Every January, Tara Lazar hosts an amazing challenge/event called StoryStorm, in which participants are challenged to come up with 30 story ideas in the 31 days of the month.
These ideas can be for picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels — whatever you write. They can be detailed, with ideas for characters, plot, and setting, or as simple as “bunny needs new earwarmers,” or a character’s name: “Bunny’s name is Barkins, Jr.”
Each day there is a post on Tara’s blog, from a guest poster who is an author, illustrator, editor, agent — someone in the kidlit world who has wisdom and encouragement to share. Often there are prizes connected with these posts (drawn for at the end of the challenge.) There is also the potential of winning one of the grand prizes, if you amass at least 30 ideas (all on the honor system — no ideas are to be shared) and your name is drawn from the StoryStorm winners.
The best prize of all, though, is to have these bright, shiny, new ideas to work on in the coming year. Who knows — maybe one of them will become a child’s favorite book!
It all starts tomorrow, but registration is open until January 7th. If you want more information, or if you want to register, click on this link. It will take you to Tara’s StoryStorm Registration post.
In last week’s post, I said I’d let you know when the sign-up for Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers (and Illustrators) went live. It’s here! It’s here!
12 Days will begin on Sunday, December 26. Each day, an email will come with the link to the video and activity for that day. There’s a Facebook Group where we all share and discuss and interact and support and have fun. Note: you don’t have to celebrate Christmas in order to participate. 12 Days is a fun handle to hang the process on, but doesn’t hinge on Christmas celebration. In Julie’s words about 12 Days,
“It’s a wonderful way to assess the last year and to start the new year with illumination, optimism, and inspiration. And, who couldn’t use a little more of those things?
You’ll receive daily, bite-size surprises such as:
Exercises to evaluate and integrate your previous writing year so you are ready for the new one.
Tools to illuminate successes in order to go even further in your writing.
How to write through tough times.
How to keep the fun and whimsy in your life and in your writing.
Resources, Inspiration, Tips, and More!”
Here’s the link to sign up. Note that if you’ve signed up in a previous year, you don’t have to sign up again. Looking forward to “seeing” you there!
I am so grateful for Julie Hedlund – for who she is as a person, as well as for all she does for writers. She is funny, knowledgeable, supportive, wise. And she knows what writers need to help them SHINE!
I first got to know Julie through Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo 2011 (more about Tara next week). At the end of PiBoIdMo that year, Julie asked if anyone would like to join her in an accountability-type challenge in which we’d try to write 12 first drafts of picture books over the course of the coming year. She called it 12×12 in 2012 – 12 drafts in 12 months in 2012. As she says in this blog interview I did with her as the challenge progressed, “I initially envisioned the challenge as a personal one that I would do on my own. Then, toward the end of PiBoIdMo last year, I decided it would be nice to have company. I expected maybe 30-50 of my most faithful blog followers who were also picture book writers to join me. I NEVER could have imagined we’d end up 400 strong!”
That was then. Now there are 1000+ participants each year from all over the world, and 12×12 has become firmly lodged in the KidLit world as an excellent way to learn, to practice craft, to form community – even to have submission opportunities (at the Gold Level.)
There is a cost involved, but it is well worth every penny. But don’t take my word for it. Check out all the glowing testimonials on the 12×12 website (and while you’re there, learn more about the challenge.)
I was a member of 12×12 for the first three years, then, because my focus had changed to middle grade novels, I reluctantly gave up my membership. Still, I recommend it HIGHLY to anyone who writes picture books or is thinking of writing picture books. You will learn so much, in an incredibly supportive community.
Julie is also one of the founding members of the Picture Book Summit, an online one-day conference for picture book creators, which was online before online conferences were cool. Julie and the other founders, Emma Walton Hamilton, Katie Davis, and Laura Backes Bard, along with Jon Bard (founder and emcee) and Kelli Panique (fixer of all things) bring the picture book world an amazing learning experience each October (the first Saturday of October), with keynotes from preeminent people in the picture book world, workshops from founders and others, often an agents and editors panel – and submission opportunities. It is not to be missed.
Julie and Emma are the driving forces behind the Complete Picture Book Submission System, which has helped many writers hone their submissions so that agents take notice.
Somehow, Julie finds time to write, and recently her delightfully funny picture book, OVER, BEAR! UNDER, WHERE? was released. (I attended the online launch party, and the book is great fun.) It’s illustrated by Michael Slack, and is chock-full of puns and wordplay (a couple of my favorite things.) In 2023, Little Bee Books will release Julie’s picture book biography of the wonderful Julie Andrews, illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati, and I can hardly wait!
And at this time of year… (drum roll worthy of the little drummer boy…) for the past several years, Julie has hosted the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS FOR WRITERS, an opportunity to look back at the past year, celebrate successes, own the non-successes, and build on these learnings for the new year. It is something I look forward to all year, often thinking “I can add that to my successes” or “what is the learning from this oops?” She hasn’t announced it yet for this year, but when she does, I will do a Heads Up post here on this blog.
This isn’t my usual day to post, as you know, but I wanted to share my entry in Susanna Leonard Hill’s 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest AND also post about a book on Thursday, so you’re getting a double whammy this week.
The basic rules for this iteration of Susanna’s Holiday Contest is to write a story intended for kids 12 or under, about a holiday contest, in 250 words or fewer (not counting the title). After the 100 words of the Halloweensie Contest, 250 words feels (almost) like an epic!
Here, then, is my story, in 242 words. It is officially entered in the comments on the post on Susanna’s blog, where you can read all the entries. There will be fabulous stories galore, and there are amazing prizes available.
This year, Birdie was determined to win the Christmas Singing Contest. Every year since she’d been five, Annabelle had won. Not this year. Birdie had practiced until she knew her song forwards, backwards and sideways. She could even sing it in her sleep. She had to win!
Annabelle stood on stage. Her notes soared.
Couldn’t she squeak just once? Birdie thought.
Ms. Ringly said, “Now Birdie will sing for us.”
Birdie opened her mouth to sing.
“Bingle jells, bingle jells,
Fill the sleigh with hay!”
What was going on?
“Help old Santa with his sack
And send him on his way-ay!”
Wrong words! People were laughing!
“Reindeer fly through the sky –
He will soon be here!
Eat some cookies, leave some toys,
And come again next year!”
Birdie wanted to race off the stage and out the door. She ran back to her seat and hid her face in Mom’s coat sleeve. Would people ever stop laughing?
Ms. Ringly stood on the stage, towering over everyone. “Attention, please. The winner of this year’s Christmas Singing Contest is, of course, Annabelle! Her singing was dazzling, as always.”
Birdie slumped even further. Annabelle won. Of course.
Ms. Ringly looked down at the audience. “This year, though, we have a special extra prize. For most original song, Birdie!”
Birdie couldn’t believe it. She practically flew onto the stage to get her prize.
As they drove home, Birdie started thinking up words for next year’s song.
This was first posted on my Starborn Revue blog in 2016. I wanted to share these two books with you here.
It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day in which to remember what you’re grateful for in your life. These two books help us think about gratitude in a fun but meaningful way.
Title: The Very Fairy Princess: Attitude of Gratitude
Authors: Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
Illustrator: Christine Davenier
Publisher: New York, Boston: Little Brown & Co, 2016
Genre: Picture book fiction
Audience Age: 4 and up
Themes/Topics: Giving thanks, gratitude, coping with setbacks
Opening Sentences:Hooray! It’s Gratitude Day! At school, we’ll be practicing an Attitude of Gratitude by showing kindness and appreciation all day long! Well…NO ONE has a fuller heart or is more appreciative than a fairy princess. That’s me! Gerry, the VERY fairy princess.
Synopsis: Gerry is looking forward to Gratitude Day at school, and plans to be the most grateful, appreciative, kind and caring kid (oops, fairy princess) that anyone could hope for.
But things start to go wrong as soon as she gets on the school bus. Her best friend is sick, and won’t be at school. She has to work to maintain her Gratitude Attitude when she has to sit beside Connor on the bus instead. Things just keep getting worse and worse. It gets harder and harder to have an attitude even CLOSE to gratitude, until it’s practically impossible.
However, fairy princesses never give up. Gerry has to find a way to get that Gratitude back. How she does it demonstrates resilience, imagination, and of course a LOT of SPARKLE. (Fairy princesses excel at SPARKLING in the face of adversity.)
I’m sure you’ll find this book delightful – and if you read it to a younger sibling or cousin, they’re sure to feel an attitude of gratitude toward you!
And just for fun, here’s a link to an interview with the authors! Click here.
~ ~ ~
Title: Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks
Author: John Bucchino
Illustrator: Anna-Liisa Hakkarainen
Publisher: New York: HarperCollins, 2003
Genre: Picture book, song lyrics
Audience Age: Any age at all!
Opening Sentences:I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got a warm place to sleep. Some nights I lie awake counting gifts instead of counting sheep.
Synopsis: Through his gentle lyrics, John Bucchino celebrates the gift of gratitude, remembering all the things there are to be grateful for, including having “a heart that can love” and “a mind that can think.” He also acknowledges that there are times when gratitude is difficult, but somehow remembering the things there are to be grateful for, like people and friends around him. That helps lift his spirits up and make him even more grateful!
And there is a bonus – a CD at the back of the book that features Art Garfunkel singing this lovely song. (John Bucchino wrote both words and music.)
Activities/Resources to help develop an attitude of gratitude:
Make a poster or collage (using old magazines for pictures) of things to be grateful for.
Do something for someone else – Gerry, the Very Fairy Princess in the book above, gave things to the food bank. Some families help serve Thanksgiving dinner (or some other holiday meal) at a homeless shelter.
Learn to sing John Bucchino’s song. The music and lyrics are at the back of the book, as well as the CD. Maybe sing it around the table when you’re gathered with your family.
Talk about things you’re grateful for – I bet someone is grateful for YOU!