Tag Archives: Picture Book Marathon

Picture Book Marathon 2012

9 Feb

“BANG!” Equestrian bodies hurl past the open gates. Hooves pound the dirt below. The race is on!

For the past two years I’ve participated in the Picture Book Marathon and am proud to say that each time I came out a winner with 26 new picture book drafts.

This year is a little different. Instead of charging out of the gate, I haven’t moved an inch. Ever see a cartoon where one of the horses lazily stays in its pen. That’s me. I keep waiting for the jockey to whip my behind. Though I need to realize that if I’m going to finish this race it’s up to me and me alone.

It’s already well into the second week with 20 days left to pen the 26 required drafts.

Can I do it? Of course.

Will I? Well that’s the question I shouldn’t be pondering. It’s just like those wide receivers in the NFL that look ahead to the endzone before focusing on the catch at hand. What happens? They end up dropping the ball. Someone I love dearly once told me that starting is 50%. In any goal we wish to undertake, the focus shouldn’t be on whether or not we can finish, but rather that we started. I’ve never sat on the other side of an interview, but a resume full of half endeavours looks more promising than a blank one.

Recently, I’ve had some people astounded by the task at hand saying that 26 drafts is just impossible. Quite the contrary, I find it easy to generate new ideas. The hard part comes later with dissecting the raw draft into a marketable manuscript, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

By the end of February I hope you will see a post about my conquest, but to be honest I should be worrying about whether I start or not. So who’s with me in leaving the gate and starting the epic Picture Book Marathon of 2012? Better late than never!

Official Information from the Creators:

Your Goal: Between February 1 and February 29, write one picture book a day, until you get to 26. This year, February has 29 days (thus, Take the Leap!), so you get a bonus break day.

The Basics: We define a picture book as (1) a story or narrative, (2) with a  beginning, middle, and end, (3) for children, and (4) intended to be illustrated. They’re generally, though not always, published in a 32 page format. Given the speed of the marathon, your picture book DRAFTS (for that’s what they’ll be) will be very rough. What you hope to capture is the basic plot, characters, and emotion of each story.

Why Do It:
  • Generate a lot of material in a short amount of time.
  • Get your creative juices flowing by forcing yourself to write daily.
  • Circumvent your internal naysayer – they either won’t have time to criticize, or they’ll be too tired.
  • Practice a writing practice.

For encouragement please check out the official PB Marathon blog

Special thanks to the Picture Book Marathon masterminds Lora Koehler and Jean Reagan and illustrator Will Strong for providing the official 2012 logo.

PBM – Week 4

1 Mar

February has closed its curtain and the Picture Book Marathon has ended. Hopefully all of you imaginators out there successfully crossed the finish line. If not, you can always extend your marathon into March and wrap up the loose drafts.

Having finished four days early, this year’s marathon feels less of a monumental task and more of a useful writing exercise. While, according to PBM officials, each marathoner was to complete 1 manuscript per day with 2 days reserved for rest and recuperation. Eager to finish before a lengthy business trip to Tokyo, I opted for a sprint. Luckily, thanks to my ever-increasing writing endurance, on February 12th and February 24th I was able to pen 4 manuscripts. In fact, out of the 26 days, only on 4 days did I pen just one manuscript. It’s not that I carelessly rushed my way through each 500 to 1,000 word draft, but rather I’ve used my experience and resources to make use of the time. For instance, my desk job is simply that, for 75% I’m regulated at said location free to listen to music, surf the net, or in my case, write picture books. In addition, several of the pieces had been ideas crawling out of the boxes in my attic. So naturally with loose outlines and page turns penciled in various journals, I found it easier to dust them off and pen them to life.

Each manuscript has been dated, attached to a storyboard blueprint and a status sheet, and firmly placed into a clear plastic sleeve in the holy 2011 PBM Binder. Will I reference this holy resource in the future? Of course, but then again, there will be a few pieces left to rot until I can gather up the resources necessary to afford the plastic surgery.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s picture book marathon. In the meantime, I plan to send out 1 picture book as well as write 2-4 new manuscripts per month.

To see a list of manuscripts #1-22, plese see the previous PBM weekly posts. Below are the final manuscripts of this year’s picture book marathon.

  • 23.)  Father Goose Tries To Tell a Tale: Father Goose tires of being shushed at storytime and puts his beak to the rhyming test.
  • 24.) Unless: A Guide to What Kids Don’t Like: A list of things kids don’t like remixed into things they will love. For instance, kids don’t like cavities…unless faeries bury their shiny treasure there.
  • 25.)  Your Mommy: In the fashion of ‘yo mamma’ jokes, two boys verbally compete boasting how great the other’s mother is. “Your mommy smells so nice, perfume is made from her farts.”
  • 26.)  Wild Bowl: In a small African village, young Dede is presented a football which he views as a wounded warrior who joins him in battle with wild animals on the field of battle.

PBM – Week 1

10 Feb

The first week of February is history, and we’re a quarter of the way through the Picture Book Marathon. I haven’t had nearly enough practice to near perfection, but this being my 2nd year the experience is paying off. This time last year I had already used my two vacation days and was far behind. Desperate to advance to the head of the pack I wrote several ‘visual heavy’ drafts as part of the Mission Imaginable series.

This year I’m not about to just add a stack of paper to my own slush pile. Instead, the goal is to produce 26 usable seeds that when planted, watered, and whispered to will blossom into a publishable bouqet of picture books. Ok, let’s be honest, I’d be happy to have 5 of them bloom, but I’m reaching for 20.

As of February 7th, I’ve managed to pen seven manuscripts. My heart rejoices at seeing old ideas spring to life. But seeing a great range in stories, style, voice is not only comforting but reassuring that I’m not just a one-trick humorous list generating pony.

Of the seven, one is ready for the critique group, another needs an editing bath, four require time to runaway from my ego so that I may slash it to pieces later on, while one is a short cut excuse to jump start the process.

Overall, I’m enjoying this marathon. Not behind, nor needing to rush promotes a kinder attention to detail and editing while writing.

Sadly I’m not an illustrator, so I can’t provide delicious covers like imaginators Nathan Hale, Jed Henry, and Julie Olson. Please visit their blogs, view their impressive work and drop them a comment or three.

I’ll leave you with week one’s marathon roster members. I hope one day we can enjoy them together.

  1. Pin the Tail on the…: There’s a box full of animal tails, help the lost and found find each tail’s owner.
  2. Just Bailey (working title): Bailey doesn’t know if he is a she or she is a he.
  3. Mingo the Dingo Plays Bingo: Through Bingo, Grandma Dingo teaches Mingo the purpose of winning.
  4. Ropunzel: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Get a Haircut: A boy is interrogated about his long hair, but what will he do when the questions stop coming? 
  5. Witches Day: A little boy plans to stop the witches from crashing the school dance.
  6. Coastergeist: A scaredy-ghost must overcome his fears and haunt Mammoth Mountain.
  7. Airhog Day: To avoid the suffocating attention of Groundhod Day, Wilbur takes to the sky.


31 Jan

Logo by Nathan Hale

The time has arrived for this year’s Picture Book Marathon. Special thanks to Jean Reagan and Lora Koehler for running this spectacular event. Similar to November’s Novel Writing Month, the Picture Book Marathon is centered around child-friendly 32/40 page texts. The goal is to pen 26 complete manuscripts in the month of February, leaving 2 days for rest, relaxation and sanity. Having successfully crossed the finish line along with 20+ other writers, I can’t wait to lace up the writing sneakers again this year. To sign-up simply pay a visit to http://www.picturebookmarathon.org but do so no later than January 30th! If you miss the deadline, there’s nothing stopping you from unofficially writing.

To help keep track of your complete manuscripts, please download my PBMarathonChecklist Click to view/print and right click to save the PDF.

During the marathon I encourage you to stop back here for the INSPIRATHON, a month long parade of motivational posts filled with Imagicise writing prompts, links, photos, Starting Line / Finish Line story starters/enders, quotes and music.

In addition be sure to blast off to Nathan Hale’s Space Station Nathan for his daily marathon posts including the cover and description of each manuscript.

For further motivation, I highly recommend Katie Davis’s Brain Burps About Books podcast.

Happy writing imaginators!


11 Jan

With February’s Picture Book Marathon approaching, there’s no better time to rocket over to Nathan Hale’s blog Space Station Nathan. In 2010, the author/illustrator generously provided a graphic illustration with details for each of his 28 manuscripts. As a delicious bonus, each idea is prefaced with an episodic incarnation of the comic book / graphic novel serial  “Yellowbelly and Nate Visit Children’s Publishing a.k.a. THE LAND OF DOOM.”

To gear up for this year’s PB Marathon, begin with Nathan’s first entry and then work your way through the list by clicking ‘Newer Post’ on the bottom left.

Many writers are weary of their ideas being stolen and thus are shy to post them on the internet. Though, Nathan, a publishedwriter / illustrator confidently hands you a backstage pass into his imagination. With titles, “I’m a Fungi” and “Mermaid Fire Brigade” his ideas are fresh, funny, yet appeal to all ages. The covers are drawn in a classic picture book meets modern graphic novels style as seen in The Twelve Bots of Christmas.

When finished peering at Nathan’s picture books, stay up to date with recent  installments of his early reader Percy: The Little Big Dragon.

Two thumbs up, a presidential wave, and a humble bow to Nathan Hale, a true imaginator, and his Space Station of creativity.


7 Nov

In my sophomore year of high school I joined the cross-country team. Did I need to lose weight? Nope. Did I consider myself a long distance all-star? Nope. “Then why do you want to join the team?” asked Marv, the beloved teddy bear/coach.

“I want to get involved after school,” I said.

“You got skinny legs kid,” he said, “But we’ll turn you into a runner. It’s all about endurance.”

Marv never told a lie. This was a guy who daily sported a track suit only to hit up the Burger King drive thru before threatening to rear end us with his Buick “war wagon.” Though, he knew the importance of endurance.

Though it wasn’t till recently I learned that it also applied to writing. While countless souls may doodle in their notebook and speak about their “novel,” are they writing it? More importantly, how often and for how long?

Though I eventually moved from sporadic attempts to habitual weekly and now daily writing. I was writing often, but I noticed something was lacking. Endurance.

Someone noticed this void back in 1996. It was Marv as he dipped his french-fries in barbeque sauce. It may have something to do with my inability to focus. I’ve conveniently convinced myself I have ADHD. I’m not asking for Ritalin, I’m just labeling the obvious. Luckily, being born in 1981 meant I was a few years shy of being drugged. However, I’m thankful for my hyperactivity as it easily spawns the crazy ideas.

But what are ideas? They’re just a rain less cloud. Some ideas may require only a page or two of scribbling, but when I ready myself to write a novel, I’m doomed.

Writing endurance can be measured by the minute you stop typing, and subconsciously look for a diversion. Maybe you grab a soda, check your e-mail, or cut your friend’s toenails. You’re allowed to blow your nose, that doesn’t count.

Let’s go back to my first practice with endurance when Marv was my master and I his apprentice.

“Go out there and run kid,” he said.

“How long coach?” I asked.

“Just run,” he said, “When you get tired, stop. When you’re ready, run again. I’ll let you know when it’s time to go home.”

I can’t say I pushed myself though I certainly struggled through my elected four half-mile sets. The next day, my Dad had to rent a forklift to get me out of bed. “How can I possibly run anymore?” I thought.

It was possible. Within a month, I was running the gauntlet. Five to 10 miles a day, and every Thursday I’d trek up and down ski slopes. Never once did I stop. No one would noticed as I was always second to last. I will always cherish Marv for allowing anyone to join the squad. I never won a race, but I crossed the finish line.

Now if a writer wants to close the curtains on a screenplay, novel, or even an article. They need to develop their endurance.

Previously, I clocked my endurance at one page. Though recently, including this very piece, I’m nearing page three and I have yet to slow down. This is what it takes to succeed. A writer needs to simply write. The longer you condition yourself to write, not only will you have more to show for, you’re also be naturally transitioning your pieces over complex plot lines. How can an ensemble cast in a short story seamlessly mingle together when you stop after each page? It’s best to just gun it out. After time, writing won’t seem as such an obstacle. And if you push yourself a little further, you may even win something.

I’ve been conditioning myself for just the past three days, and my endurance has already improved to roughly 4 pages, or 1,000 words. Just work on strengthening your ability to write without stopping. No e-mails, no trips to the refrigerator, just keep typing/penning away!

Moving along, most runners look back at the race, and think, “I could have done better.” Which is why I suppose some were happy when they threw up. This was proof they tried hard. Once the race is finished, there’s no going back.

But with writing, we can. This is where editing comes into play. I never can go back to Beaver Island state park and improve my time. But I can revise this piece. Do you think this is the original copy of this piece? Nah. In fact, I only kept these lines to prove the point. This baby has been conditioned to the core.

No one can coach you there. It’s up to you. It’s not like Marv is going to crash the war wagon into your workroom if you decide to watch Hanna-Barbera cartoons on youtube. So be your own coach and build up that endurance.

What should you write? Anything. If possible, just work on a blog entry each day. When do you stop writing? When the piece is finished. You’ll know when to stop.

Don’t even think about editing. Allow your heart to distance itself from the piece. Then when your critical owls can grab each word with their menacing talons, let the editing commence. For now it’s time to celebrate, play the ‘Superman’ theme song, quench your thirst, or go next door to cut Ms. Glasgow’s toes.

In no time, you’ll be churning out manuscripts faster than Harry Potter books out of China. By the way…I wrote this piece while in a warm-up suit rocking some Burger King.

For help with endurance participate in NANOWRIMO or the Picture Book Marathon.