You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Katey Howes’ tag.

by Katey Howes

I’m going to be honest with you all. In the past twenty months, I have had tons of ideas. But I have not written all that much.

And I was really upset about this for quite some time. Frustrated with myself. Disappointed in myself. Worried I’d never get back in the swing of moving from inspiration to actualization.

Then I reflected on a conversation I’ve had with countless students during school visits. We talk about my book BE A MAKER. We discuss how there are many kinds of makers in the world: writers, artists, robotic engineers. Chefs, directors, architects. Minecrafters and perfumiers and lawmakers.

I tell the kids that the very best, among all kinds of makers, have one simple thing in common.

A notebook.

Because making anything requires resources. Time. Money. Materials. The right team. The right supports. The right equipment. The right level of skill, focus, or knowledge. The right level of faith in yourself. You may not have the resources you need right now. But you can get them later. Days later. Years later. Half a lifetime later. And when you do, you’re going to want that idea close at hand.

So you put it in your notebook.

Like DaVinci. Like Einstein. Like a Storystormer.

The kids often worry that the ideas will have gone bad, have worn out, by the time they have the resources to bring them to fruition. They aren’t alone in thinking this. I reassure them (and myself) that that isn’t the case. That it is natural for ideas to lay dormant, like seeds, until the right conditions surround them.

Seeds can wait for water, I tell them. They can wait for spring. They can wait for decades—centuries!—if stored properly. So can your ideas.

After having this conversation many times, I wrote “Seed/Idea” in my notebook.

After many more months listening to kids, taking poetry courses, learning to believe that my words and experiences matter, I realized I had acquired the right resources to turn this idea into a book.

And so I wrote A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU. It’s the tale of a child who holds a seed of a poem close to their heart, not sure how to put it into words…until the rhythm of raindrops patters onto their skin, seeping through, bringing that long-quiet idea to life. It wraps roots and vines through the character’s body, and then, like a seedling questing for the sky, it reaches for the light.

That part is hard for me. When my stories want out, I want to keep them to myself. No one can dislike them, criticize them, judge them, if I keep them inside, in the dark.

But I remind myself (with this book, among other methods) that other people are some of the greatest resources for shaping and supporting my creations, for pruning and trimming and encouraging my seeds to grow.

I am so blessed to have had the courage to let A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU out into the light, to be seen and pruned and fertilized first by my critique partners, then by my agent, Essie White, and at last by the incredible team of book gardeners at The Innovation Press. I am astounded at the ways illustrator Heather Brockman Lee has brought it to verdant, blooming, bursting-ripe life. (Take a sneak peek here! You’ll be glad you did.)

And now I want to use this book, the process of its dormancy and its growth, to reassure and advise all of you. Especially now, at a time when, I suspect, bringing ideas to life is tough for many of us.

Do not despair or give up.

Do not judge or become frustrated with yourself.


  • Store the seeds of your ideas.
  • Trust that they are safe in dormancy. That it is natural.
  • Check on them once in a while. Remember you have them.
  • Assess the resources you need to grow them. Time to yourself? A class on meter? A brainstorming session with trusted friends? Research? Chocolate? Mentor texts?
  • When they begin to take root, to sprout and to reach—be brave. Let them into the light.

I look forward to seeing how they bloom.

Katey Howes is a haphazard gardener, a good rhymer, and a fun mother. She’s also the award-winning author of RISSY NO KISSIES, BE A MAKER, and a growing assortment of other books. In 2022, Katey is looking forward to the release of A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU, illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee (The Innovation Press, Fall 2022) and WOVEN OF THE WORLD, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova (Chronicle, Fall 2022). You can find Katey on Twitter @kateywrites or on IG @kidlitlove, or check out her author page

Katey is giving away a signed copy of one of her books…or a picture book critique. Whichever the random winner prefers.

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 distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.

by Katey Howes

Happy 2021, StoryStormers! How is the month of brainstorming treating you so far?

Maybe your idea engine is chugging steadily along with an “I think I can, I think I can,” attitude. You might feel your creativity bouncing out of control like five little monkeys jumping on a bed. Or perhaps, in spite of an influx of inspirational sights, sounds and friendly blog posts, your brain snores on??

Well, no matter which classic picture book your mind most resembles today, I’m pretty sure you can guess my chosen theme: refrains!

From CHICK-A CHICK-A BOOM BOOM to I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES, children’s literature is full of fabulous refrains. Why not channel their power jumpstart your creativity today?

A refrain is a phrase repeated throughout a book, generally in a predictable position in the text structure. A good refrain:

  • adds to the MEANING of the story
  • contributes to the PACING and FLOW of the story
  • compliments the SPIRIT of the story
  • is fun to say!

An effective refrain is repeated frequently enough to be memorable, but not so often it overwhelms. It may get a “twist” or variation once or twice in the book to keep readers on their toes or to emphasize a significant plot point.

Done well, refrains boost a book’s place in a child’s heart from blasé to “read it ten times a day!” Refrains may make a book rhythmic or melodic, add predictability, improve participation at bedtime and circle time, form a lasting impression, teach, soothe, or motivate.

On the other hand, done poorly, a refrain can come across as unnecessary, lazy, trite or annoying. It can distract from the heart of your story or – even worse – showcase that there’s not much story there at all.

Refrains are a risky business, people. This writing thing is not for the faint of heart.

In my upcoming book, RISSY NO KISSIES, I utilized a refrain for several reasons. First, to showcase building tension, caused by repeated conflicts. Rissy is a lovebird, but she doesn’t like kisses. In one situation after another, family and friends try to share affection with her through kisses. Each time she repeats the refrain to refuse kisses, they speculate as to what might be wrong with her. Is she rude? Confused? Sick?

The pairing of the refrain with Rissy’s increasingly upset body language and facial expression drives home the idea that these various interactions aren’t isolated incidents. They form a pattern, and build one upon the next.

At the same time, the refrain provides young readers with something familiar and predictable, increasing their comfort level with the story. Because this book addresses tough emotions and difficult social situations, giving kids that comfort is very important!  With the help of a soft color palette and clear, empowering resolution, the familiarity of a refrain balances out the difficult emotions and situations tackled in the book.

The idea for the refrain:

“No Kissies!” Rissy chirruped
with a most emphatic squeak,

was actually inspired by a line in one of my favorite books, NOISY NORA, which ends:

“But I’m back again!” said Nora
with a monumental crash.

I wanted to channel an energy, emotionality, and authenticity similar to Nora’s as I told Rissy’s story. Reflecting Nora’s voice in Rissy’s refrain helped me focus on and accomplish that goal.

So as a spark for your Storystorm idea today, I suggest you begin with a refrain. This particular refrain may never make it to a final draft (I assure you, many of mine have made it to the trash bin!), but it can certainly get you started on something new. Here are a few exercises you can try:

  1. Find a line from a book you love and create a refrain that mimics its rhythm and intonation, but hints at a different story.
  2. Pick an emotion you’d like readers to feel and write a refrain that centers that emotion.
  3. Think of a catchy or fun-to-say phrase (and imagine a character who’d like to say it).
  4. Take a refrain from a song or nursery rhyme and change a few words to give it a unique twist.

Good luck and good writing!

Katey Howes is the award-winning author of several picture books, including Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, 2017), Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling, 2018), and Be A Maker (Carolrhoda, 2019). With each of her books, Katey seeks to empower readers to recognize their independence, creativity, and strength.

Katey’s latest book, Rissy No Kissies, illustrated by Jess Engle, releases March 2, 2021 with Carolrhoda Books, and has already received a starred Kirkus review and glowing recommendations from teachers, psychologists, and consent educators for its messages of autonomy, consent, and acceptance.

Katey lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her husband, three ravenous readers, and a pup named Samwise Gamgee. You can find her on the screened porch with a notebook and a bowl of Moose Munch—or find her online at, tweeting @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

Katey is giving away a signed copy of RISSY NO KISSIES and a custom enamel Rissy the lovebird pin.

Leave one comment below to enter.

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

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 13,567 other followers

My Books

Coming soon:

illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

Blog Topics


Twitter Updates