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by Tammi Sauer

Back in 2009, Tara first prompted us to join her on her challenge to generate 30 ideas in one month’s time. That year, I wrote a blog post about an idea-getting strategy that worked for me, and I have written about a different approach every year since.

In the spirit of Posts of Storystorm Past, however, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite strategies for brainstorming ideas. It’s something I share at writing conferences and school visits. It’s simple.

Celebrate the weird stuff in life—it’s good material for stories.

Many of my books got their start by some weird thing that happened to me.

One day, for example, I was hard at work and under a deadline. Everything was going well until, in the course of less than 30 minutes, the FedEx guy knocked on my door, the phone rang, the doorbell rang, the dog barked, and someone added me to a group text which included approximately 827 people who suddenly had lots to say.

All of these distractions made it hard for me to concentrate, and I just wanted Calgon circa 1980 to take me away.

 

That evening, I got to thinking I needed to write a book about a character who grew more and more frustrated by distractions. After all, frustration was a relatable experience.

This led to KNOCK KNOCK (Scholastic Press), illustrated by Guy Francis. The story is told almost entirely through knock-knock jokes and the art. It stars a bear named Harry who is all set to hibernate. Then, just after he tucks himself into bed, a friend unexpectedly shows up at his door. Then another. And another. Soon Harry’s house is filled with friends, and, just when he is about to flip his over-exhausted lid, Harry realizes his pals are there for a very good reason. They’re throwing a surprise happy hibernation party for you-know-who.

Another example of a weird thing in my life that led to a book involved the fine art of procrastination. One morning, while I should have been writing but I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed instead, I clicked on the link to Jama Rattigan’s latest blog post. On that particular day, Jama was featuring the wonderful work of artist James Ward.

See for yourself:

Well! The second I saw that big, hairy bear in those giant red underpants standing in a pile of cake crumbs, inspiration hit. I had to write a story about a character who loved cake as much as this guy did.

The result? That bear became Moose in I LOVE CAKE! (HarperCollins), illustrated by Angie Rozelaar.

So yay for procrastination!

Think about the weird stuff in your life. These things can be big or small. Jot down a few examples.

1.

2.

3.

Later, choose one for a story starting point. Keep in mind that this idea should just serve as the seed for a story rather than a factual recount of every little detail about a particular weird thing.

I say we celebrate annoying times, sightings of big, hairy bears in giant red underpants, and everything else in between. You never know where those weird moments might take you.

Tammi Sauer is a full-time children’s book author who presents at schools and conferences across the nation. Her 25th picture book was recently released. She has many more books on the way as weird stuff seems to happen to her all the time.

Tammi is happy to report that, at long last, she has a real-deal, fancy website courtesy of her very first writing friend, Flora Doone of somethingelseinc.com.

Please check out Tammi’s new site at tammisauer.com and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.

  

Tammi is giving away copies of two of her upcoming books! There will be one winner for each title.

Simply leave ONE COMMENT below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re 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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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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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
August 2020

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