One Writer’s Journey

December 29, 2017

Storystorm 2018: Idea Generation

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:19 am
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Start 2018 with a batch of new story ideas by taking part in Storystorm.  At one point in time, this program, organized by author Tara Lazar, was known as PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and took place in November.  But Tara wanted to expand it beyond picture books.

Now all types of children’s writers participate.  Throughout January you keep track of the ideas you generate.  The goal is to have 30 ideas by the end of the month.  There are inspirational posts and prizes for all who complete the program.  You can find out more about it here.

I found Storystorm so inspirational in 2017 that I didn’t quit when January ended.  I kept on adding to my list.  As I write this on 12/28, my list is something like 320 ideas long.  Yeah, I was a little disappointed.  I wanted one per day.

Some people discount this type of idea generation.  Who cares if you collect ideas if you don’t write them all?

  1.  Not all ideas are created equal.  Some simply do not measure up.
  2. By getting into the habit of generating story ideas, you get into the habit of generating ideas.  This my just be my opinion, but in my not-so-humble opinion, generating story ideas leads to generating other ideas.  Your stories become more original.
  3. Your list becomes a handy tool.  I have several projects that I plan to work on next year that came together because of this list.  I also use it when I need to come up with ideas for a query or pitch.  Or a nonfiction publisher puts out a call for proposals.

This paragraph is an update to the original post:  Lazar is now taking registrations.  Comment on the announcment post on her blog (linked here) to register.

This program is amazingly inspirational.  Why not take part and start your writing year in a whirlwind of creativity?

For more on idea generation, see “Idea Generation: Where Do You Get Your Ideas” and “3 Places to Turn for Story Ideas.”



May 8, 2017

Book Trailer

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:42 am
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Recently I came across the book trailer for Tara Lazar’s Way Past Bedtime.  

Lazar shared a funny story about her trailer.  She was fussing and fuming that she hadn’t gotten it together in time to have a trailer before her book launched.  She fussed and fumed enough that she got the attention of her teen who put together this trailer in one evening.

One.  Evening.

What did it take?  Clearly, she has a program that enabled her to do this.  In this case, it was iMovie.  She had a copy of the book.  And the appropriate music.  And her imagination.

Granted, this is the sort of trailer that is only going to work for a picture book.  Or maybe a graphic novel.

Young adult nonfiction?  Not really.

How could I adapt this approach for my books?  The Ancient Maya could feature images from Mayan ruins.  Spooky images.  Creepy music and prowling jaguar could set the tone.  “Who built these cities and where did they go?”

Honestly, that’s the easy one.  Black Lives Matter?  Maybe a newsroom set up.  Who is this group and where did it come from?

12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis?  Audio could be news footage and images of kids practicing duck and cover.  “What brought us to this point?  What you need to know to understand the threat of the Cold War.”


What do you need to keep in mind when you put together a trailer?

The tone of your book.  Is your book silly or serious?  Upbeat?

Music.  If you are working with video, don’t forget the audio element.  What type of music can you use to capture the tone of your book?

Images.  A picture book is going to come with images.  But for older nonfiction you have to get creative.

The audience.  If your book is going to have school appeal, you want to create a trailer with visual impact because it may be playing in the background in a school library.

I’ve never made a trailer but this is tempting me to try my hand at creating this all important promotional tool.


December 21, 2016

Step into 2017 with Storystorm

storystormNeedless to say, everyone is a little wound up about 2017.  I mean a little worse than the usual year-end angst.  I’d like to invite all you writers to step into the New Year with Storystorm.

Back in November you might have missed PiBoIdMo or Picture Book Idea Month sponsored by Tara Lazar.  Unfortunately, as I remember correctly, Tara has been having some health problems and needed to postpone this annual event.  She also took the opportunity to expand it to a greater variety of participants.

Obviously, Picture Book Idea Month was also about generating picture book story ideas.  Storystorm expands this to include any writing genre. I guess I should admit that as far as I’m concerned, an idea is an idea.  I may think it is a picture book idea but it turns into middle grade nonfiction.  So I’m pretty jazzed about this change.

The goal if for participants to end the month of January with 30 fresh, new story ideas.  What a great way to start the year!

Registration begins the day of Christmas, December 26th.  You can register through the first week of January.  You don’t have to register, but participants who do are eligible to win agent consultations, books, critiques, and more. The link above will take you to Tara’s blog for more information.

So if you’re looking forward to an excellent writing year in 2017, why not start it with Storystorm?


September 8, 2015

Fairy Tales: Fracture them to come up with something new

A favorite fractured fairy tale in the Edwards' household.

A favorite fractured fairy tale in the Edwards’ household.

I have yet to successfully write and sell a fractured fairy tale but Tara Lazar has inspired me to revisit a Billy Goats Gruff retelling.  Lazar is the author of Little Red Gliding Hood due out in October.  In this spin off of the well known fairy tale, Red is an ice skater.  There are many ways to fracture a fairy tale and Lazar’s post on this topic got me thinking.

Play with the title.  That’s what Lazar did in Little Red Gliding Hood.  She replaced Riding with the rhyming word Gliding.  Try this with something like the Three Bears.  You can have Three Pears (believe it or not my son LOVED this story as a preschooler), Three Squares, Three Mares, Three Hares, or even Three Eclairs.  I’m not saying any of these are brilliant but you get the idea.  Change one element and you change the whole story.

Play with the characters.  One of my son’s favorite picture books was Gator Gumbo by Candace Fleming.  This is a Little Red Hen retelling in which Fleming replaces the hen with an aged gator.  What if Goldilocks was a grifter out to take advantage of the bears?

Play with settings.  I’ve often wondered what Candace Fleming decided to do first — swap the hen for a gator or move the story to the swamp.  It would change the story just as much to set it on the tundra, in the rainforest, or in the outback.

Play with the POV.  That’s what Jon Sciezka does in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.  Instead of telling the story from the pigs’ POV, he gives voice to the wolf.  What would happen if you retold The Gingerbread Man from the POV of the gingerbread man?  Granted, that could easily get too strange for a picture book, but with the right twist it could be warped fun.

Play with props.  Many of the characters in fairy tales have important props.  Swap out Jack’s beanstalk for a sunflower.  What if the witch tried to feed Snow White a cookie but couldn’t guarantee that it was peanut free?  Lazar puts Red Riding Hood on skates.

Take a familiar fairy tale or folk tale out and play with it.  You may end up with a twist that takes readers on a whole new literary journey.


February 27, 2015

Brainstorming: Using rhyme and homonyms to take an idea someplace new

littleredglidinghoodRecently, I read an interview with illustrator Troy Cummings.  One of his recent projects is a fractured fairy tale picture book, Little Red Gliding Hood (October 2015).  There’s a lot of great information in the interview, but immediately my brain went to something else.  Gliding Hood.  Riding hood.  Maybe brainstorming rhyming words be a good way to generate ideas for fractured fairy tales.

Riding Hood could become Gliding Hood (taken), Sliding Hood, Colliding Hood, and Flying Hood.  Okay that last one isn’t rhyme but the same vowel sound.  As long as I’m going that route I can add Minding Hood, Twining Hood, and Vining Hood. I’m not sure any of these are brilliant but I can imagine possibilities for Sliding Hood (baseball), Colliding Hood (demolition derby) and Vining Hood (plants/vines).

Homonyms are trickier because there are only so many words that sound alike but what if you tried turning something like this into a fractured fairy tail?  That could easily yield or version with animal characters — not my forte but a possibility nonetheless.

Why not give it a shot the next time you don’t know what to write?  Start with a fairy tale or legend and spin-off rhymes and homonym.  Or start with a failed idea out of your files.  Maybe you can take it someplace new and hilarious.



October 7, 2014

Brainstorming: Picture Book Idea Month

Ipiboidmo2014banner love coming up with new writing ideas, probably because I’m good at it.

But I have to admit that when I’ve had several deadlines to meet or am otherwise busy, I don’t always take the time to generate ideas that I don’t immediately need.  That’t the beauty of a program like Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month.

Picture Book Idea Month takes place every November.  The goal is to take the time to generate no less than 30 different picture book ideas.  Ideally, you generate one a day for 30 days.

I have to admit that that is not the way I tend to do it.  I’ll come up with one idea here and another there.  If I’m on deadline, I may skip several days in a row.

But when I commit myself to the program, something happens.  I come up with one idea and then another.  By the time the month of November comes to an end, I generally have more ideas than the 30 minimum, in part, because once the ideas start flowing, they really come.  Instead of having one idea to jot down, I’ll have two or three.

If you write picture books, why not take part in this challenge.  Just pop on over to the Facebook page and join the group.  Yes, Tara knows that the date listed is 2011 but it won’t let her update the name and this IS the current group.  Why not sign up and watch the ideas flow onto the page?

You might also want to read Sunday’s post at the Muffin to read more about brainstorming writing ideas.

October 29, 2012

What Do Picture Book Writers Do during NaNoWriMo?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:24 am
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It’s that time of year again.  Leaves are changing.  We’re shopping the sales for candy to nibble on while we write.  And a bunch of people are drafting an entire novel in one month.  But what do you do if you’re a picture book writer?  Or if you simply have no interest in writing a novel in only 31 days?

You sign up for PiBoIdMo — Picture Book Idea Month.

Sponsored by picture book author Tara Lazar, Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo, encourages picture books writers to brainstorm ideas.  The goal is to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.  Given the fact that I have 3 deadlines in November and will have to good and clean and actually pay attention to my family, this seems like a much wiser path to me.  Besides, I love brainstorming.

All you have to do to join in the fun is sign up here.

There will be inspirational blog posts as well as opportunities to check in.  I’m not sure how many people have signed up for that other challenge, but I was #312.

Why not join in the fun and develop some ideas to keep you busy in 2013?


June 13, 2012

Save the Bookstores Day

Agent Kelly Sonnack has come up with a marvelous, stupendous, amazing idea.  We work together to save the whales and polar bears.  We’ve already managed to get bald eagles off the endangered list.
So why not Save the Bookstores?
This Saturday, June 16, is Save the Bookstores Day.  On that day, if books are special to you, we’d like to ask that you take the time to visit your local independent bookstore.
Swing on by, look through the stacks and take home a new friend.   Find out more on Save the Bookstores in this interview that author Tara Lazar did with Sonnack.
Not sure about indies in your area?  If you’re here in the St. Louis area, Main Street Books in  St. Charles in my favorite.   You can also plug your zip code into IndieBound’s Indie Store Finder and it will give you a list of the stores within a certain number of miles of your home.
Come on!  You want to go buy a new book.  You know you do.

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