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Carol's professional photo for booksby Carol Gordon Ekster

Whew! You finished your 30 PiBoIdMo ideas.

Now what?

Stare at them. Admire them! Write them all at once?

Good luck with that! One of the great things about being a writer is that you are your own boss and you can do as you like!

Don’t tell anyone…I cheat a bit with this PiBoIdMo concept. For me it’s morePiBoIdMoS. The minute I hear the first whisper that PiBoIdMo is coming, whether through Tara’s tweets, Facebook page, or her blog, I start a document on my desk: “PIBOIDMO 2014.”

Yes, technically I start before November 1st, and I keep going! It gets me on a roll…deeper listening, inspiration from all the posts, and a mind more opened to all those picture book possibilities. Every new idea that follows will get listed on that sheet, maybe through February, maybe until I open the “PIBOIDMO 2015” document. Then when I’m finished working on a manuscript, revision, or submission and I’m ready to start a new story, I’ll glance through those ideas. (I have a document for ’12 and ’13 that I still revisit.)

I’ve never deleted any of the less than fabulous story concepts, but I have highlighted a few that I thought had potential. Sometimes, right under a numbered idea, I start the story’s beginning. It just flows from my finger tips. I don’t have an organized plan. I go with my gut.

When I start a separate document for a numbered idea, I know I’m serious about it. I never forced the beginning of one of those ideas. I waited until the idea grabbed me and said, “It’s time. Start the draft!” I have to feel it. I’ve developed quite a few of those ideas from the past years into manuscripts. I drafted, rewrote, revised and brought them to critique groups. None of those stories have yet to be acquired. But I have faith that some will…when the time is right. Though I have gotten “the call” on one…but no contract in hand as yet.

This year there was mention of PiBoIdMo kick-off parties. A fabulous gathering spot for writers, The Writer’s Loft, had one. And though I couldn’t make it, I was there in spirit. But I think we also need AFTER-PARTIES, as a way to celebrate all that thinking, all those brilliant ideas. Perhaps gather other PiBoIdMo’ers and plan a few peer critique sit-ins—where large groups gather and break into smaller groups to share their manuscripts. (Of course, bring snacks and allow time for socializing, too!)

If you can’t do that, find another way to get other writers’ eyes on your story. This step is imperative. Once those critiques are in, it is time to polish and revise and incorporate all that you have learned about craft and about picture books. This is where it counts. This is where we water and love those seeds of ideas until they sprout into the best possible work we can create. For every story idea you develop into a manuscript, make a “sentence” document for that title. This way you can brainstorm many different ways to word each thought until you get the perfect line up of words, until each sentence sings. Don’t be lazy. Get it right. Someday, you’ll be touching a life with that story. Don’t settle for less than the best you are capable of.

Before you know it, we’ll be preparing for “PIBOIDMO 2015”. Don’t let all this creativity be forgotten. Continue to glance back at your ideas. You never know when that gem of a manuscript is ready to emerge and start its route to publication.


Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for 35 years. Her first book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? — A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, was an Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, 2010. A picture book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, on Character Publishing’s debut list, 2011, was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval. Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, comes out January 1, 2015 with Pauline Books & Media. Her first e-book, Hip Hopping Books, will be out with Schoolwide Inc.’s digital library, winter 2015. Retired from teaching, Carol now spends time in critique groups, doing exercise and yoga, and working on her books. She’s grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children. Find out more at and follow her on Twitter @cekster.


Carol is giving away a signed copy of BEFORE I SLEEP!

Front Cover - Before I Sleep  copy

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.

Good luck, everyone!

Last year I was a lurker on the PiBoIdMo site. The posts were inspirational. But I couldn’t (more accurately, I wouldn’t) do the listing of ideas. I taught elementary school for 35 years. My days lacked flexibility and overflowed with structure. Bells rang throughout the day telling me where to go and what to do. Perhaps too many years in a classroom have left me seriously resistant to following directives. And even though I‘ve been retired for a few years, my mind and body bolt to such demands: “Gather an idea a day”. Ha! I’ll wait until they come to me!

I like my ideas to come from a place of trust. I trust that when I finish a manuscript, another idea will present itself. I let my ideas float in on a dream when they are ready for me. My favorite stories have come to me that way. The pad and pen next to my bed sits nightly hoping to be written on.

Unfortunately, I have lost more than one story when I was away from home and a pad was not nearby. As many times as I repeated that idea before slumbering off again, it was completely forgotten by morning.

Typically, I am hesitant to join things, even something as motivational as PiBoIdMo. But then I read one of the posts on this site…and I decided to look more carefully with my author eyes that day. As I left my health club after yoga, I noticed the person at the front desk was wearing an unusual witch costume. Yes, it was Halloween. I looked at her and told her she just might be the inspiration for a new story. I got home and started my PiBoIdMo ‘12 ideas folder. I wrote down my thoughts for that story. And in the days that followed, because of all the pouring out of picture book love and posts on coming up with ideas, I started looking more actively rather than waiting for a story to hit me over the head. I believe wholeheartedly, whether we search with intention or passively, that the stories that are meant for us will find us.

Picture books touch me. I used them daily when I taught 4th grade to enhance every subject, or to make a point when a social situation arose that needed to be dealt with. Picture books are a quick and sweet way to avoid lectures or a boring review. Just read a book! It can touch upon a myriad of bases.

I think about the many gifted picture book authors and pause to contemplate their stories and what I might learn from their work. Can I move others to tears like Patricia Pollaco does in many of her stories? She writes about what she knows. My favorite story of hers is THANK YOU, MR. FALKER. That was her story as a child. And when I read the amazing picture book, IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? by Audrey Vernick, it spun out a new idea in my brain. Yes, I’m gathering ideas while I’m reading other author’s picture books. That’s a creative thinking skill… it was called piggy-backing when I taught it. It’s not that different from Diana Murray’s clever concept “mash-up” from Day 10, which brought forth more than one listing for my 30 stories in 30 days.

Once I determined to take on this PiBoIdMo commitment, I began observing the world more intensely. As my husband drove us to NY one weekend recently, I sat with my laptop as billboard signs and store names brought forth more to add to my PiBoIdMo file. I watched the kids play with their iPods in a waiting room when I sat patiently to get blood drawn for my yearly physical. I was almost sorry when they called me rather quickly. I was like a detective on a case…there might be more for me to see! I jotted down a story title sparked from an article in the AARP Magazine. Anyone under 50 doesn’t know what they are missing! I was more open to collecting from the universe of ideas. Thank you, PiBoIdMo, for your push to participate in this structured activity that can only help me grow as a writer. I hope to start the seed of a story that will touch little lives.

After all, that is why I’m writing.


Carol Gordon Ekster’s first published book, WHERE AM I SLEEPING TONIGHT? A STORY OF DIVORCE, Boulden Publishing, Fall 2008, was an finalist for best book for single parent families. Another story, “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, February 2010. A picture book, RUTH THE SLEUTH AND THE MESSY ROOM, December 2011, was part of the debut list by the innovative publisher, Character Publishing. Now retired from teaching, Carol is grateful that her writing gives her a way to continue communicating with children. She also hopes to spread her love of picture books, as she did earlier this month at the Literacy For All Conference through Lesley University in her presentation, Using Picture Books to Enhance Curriculum for Grades 3-6. She lives in Andover, MA with her husband Mark. Learn more at
and follow her on Twitter @CEkster.

Carol is generously giving away a picture book critique to a lucky PiBoIdMo’er who completes the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Leave a comment on this post to enter…and if you also take the PiBo-Pledge in early December confirming you have 30 ideas, you’ll be entered to win. Good luck!

Carol Gordon Ekster is a former teacher, author and writing tutor, and if you live in the Andover, MA area, she will visit your classroom for free!

Sponsored by this blog as part of the KidLit4Japan auctions, the giveaway runs now to May 15, with a visit to be arranged before the end of the school year.

Carol Gordon Ekster will visit for an hour, read her book Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? and  lead the class in a writing lesson, focusing on the features of good writing. Sending home a note to parents for possible purchase of her book would be appreciated.  And of course she will sign them!

The winning class should be within 25-30 miles of Andover, MA and the visit is most appropriate for 2nd through 5th grade.

To enter, leave a comment telling us why your class would love to win this author visit. The winning class will be chosen on May 15. Good luck!

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illus by Ross MacDonald
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April 26, 2022

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