You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Jarrett Lerner’ tag.

by Jarrett Lerner

I’ve been wanting to make an activity book for years now. Something that could help kids – and kids-at-heart! – explore and develop their creativity, and turn to as a source for regular and reliable inspiration. In my free time between book projects, I hammered away at the project, making a few activities here or there, slowly building up a stock of them and hoping I’d soon be able to turn to them more fully and put together a book proposal.

Then came COVID. And lockdown. And remote learning.

I was worried that creativity—already not valued and incorporated in curriculums and classrooms as much as it ought to be— would only be further shoved aside. So, rather than sit on all those activities, I started releasing them, and also making more, inspired myself by what kids were doing with the activities already out there, and motivated by the reception they got from kids and their parents and teachers. For the last couple weeks of March, and then for all of April and May, I released a brand-new batch of activities every weekday morning, and then sometimes a few more on the weekend.

Around that time, my agent shared what I was up to with my editor (all of my current book series are with the same one), and she made an offer on a pair of activity books. GIVE THIS BOOK A TITLE came out in December, and the companion volume, GIVE THIS BOOK A COVER, publishes in May. In the books, you’ll find a variety of activities, all of them created with the goal of kickstarting the user’s imagination and inspiring ideas for stories. In addition to the books, you can still find a couple hundred of other, FREE, easily downloadable and printable activities at the activities page of my website. Between the two books and the site, there are approximately 500 activities.

And while all of these activities were made with kids in mind, while GIVE THIS BOOK A TITLE and GIVE THIS BOOK A COVER are both marketed toward kids, I have received messages, reviews, and pictures of completed activities from nearly as many adults as kids. If you decide to check out my activities, I hope they take you down creative avenues you might not have otherwise explored. I hope they leave you feeling like a more confident and capable creator. And I hope they bring you a boatload of joy and an abundance of inspiration.

Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, Revenge of the EngiNerds, The EngiNerds Strike Back, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, and Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, as well as the author-illustrator of the activity book Give This Book a Title. Jarrett is also the author-illustrator of the forthcoming activity book Give This Book a Cover and the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). He cofounded and helps run the MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. He can be found at and on Twitter @Jarrett_Lerner and Instagram at @Jarrett_Lerner. He lives with his family in Medford, Massachusetts.

Note from Tara:

OK, Storystormers! Time is almost up! The Storystorm Pledge will be posted tomorrow, so if you have at least 30 ideas, you can sign it.

Signing the pledge is on the honor system. You don’t have to prove that you have 30 ideas. (Please don’t send me your ideas! Don’t post them! They are for your eyes only!)

Just sign the Storystorm Pledge tomorrow…or the next day. Actually, I’ll leave the pledge up for FIVE DAYS, through February 5, so you all have plenty of extra time to get-r-done!

Good luck everyone!

by Jarrett Lerner

Without a doubt, the question I get asked the most by kids is this one: “Where do your ideas for stories come from?”

In response, I always say something about how ideas are mysterious, elusive things, and tell them that, if they want to be a story creator someday, they should read lots of other people’s stories, pay attention to the world around them, and make plenty of time in their lives to sit around and just wonder, imagine, and play.

But the truth of the matter is that the question is a bad one. It’s fundamentally flawed. (Don’t worry—I don’t tell the kids any of this.) Because ideas don’t come. They’re not tame, obedient things. It’s not like us writers are diners at some fancy restaurant, sitting around sipping fine wine, confident that a waiter will show up soon with a nice, juicy, perfectly prepared idea on a silver platter. No, an idea is more like a dog who’s just realized he’s about to be taken to the vet. Ideas have to be chased down, wrestled into submission, tricked or bribed with treats.

Over the years, however, I’ve developed some techniques to help generate ideas – and to then at least make the things sit and stay, if not actually come when called for. One of these is a game I like to call . . . WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE! Here’s how it works: you take two things that usually don’t go together—and then you make them go together. It was in this way that I got the idea for ENGINERDS.

Boxes are constantly being delivered to my house. Usually, they have books or cat food or laundry detergent in them. But one day, I did a little world-colliding. I wondered what might happen if a robot—a walking, talking, farting robot—showed up in a box on some kid’s doorstep.

More recently, I played this game on a long drive. I was on the highway, and I told myself that I was going to collide the next two, non-highway-ish things that I happened to pass. Road signs didn’t count. Neither did other cars. I also decided to rule out rest stops, since I’d already visited three that day and was sick of them.

Soon enough, though, I saw a cow, hanging out all by her lonesome in a big, grassy field. And shortly after that, I passed a billboard for a furniture store. Those seemed like two things that didn’t usually go together. Now all that was left to do was make them go to together.

For the next several miles, I asked myself a series of increasingly specific questions, each one helping me pick apart and develop my idea a little more. What is the cow doing at the furniture store? Is she supposed to be there? Does she work there? How and why did she get into this line of work? Does she find it fulfilling? Or does she dream of bigger, better things?

By the time I reached my hotel, I had a whole story worked out in my head about this cow who sold couches. Was it a good story? No. It was not. It was basically just a bunch of flimsy clichés strung together with some groan-inducing “moo” and “udder” puns. I wasn’t about to run up to my hotel room and write the thing down.

But the experience of finding that idea, the practice I got by unpacking it—all of that was time very well spent. It’s like exercise. It’ll make the next idea a little easier to track down and tame.

That’s what Storystorm is all about, and one of the reasons it’s so brilliant. It reminds us that, when it comes to writing, there’s a time for quality and a time for quantity. First drafts, for instance? All about quantity. Just get the story out of your head and down on paper, then go back later and polish those sentences until they’re pretty.

At this point in the month, you’ve no doubt already got yourself a nice pile of story ideas. A couple weeks from now, that pile will be a little bigger. Whether or not any of those ideas turn into a full-fledged story, rest assured that all of the piling and unpacking you do throughout the rest of the year will leave you a stronger, sharper, better-equipped storyteller.

Happy world-colliding! And happy writing!

Jarrett Lerner writes books about farting robots, belching knights, and other serious matters. You can find him online at and on Twitter at @Jarrett_Lerner. You can also often find him hanging out at the, which he cofounded and helps run.

He lives with his wife, his daughter, and a cat in Medford, Massachusetts.

Jarrett is giving away a signed copy of ENGINERDS and some enginerdy swag.

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!



Like this site? Please order one of my books! It supports me & my work!

Enter your email to receive kidlit news, writing tips, book reviews & giveaways. Wow, such incredible technology! Next up: delivery via drone.

Join 14,039 other subscribers

My Books

Blog Topics


Twitter Updates