Friday, February 28, 2014

The Finish Line

A big "HOORAY!" going out to 2014 Picture Book Marathon finishers today! Time to sit back, relax, and take credit for a job well done.

Since you're well on your way to establishing a daily writing habit, perhaps you want to continue.... You don't need to generate an idea for a new picture book each day, of course. But what would daily practice do for your writing life?

If you haven't quite gotten to the finish line yet, no worries, nobody will be taking it down. Keep going at your own pace. You'll get there when you get there, and be glad that you did.

After a few days, it'll be time to take stock of what you've written, and decide which manuscript to work on first. Good luck! And remember, you don't need to wait for February for a picture book marathon. Consider a mini (or full-fledged!) marathon any time you feel your writing needs a kick start.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Halfway Point

If you've been writing a picture book draft daily up to this point you're up to lucky 13 -- halfway there. Keep it up! And, if you've fallen behind? Time to buckle down and catch up.
Use a different part of your brain for some story-starting action --  try creating some story stones. And then, write it down.....

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Quarter of the Way There....

My tea bag tag this morning said "chances multiply when you grab them." So do ideas, and, particularly relevant this month, picture book ideas. Don't let them float away looking for another home (or if you do, send them here!). Grab those fleeting ideas and see what you can make of them.
  In the book Smarter Than You Think; How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better, Clive Thompson quotes science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon as saying "Ninety percent of everything is crap." Which may be true, or at least partially so; what you hope to achieve, by doing the Picture Book Marathon, is to write through that 90% to the 10% that is gold.
  It gets harder as you go because you've already grabbed the low-hanging fruit. Now you have to reach higher, or dig deeper.
  So, grab those ideas as they float by, and dig deeper for the gold!
A story starter: think of a child you know, and write a story especially for them.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day

Day 2 of the marathon - you've probably already got two done, and only 24 more to go! Are you feeling like you're on a roll, or a rusty wheel needing a push? A story starter for today: include a groundhog and a football....

Friday, January 31, 2014

Final Training Tips....

Make a commitment to complete the marathon -- see this post for instructions.

You get to carbo-load the day before a marathon, right?

Get your writing gears going - sit down and write three pages without stopping.

RELAX -- and get ready for a fun and challenging month!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How the Picture Book Marathon Works

Hello Authors and Illustrators! If you’re unfamiliar with the marathon, here’s how it works. 

Your Goal: 

Between February 1 and February 28, write one picture book a day, until you get to 26. This year, you get two break days, which you get to pick. 

The Basics: 

For the marathon, a "picture book" is defined as (1) a story or narrative, (2) with a beginning, middle, and end, (3) for children, and (4) intended to be illustrated. They’re generally, though not always, published in a 32 page format. Given the speed of the marathon, your picture book DRAFTS (for that’s what they’ll be) will be very rough. What you hope to capture is the basic plot, characters, and emotion of each story.

Why Do It:
  • Generate a lot of ideas/material in a short amount of time.
  • Get your creative juices flowing by forcing yourself to write daily.
  • Circumvent your internal naysayer - they either won’t have time to criticize, or they’ll be too tired.
  • Develop a writing habit.

A Few Other Notes
  • The marathon doesn't host a place where you can post your work.
  • See today's separate blog post for instructions on signing up (optional).

Marathon Sign Up (Optional)

You can do the marathon perfectly well on your own, though it helps to have the support of at least one other person who’s also marathoning.

However, if you would like to (1) make a commitment that will motivate you to keep going, and (2) connect with a larger group of people who are also doing the marathon, consider creating a commitment contract at (how stickk works). The site allows you to set and track a goal with a timeline, making it a perfect match for the marathon.

If you decide to make this commitment:

Set up an account at

Create a custom goal as follows:
Create your own goal: Complete the 2014 Picture Book Marathon
Commitment type: ongoing
I commit to: Write 26 picture book drafts during the 28 days of February
This commitment starts: February 1
Length of commitment: 4 weeks
Goal category: career

To make your contract more effective, you can pledge to donate money if you DON’T meet your goal (this step is entirely optional). If you meet your goal, you pay nothing. If you don’t meet your goal, you select where your money goes from one of three options: an anti-charity (you select one you would not want to donate to); a charity (though you don’t get to select which one); or, a friend or enemy.

Important: under supporters, list PBMarathoner. I’ve been playing with the stickk search engine, and it’s less than perfect. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to link everyone who makes a commitment contract through this step.

If I am able to link everyone that way, this last step may be unnecessary. But if you want to make sure you get linked to everyone else, email me (writers at with the following:
subject: stickk contract
message: your stickk username
If I can't link you directly through the stickk site, I’ll send out a list of everyone who sets up a contract and emails me by 5:00 p.m. on February 2, and you can add them as supporters.

So, if you want to sign up, do it before February1!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More Marathon Training Tips

#6 Buy yourself a little time and peace of mind by knocking off a few chores before February starts. Stock up on groceries, do the laundry....

#5 Read! Picture books, new and old. A magazine or newspaper you wouldn't normally pick up. A book on writing or illustrating picture books. Something to get you "thinking outside the book"!

Congratulations to the ALA award winners!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Training Tip #7: Create an Idea File

If you haven't yet begun tracking picture book ideas, now's the time. Whether you use your phone, a notebook, or the back of your hand, write it down! Don't assume you'll remember it later.
  Train yourself to tune all of your senses in to picture book possibilities. Who knows? Your next picture book might originate in an overheard comment, a memory triggered by the smell of bubblegum ice cream, or the feel of your cat's tongue licking your hand.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Training Tip #9/8: Make Some Time!

Hmm, looks like days 9 and 8 got combined. Which reminds me of the next training tip: clear your February calendar. Or at least, schedule time to make a successful picture book marathon happen. Think about when you plan to write each day, and then make sure to keep that time open. Often, we're so busy each day we don't even allow time to think! Not conducive to creativity....

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ten Day Countdown Starts Today

We're counting down to the start of the 2014 Picture Book Marathon with 10 days of "training" exercises.
Today, clear a space. That might be your desk, a corner of the kitchen table, or a spot in the living room. Give your brain a place to work free of distracting clutter.
I'm starting with this one first because, if your desk looks like mine, you might need 10 days to get it done....
While you're at it, look for some inspiring quotes or pictures that you can post nearby. Anyone have any good ones to suggest?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Picture Book Marathon 2014

Put yourself in a Picture Book Frame of Mind.... Picture Book Marathon 2014, starting February 1!