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by Lauren H. Kerstein

You’ve made it to Day 23 in 2023. That has to be lucky, right?

First, a confession: I look forward to Storystorm every December. After all, Tara Lazar is one of my all-time favorite funny kidlit writers and an all-around generous soul. When the new year begins, I know I can expect 31 insightful and inspiring posts from phenomenal creators.

But…

on January 1st, I ALWAYS find myself derailed from my excellent intentions. Day after day, posts pop into my inbox and remain unread. And then, miraculously, somewhere during week two, I recalibrate, regroup, and read them. And they never disappoint! Someone told me yesterday that the first week of January doesn’t count toward good intentions. I’m going with that! (Or maybe the first few weeks of January don’t count.) So if it has taken you until today to start reading these posts, that is fine! You’re here now and that’s what counts!

Let’s talk about email. I have a love/loathe relationship with email. On the one hand, my inbox helps me stay organized (I use it like a “to do” list). On the other hand, my emails seem to birth emails, and before I can say “I need WAY more tea,” my inbox becomes a growing, growling beast.

But here’s the thing—

The “love” part of my email relationship is that my inbox isn’t all bad. In fact, emails are where I find at least 60% of my new ideas. Yup, you heard me right. Email is full of KIDLIT ideas! Let me explain.

Warning: didactic moment ahead.

Today’s post is all about generating ideas (and clearing out emails) using task bundling and temptation bundling.

A quick lesson digression:

  • Task bundling is the process of making similar tasks more manageable. It is often used in project management.
  • Temptation bundling (coined by Katherine Milkman, assistant professor at Wharton University) is a way to use things you enjoy as rewards for less enjoyable tasks. For example, I LOVE listening to steamy romance novels while cleaning the house. It sure makes cleaning WAY more fun.

Okay, now bundle, bundle, bundle! Clean out all of those pesky…I mean, important emails…AND find hidden idea gems. At the same time!

Let’s go through my inbox together in real time. (Terrifying, I know.)

First up, an email from Bed, Bath, and Beyond: “Up to $80 off top Ninja appliances that help you eat healthier…”

Action step: tempting, but…delete (one less email in my inbox)

Ideas: can I write a book about a ninja family who is trying to eat healthier? Or ninjas who host a cooking show? Or a ninja character who wants to be in a cooking show/contest, but has an intense and distracting desire to karate chop the vegetables and…UGH…other contestants during the auditions?

I can just see it now! I need to write this story!

Next: Sage Publishing: “Welcome to the Social & Behavioral Science Monthly Roundup”

Action step: DELETE! No way I’m getting sucked down that rabbit hole right now.

Ideas: Nada!

 

Next: Amazon smile donation notice

Action step: quick-glance and delete.

Ideas: what if a child saved up their pennies for a donation, but had trouble deciding (from the gazillions of options) to whom to donate the money? Is this a PB? A MG? Does it have a Jewish layer? Can it incorporate concepts like, tzedakah, mitzvah, tikkun olam?

 

Ooooh, I like this one too! It actually dovetails into a NF PB idea I already had.

 

Next: Wayfair: wall art we found for you

Action step: delete. Talk about a two-hour side excursion! Note: I often mine tons of ideas from looking at art on websites like Wayfair and Society 6, but that is another post and activity for different day.

Ideas: none.

 

Next: (YIKES: they are coming in faster than I can type!) A “call for help” from the Animal Rescue of the Rockies.

Action step: hesitantly delete. We currently have our hands full with the puppy we fostered for them and then adopted (in record time).

Ideas: picture book about a dog’s life before she ends up in a shelter or foster home, that highlights the original family, the foster family, and then the new/forever family. Or a picture book about the other dog we adopted, a tripod dog. Maybe the picture book shows what happened to the pup before he ended up in a foster home (after surgery to amputate), and then the resilience and strength of the dog as he finds his way to a three-legged life.

Hooray! I have five fewer emails in my inbox. And I have a few new story ideas that I’m excited to write!  I even wrote this post as well. That was some serious task and temptation bundling!

Although none of my “on shelves now and coming soon” books came from this strategy—

I have many manuscripts out on submission and awaiting attention that did.

I challenge you to look your emails in the eye, find idea gems, and then delete, delete, delete. Your task and temptation bundling will pay off as you clean out your inbox each day and unearth shiny kidlit treasures that you can’t wait to craft.

As I always say in my Quick-Read Crafty Tips blog posts—

Feel. Write. Risk.

And remember, you are a creative superhero!

 


Lauren H. Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who lives in Colorado with her husband, daughters, and rescue dogs. Lauren is the author of the RIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE picture book series (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions) and HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press). REMEMBERING SUNDAYS WITH GRANDPA (Illustrated by Nanette Regan/Beaming Books) is expected November 7, 2023, and another soon-to-be announced picture book will gallop to bookshelves in 2024. Lauren also writes books in her field. Lauren’s books include themes of courage, flexible thinking, friendship, social emotional learning, foster care, seeing your strengths, sensory issues, and emotion regulation. Lauren is represented by Deborah Warren with East/West Literary Agency. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts. You can visit her at LaurenKerstein.net, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenKerstein, and on FB

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