By Maggie Lauren Brown
My absolute favorite season is upon us—fall! Fall means sweater weather, crunchy leaves underfoot, spiced beverages, Halloween, and… SPOOKY STORIES! Here are some ideas to get the creepy writing juices flowing.
1. Think about what scared you as a kid. For me, it was a life-sized Halloween vampire cutout that my mom stored under our basement stairs. No matter how many times she showed me it wasn’t real, I was positive he would lurch through the slats and bite my ankles every time I used those stairs. That could make a great creepy kidlit story.
2. Browse creepy-but-cute images online. Talented kidlit illustrators post their work on Instagram and Twitter regularly. Scroll through hashtags to check out their images, or Google search something specific you’d like to see. When you see an image you like, can you think of a backstory that goes along with it? Obviously you don’t want to rip off anyone’s characters, but let the images help your mind wander. I love this adorable ghost illustration from Fia Kilbourn’s Instagram and this bat-baby from Kaz Windness’.
3. Check out seasonal contests. SCBWI is currently hosting a contest searching for stories that will be published in book of fifty-two scary stories—one from each state—by Macmillan. If you’re an active SCBWI member, check out the Haunted States of America submission form here. Fall Writing Frenzy is another seasonal contest for kidlit writers. The entry deadline is closed, but you can read all of the short, fall-inspired entries here for inspiration, and submit next year.
4. Get into the spooky spirit. Luckily, there are many fall outdoor activities that can be done while social distancing. Explore a pumpkin patch, tell scary stories around a bonfire, maybe take a stroll through a graveyard. What do you see, smell, feel? Take in your surroundings the way a kid would, and the spark of an idea might fly.
The great thing about writing spooky picture books or horror MG or YA is that kids like to be creeped out year-round. Even though Halloween is almost here, it’s okay to keep exploring spooky ideas throughout the year. I know I will, and I hope to meet a ghost friend or two along the way.
Happy writing and Happy Halloween!
Once upon a time, Maggie Lauren Brown performed as a synchronized swimmer, mermaid-for-hire, and high school English teacher. Now, she writes about her adventures in children’s books. Maggie is an SCBWI and 12x12 member, a Children's Book Academy course assistant, and is represented by Adria Goetz of Martin Literary Management. Maggie's debut picture book, JOY THE PANDACORN, releases next year with Clear Fork Publishing.
Preorder JOY THE PANDACORN
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 will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature the wonderful Ave Maria Cross