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by Lauren Kerstein

As we ponder new ideas this month, I thought it might be helpful to think about the books we loved as children, as well as imagine the books we wished we’d had. Ideas are lurking in those musings. I just know it!

What books did you love most as a child?

  • Think about the books that changed your life.
  • The stories that resonated with you.
  • The characters who still live in your mind and heart.

Whether you were an avid reader or not, I bet you can remember a book that really mattered to you.

I vividly remember a few books that enriched my childhood life. I remember my third-grade teacher reading The Giving Tree (by Shel Silverstein) and crying. I realized in that moment that books have power.

I also remember the impact Pippi Longstocking had on me as a child. Pippi lived life on her own terms. I wanted to live my life like Pippi.

Write the book that will live in children’s hearts the way your favorite book lives in yours.

Second, think about what books you wish you had as a child? Picture your childhood self. What made you laugh? What made you cry? What books would’ve supported you through tough times? What books would’ve made celebrations even richer?

Write the book you would’ve loved as a child.

As you think about your childhood, and books that would’ve helped you, jot down your memories, feelings, and wishes in a word bank. Here’s an example of the beginnings of a word bank about some of my childhood memories.

 


Teacher crying

Baby pools at preschool that were filled with grass (yuck)

Giving away our dog when my sister was born

Singing outside our house in front of my favorite tree

Collecting tree sheddings and pretending they were seahorses

New Jersey

New York

Bird bones in our backyard

Favorite babysitter, Liz

Skunk spraying dog

Tomato soup bath


 

Are there any story ideas lurking around in your word bank?

Remember, ideas are flashes of brilliance that sneak into our minds, saying, “peek-a-boo—try to catch me.”

Catch those ideas. Write them down (WITHOUT judgment). Then write down the emotion, themes, dreams, desires, dislikes, and thoughts that live in each idea. Make your idea 3-D so that the manuscript you write will reflect all of the richness of that first flash.

I use a template when I write down new StoryStorm ideas so that I can capture as much of the initial resonance as possible. You can find the template on my website at laurenkerstein.net/critiquestemplates.

Finally, as you write down your ideas, remember all ideas are works in progress until they’re not. Perhaps thinking of an idea as a work in progress will quiet your inner critic for a moment. The idea for ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES (Illustrated by Nate Wragg) came from my work as a child therapist, my experience as a mom, and my understanding that children want power and control. Who am I kidding? We all want power and control, just like Pippi.

Rosie and Charlie began as a how-to book (How to Put Your Mommy to Bed). Although the manuscript morphed and changed a LOT, the original spark and heart remained. The idea was a work in progress. The heart was not. Ironically, the original flash of the idea (How to Put Your Mommy to Bed) is the basis for the second Rosie and Charlie book that is due out this Fall (ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT).

So, reach into your childhood. Remember your favorite books. Mine your memories and think about books you wish you had. Then, catch those flashes of brilliant ideas. Those ideas just may become books children will remember…

…FOREVER!


Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who currently lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, their two dragons…er, daughters, Sarah and Danielle, and her rescue dogs, Hudson and Duke. She is represented by Deborah Warren with East West Literary Agency. Lauren’s debut: ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES splashed to bookshelves in June 2019. The companion volume, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT, is expected Fall 2020. Lauren also has another soon-to-be announced book upcoming in 2020. Lauren is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek, a judge with Rate Your Story, runs a critique business, and is a long-time member of 12×12. Visit her at LaurenKerstein.net, on Twitter @LaurenKerstein, Instagram @LaurenKerstein, or Facebook.


Lauren is giving away a picture book critique.

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

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
January 7, 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
August 2020

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