I can’t believe it’s only Day 5 of PiBoIdMo and I’m finding myself a bit stumped already.  I think, if I’m honest with myself, it’s self-consciousness or fear or self-doubt or all of the above.  One of my goals for the challenge was to stretch myself beyond the surface ideas, to get into some truly unique and fantastical areas that I haven’t explored (my WIPs, thus far, are at least somewhat grounded in reality).

I was reading Monkey With a Tool Belt, by Chris Monroe, to my son a couple of nights ago, and this book is a perfect example of the kind of lunacy that can only work in picture books.  If you haven’t read it, DO.  Here, in my own words, is a brief summary.  Chico Bon Bon is a monkey with a tool belt.  He builds and fixes things for his friends and family.  One day, he spies a banana split in the distance.  He approaches; it turns out to be fake.  A box falls down over him and he finds himself kidnapped by an organ grinder whose previous monkey ran away.  The organ grinder takes him far away to the circus.  Lucky for Chico he’s wearing his tool belt.  He hatches an elaborate plan to escape from the box using all sorts of tools like a drill-bit extender, hacksaw, mini-file, lemon squeezer and of course – the water buffalo noise maker.  All ends up well when Chico tucks himself into bed that night at home, tool belt and all.

The book is outrageous and silly and has absolutely no point whatsoever (except, perhaps, ingenuity).  It’s just FUN.  Of course Chris Monroe is the only person who could write that story because, well, who else would come up with that idea?

THAT is what I am looking for.  An idea that is so totally mine that it couldn’t be anyone else’s.  And it’s hard.  Much harder than I thought.

Is it just me?  If so, please tell me what you all are doing to ignite the creative spark and come up with those awesome ideas.  I could use some inspiration right now. 🙂


Categories: Books, Children's Books, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , ,



  1. I know EXACTLY what you mean!! Trying to find a story that only you could write is so difficult. Finding your voice. Where did I put my voice?!

    I can only suggest my blogs on my ABCs of inspiration and the PiBoIdMo posts. : ). Always looking for more though!

  2. when i’m stuck i try to see if i can find a twist on a type of story. like a cumulative tale, say, “the house that jack built” but in reverse like “the house that jack wrecked” where step by step the character wrecks a house. “i know and lady who…” “chicken little.” change the character, the setting, see where it takes you.

    i’m also a big fan for taking a classic fairy tale and reversing the genders but keeping the attitude the same to see what happens. the tale of “sleeping handsome” sounds weird, and sort of gross, and makes me wonder why that is.

    or how about an abecedarian? pick a subject that’s odd — monsters maybe — and build a book with assonance like sendak did with “alligators all around.” i have in my “back-up file” (for when i have a day when i’m truly stumped) to try an abecedarian based pirates.

    with any of these the idea isn’t to copy or make a variation but to find a way to find your own ideas. they’re like exercises that open up doors of possibility.

    or, if you have an iphone, try the word twiddle app and see what randomly generated words and setting conjure.

    hope that helps!

    • Awesome set of ideas! I hope you’re planning to write “Sleeping Handsome.” That sounds killer.

      Thanks for all of the prompts. I really appreciate the ideas – can’t wait to try the twiddle app..

  3. Since I’m not doing this, maybe I can at least be helpful. Here are 20 (or so) writing prompts from your list of 100 random things about you:

    Once, in a fit of rage, I threw a can of soup at my brother. I used to drink pickle juice straight from the jar, hoop skirts, a Wednesday in January, We always fought over who got to be Laura, I didn’t even think about how embarrassed I should have been, birthday parties for my dogs, My favorite movie theater candy, dance the Macarena, bacon, Bellybuttons totally gross me out, I have never been to Australia, The only color I like to paint my toenails is red, a claw foot bathtub, all five of the Great Lakes, dude ranch vacation, lilacs and hyacinths, Halloumi from Cyprus

    Good luck!

    • Hannah,

      How sweet and thoughtful of you to draw from my own list. Now why didn’t I think of that? I already have a couple of ideas for “birthday parties for dogs,” so I’m a less stuck now. Thanks!

  4. Hi Julie,
    I can relate to what you’re saying.
    Irreverence! That’s what I love in PBs… not all the time but often.

    Keep at it. Keep using the challenges, the jumpstarts, whatever you can & let yourself go. Get out of your own way. What you write is first & foremost for you so be silly. Don’t worry but doing it right or anyone else’s opinion. Eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for in one (or two!) of your ideas.

    I think today’s PiBoIdMo (day 5) post about the road trip game (“No, it wasn’t”) is a great exercise to force us to turn things upside down & inside out.
    Have fun!

  5. Oh, Hannah’s prompts sound like they could pan out.

    Another idea . . . just pick something funny (like a monkey with a tool-belt) and see where the character leads YOU!

    I love the Monkey with A Tool-Belt synopsis you shared . . .

    It teaches kids to think for themselves, to not let themselves remain “stuck in a box,” to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to never give up . . .

    Have fun!

  6. I absolutely love picture books, even now that my kids are too old for them! When I find a good one, with amazing illustrations and a kooky storyline, I can’t put it down. But I always wonder how they come up with all of those awesome ideas, so good luck!

  7. Maybe you are concentrating too much. I am doing this right at the end of the day and writing the first thing that comes into my head or if I thought of something crazy earlier in the day I write that down and see where it takes me. I find I am the most creative when I read amazingly unique stories that are so imaginative no one but the author could have written them (like you said). For example, Tuesday in Arizona by Marian Harris and The Giant by Nicholas Heller. good luck!

  8. Thanks to everyone for all of your supportive and helpful comments. Love the writing and blogging community! I feel way better now than I did this morning when I wrote this post. 🙂

  9. I find that if you write down all the dull, boring, old, and done SURFACE ideas first, then the good ones will start to rise to the surface (no pun intended).

    I had a list of ABC book ideas. Beans, Bubbles, Dessert, Bodies, Berries, Cookies, you name it. I had what I thought was a great list of 20-30 pretty cool ideas. But then, I got the T is for Temples idea. A whole series of LDS Alphabet Books. If I hadn’t given in to the silly ideas of bubbles and beans in an alphabet world, and at least entertained them momentarily on paper, I never would have come up with my LDS Alphabet series, which is way awesome imho.

    Still haven’t tweaked proposal yet to send out to next publisher. At least they accept e-mail queries.

  10. Ah, must be the Day 5 PiBoIdMo blues. 🙂 Some fantastic suggestions in your comments–‘The House That Jack Wrecked’ makes me laugh. 🙂

  11. Oops, I seem to have used up my quota of smilies for today. Must be over my Day 5 blues …

  12. I left an award for you on my blog today! : )

  13. Good luck with your PiBoIdMo adventure! I admire you!

  14. I admire you for participating in this challenge. I’ll mention a tip I read somewhere (I forget where). It goes like this:

    Look around you and jot down some of the things/critters you see: dog, cat, frog, couch, blender, toaster, etc. Then mix up the cards and pull out two. If you get toaster and frog, try to think of an idea that mixes those two wacky things together.

    I’ve never tried it myself, but I thought of it when I read your post. Who knows, maybe that’s how the monkey ended up with a tool belt!

  15. It’s day 8…soon to be day 9…just checking in to see how things are going!

    Delzey, I like your suggestions!

    You write up my life…you give me hope…to carry on… (Sorry, I can’t help singing when I visit.)

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