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Although we’re already into February I want to take a moment and celebrate January’s Storystorm!

If you’re a picture book writer or if you’re interested in writing a picture book, Storystorm created, coordinated, and hosted by Tara Lazar is the conduit to generating enough ideas to fill your new year.

The premise is to come up with 30 ideas in a month. An idea a day for all but the last or the first day of January, depending on your preference. To guide and inspire you, there are daily blog posts that come right to your email. What a nice way to start the day, or interrupt a day that’s heading south. Some posts are funny, some serious, but all are heartfelt.

I’ve participated in Storystorm for a number of years, even when it was in October and was called PiBoMo. But this year I’ve seen it through, for the first time ever, to come up with thirty ideas in thirty days. Actually, I came up with thirty three!

Now some of them are pretty wonky, but still . . .

Thank you to all who shared their writing journeys, their book journeys, and their techniques for idea-imagination creation via the blog posts. A huge thank you goes out to Tara Lazar for doing it all so well, once again!

Looking forward to pb manuscript weather systems propelling my writing this year!

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A different angle

What do things look like if you have different vision than me?

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What I see is normal to me and what you see is normal to you,

though we see differently, it’s how we each know the world.

What do sounds sound like to you?

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What do textures feel like to you? What images

do they bring to your mind?

Shared differences open up a whole new perspective,

lead to good conversations and creative thoughts.

Stretching your mind to understand,

what you at first didn’t perceive,

feels, to me, akin to poetry.

As a teacher for visually impaired students,

I try to see from each student’s perspective.

I want to get a handle on what and how they may see.

I think about how the world is reflected back to them.

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I do my best to mirror for them their infinite potential, their priceless beauty.

Thinking those thoughts led to a collaborative project that I’m presently working on.

When done it will reflect a beautifully different way of seeing.

This project, my students, have me contemplating the myriad ways to be.

And that’s a good thing.

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Whoof! This past week I had deadlines at work and this weekend some writing deadlines. I began thinking that I don’t like deadlines.

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The week coming brings with it more work deadlines. Even my weekly blog post has its own deadline. I’m feeling done with deadlines. My brain needs a deadline break. But since I was on the topic it got me thinking about how important deadlines are to picture books.

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Within the first three pages of your thirty two page book, and that after the title, dedication and copyright pages, you need to introduce your character,what his or her goal is and why your character has decided to take action at this particular time.

Talk about a short deadline and the stakes are high. You’ve already used up six pages.

You need to get your character moving along on their journey and introduce the first obstacle that must be overcome, and you need to have them fail.

And you need to use just the right words to make your text sing but be to the point.

The second obstacle. Your character’s second failure.

The third obstacle and failure. Three times for your character cannot be a charm.

You need to have the character demonstrate some inner conflict, some reflection on their failed attempts. You need to show that your character has grown from their efforts.

Then you need your character to figure out a way to succeed, maybe not completely the way they expected to succeed, but they have to achieve their goal or some part of it.

Finally, you need to tie your story up with a satisfying resolution.

You need to do all of the above in the least amount of words.

Remember at the beginning of the post when I said I began thinking I didn’t like deadlines. I thought this post was going to be all about that. But I realized as I was writing that that isn’t true. It can’t be. Otherwise I wouldn’t like creating picture book manuscripts as much as I do. Deadlines are part and parcel of a tight picture book story.

Isn’t it funny how most times something we think of as bad, if looked at in a different way can be something that’s good?

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The StoryStorm challenge created by Tara Lazar and found on her blog Writing for Kids While Raising Them, is a fantastic way to generate ideas for potential picture books. Specifically, the challenge is to come up with a picture book idea for every day of January.

This being January 18th means that those participating are a little more than half way to reaching their goal. Are you participating? Is this your first year, or are you a returning challenger? If you are a returning challenger, have you always made it to the end of the month?

The median point of the month has notoriously been the time when work responsibilities gets the better of my attention (Special Education Annual Review Time), and my consistency with following the daily StoryStorm blog posts and brainstorming an idea a day peters out. In fact, I found a calendar template for last year’s StoryStorm and I’d made it until the 16th, so I’m already doing better than last year, and that’s definitely a plus.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on

This year, I’m determined. I’m going to do it. I’m going to make it all the way to the end of January. The featured guest bloggers for StoryStorm have been funny, inspirational, validating; the list of encouraging adjectives could go on and on. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to come up with ideas. Many of the guest bloggers recommend mentor texts which is another great source for inspiration and idea creation. One of my favorite posts was about process over product, written by Kirsten Pendreigh Has there been a blog post that spoke to you more than others?

I don’t know if I will come up with a picture book that goes to contract this year from the ideas generated, but it’s more likely that I might, if I keep my word and the challenge. Have you had a picture book come from one of the ideas you came up with in past StoryStorms? If you have, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear about it and I bet other’s would too.

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Falling into Story

While thinking about what to write for this week’s blog post, I went looking for Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine but found the book Take Joy- A writer’s guide to loving the craft, written by Jane Yolen. The book isn’t meant to be read chapter to chapter, you could if you’re so inclined; I wasn’t.

 I began at chapter three, “The Mystery that is Writing”, which is about how or why stories might blossom in our minds. Ms. Yolen wrote that she created a novelette based upon her children’s constant complaint of “it isn’t fair,” though in order for that story to come to fruition it had to wait until her children were grown-up.

Oliver Jeffers mentions on the back jacket flap of the book, Lost and Found that the premise for the book came from his childhood memory of being lost and not knowing where he was supposed to be until he’d read the label on the back of his shirt.

The story itself is about a penguin who turns up on the doorstep of a little boy, and the boy’s misguided effort to get the penguin back home. The story came from a memory but morphed into something with an altogether different perspective. Pretty cool—right?

Jane Yolen described fiction as reality surprised. And I think it was, Terry Pratchett, who said in not so many words but much better than I, that stories come from looking at a familiar thing from a slightly different angle.

This got me to thinking about the stories I’ve written. Some I know exactly what memory or memories caused them to be born. One that I thought had come to me on its own accord, did on second look reveal that it came from: a favorite movie of mine; the inventiveness of one of my daughters, who never fails to have big ideas and Spoon, the baby box turtle we rescued from under our garage door.

The story I’m presently working on also has its foundations set in history. My eldest daughter loved dinosaurs and walruses as a child. Walruses are not the go-to animal for most children and that in itself begs a story. When I originally started the story I kept trying to tell both the little girl and the walrus’ story in verse which proved difficult to say the least. Then I took the perspective of the little girl, still it was a no go, but just the other day I asked the walrus what he thought, not out loud mind you; I already get strange looks; his answers led me to the beginnings of a story in prose.

Moscow, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: A little girl looks at a walrus in a pool of Moscow’s zoo, 17 May 2006. AFP PHOTO FEDOR SAVINTSEV (Photo credit should read FEDOR SAVINTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Said walrus still has to dance his way out of the trouble he’s gotten himself into. He’ll figure it out; I have faith in him, and I can’t wait to see how he does it.

“Fall through the words into the story.” Gordon Dickson