Thursday, October 30, 2014

Picture Book Power

The off-white couch was covered with clear vinyl, the kind that would crinkle and squeak if you moved around too much. But this was where the magic happened. In her distinct voice, slightly hoarse and weathered with time,  my grandma would read picture books to me, opening my imagination to new worlds and tales of days gone by. 

A vivid memory of a book of "Uncle Remus" folktales stands out among the dim snapshots in my mind, and I remember in particular being a bit scared of the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. In this tale, Brer Fox designs a sticky doll or "tar baby" as a way to capture Brer Rabbit. When Brer Rabbit encounters the tar baby, he speaks to it, but the doll won't answer back. So the annoyed rabbit grabs ahold of the tar baby's arm, only to find himself hopelessly stuck and at the mercy of Brer Fox. I won't give away the ending, in case you're not familiar with the story and want to read it for yourself. 

Looking back, I'm not really sure what exactly frightened me about the story, but I do know this: Picture books have the power to stay with you. Just like the tar baby stuck to Brer Rabbit, this story by Joel Chandler Harris has stuck in my imagination for 40 years, evoking memories of my grandma and her vinyl covered couch.

As a children's activity book writer and an aspiring picture book author, I'm participating for the second time in Picture Book Idea Month, otherwise known as PiBoIdMo, during the month of November. Tired of watching novelists have all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo, children's author Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers. 

According to Lazar's blog, "The challenge is to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days. You don't have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don't need potential best-seller ideas. You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like "purple polka-dot pony." The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas and your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass." 

"Daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you'll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories." 

Registration has begun at Tara's blog, and those who register and complete the 30-day challenge will be eligible for amazing prizes like signed picture books, original artwork, critiques and wait for it... feedback from one of 10 agents! Whoa! It's a super fun way to generate ideas, build community with other writers and learn from the wealth of knowledge that Tara's guest bloggers will impart during the month. 

Have you always wanted to write a picture book? What are you waiting for? Grab your idea notebook, sign up for PiBoIdMo and join the fun! 

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