Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 11 -- "Write what you know" or not

“Write what you know,” is advice we commonly hear.  If you have an expertise, take advantage of that and share your passion.
As a twist, I’ve heard Newberry-winning author, Katherine Paterson, say she chooses to write about what she does NOT know, but would LIKE to know.  Her first step in writing is delicious research about the topic. (Granted she mostly writes mid-grade novels, but she does have a few picture books.)

As further twist, consider writing about “What you know, but wish you didn’t know.”  Did you experience divorce as a child or parent?  Were you ever the awkward new kid?  Were you embarrassed and scared to learn to ride a bike?  Has your family lost a pet?  Or a family member?  Conveying these difficult emotions in a picture book is tough, especially because you also need to offer realistic hope. 
My first picture book, ALWAYS MY BROTHER (Tilbury House, 2009), is about the death of a brother told from the perspective of the younger sister.   This story mirrors our family’s experience, so this was definitely a case of “What I know, but wish I didn’t.”  But sometimes writing about your difficult experience can lend support to someone else.  (Visit for the story behind the book.)

For today if you want to, write a picture book about--

What you know.  (Share your expertise and passion.)

What you do NOT know, but would like to know.  (Have fun researching!)

What you know, but wish you didn’t know.  (Perhaps your story will help someone.) 


Tomorrow watch for the email with the PB tally survey.


  1. I'm writing a picture book about my son. He was born with a rare brain disorder. But the story doesn't center on that. It tells the story of a little boy that looks different, but is the same inside. (He just wants a friend.) True story.

    Also, I have been blogging about my marathon experiences and sent my link, but I don't see it with the other links. I guess it's because I only blog on Mondays and Fridays and not every day. Anyway, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

  2. Sounds like a gem of a story.


  3. I thought of a fun story when I was driving home. The beginning of the plot and I was excited about it. I didn't write it down when I got home and didn't get to write that night. The next day I remembered the title and . . . .? It was going to be a wonderful story, that I do know. Lol

  4. I have found that if I start thinking about my next picture book the night before I write it, my brain works on it all night. I usually wake up thinking about my topic and "writing" in my head. I choose certain words, phrases, or rhymes that I KNOW (or think I know, at the time) I want in the story. Then when I finally sit at my computer, it's half written. I also share my stories with a friend,and she with me, and we critique each other. Keeps us accountable!

  5. That's so funny! I guess I'm a day ahead because I discussed that in part in my blogpost yesterday. My first book Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten incorporates two things I knew (hedgehogs and my son wanting a School Bus Buddy). It's not about my hedgehogs, exactly, or my son, exactly, but it was a good start and led to believability. Here's my blog post for today. Hope you all find it inspiring:
    And I agree with Sel. That was a BANNER tip <3