One Writer’s Journey

October 11, 2017

3 Places to Turn for Story Ideas

One of my friends and I ended up chatting about idea generation yesterday.  I may go a week or so without an idea.  But then I have 5 or so in a day.  I keep a list, starting a new list each year.  So far the one for 237 ideas on it.  This morning it had 232.

Where do I get my ideas?  Because I write so much nonfiction, any time I’m at a museum or reading an article, a new idea might be just around the corner.  Others, some nonfiction and some fiction, are inspired by a line of text in a story.  Or something I overhear.  I’m a touch dyslexic so when I’m especially tired I tend to misread things.  That’s led to a lot of wacky story ideas.

If you are someone who could use a spot of help when it comes to idea generation, here are three places you can turn:

Editor Alli Brydon will be posting a writing prompt for children’s literature every Monday on Twitter.  You can either follow @allibrydon or search on #kidlitbot.  Read more about this new initiative here on Tara Lazar’s blog.

Inktober is a month-long illustration challenge.  You can read a bit about it here or search for illustrations from participating illustrators on Twitter (#inktober).  A friend of mine, Katie Wools, is participating so I’ve seen her illustrations and noticed several more on Twitter.  I did a search and couldn’t believe the enormous variety of work both in topic and in style.  Check it out and you are sure to come up with some ideas.

Last but not least, don’t’ forget about Illustration Friday.  This is a weekly illustration prompt.  I hesitate to say always but I think it is always a single word prompt.  Use that word to generate your own ideas.  Or look through the work presented.  Like Inktober, the range of topics and styles is vast.

Enjoy following the trail of great illustrations to a new idea of your own!



July 19, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:43 am
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Where do I get ideas? I once made the mistake of telling an interviewer that I get my ideas everywhere. The flow can be so invasive, that I’d have to put a bucket over my head to turn it off. That was one line out of a 20 minute interview. Guess which quote she used?
In January I took part in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm. The point is to come up with one idea each day of the month.  I’m not 100% certain how many ideas I had by the end of January, but I keep on adding to the list.  At this point I have 178 ideas.  That’s not too bad given that we are 181 days into the year.
Of course, I can hear the doubters among you already.  What good does 178 ideas do?  How many of them are you going to write?  At this point I’ve queried on 4 pieces of magazine nonficiton and have roughed out two picture books.  Not too shabby for just over half way through the year if you take into consideration that I’ve written 3 other books.
But where do these ideas come from?  I get a lot from my reading.  I read a number of science blogs.  New findings and new interpreations can inspire both ficiton and nonficiton.  History blogs are just as good.  Writing blogs can inspire my own blog posts.  “Hey, that’s not what I thought I post with that title would be about!”  Blogs about books work the same way.
Having a brain that’s as chatty as mine is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve never been one of those writers who wonders if I will come up with another idea. I just have to pick which one to work on next.  But I also have to manage to stick with it. If I’m not careful, the next super shiny idea can lure me away.
So now I’m off to finish a draft of the poem I started yesterday for Highlights Hello. It has gone from 3 lines to 8. Ok. Actually 7 but that’s because one line is still AWOL. That’s the one I’m going to go chase down.  But maybe I should stop and find that bucket first…

April 21, 2017

ISO Ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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ISO ideasYesterday I mentioned how inspirational I found the Library of Congress Magazine.  Apparently I’m not the only one who finds inspiration in this library’s amazing collection.  Check out this post from Jann Alexander in which she discusses the inspiration she finds in the library’s print and photography collections.

If you’ve never spent any time poking around in the library’s online offerings, do yourself a favor.  But not if you have a deadline fast approaching.  Go write and then come give it a good look. You will find photos and engineering records of historic buildings, Abraham Lincoln’s papers, and even an Afghanistan web archive.  This isn’t just about the archives themselves.  Some collections also include a tab of articles or essays about the materials contained therein.

But this isn’t all that Alexander talks about in her post.  She also discusses an archive of oral histories collected by Story  Interviews range in topic from how someone found their calling to parenting, including a discussion between Chris and Gabe Lopez on being transgender and hoping his mother would still accept him. Gabe is now 9 years-old so this is a real eye opener about how young children dealing with being trans. The Story Corps recordings are technically podcasts with a new offering put up each week.  Consider listening and see where other people’s stories take you in your own work.

Last but not least, Alexander recommends that writers find inspiration among the obituaries.  I know that I’ve considered writing several bios after reading someone’s obit and discovering that they were a pioneering chemist, a code talker or more.  In addition to straight up obits, Alexander also recommends Find A Grave.  This is a national web site that includes obits and photographs. Sometimes the photo is only the grave marker but others include early photos, midlife photos and more.  If you don’t have a name to look up, you can also look at popular searches, new listings and new photos, and famous graves.

Next time you find yourself waffling around without inspiration, check out one of these sites and, when inspiration strikes, be sure to say thank you to Jann Alexander for sharing her sources of inspiration.


January 13, 2017

Story Ideas: Where do they come from?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:33 am
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light-bulbs-1125016_1920Throughout the month of January, I’m taking part in Storystorm. The goal is to generate 30 ideas in 30 days.  I’m writing this on Thursday the 12th and I currently have 22 ideas.

Early on, because I hadn’t been doing much idea generation, I was going good to come up with one a day.  Yes, I was managing it but it wasn’t pretty.  I’m so far ahead because the other day I came up with 9.  And I have a second one to write down for today.

How do I come up with so many ideas?

One thing is to look for ideas all around you.  I’ve been reading the Storystorm blog posts.  They’re all informative and some have nudged me towards an idea.  Sometimes it isn’t even an idea based on the post itself.  Sometimes I look at the images and one will remind me of something I found researching the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 St. Louis World’s Fair).  The next thing I know, I’m noodling over an idea based on that research.

When you write nonfiction, one idea can also lead to another.  That’s what happened when I started thinking about the World’s Fair.  An idea about Ota Benga (someone brought in as part of an exhibit) led to an idea about using people as exhibits and more.

My daily foreign language study led to an idea about words. Reading the National Science Association newsletter led to an idea about nanomaterials. I’ve come up with ideas based on recent headline news, things I’ve seen posted on social media and more.

While one idea may not lead directly to another, generating ideas on a regular basis seems to have freed up the flow.  This is definitely a habit that I hope to continue after the month and the challenge are over.

That said, if I’m going to generate 300+ ideas in one year, I’m going to have to come up with some way to organize them.

I’m thinking . . . I’m thinking . . .




November 28, 2012

Where Do You Get Your Picture Book Ideas?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
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Making papier mache tea cups has managed to inspired not one but two ideas, one of which has nothing to do with papier mache.

Disclaimer — first things first, I should probably come clean.  I love all the smarty pants answers that other writers come up with when someone asks where they get their ideas.  My personal favorite is “a subscription service.”

So, where do I get my picture book ideas for PiBoIdMo?  Here and there.

It isn’t a very helpful answer, but its the truth.  Looking over my first fourteen ideas here is the “inspirational breakdown”:

1 story inspired by Halloween
1 story about a little girl who keeps getting interrupted
1 nonfiction piece inspired by my work
1 nonfiction inspired by a discussion with my son

Blog reading:
2 nonfiction historic ideas
1 biography
4 about animals

E-mail subscriptions:
1 from a Friday Idea prompt (weekly prompt for illustrators)

Other books:
1 idea that came to me while reading More Spaghetti

When you read over this list it becomes obvious that whatever I’m doing can be inspirational.  I’m one of those curious people who sees something or hears something and thinks why?  How?  What made it that way?

That said, I am also behind by about 4 ideas.  Why?  Computer issues.  Someone hacked my e-mail.  Someone spoofed my e-mail.  My internet provider was non-helpful until they finally became helpful.  Then the mother board on my husband’s computer went bye-bye.  I don’t tend to brainstorm really well when I’m stressed.  Fortunately, we have the tech schedules to come out and replace the under warranty mother board today.  Things seem to be calming down.

. . . Sorry, I have to go.  Another idea based on another assignment just percolated to the surface!  Ooo, ooo!  And here comes one fueled by another book.


March 5, 2012

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:24 am
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Where do you turn for inspiration?

Maybe its because I write so many different things but my writing ideas come from all over.  I get ideas for essays from my family and church.  Ideas for Boy’s Life magazine come from my son’s scouting activities.  But one of the best sources of ideas for me is my reading.  Right now, I’m reading a National Geographic magazine.  I’ve marked four or five things already and I’m not even to the feature length stories.  Some pieces could easily inspire a piece of children’s nonfiction.  Another, a science fiction story.

Read more about idea generation in my blog post that appeared on the Muffin yesterday, “Inspiration: Where Do You Get Your Ideas.”

Tomorrow I’ll post about goals and my word count for last week.



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