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by Jill Esbaum

One little story idea per day. That’s all Storystorm asks.

Yet, in past years, I’ve petered out about January 18th-19th. Oh, I didn’t lack enthusiasm. I lacked discipline. Sooner or later my mind wanted to spin one of those sparkly new ideas into a story, and I let it. Then I got the teensiest bit obsessed, to the exclusion of everything else. My good intentions to make it to the 31st? Kaput. Sorry, Storystorm.

THIS YEAR, I made it. This year, I approached Storystorm not as a hopeful writer looking for a great new idea, but purely as playtime. Farting around. Romping through my brain’s weirder recesses.

Are the ideas I jotted far-fetched? Absurd? Impossibly lame? Yeah, baby. And woo-hoo! Because nobody cares. Nobody. For me, Storystorm is a way of knocking the rust from my receptor antennae so ideas can keep pinging in long beyond January 31st—while I’m reading, watching TV, hanging with friends, babysitting, on family outings, etc. If one of those pings becomes a story later on, great. If not, that’s fine, too.

A few recent pings that led to publication:

While babysitting…

I was watching my 2-month-old granddaughter. She was a little fussy, so I was walking her around, bouncing her a bit, and whispering sweet nothings, like Grammys do. Without thinking, I said, “Oh, sweetie. Don’t cry. We love babies… yes, we doooo…” Instantly, that old cheer popped into my head:  “We got spirit, yes, we do! We got spirit, how ‘bout you?!” That led to the just-published WE LOVE BABIES, a rhyming cheer declaring everything we love about baby animals.

While observing kids…

At the county fair, there was a kiddo who you never saw without his beloved red rubber boots. That turned into FROG BOOTS (releasing March 3, 2020), about a kindergartener, Dylan, who falls hard for a pair of rain boots covered in multi-colored poison dart frogs—his favorite animal. But when he proudly wears them to school, another kid announces that, because they’re purple, they’re girl boots, and Dylan has to decide whether to abandon them forever…or not.

While reading the newspaper…

I saw an article about a long-distance trucker who lost his tiny dog at an interstate rest area, but he didn’t realize the dog had jumped from the cab until he was hours away. He couldn’t turn around immediately without losing his job. ANGST. Long story, short:  The little dog, believing his buddy would come back for him, WAITED at the rest stop for two entire days. (Yes, there was a happy ending.) I couldn’t help but jump into the mind and heart of that lost-and-loyal doggy, which became WHERE’D MY JO GO? (releasing April 15, 2020).


So our challenge, here at the end of the month, is to KEEP those antennae up, now that we’ve got ‘em greased and upright. Then, no matter what we’re doing in our “real lives,” we’ll be open and aware and (like Hotel California) programmed to receive.

The piano teacher was right:  Practice really does make perfect. And Storystorm provides the perfect opportunity for focused practice. (Thank you, Tara!)

Jill Esbaum lives on a family farm in eastern Iowa, where she writes picture books and nonfiction. Her latest picture book is WE LOVE BABIES (National Geographic). Several of her books have been nominated for state awards, and her I AM COW, HEAR ME MOO! won a SCBWI Crystal Kite.

Learn more about Jill and her books at and Find her on Facebook at Author Jill Esbaum and on Twitter at @JEsbaum.

Jill is giving away two prizes to two lucky winners—a picture book critique and a copy of her new book WE LOVE BABIES!

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Good luck!


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