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by Adam Lehrhaupt & Ame Dyckman

ADAM PIBOIDMO PHOTO AME PIBOIDMO PHOTO

Remember snarfing Cookie Crisp with your favorite stuffie and watching this guy—um, THESE guys on Sesame Street?

TWO-HEADED MONSTER PIBOIDMO

Yeah, our Moms wouldn’t let us have Cookie Crisp either—STILL bummed! But back to our point! These guys—

ADAM: “We have a point?”
AME: “’Course we have a point, Fuzzy! Now, pipe down! We’re in Narrative Mode!”

THESE GUYS were able to tackle ANY challenge!

Driving a car!

Spelling “CHEESE.”

Even PiBoIdMo.

ADAM: “The 2-Headed Monster did PiBoIdMo?”
AME: “TOTALLY! Under a PSEUDONYM.”
ADAM: “What pseudonym?”
AME: *whispers*
ADAM: “NO WAY!”
AME: “WAY!”

So now, on PiBoIdMo Day 19, when your lone little head’s probably feeling pretty crunchy—

AME (wistfully): “Like Cookie Crisp!”
ADAM: “AME! Who’s interrupting now?”
AME: “Um, wasn’t me! That was a typo.”

SO NOW, ON DAY 19, how do you make like our co-cranium Henson hero?

You just need an extra head!

Luckily, heads are everywhere! That friend you made at the SCBWI event has a head. Your kidlit pal on social media?

ADAM: “They MIGHT have a head.”
AME: “Yeah. Avatars can be confusing like that.”

And if your writer buddy’s a fellow PiBoIdMo-er, it’s quite likely their lone little head could use a bit of help by now, too.
So why not put your heads TOGETHER? Approach—

ADAM: “I’ll get the pointy scissors and the sewing kit!”
AME: “IDIOM! And you’re not allowed to use the pointy scissors! And you still owe my cat an apology.”
ADAM: “Who you callin’ an idiom?!”

APPROACH your prospective extra head carefully. We suggest this unique technique:

Ask them.

AME: “Just… ‘Wanna be my extra head?’”
ADAM: “Worked on you.”
AME: “So THAT’s how we happened! Always thought it was voodoo…”
ADAM (hides pins): “Don’t be silly.”

Once you’ve obtained your extra head—

ADAM: “Play Pok-A-Tok! Like the Mayans!”
AME: “Pok-A-Wha?”
ADAM: “Ancient Mesoamerican ball game. Occasionally played with heads.”
AME: “Surrender the keyboard. NOW!”

DO NOT remove your extra head from the body where it lives.

DO NOT bounce your extra head through a small stone hoop as ceremonial sport.

ADAM: “AW!”

DO use BOTH your heads to come up with new picture book ideas. How does a 2-Headed Monster do this? You can:

  • hang out.
  • call or Skype to chat.
  • text. (We do this every 17 minutes.)
  • use Google Docs. (This, too.)
  • e-mail.
  • practice your awesome psychic ability.

AME: “OW! Turn your psychic ability down! You’re LOUD!”
ADAM: “Sorry! I was excited. This is the good stuff.”

And what do you DO during these social interactions? Besides share festive beverages? You can:

  • brainstorm ideas together. (They ARE your Brainstorm Buddy.)
  • bounce those ideas off each other. (Gently.)
  • laugh at the funny stuff.
  • amp up the not-funny-yet stuff.
  • layer ideas to strengthen them.
  • share festive beverages.

ADAM: “We already said that.”
AME: “So nice, we said it twice. Like Duran Duran!”

Then, you simply write the idea into a story, edit a thousand times, get agent approval, survive Acquisitions and Contracts, edit another thousand times, get published, and promote like HECK! EASY PEASY!

And if you’re lucky, like we are, your extra head is right there for all of it, shouting in your ear (and to the masses): “Hey, YOU! Check out how RAD my extra head’s story is! And… STUFF!”

AME: “You’re THE BEST, Fuzzy!”
ADAM: “I know. Look! I even got you a present.”
AME: “COOKIE CRISP!” *NOM NOM NOM*
ADAM: “Uh, the cereal. NOT the fingers, please.”
AME: “Sorry. The SUGAR! It’s WORKING!”
ADAM: “QUICK! To the Writing Cave!”
AME: “And then, maybe a game of Pok-A-Tok. For you.”

BYE, EVERYBODY! HAPPY WRITING! And please let us know how your extra head search goes in the Comments below!


Adam Lehrhaupt (TOTALLY the right head!) is the award-winning author of WARNING: DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK! and PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK! His next book, CHICKEN IN SPACE (illustrated by Shahar Kober; HarperCollins), blasts off May 17, 2016. Follow Adam: @Lehrhaupt.

PLEASE OPEN COVER WOLFIE THE BUNNY COVER

Ame Dyckman (TOTALLY the left head!) is the award-winning author of BOY + BOT, TEA PARTY RULES, and WOLFIE THE BUNNY. Her next book, HORRIBLE BEAR! (illustrated by Zachariah OHora; Little, Brown), wakes from hibernation April 5, 2016. Follow Ame: @AmeDyckman.

PrizeDetails (2)

PRIZES! Adam and Ame are donating a signed copy of PLEASE, OPEN THIS BOOK!, a signed copy of WOLFIE THE BUNNY… AND a picture book manuscript co-critique! Lunch and festive beverages—if you’re so inclined—included if you live near ’em! (They said they’ll even TRY not to squabble and throw lunch—THIS time.)

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes 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!

Quick, think of a picture book with a long title!

DUH, I KNOW.

alexanderterrible

Of course, Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz’s classic sports a long title for hyperbole purposes. The author wants you to know that Alexander’s day was straight-up disastrous…and that Alexander is perhaps a tad overdramatic. The title sets up the plot and character perfectly.

However, you don’t see long picture book titles like this one too often. Why?

Picture books tend to sell on concept. That concept must be communicated succinctly in order to capture a young child’s (and a parent’s) imagination. Yes, people really do judge a book by its cover.

If your picture book manuscript has an overly long title, it may suggest your concept is either too vague or too complicated for the format. You want to nail down your concept and make it snappy, catchy. BAM! SELL THAT BOOK!

Even though character name titles are short, I personally tend to shy away from them. The title ERIN & JOAN doesn’t tell my audience enough about who the characters are. Here’s an interesting case study: the talented Ame Dyckman’s WOLFIE THE BUNNY was originally called WOLFIE & DOT. The final title WOLFIE THE BUNNY practically sells itself (with Zacharia OHora’s bold artwork), whereas the original title doesn’t necessarily relay enough clues about the tale.

wolfie

But there are exceptions when two names work. GEORGE & MARTHA, one of the most popular picture books of all time, totally blows a hole in my theory.

So does Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s upcoming LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST. But here the names give you a lot to go on.

Lady Pancake Cover Image (2)

Now let’s examine SLJ/Fuse #8’s Top 100 Picture Books. The majority of titles are between one and four words. The longest title? THE LITTLE MOUSE, THE RED RIPE STRAWBERRY AND THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR, published in 1984. But let’s take a look at the cover…

thebighungrybear

…interestingly, THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR is emphasized in larger letters, juxtaposed against the image of the delicious strawberry and an anxious-looking mouse. I’m going to predict that in today’s market, an editor might have cut that title down to just the BEAR part. (But alas, the world will never know. Just like we still don’t know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop!)

tootsierollpop

Now here’s a title for ya:

POPPY THE PONY PICKS A PERFECTLY PATIENT PLAYMATE

This isn’t a real title, but notice how long it is and how it fell into an alliteration trap! Ahhhhh! I tend to see this often with new writers’ manuscripts.

The_Stinky_Cheese_Man_Book_Cover

THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES

This is a real title. It’s long but it’s allowed to be. It features “stinky” and “stupid,” two words especially beloved by the target audience. (Plus it’s Jon Scieszka! You gonna argue with JON SCIESZKA?)

jonscieszka

So take a close look at your picture book manuscript’s title. If you haven’t found a clever moniker, it may be that your story isn’t focused enough yet. If the title is long and complicated, maybe your story is, too. The title is going to be one of your most important selling points, so spend some time on it and get it right!

Bottom line: long titles can work, but be sure to know when they don’t.

Now it’s your turn:
What are some of your favorite picture book titles?

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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Summer/Fall 2018

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