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by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Most of my picture book ideas have come from my own children. Unfortunately, they are getting older so I am a little short on material lately. I can no longer rely on them to say things like “Mommy, come quick, Josh is in the oven!” or “Today my class is going to a burrito farm!” (Best I can tell, that was a trip to an arboretum?)

Now that eavesdropping isn’t effective anymore, I need other strategies for generating ideas. One method I frequently employ is titlestorming. I sit down with my writing partner, Becky Gomez, and we try to come up with a list of fun titles.

I am a very language-driven writer (as opposed to plot or character-driven) so very often these titles incorporate wordplay.

There are all sorts of ways to play with words.

Clever Combos

One option is to create a new word by combining two existing words. Tara, the queen of wordplay, did this with her debut title THE MONSTORE. Other fun fusions include ORANGUTANGLED by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, THE HICCUPOTAMUS.by Aaron Zenz, and MOOSETACHE by Margie Palatini.

monstorefrontcover orangutangled hiccupotamus1moosetache

Hokey Homonyms

Another way is to replace a word with its homonym. In 2009, I came up with the idea TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS. But I didn’t move quickly enough. Sudipta beat me to it. Other examples of this include Keith Baker’s LMNO PEAS and Tara’s upcoming 7 ATE 9.

tywrecks lmno-peas 7ate9cover

Go for the Rhyme

This, of course, is my favorite technique. In 2010, I came up with GOLDI ROCKS & THE THREE BEARS and TWINDERELLA: A FRACTIONED FAIRY TALE. But it also works with stories that are not fractured fairy tales. Here are just a few that come to mind:

  • CRANKENSTEIN
  • MICE SKATING
  • TRUCK, TRUCK, MOOSE.
  • LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
  • MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM
  • CINDERFELLA
  • THE PLOT CHICKENS

Get Crazy Creative

Then there are all sorts of crazy ways to get creative that defy categorization. Invent words. Experiment with spellings. Play with pronunciations. Take a figure of speech and make it literal.

yeti poultry hogwashpete-pizza

So, give those titles a twist. Let the syllables slip, slap, slide off your tongue and see what sort of fun comes out.


corey-author-photoCorey Rosen Schwartz is the author of several rhyming picture books and fractured fairy tales., HENSEL & GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS, in which two chicken sisters defeat a fox and rescue their parents, is the latest of her punny titles. Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick-butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ. 

Visit her online at coreyrosenschwartz.com and follow her on Twitter @CoreyPBNinja.

prizedetails

Corey is giving away a signed copy of HENSEL & GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS.

gretel

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

Good luck!

 

Words Book Storeby Corey Rosen Schwartz

Are you having trouble getting to 30 ideas? If you are, the reason is most likely because you are censoring yourself. DO NOT LISTEN to that internal voice saying “No, don’t put that one down. It’s too overdone. Or too bland. Or too half-baked!” (Okay, I did not mean for there to be any food analogies here, but now that there are, maybe I should run with it?)

PiBoIdMo is the one time that I focus on quantity over quality. Your ideas do not have to be irresistible.   They can be too vague, too corny, too irreverent, or too __________ (substitute your own preferred flavor of criticism here).

It doesn’t matter!

WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING from soup to nuts!

It does not need to be a hard-boiled synopsis. It can be just a title, a trait, a concept. Any tiny morsel is worth recording. If I waited for a full-blown plot to hit me, I’d never get to #2 on my list.

WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING!

Oh, did I say that already?   Well, I’m sure some of you are still going to hesitate. “I can’t just write down a character name, can I?” YES, YOU CAN. And you should.

Think of it as collecting ingredients.  The more ingredients you have to choose from, the more concoctions you can whip up.

Once you have a substantial list, then you can get cooking!

Look at your list. Look at last year’s list. Which ingredients can be combined?

In 2009, I was obsessed with Goldilocks. Here are two ideas from my list:

  • Fractured fairy tale with a surprise twin? Goldilocks has a twin sister, or Little Red? Little Pink? Tawnylocks? Brownilocks?
  • Using fairy tales to teach fractions. Goldilocks and the three and a half bears? How can you have half a bear? Bear in Mommy’s tummy? Could mama bear deliver right in the middle of the story?

Neither idea went anywhere, but those two concepts nagged at me…twins, fraction, twins, fractions…both seemed like topics I wanted to pursue.

And then during PiBoIdMo 2010, it hit me—the perfect way to combine the two!

TWINDERELLA: A FRACTIONED FAIRY TALE

Cinderella and her twin sister share everything. They each do half the chores—the chopping, the mopping, the baking. They each take half the fairy godmothers goodies. But when they each spend half the night dancing with the prince, and they both fall in love, they have a problem. After all, you can’t split a prince in half. Or can you?

pibo red

PiBo Wolf

So WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. And let it all simmer.

And soon you’ll be ready to get cooking!

guestbloggerbio2014

Corey Rosen Schwartz has cooked up a potpourri of fractured fairy tales and rhyming picture books. She lives with her husband and two children in Warren, NJ and as irony would have it, she is utterly useless in a kitchen!

Twitter: @CoreyPBNinja

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CoreyPBNinja

Website: http://www.coreyrosenschwartz.com

prizedetails2014

ninja red high res

Corey is giving away a signed copy of her latest fractured fairy tale, NINJA RED RIDING HOOD.

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. 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 will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 

Let me take you back to the first year of PiBoIdMo—2009. (For those unindoctrinated, that’s Picture Book Idea Month. Wait, can a picture book writer even use a highfalutin word like unindoctrinated? Or highfalutin?)

Well, it’s 2009 and my good friend Corey Rosen Schwartz is having trouble meeting the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. She despises her ideas. Corey takes her frustration out on Facebook, where all passive-aggressive complaints go to get their wings. She shares several titles on her idea list which feature the precocious blondie:

  • Goldifox and the Three Hares
  • Tawnylocks, Goldi’s Little Known Twin
  • Goldi-Rocks and The Three Bear Band

She posts these same titles on her blog under the caption “Goldi on the Brain” (a serious affliction for fractured fairytale writers). And you know what? Everyone on Facebook and the blog LOVES the third idea. (Remember the Rule of Threes?) One person, Beth Coulton, even offers to collaborate. They write it together and it gets bought by Putnam in 2010.

And so, a book is born. Isn’t it adorable? Don’t you just wanna pinch its cheeks?

goldirocks

The concept is clever—the Three Bears form a band but they can’t find a lead singer who can hit the high notes.

goldiint1

They hold Idol-like auditions and the fairytale characters just don’t cut it. Sorry, Little Red, you’re not going to Hollywood. No golden ticket for you.

goldiint2

(I wonder if Papa Bear is supposed to be Simon? But Simon wouldn’t dare don a bandana, right? V-neck tees are much more his style. Maybe Papa is Keith Urban.)

Meanwhile, Goldi wreaks havoc in their studio.

goldiint3

She even drools on their keyboard!

goldiint4

What are the Bears to do? They have to get rid of the golden-haired menace!

Or do they?

Well, you can find out right here. Because I’m giving away a signed copy of GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS to one lucky winner! Just leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected in one week. Good luck, music fans!

And congratulations to Corey, Beth and Nate on the release of their new book!

by Corey Rosen Schwartz

So, you have your list of 30 or more ideas. Now what?

dontstop

First of all, DON’T STOP. Your mind is fertile right now. This is when most of my ideas come… the week after PiBoIdMo.

The pressure is off, but the brain is still in idea-generating mode.

Take advantage of it. Keep your list in a handy place and add, add, add.

whatpops

Check your list twice. Then check last year’s list. And the one from 2011. What pops? While some ideas may seem too overdone or too dull, there are likely to be two or three that jump out at you.

Tuxedo-saurus: too fancy
Hip-Hop-a-Saurus: too dancy
Ho-Hum-a-Saurus: a bore
Sashay-a-Saurus: too prancy
Piggy-Bank–a-saurus: too finance-y
Snooze-a-saurus: a snore
Poker-a-saurus: too chancy
Trig-a-saurus: too advance-y
Slobberdon: yes, score!!!

weighyourops

Look at your best options. Do some research. Have they been done before?

Explore. Check Amazon to see what competing titles are out there.

One year I had Panda-monium on my list. Done. Another, I had Dino-snores. Also done. Better to find this out BEFORE you begin.

This brings me to my final point…

shoptillyoudrop

Once you’ve got a solid manuscript, shop it to editors and/or agents.

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks was one of my favorite ideas from 2011. I wrote a draft, but wasn’t happy with it and put it aside. Turns out, I was too slow. Someone has now beat me to it!

So, if you have a winning idea, get rocking.

guestbio

coreyCorey Rosen Schwartz is the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and the upcoming GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE
BEARS. Her singing is extremely pitchy, but she does hold Family Idol and X Factor events in her living room.

prizeinfo

Corey will give away a signed copy of GOLDI ROCKS & THE THREE BEARS (as soon as it releases on Feb 6th).

goldi cover

This prize will be awarded at the conclusion of Post-PiBoIdMo. 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 will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

It’s November 17th and I only have four ideas on my PiBo list. You know, little things like “no power for a large chunk of November” got in the way of starting on time. My kids were home from school for two solid weeks and spent a large part of that time crying because Halloween in NJ was canceled for the second year in a row!

But am I worried? No! I’ve been through this before. In fact, this is my fourth time participating in PiBoIdMo so I consider myself quite a pro. I will have no problem getting to 30 ideas by November 30th and here is why… I brainstorm in themes. I pick a topic or concept and run it to ground.

2011 was the year of the MONSTER.

My list looked like this:

  1. Monster – Mistaken identity?
  2. Monster Mash (Monster Math?)
  3. Midnight Monster
  4. Monster in the Middle
  5. Mister Monster
  6. Monster who really wants a brother
  7. Attention Hog (yes, other things creep in! ☺)
  8. Monster who has bad dreams?
  9. Monster who is not ready for something? To move from under a crib to under a bed?
  10. Mini Monster
  11. Mini Me
  12. Monster who eats vowels
  13. Piwate Twouble
  14. Monster who is over-scheduled

I am currently working on #9 and #13.

2010 was the year of the DINOSAUR.

  1. Piratosaur – or Pira-saurus? Plundersaurus?
  2. Pizza-saurus or pasta-saurus – picky eater?
  3. Diapersaurus – toilet training?
  4. Tumblesaurus – dino who is the worst in her gymnastics class (Pike-a-saurus, stretch-a-saurus, bend-a-saurus, tuck-a-saurus) – handsprings, somersaults, cartwheels, splits- they nickname her bumblesaurus
  5. The Drama Queen
  6. Add-a-saurus, Minus-saurus
  7. Dino-snores
  8. Tyrannosaurus Specs – dinosaur who wears glasses

I took at stab at #8, but my real “winner” that year turned out not to be a dinosaur story after all!

2009 was the year of the FAIRY TALE

  1. Three Ninja Pigs sequel with Little red Riding Hood? Ninja Red?
  2. Technology- twisted tale with email, cell phone, digital camera. Goldilocks? Goes to three bears’ house and fixes all their gadgets?
  3. Fractured fairy tale with a surprise twin? Goldilocks has a twin sister, or Little red? Little Pink? Tawnylocks?
  4. Princess who is the bad guy? Could she be the villain in a surprise twist? A princess who is a pathological liar or something?
  5. Goldilocks and the Three Pirate Bears
  6. Goldi Rocks and the Three Bear Band
  7. Goldilocks shows her daughter an album of the three bears and daughter decides to pay them a visit? (tied to #24?)
  8. Using fairy tales to teach fractions. Goldilocks and the three and a half bears? How can you have half a bear? Bear in Mommy’s tummy? Could mama bear deliver right in the middle of the story?
  9. Coldylocks and the Three Polar Bears
  10. Little Red Gliding Hood

So far, three of these 2009 ideas have sold.

I sold #6 in 2010.

Then I sold #1.

And… are you ready for this?

Tara sold #10!

Tara had given me the idea for my Ninja Red story and I knew Tara used to skate competitively, so I suggested Little Red Gliding Hood to her one day. She loved it, wrote it and sold it to Heidi Kilgras at Random House.

So, if you’re stuck, pick a subject you love and run with it!

What’s my topic for 2012? Maybe… the year of the BLACK OUT.

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of HOP! PLOP! (Walker, 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012), GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, forthcoming) and NINJA RED (Putnam, forthcoming). Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.

Corey is giving away a RHYMING picture book critique to a lucky PiBoIdMo’er who completes the 30-idea challenge. This is a fab opportunity for rhymers—after all, Corey’s one half of The Meter Maids!

Leave a comment to enter. If you also complete the challenge and sign the PiBo-Pledge in early December, you’ll be entered to win.

Good luck!

Yes, it’s finally here!

Congratulations to my great friend, picture book champion and critique partner, Corey Rosen Schwartz. And a round of applause for Dan Santat, whom I knew would be the perfect illustrator for this story.

My rating? Five stars, of course. (And I’m not just saying that. It’s a rollicking good read! Just ask the NY Times.)

Order your copy today!

IndieBound
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Special thanks to illustrator Kayla Skogh for the Photoshop help! (Check out her illustrative work, she’s amazing!)

by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Last year, I participated in PiBoIdMo. At the end of the month, I had about 34 ideas on my list. Participants were writing to Tara with comments like “Oh, I am jumping out of my socks with excitement to get started developing all these FABULOUS ideas into picture books” and “I have 30+ of the best ideas on the planet and I am certain they will be lining the shelves of bookstores by spring.”

I looked at my list. And I thought “Blech.” I don’t have a single good idea. I was irritable. And jealous. Why is everyone else feeling so motivated and inspired, and I am feeling like an utter failure? I even joked on my blog:

While other people have come up with 30 wonderful diverse ideas for PiBoIdMo, I have a list of 30 pathetic variations on the Three Bears theme.

Goldifox and the Three Hares
Tawnylocks, Goldi’s Little Known Twin
Goldi-Rocks and The Three Bear Band

Well, the joke is on me. Because guess what? I ended up selling GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS to Putnam!

So, here is my humble advice. Don’t dismiss any of your ideas.

Finding the perfect idea is like mining. What may not seem at first to be a dazzling gem, may end up being your diamond in the rough. You have to sift carefully through what you’ve collected. Show your list to some trusted people. Even if you don’t win the agent prize, you can still get feedback. Ask a writer friend or critique partner to view your list. Ask your kids! Get a second opinion. And a third.

I may have missed the initial sparkle, but let me tell you… my blog followers did not. They commented in droves “The GOLDI ROCKS one shines.” I was too visually impaired to see it, but they realized it right away and let me know I’d struck gold.

And keep your list going all year. Add to it, when the littlest inkling crosses your mind.

GOLDI ROCKS was idea #28.

You never know when you are going to hit your jackpot.

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of Hop! Plop!, an Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Distinction. Her next book, THREE NINJA PIGS, is due for release in 2012 (not soon enough in Tara’s opinion). It will be followed by GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, which would never have been conceived were it not for PiBoIdMo. Corey spends her free time Facebooking all the funny things that come out of her five and six year old’s mouths. (You never know what comment will inspire a PB!)

Corey has generously donated a picture book critique as one of the PiBoIdMo prizes. A random winner will be chosen in early December, from those who have completed the 30-ideas-in-30 days challenge.

I am not like most writers. Ideas don’t just slam into me while I am out for a walk. I don’t get “Aha!” moments while luxuriating in a steamy tub. I have to work hard for my ideas. I have to dig deep to find them.

One of the ways I do this is by brainstorming with a partner. I find it so much easier to generate ideas when I can bounce them back and forth. It’s kind of like tennis. I can’t get a rally going without a partner.

Here is a sample of a very condensed brainstorming session with my partner, Becky.

ME: Jordan came home from school today with a new expression, “Flip Flop. Over the Top.” It’s how they learn to put their coats on. Catchy, huh? Love how it rolls off the tongue. What can we do with it?

BECKY: Hmm…over the top? The top of what? A fence? A wall?

ME: Could be a wall? What goes over? Football? Frisbee?

BECKY: How about a baseball. Two characters are playing baseball and one hits it over the wall. How do they get it back?

ME: Try climbing, scaling?

BECKY: Jumping on a trampoline?

ME: Shooting each other out of a cannon?

BECKY: Catapulting.

ME: Grabbing onto a bunch of balloons and flying over.

BECKY: All of the above?

We may use none, some, or all of the ideas in the end, but I am convinced that when it comes to brainstorming, the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. In other words, ideas will be triggered when we are together that NEITHER of us would have come up with if we had both brainstormed independently.

Give it a try sometime.

Can’t find a partner? I am always up for a collaboration!

And if you’re wondering how our characters get their ball back in the end?

They dig a hole…and go UNDER!

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of Hop! Plop!, an Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Distinction. Her next book is due for release in 2012 (not soon enough in Tara’s opinion). She attended Brown University and has a Masters in Deaf Education from Gallaudet. Corey lives in New Jersey and spends a lot of afternoons at playgrounds with her five-year-old daughter, Jordan, and four-year-old son, Josh. Corey has no free time, but if she did, she would spend it scuba diving!

coreyCorey Rosen Schwartz is a picture book author and mother of two preschoolers. Her debut title Hop! Plop! was named an Eric Carle Museum “Picture Book of Distinction” in 2006. She joins me today to talk about collaborative writing.

Corey, some say writing is a solitary profession, but you co-authored Hop! Plop! with Tali Klein and now your writing partner is Rebecca J. Gomez. What do you prefer about the collaborative writing process?

 

Well, there is a great quote by E.M. Forster: “How will I know what I think until I see what I say?” That pretty much sums it up. I am an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs scale (despite what the Typealyzer claims!). As an extrovert I need to think out loud. In fact, I kind of have Joe Biden syndrome. I just blurt stuff out. If I had no partner to blurt to, I might not have any thoughts.

 

So how does the process usually begin? Blurting ideas to one another? Then do you write separately and compare notes, are or you writing and chatting the whole way through?

It depends. With Tali, we would brainstorm together in person. Then I’d go home and write the entire story, and she’d tell me it was good :). With Becky, it’s totally different. We’ve never met or spoken by phone. We do all of our writing through IM. We discuss and debate line by line and drive each other crazy. We can argue for two hours over one detail… but we keep exploring options until we’re both satisfied.

What is the best part of having a writing partner?

Even though collaborating can be very frustrating at times, I always feel that our final product is better than anything either of us could have produced alone. Becky and I really push each other. I insist we revise and revise until every syllable is perfect. She gets me to leave my comfort zone and try new styles and genres. Plus, my commitment to her helps me keep to a schedule and stay motivated.

 

What would your words of caution be to others interested in taking on a collaborator?

 

I don’t really have any. I have words of caution for parents thinking of having their kids fifteen months apart! But I don’t think authors have anything to lose by giving collaboration a try. Every writer brings something different to the table. I am very good with rhythm and rhyme and language, but I find plot development more challenging. I’ve written manuscripts with lots of people including my husband, and I’m always willing to try a story with a new partner. (Just holler if you want to take me up on this.)

 

How did you and Becky find each other?

Becky and I met in an online critique group about four years ago. She is from Omaha, Nebraska. I was a native New Yorker living in Manhattan. I liked both her writing and her critique comments and thought we might make a good team. We’ve finished a half a dozen PBs together and even sort of “shared” an agent. (Don’t ask! Our agent saga is whole other story.)

Uh, sorry, but I have to ask. How do you go about submitting to agents and editors as a team?

 

Submitting to editors is easy. We each sub to the editors that we have established relationships with. For example, Becky has gotten personal notes from FSG. So she would be the one to write the cover for that house. With an agent, it is a bit trickier. My former agent had submitted PB manuscripts that Becky and I co-wrote. (But she would not sub anything that Becky wrote alone.)

 

Are you both actively looking for agents now? Do you sell yourselves separately or as a pair?


I’m not actively looking at the moment, but if I got a good lead, I would follow it! This industry is all about contacts. You don’t pass up an opportunity if it lands in your lap! With agents, we kind of have to sell ourselves separately because we both have manuscripts that we have not done together. I would actually love it if she got representation this time. That would be the best of both worlds. Becky’s agent could sub “our” manuscripts, and I’d still be free to shop my other ones around myself!

 

What was it like to collaborate on a manuscript with your husband? Did you get into arguments? Did anyone spend the night on the couch?

 

Well, it was a lot better than having him as a Bridge partner! We actually had a blast. We left the kids with my mom one day and just sat at  the pool with a notebook. We completed a draft of Never Ask a Dog to Watch Your Lunch, which we thought was hilarious (unfortunately not everyone gets our humor in that one, so we need to work on it some more).  

  

David’s philosophy is to just get a draft down. Doesn’t matter if every line is great. You can fix it later. It was liberating for a perfectionist like me to work with someone with such a practical attitude. 

 

And finally, what’s your favorite kind of chocolate candy?

 

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

 

Thanks, Corey! It was interesting to learn about writing with a partner (without killing them). Ha!

 

hopplopCorey is generously giving away an autographed copy of Hop! Plop! 

 

Just leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.

 

Blog or Twitter about the interview and you’ll receive another two entries.

 

I’ll draw a winner one week from today.

 

Good luck!

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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