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by Kerri Kokias

This poster hangs above my living room couch.

It reads, “The things that made you weird as a kid—make you great today.” It was made by artist, designer, and creativity coach, James Victore, and it’s a message I think we can all apply to coming up with story ideas this month. I see it as a more specific way to think about some of the more common mantras you hear as writing advice. Such as, “Write what you know.” Or, “Write the book you wish you had as a kid.” So, if it feels helpful to you, perhaps brainstorm some ways you were weird as a kid and how you might be able to apply these to your story ideas.

I’ll start. The first thing that comes to mind is that I was painfully shy. Like, want-to-be-invisible, freak-out-if-a-teacher-called-on-me shy.

I feel like I can come up with an endless number of story ideas simply by focusing on this one personality trait and tapping into the emotions I remember having around it.

But there is another level that I think we might be able to apply this quote. First, take that thing that made you weird as a kid and look at ways it has already influenced your writing projects.

I can’t think of a single story I’ve written (yet!) that was inspired by my shyness, or prominently features shyness as a theme or dominant character trait. However, in retrospect I do wonder how much my shyness contributes to my writing style. I tend to use understated text and write illustration-driven picture books. For example, my book SNOW SISTERS! is a sparse 58 words and was written to have the illustrations portray much of the plot and character development.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a shy adult, but even today it’s natural for me to observe people more than I interact with them. I’m a writer who thinks visually before using words, and I am perfectly comfortable having the illustrations drive my stories. Knowing this about myself, I can also use these patterns in my writing style to inspire future ideas. For example, I can ask myself what types of stories are best told with sparse, understated text? I bet you have your own patterns in your writing that you can use to spark future ideas.

In summary, here are some questions from this post that you might want to consider:

  • How were you weird as a kid? (Feel free to think of more than one answer!)
  • How can you apply this trait, and the emotions you remember feeling around it, to new story ideas? (I know you can come up with more than one answer here.)
  • Can you recognize ways this trait may already be influencing themes or patterns in your writing?
  • In what ways can you channel these established themes/patterns to come up with new ideas?

Learn more about James Victore, his art, and his thoughts on creativity at JamesVictore.com. I have no doubt he has other quotes that can be used to inspire story ideas.


Kerri Kokias credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. Snow Sisters! is her first picture book. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family. You can learn more about Kerri at KerriKokias.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KerriKokias.


Kerri is giving away a copy of her picture book, SNOW SISTERS!

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!

by Kerri Kokias

I’ve been quietly participating in Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo) since 2009. You know the type, the writer who lurks on the sidelines, observing and taking notes, but not necessarily being vocal in the comments. Well, it’s time for me to speak up!

I owe Storystorm a big THANK YOU for helping me come up with the idea for my debut picture book, SNOW SISTERS!, which is illustrated by Teagan White and being published by Knopf in January.

Actually, many of my current manuscripts incorporate elements of ideas I came up with in Novembers and Januaries past, and Storystorm has also changed the way I recognize and record ideas throughout the year.

I always think it’s funny when Storystorm participants ask, “What counts as an idea?”

For me, it’s any thought that gives me a little tingle or flash of curiosity. I’ve never tried to come up with 30 developed book ideas. Instead I record little bits of inspiration. I may think of a potential character, a structure, a title, a nonfiction topic, a plot or concept idea, or even just a few words that I like the sound of together. I jot the idea down by category and when I’m ready to start a new story I pull out my list and combine ideas from here and there.

For SNOW SISTERS! I had the idea of writing a story in mirrored language in 2010. I took note of the idea but never tried to do anything with it.

In 2012, I made a note about writing a story about sisters who were opposites.

In 2013, I took note when an editor questioned on Twitter why there weren’t any books about characters who hated the snow.

I pulled out my idea list and brainstormed ways that the different past pieces of inspiration could work with that concept. Through the process of writing and revising, the story didn’t end up implementing the ideas in the way I first thought; the sisters aren’t exactly opposite, they just have their own distinct personalities, which gives them room to connect in unexpected ways. And neither hate the snow, they just interact with it differently. And that specific editor didn’t connect with the story…but someone else did!

And now, 8 years after its first piece of inspiration, it’s a book!

So, thank you to Tara, all of her guest bloggers, and all of the participants over the years for keeping Storystorm going strong! I very much look forward to being a participant and guest blogger this coming January.

Kerri’s writing features unique structures, playful language, humor, tension, tenderness, simple text, and complicated characters. She has a good vision for how text and art can work together to tell a complete story. Kerri credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two children, and three dogs.

You can learn more about Kerri at KerriKokias.com. Or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KerriKokias.

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:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Early 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2019

YOUR FIRST DAY OF (CIRCUS) SCHOOL
illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
Summer 2019

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