORRIBLE BEAR (Little, Brown; 2016). Her Super Agent Guy is about to sub her latest manuscript, previously taped to a purple door in Ame’s house. (The manuscript. Not her agent.) Find Ame sitting on the floor of her local library, or on Twitter: @AmeDyckman.


Ame is giving away a signed copy of TEA PARTY RULES (brilliantly illustrated by K.G. Campbell), and a TEA PARTY RULES prize pack: bookmark, sticker, button, and squeeze cookie. (If you win, do not attempt to eat the squeeze cookie. Ame says they taste gross.) This prize pack will be given away at the conclusion of Post-PiBo.


You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You have signed the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge.)

Good luck, everyone!

I’m lucky to be good friends with several very important book reviewers.

Like my neighbor, Ashley.

At 3:47 PM each Monday through Friday, as we wait at the bus stop for the big kids to come home, six-year-old Ashley recounts the books read aloud in her first grade classroom that day.

Don’t let the pigtails fool you. You thought Kirkus was tough? You haven’t heard Ashley.

But last month, Ashley bestowed her first starred review:


“And it was really, really good!”

My mouth hung open.

I knew that book.

I loved that book—back when I had pigtails.

Thumbs clumsy with excitement, I fumbled my way through an Alibris search on my phone.

“That’s it!” said Ashley. “Order it!”

I did. And the waiting (and whining) began.

For days, cries of “But why isn’t it here yet?” echoed around our neighborhood.

“Be patient,” said Ashley.

“No,” I pouted.

But finally, the package arrived.

I ran to the bus stop.

I tore open the padded mailer.

And there it was:

MORE SPAGHETTI, I SAY! by Rita Golden Gelman, illustrated by Jack Kent (Scholastic, 1977).

“Read!” commanded Ashley.

We plunked down on the curb. I opened the cover—and two wires in my brain connected.

It had been *mumble mumble mumble* years since I’d held a copy of this book, but suddenly, I remembered the words before I read them.

I remembered the pictures before I saw them.

And I remembered how they worked together.

Humor. Friendship. Rhythm. Repetition. Brevity. The power of the page turn. The fun satisfaction of a mirror story.

All the elements I try to use in my own writing.

And this was one of the places I’d learned it first.

“Wow,” I whispered.

I couldn’t wait to write that night.

Ashley smiled. “Told you it was good,” she said.

So, awesome writers, as you seek inspiration this month while creating the books of the future, don’t forget to revisit the books of your past, too!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get a little writing done before making dinner.

We’re having spaghetti.

Ame Dyckman LOVES picture books. Sometimes she’ll even put them down long enough to write one of her own: BOY + BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf; 2012); TEA PARTY RULES, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking; Fall, 2013), WOLFIE AND DOT (working title), illustrator TBD (Little, Brown; TBD).

Ame lives in New Jersey with her family, pets (including a demanding-but-adorable squirrel named Willie) and book collection. Visit Ame at, or on Twitter @AmeDyckman, where she Tweets “PB book reviews and random goofy thoughts.”

Ame is giving away a signed copy of BOY + BOT plus SWAG—bookmark, sticker, “Affirmative!” bracelet and mini Frisbee! Comment on this post AND complete the challenge to be entered (you’ll be asked to take the “PiBo Pledge” on December 1st to verify you have 30 ideas). A winner will be randomly selected in early December. Good luck!

I am so absolutely thrilled that BOY + BOT releases today because I’ve been waiting for it for a long, long time.

It’s the debut picture book by my good friend, Ame Dyckman—and get this—it’s illustrated by the hugely talented Dan Yaccarino! I mean, this has got to be the best picture book EVER with an author-illustrator team just as lovable as Boy and Bot themselves.

And for this very special day, I’ve got prizes to give away! One AFFIRMATIVELY AWESOME prize pack including BOY + BOT, stickers, bookmarks, and an *exclusive* BOT keychain clip made by author-zoologist-educator-sculptor Jess Keating!

So let’s get on with the fun!

TL: Ame, you and I have been friends for a few years now, after meeting at NJ-SCBWI first page sessions. (I knew I had to get to know you, with your spiky pink hair and Lego bracelet.) Is that how you began your kidlit career, attending SCBWI events?

AD: *laughing* Was my hair pink back then? I don’t remember my hair color at the time (it’s blue, now), but I remember thinking, “Wow! This Tara person is funny and nice and she really knows her kidlit! I like her!” BAM! Friends!

And yes, attending SCBWI events–YAY, NJ-SCBWI!–started everything for me! When I first joined, I knew I wanted to write picture books, but I didn’t know how. My first manuscripts were REALLY bad, but nobody made fun of me. Everybody was helpful. (YOU taught me how to page a PB, remember? I still have your diagram!) I went to as many events as I could—First Page Sessions, Mentoring Workshops, Networking Dinners, Annual Conferences, etc. I learned tons—still do!—and met lots of amazing industry professionals and made lots of wonderful friends. At the 2009 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference, I pitched BOY + BOT to Super Agent Scott Treimel, and he said, “I love it! Let’s work together!”

TL: I distinctly remember the 2009 conference and a certain editor making goo-goo eyes at you during lunch…but he had read your manuscript and was bonkers over BOY + BOT. I thought to myself, GO AME! You could feel the buzz about that manuscript at the event. You were in deep conversation with several agents.

So we want to know—how did this beep-worthy book idea come about?

AD: The short answer: I love robots! (I used to doodle robots instead of doing my math homework. Even in college!) The long answer: I love robots and unusual friendship stories and mirror stories always make me laugh, so I hoped mine would make other people laugh, too.

TL: So BOY + BOT is your debut and it has something like 347 starred industry reviews! Are you thrilled or what?

AD: I’m SO happy, and really grateful for all the reviewer love. Here’s hoping the little Boys (and Girls!) and Bots that Dan and I made the book for love it, too!

TL: We’re chatting on the eve of your book’s release. Will you be able to sleep tonight? It’s a little like Christmas Eve, isn’t it?

AD: It feels like Christmas Eve and Birthday Eve and Leaving-for-Disney-World-Tomorrow Eve all smooshed together! I was up until 3:45 this morning because I was so excited already! (But, I think I’d better try to nap later today—I just searched the fridge and then the entire house looking for the bag of baby carrots, only to find I’d put them in the clothes dryer!)

TL: How awesome was it to see Dan Yaccarino’s vision of your characters? Were they anything like you imagined?

AD: Seeing Dan’s first sketches was the greatest! My family gathered around, we clicked “Open,” and then we all shouted, “Look! Bot’s… BIG! That’s BRILLIANT!” (Up until then, we’d envisioned Boy and Bot being the same small size! I dunno why!) But a small Boy and a big Bot is GENIUS! We could already see all the wonderful humor and affection Dan was putting into the characters, and knew his final artwork would be amazing. When it came in, I loved it SO MUCH, I hugged my computer!

TL: *insert clever segue to Dan here*

Howdy Dan, Mr. Keeno Yaccarino! Tell me, when you read Ame’s manuscript, it was love at first sight, right? Kind of like BOY + BOT themselves, right? RIGHT?! (Say “affirmative,” Dan.)


TL: Ame said said when the illustrations came in, she was surprised to see BOT was a big bot and not a small one, like Boy. Why did you make the friends different sizes?

DY: Hmmm. I’m not sure. I guess it was the vision that formed in my mind when I read the manuscript.

There is rarely a logical reason why I do things visually. I listen to my impulse and trust my vision. If it feels right and is right for the book, then I do it.

Then perhaps I’ll rationalize it later.

TL: OK, would you care to rationalize why the inventor is bald?

DY: All inventors should be bald!

TL: *spittake* You’ve got a point there. Plus he reminds me of a lightbulb, so that’s very clever.

And here’s something else that’s clever—our contest to win the AFFIRMATIVELY AWESOME prize pack (book, Bot clip, stickers & bookmarks) PLUS there’s also TWO MORE copies of BOY + BOT to give away!


Enter by telling us what you think Boy’s real name is. Ame says she’s always wondered about it. So let her know!

You get one entry for commenting and then one entry for every share on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Just mention it when you comment!

Have fun and good luck! Comments will close the end of April 20 and winners will be announced on April 21.

Thanks to everyone who visited Salina Yoon’s post about her newest and most challenging novelty book, KALEIDOSCOPE. The winner of the signed copy is:


Congratulations, Donna! Be on the lookout for an email from me…

Didn’t win? No worries. There’s more giveaways coming in the next two weeks. Yes, it’s a busy Spring over here! Here’s a sneaky peekie (what my five-year-old calls it):

Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino’s BOY + BOT

Sarah Frances Hardy’s PUZZLED BY PINK

Carolyn Crimi and Stephanie Buscema’s PUGS IN A BUG

Ammi-Joan Paquette & Marie Letourneau’s THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS

It’s a Picture Book Palooza!

Plus, don’t forget, if you’re not already subscribed to my blog via email, join today to be entered into a SEPARATE “new follower” three-picture-book-prize-pack giveaway on April 1st (EXTRA YARN, BOY + BOT, ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT). I’m not foolin’! Just enter your email address in the left column.

by Ame Dyckman

Hi, guys! Need picture book ideas? Me, too. So, I’m not going to be a grown-up today.

Today, I’m going to be a kid.

Wanna play? Go grab a towel. Tie it around your shoulders like mine.

Got your cape on? It’s time to:

Open all the cereal boxes—search for hidden passageways—whisper secrets to a dog—attempt a world record—pick up pennies—make a newspaper hat—sit on top of the monkey bars—build a fort—get fooled by pyrite—try to fool someone else with pyrite—sneak up on pigeons—blow a kazoo—roll down a hill—split your pants—eat a crust-less sandwich—pop bubble wrap—taste paste—rescue worms from puddles—draw the sky as a stripe—pee-pee dance—forget to flush—break a geode—spell Mississippi—beg a cookie—give sticky kisses—staple things—juggle oranges—throw a tantrum—wiggle a tooth—catch a frog—fall down laughing—wear olives on your fingers—race a friend—declare Backwards Day—cross your heart—mix baking soda and vinegar—collect pebbles—spin in circles—lose a sock—thumb wrestle—demand a do-over—run from bees—spray the hose—wish for stilts—build another fort—slide down the stairs—beat pots and pans—dig for buried treasure—help a robot friend who accidentally turned himself off—deny being tired—

Whew! I’m tired. I’ve got some ideas, though. Hope you do, too. Feel free to borrow from the list above. (Except the second-to-the-last-one. I already used that one.)

You can take your cape off now.

No? You’re going to wear yours a little longer?

Me, too!

Ame Dyckman is represented by Super Agent Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel NY. Her debut picture book, BOY AND BOT (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino), will be released by Knopf in Spring, 2012. Ame loves cryptozoology, peanut butter, and screaming at Japanese game shows on TV. She lives in New Jersey (“Go, NJ SCBWI!”) with her husband, daughter, black cats, hermit crabs, fish, and obnoxious-yet-endearing pet squirrel.

As a prize, Ame is offering a chat about… ANYTHING! From getting an agent/book contract to advice on love, money, and your manuscript, Ame answers ALL! (For entertainment purposes only.)

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