Every now and then we have a wonderful former student guest blog for us and today (my birthday) the wonderful Charlotte Offsay is doing just that. Charlotte took our Picture Book Writing course a few years ago and now her career is rocketing, which makes me VERY happy!
I always love to hear how other writers get their story ideas.
Some writers I know make lists and mix up atypical characters, feelings and settings. Others I know try word associations and see where their minds wander. Personally, my best ideas tend to come from the things that take up the most room in my heart.
Take for example my upcoming book How to Return a Monster. When I sat down to write this book, I wanted to write a story about an older sibling feeling replaced by a new baby.
At the time I was consumed with how my 19-month-old would react to her new baby brother and a need to process and embrace the mixed feelings I was certain she would have. I first wrote a traditional narrative arc story about a train feeling replaced by a shiny new train, but the story felt too much like a sad terrible twist on Toy Story.
But I kept re-envisioning characters and story structure and eventually arrived at a humorous how-to story about a child who tries to return their sibling in the mail. This is the manuscript that is being illustrated by Rea Zhai and will be published this September by Beaming Books.
The Big Beach Cleanup is another manuscript that was formed from the things in my life that I care about the most. I passionately believe that if enough hands join together we can change the world and wrote this manuscript out of a desire to show my children that they don’t need to be superheroes to make a difference, they just need to do their part and join hands with those around them.
The Big Beach Cleanup is an ocean advocacy story about little hands joining together to make big change. It features Cora who plans to be a sandcastle-building champion, but when the contest is canceled due to litter at the beach, her plans come to a halt. Cora and Mama pull on gloves and get to work, but soon Cora realizes it will take more than two pairs of hands to solve a big problem. It is illustrated by Katie Rewse and published by Albert Whitman.
Yet another example of a story idea inspired from my own life, is my upcoming book A Grandma’s Magic. One of the things that matters the most to me is family and in particular my Grandma. My Grandma lives in England and I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. After one particularly difficult goodbye I was reflecting on what I wanted to write about and decided to write about my Grandma whose magic inspires me daily even from far across the pond.
A Grandma’s Magic is a picture book celebration of grandmothers and all the ways in which they are “magical.” It is being illustrated by Asa Gilland and published with Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022.
Even though these story ideas are taken from my own life, none of them in concept are unique just to me. These are things that lots of people not only care about, can relate to, but also have been broached in picture books before…
There are many fabulous new sibling stories including these:
There are lots of wonderful books which encourage young activists, including these…
There are lots of lovely grandma books out there including these…
What makes my books different is that they are told in my voice, from my unique perspective, from my heart. I look forward to reading the stories that are most important to you, told from your unique perspective. Happy writing!!
By Sharon Giltrow
When writing funny books, it is important to combine the right amount of HAHAHA! with the right amount of
Today I feature the delightful picture book - A CROCODILE IN THE FAMILY, by Kitty Black and Daron Parton. This book provides the perfect balance of heart and humour. It also conveys the important underlying themes of family, belonging and acceptance.
A Crocodile in the Family
Written by: Kitty Black
Illustrated by: Daron Parton
Published by: Hachette Books, August, 2020
US release: Fox Chapel Publishing, September 2021,
A charming, warm-hearted picture book about a family of birds who take home an egg, and even though the crocodile that hatches from it doesn't look or act like the rest of the family, he belongs.
I asked Kitty to share two of her favourite, humorous pages, which are also full of heart. I also asked, why she finds these pages so funny.
K - “I adore this spread! The way the illustrations convey the cheekiness of Croccy, combined with relatively sparse text just makes me smile.”
Kitty has utilised a very important technique for writing funny – surprise the reader. What a surprise it is to find Croccy in a box of donuts.
K - “This gorgeous double page spread is all about the ridiculous. Before we even get to using a crocodile as a coat rack - there’s different types of hats to examine, the bowler hat. as well as a cockatoo in a bonnet, plus a teeny tiny bird on the tip of Croccy’s nose. Then, we can take in the fact that Croccy’s wearing a party hat and is being utilised as equipment. I love it.”
Through the use of sparse text, Kitty allows space for the illustrator. The text doesn’t say what types of hat Croccy will be holding. Thus, allowing the illustrator to use his skills to add to the humour.
The word crocodile is funnier than the word alligator. This is because it uses the hard /K/ sound. Comedians use this when they write funny. Amp up the humour in your writing by using some hard /C/ of /K/ words. Croccy has three hard /C/ sounds in his name - funny.
Well, that’s it from me this month, see you in March, with another great Aussie book.
Share a laugh and connect with someone today.
For a chance to win your very own copy of A CROCODILE IN THE FAMILY
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB BEDTIME DADDY! released May 2020 through EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB GET READY, MAMA! Is due to be released through EK books in 2022. Awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship for Writers in 2019. Sharon used this time to write her early middle grade book SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT. To be released in 2021 through Clear Fork Publishing’s new imprint &MG. Sharon is also a Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy,
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Well folks, it’s February which mean it’s Black History Month. I’ve put together a reading list of a several of my favorite titles centered on the Black experience. I’ve steered clear of many of the traditional Black history topics (slavery, civil rights, etc.) and focused, instead, on books that focus on Black youth experiencing the world they live in with passion, creativity, joy, and even struggle. While I do think things like slavery, civil rights, and other issues are critically important, I think that celebrating complete Black experience is equally important and, quite often, overlooked.
So, without further ado, here's my 2021 Black History Month Reading List:
Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
Haiku by Richard Wright
The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith, illustrated by Gloria Felix
Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwame Mbalia
The Last Mirror on the Left (A Legendary Alston Boys Adventure) by Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
The Jumbie God's Revenge by Tracey Baptiste
Hopefully, you’ll find a new favorite or two on this list.
Well, that's all for now. Happy reading and have a magical month.
Bryan Patrick Avery writes picture books, chapter books, middle grade and graphic novels. His middle grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, was published in June 2020 in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, an anthology from HarperCollins and the Mystery Writers of America. His debut picture book, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, will be published in Spring 2021 by Clearfork Publishing/Spork.
by Melissa Stoller
Photographs can provide new writing inspiration. Here are a few tips for harnessing the power of photos and developing writing prompts that will spark story ideas.
PREVIOUSLY TAKEN PHOTOS
Search through old photos, either in albums, on your computer or phone, or on your social media sites.
-Find photos of family and distant relatives
-Gather photos of pets
-Plow through travel, holiday, birthday, and special event photos
Write a story using a subject matter from a life experience.
Stroll through your neighborhood and take photos of everything you see. Or look out your window and take photos all that you notice. Capture details such as:
-doors, windows, part of homes
-nature such as birds
-bodies of water
-methods of transportation
Write a story based on an image you capture. You can even use selfies for inspiration!
Have fun scrolling through the internet!
-Find all those adorable pet trick photos or the many cute baby photos on the internet.
-Search photo GIFS
Write a draft based on one photo that captures your imagination.
I hope that using photos helps you generate story ideas this month. Let me know in the comments. Cheers to creativity!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. (Clear Fork). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and long beach walks.
Since the beginning of a new year tends to encourage us to undertake new endeavors, I'm sharing some of my go-to web resources for inspiration. These are just a little taste from one of my 3 presentations for the recent Picture Book Palooza in the Wonderful World of World Wide Resources. In case you missed it, I'm sharing them again.
Hope these resources can help you on your KidLit journey. If you enjoyed this and want more, you can still get access to all the worksheets and videos from the Picture Book Palooza and support CBA's 2021 diversity+ scholarship fund here
With much warmth,
Mira & the CBA gang
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays feature funny Aussie author Sharon Giltrow sharing awesome Aussie books.
And 5th Mondays will be a total surprise!