Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: Z is for Zee Winner is...

LadyJai!  My cat, Audi, took forever to finally step on a piece of paper (see it peaking between his paws?), but when he did, I opened it up to find Jai's entry which read:

Z is for the Zingy, Zaney, Zippy words we could all come up with.

Or it could be all the ideas we could ever NOT have: zero, zip, zilch.

Or we could start with the Zodiac or even talk about Zeus.

Or we could just scratch all that, and just go to the Zoo!

I'm not even sure where to start!  Jai had so many ideas in there and I can find inspiration in all of them, actually.

First line of her entry:  I love finding inspiration in word play (which is what her first line implies), as I discussed at various times in this alphabet of inspiration.  And one aspect that I didn't touch on was onomatopoeia.  Find some words that imitate sounds and have fun.  Zip!  Zing!

Next, the idea of nothing.  On the days when zero, zip, zilch is coming together...take a break!  Take a deep breath and walk away from it.  You aren't going to have a lifetime of no ideas!  During this month of PiBoIdMo, I went days with nothing, but then I'd have days with five ideas.  If you put it on the back-burner of your brain, it will eventually work its way to the front.  I promise.

That third line has much more in it, inspiration-wise, than you may first think.  The Zodiac and Greek mythology are great bits of inspiration because they are part of the family of stories that are already out there and you can use them.  Look at the constellations, folk tales, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, myths, legends, tall tales, oral tradition and on and on.  Take your pick!  You can build off of a story that is already out there, you can turn it on its head, you can pick a minor character and explore the story from their perspective.  Play, play, play!  You may find that you start trying to re-write the story of the Great Bear and end up with a story about picking flowers in a field.  Who knows?  They are great jumping off points regardless.

Finally, the Zoo.  I touched on animals in my "G is for Goats" post, so I'm going to go in a different direction with this one.  It is essential to go out and be among children.  Go to a public place where children can be found and observe (NOT in a creepy way please!  I have no bail money for you people).  The Zoo is an awesome choice because inspiration can be found in the visitors and the visited.  And here is an extra challenge to find inspiration:  try hard to not jump to conclusions when watching parents with their children.  It is so easy to write off a "bratty" child or the kid having a fit or the little guy who has a runny nose and keeps wiping it on his sleeve.  As adults we see these zoo-goers as problems.  As writers, we should see them as kids.  As our main characters.  Ask yourself why the child is hitting, the kid is screaming or the little guy is sick.  You'll find inspiration in the "why".

So that brings me to the end of "My ABCs of Inspiration".  I hope you have all had as much fun as I have this month.  I can't thank Tara Lazar enough for PiBoIdMo and all of you for allowing me to indulge in my first blog series to go along with it.   I'll try to create a button at the top of my page this week to have quick links to all the posts in this series in case you find yourself needing some inspiration down the road.

And as a general blogging note, I'm going to cut back on my posting frequency now.  I think I've settled on a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule.  I need to give myself more time to write some of these ideas I've had for picture books!   So, I'll see you all on Thursday!  : )

Monday, November 29, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: Y is for You

You, as in "you can inspire yourself!"  Self awareness is so important in writing.  It is also one of the most difficult things to achieve. 

Do you know yourself well enough to know what style of writing works for you?  I don't yet.
Do you have a distinct writing voice that is "you"?  I don't  yet.
Do you have something uniquely you that you want to convey in your writing?  I don't yet.
What is it you want to say to the world?  Hmmmm...

Once you have answers to these questions, you can use yourself as inspiration!  Use your voice.  Use your motivation.  Use your message.  Use the very reason you started writing in the first place.

Writer, know thyself!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: X is for X marks the spot

Finding a good idea for a picture book is like a treasure hunt.  You can spend a lot of time going down the wrong path.  You can dig and dig and dig and come up empty handed.  You can find clues that start to focus your efforts and attention.  And if you keep at it, you can find the "X" that marks the spot of a great idea.

A lot of us have come up with about 28 ideas so far.  Which of those ideas are just clues along the way to something great?  Which are false paths?  Are there some booby traps in there?  And do you have some that will be golden in the long run?  I bet you have some of each of these.  The real work begins in a few days when we start sorting through them all!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekend Recommendation #12

I hesitated to do another book by Mo Willems, but I can't help it!  The guy has quickly become my favorite author.  This one was rather unexpected to me.  City Dog, Country Frog is a beautiful book about friendship and loss and it would be a great book for a child moving away from friends or even those who have experienced loss because of death.  It is subtle and gentle and not overly sad.  The illustrations by Jon J Muth are excellent and a perfect match to both the tone of the story and the text itself (bravo to the art director who matched them up on this one!).  So, go check it out!

Friday, November 26, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: W is for Walks

A walk around your block may be just the inspiration you need!  Fresh air!  Exercise!  Critters scurrying!  Children playing!  Neighbors neighboring!  Cars zooming!

Get out!  Clear your head!  Go!  Walk!  Get away from this computer!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: V is for Vegetables

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm making this post about food!  Yummmmm....

Food is not only a necessity in life, it is often a source of great story telling.  Our characters can be on a food quest, they can be trying to avoid those veggies, they can be baking something special, they can be hiding peas behind the TV (my son did this once...ew), they can be trying something new to eat, they can be remembering a loved one because of a food they used to share, they can be making a food sculpture, heck...our characters can BE food!

So on this lovely holiday that we celebrate with food...try to find a little inspiration in your veggies!  : )

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: U is for Uncles

Okay, this one is a little crazy, but some of these letters are HARD!  : )

What I really mean here is extended family.  All family is a great source of inspiration!  And usually we think of our kids or our immediate household as the family that inspiration comes from, but I say...branch out farther on your family tree!  Think about those family gatherings...weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc.  I'm willing to bet everyone has an arsenal of insanity in their family somewhere.  Could a picture book be born from the wacky great-uncle or the grumpy grandfather?  You bet!  You may find inspiration in the people of your extended family or the situations you have found yourself in with them.

So, when you get together with that family tomorrow (USA friends) for Thanksgiving...maybe bring a notebook!

Note:  I will still be posting over the holiday weekend!  Have to finish the alphabet by November 30th, you know!  : )

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: T is for Twitter

During this fabulous month of picture book ideas, I've been more active on Twitter than I was before, and with good reason.  Ideas seem to pop up all over the place from that crazy site.  I've read multiple tweets that people have gotten ideas from other people's tweets!  Who knew?  If you are a stay-at-home-parent like me, you only talk to other adults online during the day.  And while our children are often inspirational, conversations with grown-ups can be inspirational too and Twitter is a good place to have them.  They are quick, (usually) light-hearted, often funny bursts of conversation that can trigger something in your mind.

Aside from general conversation on Twitter, it is also a wealth of links to blogs, articles, pictures, videos, etc. that can trigger your creativity.  I've found so much information this way!

If you aren't on Twitter, you may want to consider it.  Even if you aren't ready to tweet, you may find that just following people is beneficial!

Monday, November 22, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: S is for School Standards

One of the questions that Ann Whitford Paul asks you think about your picture book (in her fabulous book Writing Picture Books) is: Can your book be used in the classroom?  In other words, are there concepts in it that may fit in with a curriculum.  You may accidentally have this component in your story, or you can start with the learning concept and build from there.  And starting with the concept may just provide you with some needed inspiration!

So how do you know what they are teaching and at what age?  School standards!  I wanted to write a picture book for the kindergarten set, but I was having trouble coming up with an idea, so I pulled up my state standards, found a math concept that they want kindergartners to know, and built a story around it.  And the nice thing is, you can use the standards from any state.  You are just looking for a general idea to get you going.  I found the Indiana standards to be pretty helpful, so here is that link.  You can pick a subject and then pick a grade level and it will pull up a printable version of the standards.  Explore and generate some new ideas!  A picture book is one of the most valuable tools for any teacher.

Side note:  While I did not win the Storybird contest this weekend, I want to thank all of you who voted for my story!  It was fun to have a short little story out there that people were reading.  My first taste of an audience for my work!  Thank you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: R is for Resource Books

Yes, I really do mean things like dictionaries and thesauri (did any one know that was the plural of thesaurus?).  Personally, I find my rhyming dictionary to be endlessly inspiring.  I told you earlier that I play around with poetry to find inspiration sometimes and my rhyming dictionary is a big help in that.  But let me explain this in a more broad sense...

The English language is immense.  Our daily language is usually not.  I know a lot of words that I don't think about or use on a regular basis.  When is the last time I used "pipe cleaner" in a sentence?  Or thought about the word "cartographer"?  Sometimes just flipping through a good resource book reminds you of words and sparks ideas.  In fact, as I just flipped randomly through my rhyming dictionary to come up with those two examples in this paragraph, I got my PiBoIdMo idea for today.

Use a resource book as a trigger today.  Open one up, read a few words you don't usually read/see/speak and see what happens.  I bet you'll be surprised where your mind will take you!

And just a reminder...ONE MORE DAY TO VOTE!  Have you been to Storybird.com?  It is this great site where you can create your own story book with the art that is already provided there.  It is a lot of fun and great writing practice.  But more importantly right now, I am a semi-finalist in this week's competition and I need your vote!  My story "Like A Barrel of Monkeys" (under my pen-name "rosencrantz") can be found under the November "Curiosity" challenge.  You can sign up for free and vote for my story.  Voting is only open this weekend!  Please go cast your vote for my book (or someone else's if you are so inclined).  : )

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Favor & Weekend Recommendation #11

Have you been to Storybird.com?  It is this great site where you can create your own story book with the art that is already provided there.  It is a lot of fun and great writing practice.  But more importantly right now, I am a semi-finalist in this week's competition and I need your vote!  My story "Like A Barrel of Monkeys" (under my pen-name "rosencrantz") can be found under the November "Curiosity" challenge.  You can sign up for free and vote for my story.  Voting is only open this weekend!  Please go cast your vote for my book (or someone else's if you are so inclined).  : )

For the weekend recommendation, I'm going to go with a great "just be yourself" book.  Fair Cow written and illustrated by Leslie Helakoski.  I'm a sucker for a story that involves a state fair in any way.  I really enjoyed this one and so did my kiddos.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: Q is for Quotes

I have never been a collector of quotes.  I dutifully read them at the beginning of novels or in the signature lines of folks on their e-mails.  I occasionally read one that I like, but I never remember it later.  I've just never been a quote person. 

But a few weeks ago my library had a book sale (is there anything better than a library book sale?!) and I picked up a book of quotes published in the 1940s.  And since it was bag sale day (fill a paper grocery bag for $4!!) it came home with me.

Flipping through it in a totally random fashion, I came across two interesting and inspirational quotes.  Now these haven't inspired a picture book idea for me, but they do inspire me to keep working at it, so I thought I'd share them.  First, is a quote I've actually heard for years.  But I only ever heard the END of the quote.  For some reason no one ever mentions the first part.  It is from Emerson:

"If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or build a better mouse trap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door."

And the second one is from Bernard Shaw:

"You have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it."

What quotes inspire you?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: P is for Poetry

Poetry is tricky.  I've never had a poet's heart.  I love to put together a good rhyme, but meter and accents and all of that elude me.  But that doesn't stop me from loving a good poem.  I may not always pick the most academically correct poem.  I may not pick sophisticated poetry.  But that doesn't matter.  Poetry is in the ear of the beholder.  Or something like that.

Don't be afraid of poetry.  Do your homework if you want to write it to be published someday.  But if you aren't worried about it being published, play around!  You'll be surprised how much fun it is to play with words and where that word play can lead you.  I suggest you hop over and read Kat Apel's guest post on Tara Lazar's blog for PiBoIdMo for a little reminder.  I know poetry can seem intimidating, but use it as a tool.  Don't worry about someone else seeing it today, just play!  See what happens!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: O is for Oops!

I have heard the expression that "In art, there is no such thing as a mistake."  Well, I think this is true for the art of writing too.  And you can get all kinds of inspiration from your mistakes!

When I'm writing sometimes I go off on a fabulous tangent.  And that tangent is way better than my original plot line.  Or I put too many characters in a picture book and one of those characters needs their own book.  Or I come up with some cheeky little plot device that has no business in what I'm currently writing, but could be the basis for its own book.  The breadth and depth of my mistakes are endless!  And so, the possibilities are endless as well.

CONTEST NOTE:  I know you are all having super fun entering my contest, but I want to alert you to another with (dare-I-say-it) a much more awesome prize than my super cool prize pack!  Go visit my dear critique partner Julie Hedlund on her blog for her one year anniversary.  You could win ALL six Harry Potter movies!  And join her blog while you are there, she is super fantastic!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: N is for Never Give Up!

I apologize for yesterday's lack of post.  I hadn't written ahead and this cold came up and knocked me out.  I guess I need to write ahead a little more!

But, to stay on track with my alphabet (to ensure I finish on Nov. 30th), I'm going to go ahead with letter N.

So, N is for Never Give Up!  I have discovered that my creativity goes in cycles.  It ebbs and flows.  And during those "ebb" times, it is easy to think, "I can't do this.  Who am I kidding?"  But I must remind myself that my muse will come knocking again sometime.  Maybe an hour from now, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.  But it will come.  Don't give up on your muse.

The other part of this is to not give up on a dream.  It has become my dream to get a picture book published.  Admittedly, this is a recent dream.  I would have not have thought this would be my pursuit even a year ago.  However, it has taken hold of me now.  I'm trying hard to learn as much as I can about writing, publishing, the book market and so on.  I'm sending out magazine pieces and starting a lovely collection of rejection letters.  But if it takes five years to finally write a publish-worthy picture book, so be it.  If it takes ten years, I'm in.  If it takes fifteen years, well my kids will out of the house by then, so I'll have more time to devote to it!  The point is to keep learning, keep growing, keep writing.  Never give up.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: M is for Megan is sick

I'm not feeling well at all today, so I'm taking the day off.  M was going to be for movies, so talk amongst yourselves.  : )

I'm sure I'll be feeling better soon, so please come back tomorrow!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: L is for Lady Gaga

Or Lady Antebellum.  Or Louis Armstrong.  Or Lionel Ritchie.  Or whoever you listen to when you need to relax or just dance it out.  My point is, music allows us a release.  And sometimes to get the creative juices flowing, you just need to belt out an off-key tune in your kitchen or get down with your bad self in your car.

This is kind of like the journal thing I mentioned on Thursday.  You have to unclog your brain to be able to hear your muse and music is an easy way to unclog.  Personally, I like to throw on all my kick-butt songs and sing as loudly and terribly as I possibly can.  It lets out any frustration, stress, or even joy and exuberance.  And then I'm ready to brainstorm.  The blood is pumping, the synapses are firing, and my children have been struck deaf by my terrible rendition of "Just Dance." (truth-in-reporting-note: I never listen to Lady Gaga with my kids in the car.  So I shake it to Tom Chapin and Harry Connick Jr.'s children's album)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Recommendation #10

When I was at my local independent bookstore (Kids Ink) the lovely lady working there recommended I pick up It's A Book by Lane Smith.  Once I read it, I had to buy it.  Now, it does use the word "jackass" twice, so it may not be one you want to share with your kids.  Or you can just leave that word out when you read it out loud.  But it is hysterical!  Grab this one for your own picture book collection, maybe!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: THE CONTEST

My ABCs of Inspiration have inspired me to have a contest!

You see, I have the whole alphabet planned out already.  All except the letter Z.  I had a "Z", but I'm not entirely thrilled with it.  And I like a challenge.  So, I'm doing a call out for ideas.  This contest is open for ANYONE to enter.  You don't have to be a writer.  You don't have to be in the US.  You just have to challenge me!

How does it work, Megan?  You ask excitedly.

Like this, dear reader...

1.  Leave a comment with your suggestion of where I can find inspiration that starts with the letter "Z".
2.  Don't worry if someone else has already left your suggestion.  Copy cats are allowed.  Just pick what you really would like to hear about (or think may stump me).
3.  On Sunday, November 28th I'll put all the comments in a bowl and then throw them on the living room floor.  Whichever piece of paper my cat, Audi, steps on first is the winner.
4.  Tune in on November 30th for my last entry in my ABCs of Inspiration and see who won the prize pack.

Did you just say prize pack?

Yes, yes, I did.

Super Awesome Prize Pack Of Total Coolness: 

Softcover edition of "Alphabet City" by Stephen T. Johnson
  (to find more inspiration in the alphabet)
An Indianapolis Motor Speedway CD holder
  (to hold your inspirational music)
Two mini-journals
  (to record your awesome and not-so-awesome ideas)
A "Read" magnet made of Scrabble tiles
  (to inspire you to...well...stick things to your fridge)
A mini gift book called "Believe in Yourself"
  (to make you believe in yourself, of course!)

And while you don't have to be a follower, or tweet about the contest, or mention it in your blog, or put it on your Facebook page, or shout it from the rooftops, or tattoo it to your forehead to enter...I always appreciate all of these.  : )

My ABCs of Inspiration: K is for Knuffle Bunny

If you read my weekend recommendation this past weekend, you would have discovered how painful behind the times I am on my picture book knowledge.  I just discovered the joy that is "Knuffle Bunny" last week!  I quickly realized how my limited picture book knowledge was when I decided to try to write picture books.  I had extensive knowledge of my boys' bookshelves, but that was it.  Unless the boys got a picture book as a gift or it was on the Scholastic order form that came home from school, chances are I hadn't read it.

So I decided to do something about it.

I got to readin'!  I started compiling lists of the books I heard mentioned a lot.  I jotted down notes when someone referenced a book.  I starting turning our 15 minute library dashes into hour long visits.  I started checking out 15-20 books instead of 3-5 books.  I started hanging out at a bookstore and browsing.  I focus on recent releases, but I try to seek out the classics as well.

And I must say that inspiration flows from the work that is already out there.  Isn't that what inspired most of us to start trying to write a picture book in the first place?  Rediscover that inspiration.  Pick up a picture book...or 40.

Blog Note:  I should be getting the last piece of the prize pack for my contest sometime today...so check back later to enter!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: J is for Journals

I've mentioned before that I journal about once every three years.  But even so, I think journals can give you inspiration in a few ways.

First, go back and read what you've written.  I do this more with my writing notebooks than my journals (but then this wouldn't be posted until November 26th when I do "W" in the alphabet!).  Some days I'm just full of ideas and they kind of just pour out in a jumble of notes, phrases, words, doodles, food stains, and quotes that I've made up for famous people ("Eggs do the body good...pass it on" -Betsy Ross).  I don't usually get any real writing done on these days.  My brain is just too scattered.  So, I have to go back later and try to sort through the detritus to find the good ideas and be inspired by them.

Second, sometimes the act of journaling can provide the inspiration.  There are times in our lives when our emotional baggage can get in the way of inspiration and creativity.  Putting your pen to paper and working through those things can open you back up to inspiration.  Unclog your brain and your heart and let creativity flow!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: I is for Indianapolis

I am a Hoosier.  I was born a Hoosier.  I am proud to be a Hoosier.  And I'm certain I will die a Hoosier.  For my out-of-country friends, a Hoosier is a person from the great state of Indiana.  Origins of the term are hotly debated, but it really doesn't matter.  It only matters that I am one.  And my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana is a great source of inspiration.

I grew up in Indianapolis when it was a city trying to become more than what it was.  The city leaders had great visions and big plans.  My main memory of the downtown of my youth is that it was a huge construction site.  Large pits of mud and block after block of fencing and scaffolding.  And all of that construction and all of those dreams for the future have paid off.  Indianapolis is a thriving city of diversity, change, the arts, sports, education, and family fun.  We have the downtown canal, the Art Museum, the largest Children's Museum in the world, several excellent theater groups, a world-class Symphony, amazing restaurants, shows that come from around the globe, annual festivals that knock your socks off.  We have Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.  Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.  Victory Field, the often-praised home of the minor league Indianapolis Indians.  Our state fair is not to be missed.  Our "World's Largest Christmas Tree" and downtown light displays are sure to please.  Our Rhythm Discovery Center is a hidden gem downtown.  You can park in the heart of downtown for $1.50 for three hours!  And I haven't yet mentioned the thing we are probably best known for around the world....The Greatest Spectacle In Racing...The Indianapolis 500.

I could go on and on and on.  I love this city.  In fact, I actually now live in a small town completely surround by the city of Indianapolis itself.  I live in Speedway, Indiana where the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is actually located.  And I could go into a lengthy list of attributes just for this small community within a community.

Sure, there are problems.  Yes, there are issues.  There are everywhere.  But if I look on the bright side of my slice of the world, I find plenty.  And there is inspiration in each corner.  What about your home town?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: H is for Holiday

Christmas.  Thanksgiving.  Valentine's Day.  Arbor Day.  Flag Day.  Boxing Day.  Bastille Day.  Yom Kippur.  50th Anniversary.  Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Halloween.  Chanukah.  Kwanza.  5th Birthday.  Chinese New Year.  Veteran's Day.  Picture Book Idea Month!

Okay, some of those are just celebrations and not really holidays, but you get the picture.  As human beings we like to celebrate.  We like to observe.  We like to commemorate.  We like to have a predictable structure to our year.  And the list of what we celebrate/observe/commemorate is ENDLESS.  Seriously!  If you add the religious celebrations to the state/federal/national holidays to the personal milestones to the made up declarations of "national whatever whatever day" you get a nearly infinite number of ways we come together with our friends/families/neighbors/religious communities/fellow citizens/internet acquaintances!

And it is my humble opinion that each and every one of these days can inspire a truck-load of ideas.  Personally, I have a hysterical Thanksgiving story that I want to turn into a picture book someday.  I can think of at least five Christmas memories that could easily be molded into a story.  I'm a little lean on Arbor Day anecdotes, but I'm sure I could come up with something if I put my mind to it.  So close your eyes, point somewhere on a calendar, figure out which holiday it is, and get to writing!  : )

Monday, November 8, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: G is for Goats

I know that sounds strange.  Inspired by goats?  Really?

Well, actually, this one is brought to you by my husband.  Because for some strange reason he decided a long time ago that goats are cute and therefore, all children's stories should involve goats.  : ) 

But really, this is actually sound thinking (despite first appearances) for two reasons.  First, because I think it is perfectly fine to find something you love (or think is adorable or want to know more about) and use that as your inspiration.  If you are writing something you love, others are more apt to love it too!

Second, is the idea of writing stories with animals as the main characters.  Personally, I haven't written any of these stories yet.  For some reason I feel like I need to get writing real people down first before I can start venturing off.  But, that isn't stopping me from trying to think of a killer goat-based story idea for PiBoIdMo!  Who knows when I'll feel ready to write my first animal story?  Maybe I'm just waiting for the perfect idea to come along and then I'll dive in!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: F is for Friends

On Friday I decided to treat my youngest son and myself to lunch at McDonald's.  And in a totally uncharacteristic turn, I decided we could go IN the restaurant and sit down.  You see, usually I just go through the drive-thru and we sit in the parking lot with the mini-van TV playing for him and my phone's Twitter app keeping me amused.  Don't judge.  : )

Anyway, to get to my point - some of my mom-friends from my son's preschool came in and joined me for lunch.  Now this is a totally rare experience for me.  Grown-up people to talk to face-to-face!  People I like, no less!  I was so excited!  And inspired.

Just talking about the regular mom-type things of every day life with some of my favorite mom-type people really got my brain going.  We talked about trick-or-treating, cooking meals for the highly picky pallets of our children, my "real" job, one of the schools in the area, and so on.  Doesn't really sound like picture book idea fodder, does it?  But it is.  These things that fill our days and we share with our friends are the kinds of everyday experiences we can start with and build from.  It is a springboard.  And sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to find the "next big idea" that we don't know where to start.  Start with a conversation with a friend.  And build!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Award & Weekend Recommendation #9

I'm taking a break from "My ABCs of Inspiration" for Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) to get my usual weekend recommendation up and also to thank Erica & Christy who have given me two blog awards this week!

First, the weekend recommendation is actually three recommendations.  I finally got around to reading all of the Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems.  I'm sure many of you already know these books because they are very popular and now I know why!  I think they are just completely charming.  So if you are seven years behind the times, like me, go find Knuffle Bunny.  And if you are only four years behind, find Knuffle Bunny Too.  And if you are just a few months behind, find Knuffle Bunny Free.  All worth it!

Second, on their blog this week, Erica and Christy passed on the Lovely Blogger Award and the Versatile Blogger Award to me.  The Lovely Blogger Award can be seen down on my sidebar and I'll be adding the Versatile Blogger down there too.  Part of the Versatile Blogger one is to share seven things about yourself, so here goes:
1.  I'm fairly certain that 75% of my caloric intake has been candy-related since Halloween.
2.  I got my hair cut this past Tuesday and I think I got 10 pounds lighter, so the candy thing is all going to balance out in the end.
3.  I make excellent chicken noodle soup in the winter.
4.  I spoke in French once to a docent at the Louvre and thought I was the coolest thing to walk the earth.
5.  I have a fierce love of office supplies.  Is there anything better than brand new folders and highlighters?
6.  I secretly believe I'm going to win the lottery some day.
7.  I never buy lotto tickets, so I'm not sure how this will happen.

And now to pass this award on (I already passed on the Lovely Blogger before, so I'm just passing on the Versatile Blogger award)!  If you get it, you are supposed to reveal seven things about yourself, link back to my blog, and pass it on to a bunch of folks (I think the original number was 15, but I don't have that kind of time!!).  Here are some of the blogs I frequent and enjoy:

Write Wild
Write Up My Life
Wistful Wanderings
Girl, Unpublished
Have a Marlis Day!
Heather Kephart
Thing 1 and Thing 2
Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Friday, November 5, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: E is for Eenie Meanie Miney Mo

This one isn't about putting five story ideas in front of you and randomly picking.  That is my strategy once PiBoIdMo is over and it's time to write!  ; )

This is about the games kids play.  Kids come up with a game for everything.  Even the simple act of choosing who is "it" has about 25 different little rhyme games to accomplish the task.  Thinking about how to make life more fun, is a great way to generate picture book ideas, I think.  Is there a way to make the mundane more kid-friendly?

When I'm in front of a group of kids, I'm always looking for ways to make life a little more playful.  For example, when I was teaching (Sunday school) and times popped up when some kids were finished with a project or reading and were just sitting there waiting for the others, I would give them something to do.  Sometimes it was making silly faces at me (this was mainly for my own amusement).  Sometimes it was hopping on one foot.  Sometimes it was trying to pat their heads while rubbing their bellies.  While this often had the effect of distracting the kids who were trying to finish (and is therefore not terribly practical in a real school setting), it always served to up the fun factor.  And isn't that what a lot of picture books are trying to do?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: D is for Dessert

I know we all joke about chocolate being our motivator/inspiration/reason for being, but I think there really is something to it for me.  I find dessert inspiring because I remember it being a major motivating factor in my childhood!  And if I'm trying to connect with my inner five year old, dessert is the way to go.

Candy can trigger memories for a lot of people.  Think of how nostalgic folks get over those awful candy button things that make you eat more paper than sugar.  Or when people think back fondly on the fear of combining Pop Rocks with Coke in their mouths (certain their heads would explode).  Candy is a strong connector to our childhood.

As a side note, I ate some Nerds this Halloween and those things are just not as good as I remember.

Ice cream is a big thing for me.  When I was younger, we would go visit my grandparents every summer.  Every night after dinner my grandfather would hand some money to one of my aunts and tell us to go get some ice cream.  This was in a suburb of Boston and I'm from Indiana, so the ice cream places were all different to me and seemed way awesome compared to our Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins options in the midwest.  We got to go to Brighams to get chocolate jimmies on our cones.  And Emack & Bolio's (which we called "We Smack and Blow Your Nose") for the best ice cream ever, in my humble childhood opinion.  And there were others too.

See how I just strolled down memory lane via ice cream there?  Don't let anyone ever tell you dessert isn't a road to inspiration!

And I'd like to thank a new PiBoIdMo friend on Twitter - @KathleenIsaac - for being the inspiration for my inspiration today!  : )  Hope you found that Mars bar!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: B is for Boys and C is for Cats

B is for Boys:

As you can see from my pictures over there (*points to the right*) I have three boys.  What you cannot see over there that they NEVER STOP TALKING.  Seriously.  Never.  They all talk in their sleep.  They talk with their mouths full.  They talk when the others are talking.  They talk during TV shows and movies.  They talk incessantly.

While this results in a lot of, "Please stop talking just for a second" and "For the love of Pete, I'll pay you $5 to just be quiet for 30 seconds," it also provides inspiration.  Listening to children talk (or scream or mumble) is a great way to find a phrase or snippet to launch your imagination.

C is for Cats:

Also in my house are two boy cats.  That's right.  I have a husband, three boys and two boy cats.  I need some girls in my life.

Anyway, the cats (Audi and Alex) are also a source of inspiration.  I like to imagine what they are thinking.  In fact I often supply their voices for them throughout the day.  "Mom, my two-legged-less-hairy brother is pulling my tail again.  Please help."  "I think I need to bite something.  I'll go with Audi's butt."  "I've been awake for like 45 seconds...must...sleep...here...(passes out in middle of doorway or half on my keyboard & half on my desk)"

While this is mainly for my own amusement, it is also just the kind of thing that can lend itself to inspiration.  Putting yourself in someone (or something) else's head is fun!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My ABCs of Inspiration: A is for Alliteration

I'm going to start a series in honor of PiBoIdMo!  Every day I'll give you a letter or two and match it to a way that I find inspiration.  Hopefully you'll be able to find some too (whether you are NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo or just writing or even just searching for a little inspiration in your daily life).

So, A is for alliteration!  I love to play with words to get story ideas and alliteration is a fun and easy way for anyone to play with words.  All you are trying to do is come up with words that have the same starting sound.  Even if the resulting alliteration doesn't end up in my story (because it rarely does), I can play my way to a story idea.  For example, I was at the library yesterday when they were hanging Thanksgiving decorations.  One of the librarians mentioned they didn't have many turkeys to hang up.  Here is my resulting stream of consciousness: turkey...tom turkey...talk turkey...talking turkey...ten talking turkeys...ten talking turkeys from Timbuktu...ten talking turkeys from Timbuktu, call their kooky cousins in Kalamazoo.

Sounds like the start of a picture book idea, doesn't it?

Tune in tomorrow for "B" and "C"!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy PiBoIdMo!

Today I give you a very short post because I have to get myself organized for PiBoIdMo (which mainly means reading a lot of other blogs and stuff today and then sitting in a corner and pondering).

As I start this challenge, I have to tell you my biggest problem with picture book ideas...the conflict.  I am very anti-conflict in my real life, so I find it very difficult to insert any conflict in my writing.  I tend to write "slice of life" stories and then I have to go back and insert the conflict.  I have this delightful character in mind and then I have to figure out how to mix up their life.  It is not easy!  I'm a strong proponent of happily-ever-after.  But to get there, they have to have overcome something. I sure wish there was some market for non-conflict boring stories!

Write on!