November Bonanza: PiBoIdMo, NaNoWriMo, Picture Book Month and Kidlit Cares (Whew!)

There was a time when November 1st was a relatively simple day. Dispose of the pumpkin before the ants overran my porch, pick through any good Halloween candy left, and get myself to church for All Saints Day. I still do all that (okay, I don’t always get to that pumpkin promptly. The ants are my new best friends) but now that I’m a (mostly serious) writer, November 1st is far from simple.

There’s Picture Book Idea Month starting up over at Tara Lazar’s wonderful blog. I love PiBoIdMo because I just have to come up with an idea. An idea. That’s like, what? A sentence? A sentence fragment, even. I am all over that writing challenge.

And it ties in nicely with Picture Book Month. Technically, I don’t have to write anything for this wonderful literacy initiative that promotes picture books. I just like to slap the badge on my blog and celebrate.  And ask others to join me in the celebration. Picture books opened the door to a world of reading for me and for all the Junior Halls, and I want every kid to have the opportunity to discover that same world when they discover a favorite picture book. Oh! I know! I can celebrate by sharing a post or two on favorite picture books from our shelves. So there will be Picture Book Month writing, after all.

Of course, many of you know about National Novel Writing Month, where 50,000 words in a month gets you a novel and makes you a winner in this writing challenge. NaNo has been a great tool for me, whether I finish the 50,000 words or not…but that’s a post for another day. For now, I’m using NaNo to finish the last edits on one of my already-finished novels. So definitely a chunk of writing there.

Oh! And this year, because of the devastating destruction left behind by Sandy, kidlit authors, agents, editors and illustrators have come together in Kidlit Cares: Superstorm Sandy Relief Effort over at Kate Messner’s website. You can bid on their services (like a critique) and maybe get some feedback on one of your November writing projects–and help the efforts of the Red Cross while you’re at it.

And now, I should check on the time for that All Saint’s Mass, and the status of the leftover Halloween candy.  Although with the Beneficent Mr. Hall in the house, “leftover candy” is an oxymoron.

Finding A Picture Book Writer Within

 It’s been a week now since Picture Book Idea Month ended, and the brainstorming dust has started to settle. Here’s something that surprised me: I miss it.

I miss my extra-long showers wherein I came up with every conceivable PB idea having to do with bathtime, soap, shampoo, and bare body parts. (PB Ideas #3, 7, and 13)

I miss that panicky feeling at the end of the day when I’d sit at my desk without an idea and scrutinize every object looking for PB gold(Look! It’s Mr. Eraser Head!). (PB Ideas #5, 11, 17, 22, and 30)

I miss starting my day with the brilliant and inspiring posts provided by all those picture book authors over at Tara Lazar’s Writing For Kids. I learned a lot about…well, writing for kids. (PB Ideas #2, 7, 18, 26, 27, and 29)

Mostly, I miss that zing when I’d have my own brilliant picture book idea–and could envision the story, could imagine a child loving the story. (PB Ideas #1, 6, and maybe 29)

It’s a long way from coming up with a picture book idea to actually writing a picture book, much less getting that picture book into a child’s hands. But thanks to PiBoIdMo, I’ve found the beginnings of a picture book writer within little, old me.

 And that may be the biggest surprise of all!

Finding Flitting Picture Book Ideas with Jo S. Kittinger

In keeping up with Picture Book Idea Month, another SCBWI Southern Breezer stepped up to share how a couple of ideas came to her. Jo S. Kittinger has written a ton of children’s books, she’s a Co-Regional Adviser for Southern Breeze, and she’s a much-in-demand speaker. How does she ever find time to get a picture book idea? I’ll let Jo explain how she catches up with her flitting ideas!

Picture book ideas are like hummingbirds. They zip through my mind on a regular basis. Some I catch and cage in my idea file, some get by before I write them down and are quickly forgotten, others land on my computer and demand to be written.

 Rosa’s Bus: the Ride to Civil Rights was one that landed in my office. On my phone to be exact. Donny Williams, who owned Bus #2857 before it was sold to the Henry Ford Museum, called me up out of the blue and asked if I could direct him to a children’s writer that might be interested in writing a book about the bus! He had worked on an adult book dealing with the civil rights movement and his editor was interested in a children’s book about the bus. It turns out that his editor declined the manuscript I wrote, as it was not what she had envisioned. But some time later, after Larry Rosler (editor at Boyds Mills Press) spoke at a Southern Breeze SCBWI conference, I submitted the manuscript to him and he quickly accepted it.

 The House on Dirty-Third Street, to be released Spring 2012 with Peachtree Publishers, was a humming idea that came from a slip of the tongue. My husband, Rick, and I were traveling and looking for an address when I stumbled trying to say 33rd Street. It came out Dirty-Third Street and I began wondering what type of place that would be. This picture book has been many years in the making. Thomas Gonzales created fabulous illustrations and I can’t wait to see the finished book!

Of course, there have been hundreds of idea birds that escaped, flitting past while I was pre-occupied. I’m sure 2-3 were likely award winners! Those seem to be the hardest to catch! But I’ve learned to keep a window in my mind always open to welcome ideas.

And P.S. I happen to know that Rosa’s Bus won a 2011 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award. So if I were you, I’d keep that window WIDE open and hope a hummingbird idea flits in!