In the fall of 2008, everyone got loud about an event: NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. Sounded great! Write a 50,000 novel in a month, join a community of writers doing the same, talk shop every day, and become immersed in the work. I’d feel like a REAL writer.
Except I didn’t write novels. And the thought of writing one? Daunting.
You see, my entire life I’ve been a fan of the short form. I prefer the brilliance in its brevity. I understand how every word must be carefully selected, how every action and scene must contribute to the “single effect,” as dubbed by Edgar Allen Poe. I studied short stories in college, I read short stories voraciously and I began my writing career with flash fiction.
I was not joining NaNoWriMo. But I was jealous. Where was the writing event for picture book people?
So I thought about creating an event. However, the event would be just for me. I wasn’t thinking about community then.
Writing one picture book a day for 30 days seemed too difficult. But writing one picture book for the entire month was not a challenge. I needed to devise something between these two extremes.
And then the idea hit me—ideas!
The thing that really sells a picture book is the CONCEPT. A picture book needs a strong hook. I knew that for every 20 ideas, we get maybe one GREAT idea. So if there were an entire MONTH of brainstorming, I’d end November with at least one and maybe two ideas worth pursuing.
So the concept behind Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) was born.
That was 2008 and I did it with one writing friend. We weren’t serious. We didn’t keep track. I’m certain I didn’t end the month with 30 ideas. But I did have some GOOD ideas, maybe even GREAT ones. I decided the exercise was worth it.
So when the fall of 2009 rolled around and people starting getting loud about NaNoWriMo again, I decided to throw PiBoIdMo up on my blog. I thought maybe a dozen people would join me.
ONE HUNDRED signed up! I was flabbergasted. Gobblefunked!
I asked 15 people to guest blog about inspiration, which left me to blog for 15 days during November. WHOA! That as a mistake! By my fifth blog, I was struggling to find ideas to help others generate ideas.
So I learned for the next year that I needed more guest bloggers. And I needed to get more organized about PiBoIdMo because it seemed to be a hit with picture book writers.
So now, in 2013, it’s the fifth year of PiBoIdMo and I’m most proud of all the picture book writers who have begun with a PiBoIdMo idea and gone on to win agents, contests and book contracts. I should be keeping better track of it all, because it’s astounding. This year I have several people who will be blogging about their PiBoIdMo success story. And there’s several others already posted on my site (just search “success story”).
While it’s true that we all get ideas “from our head,” PiBoIdMo just proves that there are myriad ways to prepare your mind for creativity. You have to be open to receive the lightning, like standing in an open field with an umbrella during a thunderstorm.
Writing is a solitary act, but you don’t have to be alone all the time. The community and camaraderie of PiBoIdMo propels the participants even further. We have a Facebook group for discussion and I am playing with the idea of opening a more robust forum, since everyone is so supportive and enthusiastic.
I never could have imagined the response to PiBoIdMo and I look forward to organizing it every year. It gives me great satisfaction to give back to the writing community that has helped me so much over my career.
Editor’s note: Registration for the 2013 PiBoIdMo begins October 24 at Tara Lazar’s website.