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by Annie Silvestro

I really need an idea… for the first sentence of this blog post. Help me, Storystorm!

Just kidding! Storystorm isn’t about first-sentence-of-blog-post ideas, it’s about Picture Book ideas. Hopefully 30 sparkling new ones, ready to be made into stories. It’s about taking the time to let your mind wander, reflect, and yes, about having the discipline to write down any sparks that may come to mind during that time. Because let’s face it, those sparks often disappear as soon as they arrive.

But how to get those elusive ideas? I find that, being a serial multi-tasker, it’s very hard for me to just sit and think. I’m too fidgety. I’m checking my phone or Twitter or email. My brain can’t relax because I’m always worrying about other things I could or should be doing. So sometimes I have to trick my own brain—or compartmentalize it—so I can let its creative side shine.

My creative brain often flourishes when my functional brain is engaged in something mindless. I think this is why, like many, I get good ideas when I’m in the shower.

What are some other good ways to be mindlessly creative?

One of my favorite ways to generate ideas is when I’m baking. My functional brain can follow a recipe and measure ingredients, while my creative brain can really let loose. The sounds and scents of baking enhance the process, too. And when I’m done, I hopefully not only have some ideas sorted out, I also have something more tangible and tasty to show for my time.

Another useful way to let the creative brain drift is by taking a nice long hike. I live near a number of forest trails and the critters that inevitably scurry past as I walk have inspired more than one story idea.

I also enjoy letting ideas percolate over a good puzzle. Having the time to do jigsaw puzzles is a rare treat, but if I look at it as a time to be creative, I don’t feel so guilty having fun. I see Picture Books as puzzles, too, with elements that all need to fit together seamlessly—character, conflict, tension, humor, heart, language, a satisfying ending—to name a few.

You can get ideas while folding laundry, driving your kids to school, emptying the dishwasher, or just by sitting in a chair with a hot cup of tea, if that works for you. It doesn’t matter how. What does matter, and why Storystorm is so important, is that you get into the habit of coming up with ideas.

Once the brain is in the habit, the ideas tend to keep on coming. Sure, they might not all be great, or even good (PorcupOctopus, anyone?), and they won’t all be made into stories. Heck, I’ll be lucky if this year even one of my Storystorm ideas turns into a manuscript. But that habit, that discipline, builds the idea muscle in your brain. It’s an author’s most important tool.

So get in the habit. Flex that muscle. Storystorm the heck out of January and beyond. You’ll be so happy you did.

Annie Silvestro is a lover of books who reads and writes as much as possible and can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. She is the author of Bunny’s Book Club, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday), and Mice Skating, illustrated by Teagan White (Sterling). Forthcoming books include The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (HarperCollins Fall 2018) and Bunny’s Book Club Goes to School, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday, Summer 2019). Annie lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. Visit Annie online at or on Twitter and Instagram @anniesilvestro.

Annie is giving away a copy of BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB and MICE SKATING.


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

Good luck!

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