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Behold a summer escape in a picture book!

Releasing on August 1st from Flashlight Press, GIANT ISLAND reveals an astonishing secret as a grandfather and his two grandchildren embark upon a common, everyday fishing trip…or so they think…

Jane, this blog emphasizes the importance of brainstorming story ideas often to get to the book-worthy ones. Where did you get the idea for GIANT ISLAND?

Not in the usual way.

I was contacted by an editor I didn’t know, Shari Dash Greenspan, at a publishing company I hadn’t yet worked with, to help rewrite/edit the text of a book by an amazing illustrator, Doug Keith. Doug had the idea for a book about an island that is actually a giant, and what happens when a family visits it. The publisher already had the book dummy and about half of the paintings were done, but there wasn’t a working text because the story was all told visually by the illustrator. The pictures were fantastic, but they needed some assist with an actual story.

In other words, they needed a writer. And that’s where I came in.

I studied the pictures until I knew them by heart. I knew I had to give the book a text/story that matched its lyrical and yet humorous visual telling. The characters were a given—a grandfather, a grandson and granddaughter, a dog…and a giant…  I couldn’t change them, I had to make them live.

I wrote, rewrote, invented, re-invented. Editor Shari edited and illustrator Doug occasionally re-drew, and the book became what you see now. So, NOT your usual way of creating a picture book.

Shari has become a dear friend and I am still trying to sell her something else!!! Or maybe I can convince her to do a RETURN TO GIANT ISLAND where the kids help save the island from becoming someone’s home. Doug could have a grand time with that.

Aha! It was the illustrator’s idea! There are many wordless PBs, though. Why did Shari want to add words?

The book had been meant to be a wordless book, but while the pictures were beautiful, the story’s subtleties were not clear enough without words. And the marvelous Doug was more artist than wordsmith. So we each brought our A games to make the book—artist, editor/art director, and author in that order. Not the usual order, but this time it worked. Whew!!!

Click on spreads to enlarge

What were your concerns as you were writing and wanting to stay true to Doug’s story? Did you communicate with him during the process?

I tried to stay close to what Doug had already done, at least as close as possible. I had my fierce (and funny) editor to keep me on track. We all wanted it to seem seamless. And I think (hope) that is true.

Was it harder than just writing the piece from the start and letting an illustrator go at it?

A bit.

But isn’t that just a reversal of roles? Because that is what artists do all the time—take the words and turn them into pictures!

Also, I have done this before, once with a picture book retelling of Sleeping Beauty with artist Ruth Sanderson. And in about twelve books of poetry in which I wrote poems to go with my son Jason’s photographs of animals on sea, land, and in the sky.

What do you hope readers will take away after reading GIANT ISLAND?

GIANT ISLAND is a book about magic and imagination that spans a family’s generations and ages, from children to grandfather. And it is also about storytelling, though that is subtext. And for me, it had another meaning because I got to meet and befriend both editor Shari and illustrator Doug.

What is it about magic and secrets that children love so much?

I am not sure. I know that from childhood, magic stories sustained me.

But I also remember a young Scottish boy, son of a friend, to whom I gave a witch book I had written, and he handed it back solemnly saying, “Boys like books about real things.” (Of course I know a computer scientist who creates fantasy board games. Go figure!)

This story involves a grandfather and his grandchildren—do you have any secret family stories?

As a grandmother, I often tell the story of MY grandmother and grandfather their eight children living in “the old country” (Ukraine). When the Russian Cossacks came to raid Jewish villages and set houses on fire, my five-foot-nothing, red-headed grandmother would gather her children and her neighbors’ children, put them into a large horse-drawn cart, and cover them with hey and grains. She would drive them out of the village and into the safety of the forest, waving at the Cossacks who thought, with her red hair, that she was probably Polish (and not Jewish). So they left her alone.

I hope I have inherited some of her tough magic, her courage. The family left their big house in the early 1900s and migrated to America. Last month the Russians bombed the house, but we lucky Yolens are safe here. It’s a story that my children and their children will be able to tell forever.

What a beautiful story, Jane! Or I should say, two beautiful stories!

GIANT ISLAND is a gorgeous book, and Jane brings GIANT ISLAND to life with subtlety, to let the majestic illustrations by Doug Keith speak with their wonder. Jane tells the reader only what they need to know—and the rest can be left up to the imagination. Who is this giant? How did he get here? What other adventures await the children?

GIANT ISLAND releases next week from Flashlight Press!

Blog readers, I am giving away a copy of GIANT ISLAND.

Just leave one comment below.

A random winner will be selected in two weeks.

Good luck!

IT is almost here! *SQUEE!*

And since you are reading this post… you probably already know what IT is!

IT just happens to be the most fabulicious, wondermous, funkaperfect challenge this side of Gallifrey!

IT is…

Picture Book Idea Month! (aka PiBoIdMo)

Thirty ideas in thirty days wrapped in unlimited potential!

And did I mention there are prizes, too?

So why, oh why, am I stuffing myself full of gluten and chocolate?


Right now, all I have is:

  1. A blank PiBoIdMo notebook.
  2. Two twitching eyes.
  3. And a bewildered expression as I stare at the aforementioned blank notebook with my two twitching eyes.

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my action plan for PiBoIdMo. And though some of my thinking has been helpful… much of it has been less than positive. Here’s a preview of my sordid thoughts:

How in the world will I come up with 30 different picture book ideas in 30 days and still manage to maintain any reasonable semblance of sanity? AAAHHHH!

How will I get all my homeschool stuffs done?
And what about my endless mound of dirty clothes?
Then there’s that whole clothing and feeding the munchkins gig.

And I definitely, positively have to diffuse the Dustbunny uprising happening in my living room.

But the question I should be asking is this:

How am I going to get rid of this stinky thinkin’ and get back to creative thinkin’??


Pooh Bear had his Thinking Spot.
Henry David Thoreau had Walden Pond.
Doctor Who has the TARDIS.

And I…

I have the shower.

That’s right folks. The shower is where I often go for:

  • Refuge,
  • A moment of clarity,
  • And ideas!

It’s the one place no one follows me—especially if I’ve missed a shower the day before. (Don’t judge me. I have three kids… it happens.)

Matter of fact, the shower is where the idea for BEING FRANK was born! (Seriously. It was!)

So instead of staring at an empty page with twitching eyes and a blank expression throughout the month of November, I’m gonna do this:

  1. Jump in the shower.
  2. Ignore the soap scum crawling up the walls.
  3. Add water and suds…scrub.
  4. Pray. Think. Pray. Think.
  5. Then try and wrangle the new ideas as they slide across my brain.
  6. Rinse and repeat—until all the stink is gone (inside and out).
  7. Then, I will hurry to my notebook to jot down the latest idea.
  8. And by the end of the month, I will have 30 ideas.

Some of the ideas might be the definition of brilliant…

and some might make me yell, “Why in the world did I think that would work?”


Yeah, baby! I like this plan!

Visiting my “thinking spot” for 30 days in a row will afford me the chance to do more thinkin’… and less stinkin’. I want my thinkin’ to smell more like a mountainside full of flowers and less like fertilizer.

So is your stinky thinkin’ clouding your vision for PiBoIdMo? What’s your plan for getting rid of it? Whatever it is, get busy! You have 30 ideas waiting to bloom and break down those walls!

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” ~Tennessee Williams

When Donna isn’t homeschooling or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, an mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family, or visiting her hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and BEING FRANK is her first picture book. You can find BEING FRANK in B&N, on Amazon, Books-a-million and in most independent bookstores. For more information and reviews, check out Flashlight Press’s website.

by Jodi Moore

It’s okay to write a 2,000+ word picture book.

*braces self for screams of disbelief, coffee cups dropped, any chance of securing another book deal/agent/critique opening vanish, my own editors paling in shock, possible angry mobs at my doorstep and Tara questioning why-oh-why did she ever ask me to guest blog for PiBoIdMo?*

Now, hold up. I didn’t say it would be publishable. I just said it’s OKAY to write one. In fact, sometimes it may be necessary.

As picture book writers, we are challenged to deliver big ideas in as few words as possible.  We are expected to fully develop our story, our characters, our plotline; captivate our audience; fashion a fabulous first sentence and create a satisfying end.

All while leaving room—and extending faith—for the illustrations.

It’s no easy task. So I ask…why would you limit yourself in the beginning with a word count?

Perhaps it may help to look at this in a different way. Let’s say I want to build a perfect sandcastle.  If I only look at a finished product, say, one of my husband’s illustrious creations, and size up the amount of sand comprising the castle itself, I may decide I only need a few large buckets of sand to complete the task.

But that’s not what he starts with. Larry begins with an entire sandy beach. Using a large shovel, he piles on tons of sand. He sifts through bucket after bucket of the grainy particles. He packs it high as a mountain, scraping up more sand than he could possibly need.

That proud hill is his main idea. It’s the structure. The mass from which he will carve out his masterpiece. It’s his 2000+ words.

And then, he sculpts. He edits. He revises until he can see the more subtle nuances of the castle. Sometimes, a wall will cave or a doorway will be in the wrong place. But that’s okay, because he still has plenty of sand left. He can add. He can rebuild. My husband hasn’t limited himself to a few buckets of sand.

Why should you?

From your comments and posts on both this forum and Facebook, I know that you’re all busy creating your own pile of ideas. Embrace them…and write what’s in your heart. Use every word that’s necessary and a few that – you may find out later – are not. Restricting your words too early on may constrict your idea, choking the very life out of it. Let it breathe; let it swell. Let those words FLOW.

There will be plenty of time to revise—and reshape!—later.

Writing picture books can be a DAY at the beach. Shed those limitations and dig in!

Jodi Moore is the author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (May 2011, Flashlight Press) and the soon-to-be-published GOOD NEWS NELSON (Story Pie Press).  She writes both picture books and young adult novels, hoping to challenge, nourish and inspire her readers by opening up brand new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking. You can visit her at

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