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by Karma Wilson

When I do author visits the kids often ask how I come up with story ideas. I always tell them about the magic question.

“What if?”

It’s often the foundation of a story.

I asked myself just that when I wrote my first published book, BEAR SNORES ON. What if a bear were asleep in a cave? What could happen? Maybe some other animals could sneak in with him to get out of the cold. What if they threw a party while he was asleep? How would he wake up? As I kept asking questions a story was born!

Really, writing a story is just like pretending when you are a kid. Remember walking down the sidewalk or a dusty road with a group of childhood friends and saying things like, “What if we were stranded on a tropical island?” Do you remember the excitement such questions generated? A barrage of answers would volley back, “We could build a fort and eat coconuts!” “Our clothes would disinigrate then we would have to wear leaves! Or maybe be naked (gasp! giggle! gross!).” And on and on the answers would come, slowly creating a fantasy world, piling on juicy and funny details until the world was complete, and then—only then—could you step into the imaginary land and start to pretend you were there. Here are some more “what if” examples from my books:

What if a frog were sitting on a log eating innocent bugs? What if the log were really an alligator? — A FROG IN THE BOG

What if a hippo loved to dance, but was so loud and big that it bothered all her jungle friends? —HILDA MUST BE DANCING

What if a penguin were lost and alone, and asked all the other arctic animals where home was? —WHERE IS HOME, LITTLE PIP?

So, what if an author were to pretend she were a child again and ask “What if?” She just might answer that question with an amazing story that children of all ages can relate to. So often the very best and most fun parts of writing are in the fundamentals.

Happy writing!

P.S. Be sure to enter my Facebook contest here to win signed books:

Karma Wilson writes humorous, rhythmic picture books for the very young and books that share her faith in a fun, understandable way with the youngest readers. Karma is also pursuing her love of outrageously silly but sometimes philosophic poetry for older children (i.e. Shel Silverstein).

Karma lives with her handsome husband Scott, and her three not-so-young-anymore children, two dogs, one cat and four horses on a small ranch in Montana. Her hobbies include reading (of course), photography, baking, and training Mixed Martial Arts (a combination of boxing, jiu jitsu, muay thai, and wrestling) with her family.

What Tara Doesn’t Know…
by Karma Wilson

KarmaWilsonShhh…don’t tell Tara, but she’s become one of my biggest inspirations. More specifically, her alphabetical list of 365+ Things Kids Like has become one of my biggest inspirations. In fact, I never would have guessed that a blog entry could become so central to my writing process.

Whenever I sit down to write children’s poetry I have two websites up at all times. One is a rhyming dictionary and the other is Tara’s list.

I scroll down the list and I try to come up with one poem for each item.

For me, when writing poetry, it is often the basic idea that eludes me. Sometimes all I need is a word or a thought and WALA, presto-chango, alakazam—a poem finally makes its way into my befuddled brain matter! I used to ask my kids, “What should I write a poem about?” But now, instead of harassing my “couldn’t care less” tweens and teens I just click open Tara’s list.

Here’s an example of a poem inspired by the first entry…acrobat.

He flies through the air
With greatest of ease
He flies and he doesn’t
need a trapeze!
He dips and darts
through the darkest of night
he doesn’t needs nets
and he doesn’t need lights.
He hangs upside down
for hours, no less.
Who is this gymnast?
Who? Can you guess?
He sees with his sonar
imagine that!
The amazing, stupendous,
Acro Bat!

So, if you’re just desperately thirsty for an idea I’ve found Tara’s list a wellspring of inspiration.

Karma Wilson is the author of more than 20 popular picture books, including Bear Snores On, Baby Cakes, A Frog in the Bog and a new volume of poetry called What’s the Weather Inside?

Karma is generously giving away one of her books as part of PiBoIdMo! (Your choice: Don’t Be Afraid, Little Pip or Mama Always Comes Home.) Please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. A winner will be randomly picked at the conclusion of our month-long idea extravaganza. Good luck!

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illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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