It's PiBoIdMo time!

November is here, and that means it’s time for Picture Book Idea Month. So far, I’m two for two: woohoo!
PiBoIdMo 2014 banner
Remember the Howdy Doody theme song? Did you ever notice how PiBoIdMo has the same number of syllables as “Howdy Doody?” Now that I’ve noticed, I can’t get it out of my head. So, I thought I’d share my little earworm with you here:

It’s PiBoIdMo time.
It’s PiBoIdMo time.
Tara and her great crew
Wish PiBoIds to you.
Let’s give a rousing cheer,
Cause PiBoIdMo’s here,
It’s time for books to grow,
So here we go!

I love PiBoIdMo. Sometimes it’s a struggle to come up with ideas (okay, most times), other times they seem to flow faster than I can write them down (okay, rarely, but when it does it’s awesome!). Either way, it feels good to have those ideas tucked safely inside my notebook, ready to blossom when given a chance.
And yes, even nonfiction writers (like me!) can participate in PiBoIdMo! Christy Peterson has a great blog post on how to do that. I recommend reading it here (even if you write fiction!). I usually come up with about half nonfiction ideas and half fiction ideas, and I use all of the methods Christy mentions in her post.

sample Fiction Magic card
sample Fiction Magic card

This year I’ll also be using a new tool that just arrived (perfect timing!). My friend Deb Lund is a talented author, teacher, and creativity coach. She’s made a deck of cards, called Fiction Magic, which features prompts to inspire writers as well as a handy guidebook on how to use them. I drew one card today, played around with it for a while, and voila… I had two new ideas! You can get your own set of Fiction Magic cards here.
I probably shouldn’t be doing PiBoIdMo at all this year. I have too many projects calling to me at the moment, and the last thing I need right now is more ideas! But, PiBoIdMo is about so much more than the ideas for me. It’s about creativity, playfulness, freedom, and fun, and every year I end up rediscovering why I decided to write for children in the first place. In those ways, it’s good for my career. PiBoIdMo also reminds me to look at the world through a lens of discovery and curiosity, wonder, gratitude, and empathy. In those ways, it’s good for my soul.
I may not love all of the ideas I come up with during PiBoIdMo, but I love what PiBoIdMo does for me. If you want to write picture books, I hope you’ll give it a try, too! You can register through November 7th at this link.

2013: What a year!

EMLA Client Retreat group photo

I haven’t posted here for way too long, but 2013 turned out to be quite a year. I did manage to squeeze in a few posts over at Emu’s Debuts, so I thought I’d share them here as a sort of roundup (and to partially explain where I’ve been since the last post)…
In July, I had the amazing experience of attending my second Erin Murphy Literary Agency client retreat, this time in Big Sky Montana. Words can’t really describe how wonderful these retreats are, but I posted a bit about it here.

EMLA Client Retreat group photo
The whole EMLA retreat gang (except me!)

Aside from that trip, I spent the summer writing, researching, writing, interviewing, writing, revising, writing, revising, revising, and revising to deliver the final manuscript for BE A CHANGEMAKER. I wrote a bit about the process here.
A screen shot of the developmental edit
Tracked changes in the developmental edit stage

Despite the mad race to the finish line, I feel really good about how it all came together. And here‘s a post about how it felt to get to THE END.
Then there was the dreaded author photo, which actually turned out to be sort of fun (and decent enough to share with the world, thank goodness!).

Laurie Thompson head shot

Other news and highlights from the year?

  • I got to see an early study for a scene from the picture-book biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, illustrated by Sean Qualls.
  • The above book also FINALLY has a title, EMMANUEL’S DREAM!
  • I also got to see preliminary sketches for MY DOG IS THE BEST (sorry, I can’t share them here, but Paul Schmid‘s illustrations are ADORABLE!).
  • I finished another fiction picture book manuscript and it will soon be going out on submission (fingers crossed!).
  • I participated in and finished PiBoIdMo 2013.

Stay tuned for my next post on how I plan to tackle 2014. 🙂

It's time to get busy

Cybils 2012 logo

I’ve been working like crazy lately on a revision for the editor of my first book. I’m simultaneously blown by away by how much work she’s asking me to do AND by how much better it’s going to make the book. Most of her comments feel so utterly, obviously right–AFTER I’ve read them–that I’m left wondering why I didn’t think of them myself.  (I’m also left wondering why she ever bought the book in the first place, but in that way lies madness, so let’s not go there, okay?) I thought I had given everything I had to this book, thought there was nothing more I could do, but now I realize how lazy I’d actually been. A few days ago, Mitali Perkins wrote about being grateful for traditional editors. I couldn’t agree more. The process is not only making a better book, but making a better writer. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some gnashing of teeth, banging of head on desk, and wine and chocolate binges, of course. And I’ll be over-the-moon happy when I think I’m finally done. But it’s getting there. I think I can see what it might one day be, and it sure feels good.
Cybils 2012 logo
As soon as I wrap up the big revision I’m looking forward to fully jumping into two more exciting activities! First, I’m thrilled to be judging the Non-Fiction Picture Books category of the Cybils again this year. We have just over 100 nominations to read. I’ve had a slow start given the revision, but hope to be picking up steam soon. I’m maxing out my check-out limit at the library and building huge stacks of beautiful books to indulge in. What could be better?

And, I’m also attempting to do agency-sister Tara Lazar‘s Picture Book Idea Month (or PiBoIdMo). The goal is 30 picture-book ideas in the 30 days of November. I had a great big bunch of them right before the challenge officially started, and today, on the first official day, I had two more (and I even fully drafted out one of them–WOOT!). This is a fun challenge with a ton of support and camaraderie for all levels, and I can’t wait to see what else comes out of it.

November is PiBoIdMo!

Picture Book Idea Month link

For many writers, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a month-long commitment to creativity wherein writers turn off their inner critics and pound out a complete 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I’ve seen the results, and it’s nothing short of amazing. A self-imposed deadline can be very motivating, especially when shared with others!
Alas, how could picture-book writers join in the fun and enthusiasm? I suppose you could try to hammer out 100 500-word picture books in a month, but writing 100 different stories, even if they’re short, is a very different beast than writing just one long one. It may not take long to write the first draft of a picture book, but it can take a very long time to find one really great picture-book idea (and we won’t even talk about revisions!).
Last February, I participated in a month-long picture-book writing marathon, where we challenged ourselves to write 26 picture books in 28 days, and it was a fantastic experience. In fact, two manuscripts from that experience are very close to being final drafts ready for submission. Of course, that means there were 24 that weren’t so great, ranging from “might be worth working on” to “total stinkers” (lots more in that category, to be sure), but still, I feel it was well worth the time–and a ton of fun!
Perhaps an even better idea, and certainly less intimidating now that I’ve done the picture-book marathon, is Tara Lazar‘s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). Sign up starts today, right here!

Picture Book Idea Month link

If you’ve ever even thought about writing picture books, I urge you to try this challenge! So far, almost 300 people have signed up, so there will be camaraderie. Tara will feature daily inspiration and guest bloggers to help keep us going. And, as if that wasn’t enough, there will be PRIZES: signed books, picture-book manuscript critiques, original art by picture-book illustrators, book jewelry, hand-made journals, vintage children’s books, and feedback from one of three literary agents!
I’ll hope you’ll join me, Tara, and hundreds of other picture books writers for this year’s PiBoIdMo. Please let me know in the comments if you’re participating!