Finding Ideas with Nancy Raines Day

For Picture Book Writing Month, I thought it would be fun to ask some of the picture book writers in my own little corner of the world (or in SCBWI/ Southern Breeze, to put it another way) how they came up with the idea for their published picture books. And so here’s Nancy Raines Day on how she came up with the idea for her scary (but adorable) On A Windy Night:

One windy October night in 2001, I heard a newscast about how the terrorists might be planning to attack a mall on Halloween. Thinking about how we humans, with our wild imaginations, can scare ourselves sillier than anyone else can, I stepped outside to clear my head.

 Listening to the wind rustling through the dried cornstalks in my husband’s garden as I swam in our backyard pool, I wondered–as I sometimes do about sounds–how would you spell that? I decided on cracklety-clack. Poetry often comes to me when I’m doing something rhythmic, like swimming, walking, or rocking. The refrain popped into my head:

Cracklety-clack, bones in a sack.

They could be yours–if you look back.

Then I got the first stanza:

On a windy night, on a winding road,

A boy walked home with a heavy load.

That much was a gift. But then I had to figure out, who was the boy? What was he carrying? What was the story? It took years to come together–after I had my own lost-in-the-woods-at-night experience!

Oh, Nancy, I SO want to hear about that lost-in-the-woods-at-night experience! And I so love how just a sound, a sound, was the start of On a Windy Night. Thanks so much for the inspiration! And P.S. you’ll find more good stuff where that came from over at Nancy’s place (or her website, to put it another way).

9 thoughts on “Finding Ideas with Nancy Raines Day

  1. What a great post from two of my favorite writer-gals! The refrain in Nancy’s WINDY NIGHT I’ve loved since the first time I read it. The book bursts with spooky fun, and a masterful hand invisibly behind the words. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a neat post! it’s so fun to see how creative people can turn one thought into a great picture book. Not to mention, it’s comforting to discover that sometimes it takes them years to do it. Thanks, Cath!

  3. I love this post. I like the idea of doing something rhythmic to elicit a poem or refrain. (Swimming at night in October–lucky duck! Where is the Southern Breeze chapter? Florida? Certainly not NJ where we got a foot of snow last month!!!)

    • Thanks for dropping by, Tara! Southern Breeze is Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia (and maybe that top part of Florida?). And I may be a bit prejudiced, but yeah, I’m one lucky writer! 😉

  4. Love how a sound and rhythm give way to a stanza and character, when we allow our imagination free reign. How stifling we can be sometimes! Thanks for the encouragement.

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