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by Tami Charles

Repeat after me: I might fail, and that’s okay!

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tami Charles and I am a Storystorm failure.


Because effective today, on this sixteenth day of January, whereupon I should have a minimum of sixteen story ideas, my grand total is. . .wait for it. . .a whopping three. THREE!!!

Hold on, guys. Be right back.

Storystorm, Day 16, self-portrait.

Well, that was cathartic!

Moving along. . .

I’ve been a member of PiBoIdMo (now Storystorm) so many times, I’ve lost count. In the beginning, I outdid myself. Thirty ideas, in thirty days? Ha! How about sixty-two?

Truth be told, my “idea” count decreased with each year and honestly, I’m okay with that. As I reflect on where I am today, versus where I was then, I realize that 98% of my ideas were really, REALLY bad! I didn’t land an agent or any book deals with those ideas! (Thank the good Lord, himself!)

In fact, the first year I “failed” Tara’s challenge, I drafted the idea for my debut picture book, FREEDOM SOUP. That next year, I “failed” again because I thought I was Superwoman. I had also joined Nanowrimo, where I wrote my debut novel, LIKE VANESSA, and brainstormed seventeen picture book ideas.

But for me, it was all about quality versus quantity.

Thanks to Storystorm, I’ve learned how and where to find nuggets of inspiration. Jogging in the park. Waiting in line at Home Depot. Sitting in the doctor’s office while my son barfed in a bag. (Good times!) On a conference call with an editor who personally requested a “Cheerios” type of picture book. (True story. Also: thank you Carter Hasegawa!)

Inspiration is literally everywhere. Sometimes you find it yourself, but other times it finds you. And here’s the BEST part: all it takes is a word, a doodle, a sentence, to mark the moment.

Plot, characters, setting, bleh! Who cares? It’s the IDEA that counts and it’s that IDEA that will turn into a STORY later.

Now if you’re one of the Storystormers who’s up to 74 ideas already, this blog post is probably not for you. (Show offs!) I want to specifically address those who might be feeling “less than” at this point.

Are you behind in your story idea count?

It’s okay.

Do you feel like every.single.idea stinks worse than Limburger cheese?

It’s okay.

Are you worried that other Storystormers are sailing ahead of you and somehow that makes you less qualified?

That’s not okay.

One of my favorite quotes is, “The race isn’t given to the swift, nor to the strong, but to the one who endures until the end.”

Right here, right now, let’s make a proclamation together.

Repeat after me:

I, ___________, do hereby proclaim that my time is not up yet. I still have 14 more days to meet my goal. And no matter the count, I know that I will still win the million dollars that Tara Lazar has promised every participant.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your journal or PC, and Storystorm with abandon.

Former teacher. Wannabe chef. Debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction. Her middle grade novel, LIKE VANESSA, debuts with Charlesbridge on March 13, 2018. Thus far, the novel has earned starred reviews from Kirkus and Foreword, has been selected by the Jr. Library Guild for Spring, 2018, earned a spot in the Top Ten for ABA’s Indies Introduce List, and won the SCBWI Book Launch Award. Tami’s picture book, FREEDOM SOUP, debuts with Candlewick Press in fall, 2019. She had the opportunity to be featured in a cooking segment with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America, where she demonstrated a Thanksgiving version of the popular Haitian soup. Tami has more books forthcoming with Candlewick and Charlesbridge. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Visit her online at and on Twitter @TamiWritesStuff.

Tami is giving away a copy of her debut MG novel LIKE VANESSA.

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 Tami Charles

When Tara asked me to write a “Success Story” for PiBoIdMo (now Storystorm), I thought to myself:

I get to be one of the cool kids, like Tara!
I AM a success…right? RIGHT?

And then that familiar feeling surfaced:

I have no clue what I’m doing.
Any second now the literary gods will figure this out.

But all writers face this, I assume. That self-crippling doubt. Followed by euphoria. Only to return back to that place of doubt all over again.

C’est la vie!

Growing up, I never knew I could be an author. Sure, I loved to read and write. But it never dawned on me that I could write books like Beverly Cleary or Lois Lowry. While I loved Ramona Quimby and Anastasia Krupnik, they didn’t necessarily reflect me or the friends I grew up with. So, knowing this, I tucked that author dream in my pocket and moved on to become an elementary school teacher. I don’t regret this decision one bit. My students were the ones who helped me rediscover my passion. Thanks to them, I began writing again.

PiBoIdMo came at the “write” time in my life. (See what I just did there?) When I finished the challenge in 2013, I had several ideas and even a few manuscripts under my belt—all tossed into the black hole never to be seen again, naturally. But there was this one story that I kept returning to. Not because it was awful. (Not because it was any good at the time, either!) But because this story helped me realize the type of writer I wanted to be.

“Freedom Soup” is a story born out of love and family tradition. Early in my twenty-year friendship with my husband, his family introduced me to the delicious flavors of Haiti. They weren’t that far off from the Caribbean/Soul/Latin cuisine that I’d enjoyed as a child. Dare I say, I fell in love with Haitian food before I fell for my husband! (He doesn’t need to know that though.)

My husband’s late grandmother, Tí gran, was the one who gave me my very first bowl of Freedom Soup, also known as Soup joumou. As soon as I tasted it, I knew there had to be a story behind that taste of pride, victory, and joy. Seriously, if you haven’t tasted this soup, I suggest you find yourself some Haitian friends stat!

In a nutshell, “Freedom Soup” is written in tribute to the undying spirit of the Haitian people. Today, many people associate Haiti with poverty and earthquakes. But long ago, on January 1, 1804, Haiti made history as the first black republic to free themselves from the bondage of slavery. When slavery still existed on the island, slave masters rang in the New Year by eating Freedom Soup. They didn’t grow the vegetables or prepare the soup, of course. Their slaves did that for them. And for all of their hard work, slaves were not even allowed to eat the soup to celebrate the New Year. After twelve years of uprisings and fighting for their freedom, Haiti claimed their independence from France. Do you know how they celebrated? By eating Freedom Soup, of course! What a testament to their faith and resilience!

Before writing this picture book, I’d received plenty of rejections from literary agents and editors. And rightfully so. I wasn’t writing what spoke to me. I’m so grateful that this story
did. I’m happy to announce that “Freedom Soup” sold to Carter Hasegawa at Candlewick Press. I have so much to be thankful for:

  • Following my gut and creating stories that reflect the beautiful cultures in my family
  • Tí gran and the wisdom she shared with me before leaving this Earth
  • Storystorm for giving me the kick-in-the-butt inspiration I needed to jumpstart the sale of my debut picture book
  • For the chance to appear on Good Morning America, where I presented a Thanksgiving version of my Freedom Soup. (Michael Strahan smelled nice and all, but not better than my soup…just sayin’.)

GOOD MORNING AMERICA – Ocean Spray sponsors GMA’s ultimate cranberry challenge on “Good Morning America,” Tuesday, November 22, 2016, airing on ABC. (ABC/Lou Rocco)

I don’t know how much of a success I am right now, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel comfortable with calling myself that. I mean this could all change if I hit Tara Lazar status. Then I can puff out my chest and say “Why yes, I am quite the success, aren’t I?” (in a British accent, of course!)

In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing the stories that matter to me and collecting all the nuggets of wisdom I can along the way. And for the aspiring authors out there, I wish you success and prosperity as you do the same.

Congratulations, Tami. Best wishes for the launch of Freedom Soup in Fall 2019 (when I hope you’ll come back to show it off)…and for a long and prosperous kidlit career!

You can visit Tami Charles online at and follow her on Twitter @TamiWritesStuff.


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


illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Early 2019

illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
Summer 2019

illus by Ross MacDonald
Fall 2019

illus by Vivienne To
Spring 2020

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