Tag Archives: Picture Books

StoryStorm 2019: May Bountiful Ideas Rain Upon Us

1 Jan

StoryStorm, the brainchild of creative picture book penner Tara Lazar, is an inspiring challenge to writers of all inclinations to create 30 individual ideas for a story/plot/concept/book throughout the month of January. To further motivate, Lazar’s site provides a daily insightful guest blog from fellow writers/illustrators.

StoryStorm is the evolution of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), which centered exclusively on picture book ideas, and occurred during the hectic month of November (it clashed with National Novel Writing Month). Registration is free, just make sure to post a comment with your name on the registration post, and then you’ll be able to win a slew of cool kid lit related prizes, permitting you post a comment on each inspiration guest post. Be sure to also subscribe so your inbox will be filled with daily inspiration.

Both incarnations are widely popular with thousands of published and aspiring authors as well as classrooms of students participating to develop routine muse-filled habits while embracing their inner creator. In 2018, I decided to continue on my own with PiBoIdMo in November, but am also happy and encouraged to creatively ride out the ‘Storm in 2019!


I’m already one idea in with Wood You?, a meta picture book response to deforestation and both the liberal and conservative stances on protecting the earth’s trees. Think of it as the Lorax, but less furry and more direct and analytical. I certainly need to work on my pitches, as that book (from what I just wrote) sounds AWFUL!!!! 🙂

Bring on the Ideas: 2014 PiBoIdMo

29 Oct

It’s that time of year again!

Now that we’ve filled our mouths with Halloween candy, allow that sweet sugar to muse our brains with 30 delicious ideas for picture books. If you haven’t already, please sign-up for the 6th Annual Picture Book Idea Month hosted by the lovely Tara Lazar. On a personal note, for the second year in a row, my 9th grade English honors students will participate for extra credit. I hope to share their creative ideas with you in the future!


That’s a Wrap: PiBoIdMo 2012

8 Dec


Special thanks to Tara Lazar for hosting the fourth annual Picture Book Idea Month. My third venture with this global creativity party left me feeling less than “imaginative,” as you can see from my idea list below. This could be my gut saying, “it’s time. Revise and send out your existing stories, before you go mustering up more ideas.”

However, the true joy was seeing my talented ninth grade students generate ideas each and every day. I’m proud of their “imaginator” skills and look forward to guiding them as they turn one of their ideas into a genuine picture book manuscript. I just need to remember to add one student to my roster: ME!

Happy writing everyone. For those with a picture idea or three, I urge you to consider Picture Book Marathon in February.

This year’s ideas, well the titles at least:

  1. Busy Baby
  2. Thomas LeClair the Strange Little Bear
  3. Journey of the Droplets
  4. The Unlucky Cannon
  5. Frank and Steve’s Monster
  6. The Greedy Gyoza
  7. Septopus
  8. Mirror Jumper
  9. Outside the Box
  10. Down the Mountain
  11. The Giant Eraser
  12. Super Slice
  13. The Chip Monk
  14. The Wampire
  15. The Ark
  16. Sensory Field Trip
  17. Pet Buffet
  18. For Giants Only
  19. Owl Cafe
  20. The Late Bird
  21. Birthday Doors
  22. My Pony is Bigger Than Yours
  23. Girl VS. Cap
  24. Cop Kid
  25. Santa’s Apprentice
  26. The Haunted Boy
  27. Uninsultable Kid
  28. The Vegetable Jar
  29. Cinderello
  30. Aldo the Alligator Finds a Job


IMAGICISE: Zootastic

2 Jun

Answer the call of the wild, well a caged wild, in this zoopendous imagicise! This session is all about enhancing your creative discovery while frolicking through a zoonderful world.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Human Habitat

    A world renowned zoo has decided to add a human habitat. You’ve been hired as the chief designer. You’re responsible for a main enclosure and four individual unisex indoor spaces. Describe your plans and explain the rationale behind your design.

  • Day 2: Speed Mating

    Quickly write down 8 animal species. It’s time to imagine that these animals will be participating in a animal version of speed dating. Using the 8 animals you listed, make 4 pairs. For each pair write a 2 minute dialogue on what each animal may say during their brief “date” session. This is a great exercise for those wishing to hone their dialogue writing skills.

  • Day 3: Name that Zoo

    A benefactor in your city has decided to open a new zoo. Though the city already has a zoo, and an original name must be devised for the new zoological park. Create a list of possible names. Examples: Wildlife World, Magical Menagerie, Animal Gardens. For those bulking up, select five of the names and write slogans for each one.

  • Day 4: Fantastical Menagerie

    You’re the curator of a magical zoo. It’s full of extinct, mythical, and just plain weird animals. What animals will be in your collection? Feel free to experiment and mix and match different animals. Example could include: dodo birds; unicorns; Blue Flamingo, a pink flamingo injected with blue poison dart frogs to give it blue feathers; Horny Hippos, a hippopotamus with rhinoceros horns. For those bulking up, describe the enclosures for three of the animals.

  • Day 5: Escape Plan

    List three of your favorite animals. Now select one of them. Pretend that you are a member of this species and  currently reside in a zoo. However, the zookeeper forget to lock the cage door. You’ve escaped. Where will you go, what will you do? For those bulking up, devise another ‘escape plan’ for another animal species.

IMAGICISE: Saying Goodbye

26 May

Prepare yourself for this emotionally jarring and tear invoking week of imagicises. Goodbye is a dangerous word, as we never know if another hello will be uttered. This session is all about exploring death while preparing ourselves to say farewell.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Bon Voice Mail

    List five people from your life, that you cherish. Consider the possibility that you will never see them again, and your message on their voicemail is the last thing they will hear before their untimely demise. What do you wish you would have said. Please keep in mind you can’t tip them off about their impending doom. Write the message for each of the five people. As a bonus, if the situation was reverse, what do you wish each of the five had said in their final voice mails.

  • Day 2: Original Goodbye

    It’s fun (depending on who you are) to break down words and to guess their origins. Farewell probably came from “fair/do well,” while “take care” is the shortened form of “take care of yourself.” Now pretend you are a government endorsed linguist and it’s your time to shine some new light on everyday expressions. Consequently, create a slew of new words or phrases for goodbye. They can be completely original, based on other languages, inside jokes, or abbreviated forms of existing words or phrases. For example, “break it” could be used as an abbreviated form of “go break a leg.” This is a difficult imagicise for some, and you not know where to begin. To aid the process, think of a variety of characters or personalities and imagine if they had their own way of saying goodbye what would it be? For instance, a irate taxi drive won’t say “farewell.” What would a high strung hair stylist, or a retired mob boss say? Here is a sampling of the possibilities: dayo, boodles, to infinity, until dinner, funbe.

  • Day 3: Reverse Pirating

    List your 5 most prized possessions. The bad news is, the time has come to tell them “bon voyage.” The good news is, you get to choose their next destination and owner. For example, who gets your diamond ring, the Xbox 360, and your Adam West autographed batman cape. However, you can not choose family or close friends. Where and/or who do you choose, and why?

  • Day 4: Putting the Fun in Funeral

    This may be difficult for some and enjoyable for others. You’ve been warned. You’re in the funeral business, but the business side is taking a turn for the worst due to stiff competition from Wal-Mart opening its own funeral parlor. It’s up to you to save the day by coming up with unique and innovative ways to say goodbye to a loved one. Be sure to think outside the coffin box. For example, perhaps the corpse is given a ride on a roller coaster that soars underground staying buried. Maybe, the funeral parlor can relocate to a beachside location and offer viking funerals where the recently deceased is cremated in custom built boats set aflame and sent out to sea. Death is a touchy subject, but as a writer you’ll have to deal with it from all angles, so practice escaping your preconceived notions, and feelings on death.

  • Day 5: Fictional Tombstones

    Make a T-Chart (self-explanatory) with a left and right column. In the left column, for 1-2 minutes, list your favorite fictional characters from cartoons, movies, comics, and/or literature. In the right column, for 1-2 minutes, list fictional villains you despise. Now choose 3 to 5 favorites in the left column and 3-5 of your least favorites from the right column. Next, for each one, pen the words that should appear on their tombstone. Optional: Compare and contrast the tombstones from the left and right columns. Were you bias, or were you able to remain objective and pen beautiful words for both columns?


12 May

Get pumped for this gut wrenching week of imagicises, or you may have to get your stomach pumped. This session is all about exploring the nasty, ooiest, and gooiest the world has to offer.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Gross Thesaurus

    List as many synonyms for gross as you think of. Examples include eww, disgusting, nasty, yuck, and icky. Brainstorm for a minimum of five minutes. Next, spend five additional minutes inventing your own words for “gross.” For instance: bugly, toejamish, “oh litter,” GWB, and budget.

  • Day 2: Smelly House

    An amusement park is developing a new twist on the classic haunted house. Introducing the “Smelly House,” a haunted house exclusively for your olfactory senses. Plan out the “scary features” of this attraction by listing the nastiest, most vile smells on earth. Make sure to continue listing for 5 minutes. For those who wish continue, list a plethora of a wonderful smells for a “Tunnel of Love: Aroma Therapy” ride.

  • Day 3: Horrid Hybrids: Barely Edible Combinations

    If, “Beauty is in the eye of the holder,” than “deliciousness is in the eye of the eater.” In your lifetime, you’ve surely come across some less than flattering dishes. Now is your chance to become a master chef. Devise a menu full of the most hurl inducing items. Let your creativity flow, combine whatever your stomach doesn’t desire. Feel free to add combinations from a celery smoothie to a kitty litter corn dog.

  • Day 4: Fart Flavors

    You are the acting CEO of the Bottled Farts Inc. and it’s up to you save the company from losing out on major sales to still competition. Brainstorm ideas on new fart fragrances and their catchy names. Examples include: Mountain Ewww, Sweet Southern Belch, and Dr. Gasser. If you have extra time, choose one of the ideas and write a slogan and/or a 30 second radio advertisement.

  • Day 5: Icky Names

    Have you ever kissed a girl named Mildred Backwater, or hugged a man named Fungus Ficklebrew. There’s a reason for that. It’s the same reason you’ve never checked into the Stenchtrap Hotel. The names alone are vile enough to keep a parade length distance. It’s your turn to create the yuckiest of names and titles. Brainstorm names for people, schools, stores, cities, countries and whatever else is on your mind.


5 May

While we may spend most of our time in man made boxes, nature is omnipresent. It’s important for us to connect to our host, Mother Earth. This session of imagicise will harness our creativity while galloping through a little garden, a flowery meadow, or a frightful festive. Think of plants, bushes and trees.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Odd Origins

    Plants grow all over the earth. Some in soil, some in sand, some in water, while others can even grow in the air. Life can originate anywhere as 2pac once wrote about “the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete.” Think of unusual places plants could grow. Examples: a couch, a nostril, a little girl’s head, a car, a stinky shoe, a bowling ball’s finger holes. (5 mins) Choose one of the images and start a story on the origin of that plant and its adventure. (5 mins)

  • Day 2: Fantasy Garden

    Fruits and vegetables grow on plants and trees, but money doesn’t. Well in your fantasy garden, you can grow ANYTHING. What would you grow? Examples: money, tea bags, tooth brushes, bikinis, and groovy mustaches. Now imagine you are 7 years old, what things would you want to grow? Examples: yoyos, ice cream sandwiches, baseball cards, barbie underwear. Bonus: Compare the differences between the lists. Why have your tastes and needs changed… consider treating yourself to something from the 7 year old’s fantasy garden.

  • Day 3: People Plants

    Create new species of plants/trees/bushes based on people you know (celebrities and fictitious people are ok too). Incorporate their name. appearance, and personality into a plant. Describe these new plants. Example: Valerie Mint Trap- Valerie loves mints. Leafs like lips open up hoping to snatch a mint, just like a venus fly trap.

  • Day 4:  A World Without Green

    All the plants and trees on earth vanish. Describe the immediate effects from any perspective or location.

    Click here for more Vanishing style imagicises.
  • Day 5: Cactus People

    What if there was a race/ethnicity of humans with cactus like skin and features. Pretend you’re researching the lifestyle and customs of a native population of “cactus people” for National Geographic. What do you observe? Where do they live? What is their diet? What is there daily life consist of? Comment on how they would fit into modern society. What advantages/disadvantages do they have? 

IMAGICISE: Groundhog Day

28 Apr

On February 2nd, the groundhog may predict if spring will come early , but it possess no control over the weather’s destiny. However, with this imagicise you can not only predict the outcome of your creative efforts but also control your destiny as an imaginator.

This week’s installment of ‘imagicises’ will continue to help you get into tip top writing shape while exploring the tradition of Groundhog Day as well as the 1993 motion picture of the same name starring Bill Murray.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Punxsutawney Phil & Friends

    City officials have caught on to the success of having their own weatherhog. Though each city needs to come up with a name. Brainstorm names for possible groundhogs. First write a town/city name, from anywhere in the world including fictional cities, and then add a personal name to it. Alliteration is not essential, but definitely focus on the rhythm of the name. Make sure it takes on a personality of its own. Possible creations could include, Miami Miguel, Tonawanda Tiny, The Buffalo Burrower, and Gotham Gabe.

  • Day 2: Animalistic Holidays

    Groundhog Day is founded by the simple premise that if an animal sees its shadow it will mean 6 more weeks of winter. Brainstorm new traditions based on animals. For example, the number of kittens born to an honorary cat will correlate with how many months of beautiful weather people will enjoy. For a college football town, the first treat a zebra eats could predict what bowl game the team will participate in. Or a town could promote innocence and childhood and encourage senior citizens to visit local parks for free pony rides. They could call the rides, “The Jubilant Juvenile Journey.”

  • Day 3: Wildlife Opinion

    How do the other creatures of the earth feel about the groundhog’s annual 10 minutes of fame? Brainstorm a list of animals and for each one provide their opinion on the groundhog. For example, a bear could think, “Why would I wake up early for that?” and a chipmunk might say, “Why him? I’m cuter!” This exercise is helpful when naturally learning how to craft original voices for your characters. Dig deep into the soul of each critter.

  • Day 4:  Groundhog Day Starring You

    Groundhog Day is a 1993 comedy directed by Harold Ramis. The film stars Bill Murray whose character for no apparent reason continues to relive February 2nd, Groundhog Day. In essence, when he wakes up at 6am, it’s always the same exact day, though Murray retains his memory of the previous day(s). If you were the star of Groundhog Day… what things what you do? For example Murray’s character learns to play the piano, takes up ice sculpting, figures out how to rob a money truck, and learns information about local women in order to seduce them.

  • Day 5: Your Day of Repetition

    Bill Murray’s character comments how he’s upset that he has to relive a day in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the middle of winter. If you could have any day be your Groundhog Day, which would it be. Where is it? Why? For example… on the day of your surprise birthday, your wedding day, or a sunny day in Bali.


Katy Perry’s Sesame Street Remix

13 Feb

After watching Katy Perry deliver a stunning performance of her new single “Part of Me” at the 2012 Grammy Awards, I thought more than a 30 year old man should about her library of tunes. In my defense (and embarrassment) I was in the shower and I started to imagine how wonderful it would be to use the lyrics from some of Katy Perry’s songs as the textual basis for a series of picture books. We’ve seen it work (at least in sales) with Puff the Magic Dragon and a host of other books I prefer to ignore. But come on, Katy Perry is a hot commodity right/for now, so why not capitalize on it. “Hot and Cold” could blend magically to a child character who doesn’t fit any stereotypes and is all over the place. Well, someone beat me to it… sort of. I’m happy to say that it works!

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.