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Juliefalatkoby Julie Falatko

Only two more days, everyone! Only two more days until you crack open your notebook and brilliant picture book ideas start flowing out of you!

Or…maybe not.

I want to prepare you for the possibility that your ideas might hide from you. It happens.

And it’s possible that, on Day 12 of PiBoIdMo, instead of having 12 ideas, you will be looking at a notebook with two lame ideas, while everyone around you keeps shouting about how they have 52 ideas, and three of them have already sold and one was optioned by HBO to be a series, which pre-emptively won an Emmy.

It happens.

Remember: PiBoIdMo is a competition with yourself. Those people who come up with lots of ideas? That’s great. But you should be inspired by that, because every time someone comes up with an idea, it sends out idea ripples, and pretty soon a bunch of them are going to hit you. I promise. You’ll be sitting on a park bench, and suddenly you’ll get four good ideas for picture books. (You already know that you need to have something with you at all times to write down these ideas, right? Your phone, an index card, back of your hand? And if you’re in the shower, you’re going to have to repeat “basketball-playing hedgehogs” for three minutes nonstop until you can get yourself to a pencil and paper, so you don’t forget.)


Idea ripples? Click image for the “floating vase,” Tara’s PiBoIdMo Product Pick.

I’ll tell you what won’t work: sitting at your desk, paper in hand, saying, “THINK! THINK! WHAT’S A GOOD IDEA?”

Good picture book ideas are sneaky. They like to jump on you when you’re not ready. (You’re ready, though, right? You’ve got that paper/smartphone/old envelope?)

How do you find the picture book ideas if they don’t want to be found? You have to be sneaky right back.

The first thing you need to do is get out of the house. Or away from your desk, at least. Move. Exercise. Story ideas love to jump out and scare you when you’re exercising.

The next thing you need to do is remember that picture books don’t have to be serious (although they can be) and they can have a lot of nonsense in them. And, although you might hear differing opinions, they have a lot of talking animals. Or talking crayons and pens. Or talking sausages.


So go on a walk, and imagine every non-talking thing you encounter can talk. What would it say? What does the sidewalk say (“Don’t step on my cracks!”) and the grass (“whoosh-swish”) and the snow (“I am very precise and clean and I don’t like it when the dogs stop by to…you know.”)?

What happens if you take some of these newly-talking objects and put them together into one story? Can a park bench be friends with a pigeon? Can a sneaker be friends with a toenail? What happens when a rock steals a light bulb’s banana?

These ideas might not make sense, but if you’re stuck, you have to go to the weird place sometimes.

Here’s the last thing I’ll tell you about ideas: they like to hang out together. They’re a social group. So, once you find one, you’re going to find a lot more. Those people who are talking about how they found 133 ideas? It’s because they stumbled on an Idea Class Reunion, or an Idea Flash Mob or something. But these ideas, there are a lot of them out there. Now, go be sneaky and find where they are.


Julie Falatko sneaks up on picture book ideas from her home in Maine. You can find her at and on Twitter @JulieFalatko. Her debut picture book—which began as a PiBoIdMo Idea—Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) is being published by Viking Children’s in 2015.


Julie is offering one lucky PiBoIdMo’er a picture book critique!

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

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