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by Valerie Bolling

As adults, we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid. Being a kid is fun. You can be carefree, silly, and curious. You get to engage in a plethora of experiences for the first time.

Speaking of the first time, think of your first-time experiences.  Like learning how to ride a bike. This is such an important milestone for children and the topic of my next book, TOGETHER WE RIDE, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Chronicle, April 2022), which features a girl learning how to ride a bike with the support of her father. When was the first time you rode a bike? What about the time you learned how to read, played with a new friend, traveled to a new place, or tried a new food?

The first time I tried chitterlings (pronounced chitlins by most), considered a delicacy by some, my grandmother and aunts eagerly watched for my reaction. I still remember the awful taste as I declared, “It tastes like what it smells like, and you know what it smells like.” I wonder if there might be a story hiding in this memory?

I didn’t enjoy those chitlins, but there were many things I did enjoy. What about you? What did you enjoy as a child? Did you enjoy dancing, birthday parties, holiday celebrations, building snowmen, or spending a day at the beach?

My best times were spent playing with my cousins and neighborhood friends. We did everything together – rode bikes, played school and house, and all sorts of games with a ball (catch, dodgeball, and kickball). We loved playing our games. We would play in the middle of my narrow one-way street, and I made up a chant to signal an oncoming car: “A car, a car, a C-A-R (spelled out).” That was our clue to move to the sidewalk until the car passed. My book, RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN, illustrated by Sabrena Khadija (Abrams, September 2022), was inspired by games I loved to play outdoors as a child. What were your favorite childhood games? Who did you play them with? What songs did you sing or create?

Creating things is so much fun as a child. Whether it’s making cakes in a sandbox, finger painting on a big piece of paper, or constructing a make-believe animal out of papier mâché (I made an elephant). Art is always fun for kids. That’s why the main character in my early reader series, ZOYA GLITTERS!, illustrated by Kai Robinson (Scholastic, May/July/November 2023), is a girl who loves to create art.

Letting one’s imagination run wild is the best. My favorite fantasy as a child was turning our large vegetable garden into a pool for the summertime and then having it magically transform into an ice skating rink in the winter, since swimming and skating were two of my favorite activities. What did you dream of or fantasize about as a child? I bet there’s a story somewhere.

Other story ideas:

  • What’s something you learned as a child or wished you could’ve learned? Were there certain lessons you wanted to take, but your parents said no? What else did your parents say no to that you did anyway? A naughty story is always fun!
  • What was funny to you as a kid? What’s funny to your kids? What gets them to belly-laugh? Chances are if it makes a kid laugh, it’ll be a winning story!
  • What are questions you wanted answers to as a kid? What’s a funny question a kid has asked you? What if you provided a made-up answer to the question? That could make a funny story.

Channel your inner kid. All sorts of story ideas will emerge. You may even stumble on some memories that you’d forgotten. Memories that can become fodder for wonderful stories—stories that kids will want to read. What’s buried in your memories that could become a wonderful story for a young reader?

May you write stories that children, as well as the inner child in each of us, will enjoy. And, like a child, may you have fun doing it!

For further inspiration, read this post by Tara.

Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! Valerie has been an educator for almost 30 years. Since her book was released a week before the pandemic shutdown, she has been engaged in numerous virtual storytimes and author panels. Immersed in the writing community, Valerie is on the faculty at Westport Writers’ Workshop and a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, NCTE, and ILA. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and a 2022 WNDB Mentor as well as a member of Black Creators HeadQuarters, The Brown Bookshelf and Highlights Foundation’s Amplify Black Stories, and 12X12 Picture Book Challenge. In addition, Valerie is a member of three co-marketing groups—Kid Lit in Color, Soaring 20s PBs, and PB Crew 22—and three picture book critique groups. Valerie has two books scheduled for release in 2022 (TOGETHER WE RIDE and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN), five more slated for 2023 (TOGETHER WE SWIM, NEIGHBORHOOD JAM, and ZOYA GLITTERS!, a Scholastic early reader series), and one for 2024. Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut. Get all her links: linktr.ee/ValerieBolling.

Valerie is giving away a query critique, goal-setting meeting, or 20-minute phone chat—winner’s choice!

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.

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