Monday, May 21, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Generate Story Ideas

A question authors get asked more than they can count is: Where do you get your ideas?

For me, the simple answer is that I get them from my brain. But the inspiration for those ideas often comes from outside my brain, and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get my brain to do that part of its job. My favorite ideas often come to me by accident, but during times of idea drought, I've got to help my brain along. After all, it's not good for an author to have no ideas!

So here are my top ten ways to generate story ideas:

1. Reading. Ideas may strike while reading other people's stories. This is okay as long as your story is unique on its own.

2. Watching movies. Like reading, but more visual. And louder.

3. Lists. Think of a subject and start listing everything that comes to mind. It can be anything. Winter, pets, gross things to eat for lunch!

4. People watching. People are interesting creatures. Everyone around you could potentially spark a story idea if you're really paying attention.

5. Brainstorming. This is similar to writing a list, but instead of a subject, for me this usually begins with a "what if" question.

6. Listening to people. People say funny or inspirational things. They ask questions. They complain. There are story ideas in those words!

7. Observing nature. Nature is fascinating. It's important to slow down and pay attention, and have a notebook handy!

8. Play time.  Climb a jungle gym, get dizzy on a tire swing, or play duck-duck-goose with some kids. Taking the time to play means taking advantage of serious idea-generating power.

9. Other creative pursuits. Sometimes being passive is productive for the writer's brain. Getting out of writing mode to give your brain a chance to shift gears could be just the thing you need to stumble onto surprise inspiration.

10. Writing prompts. I don't use writing prompts often, but they can be a fun way to get your brain going, or get it moving in a different direction.

All of these methods have worked for me over the years. I'd love to hear about idea-generating methods that have worked for you!

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Crocodile Smile: A Read, Discuss, Do! craft

I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic is a picture book about a young meerkat who is envious of the other zoo animals' unique traits. But after a jaunt through the zoo (with a harried zoo-keeper following after him), he learns to accept himself just the way God made him! This book is charming, funny, and a pleasure to read aloud. And it's perfect for fostering discussions about self-acceptance.


DISCUSS: The crocodile has an impressive smile. It may be his best feature! What is your best feature? Have you ever wished you could change something about yourself?

DO: Make your own crocodile smile!

You will need:

  • Paper plate
  • Green and pink tempura paint (or markers)
  • Paint brush
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Large wiggly eye
  • Brass fastener 


Cut the paper plate in half. Cut a curved section out of the round side of each plate half. Cut a simple zig-zag into the straight side of each paper plate half.

Paint (or color) both sides green. While the paint dries, cut triangles out of the cut-out pieces of the
plate for teeth. Glue the teeth onto the white side of the zig-zagged edge, leaving a few inches on the end tooth free! Be sure to put the teeth on the correct end! The best way to be sure you do this right is to lay both pieces white-side-up with their zig-zagged edges facing each other as you glue.

Overlap the jaw and punch a hole through both plate sections. Secure it with a brass fastener. Glue on the eye and give the crocodile a nostril with pink paint or marker! (If you don't have a wiggly eye, you can draw or paint an eye instead!)

Now you have your own crocodile smile! Be careful. Those teeth are sharp!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Five Verse Novels I Read in April, and What I Thought of Them

National Poetry Month has come to an end.

I didn't do much on the blog for Poetry Month this year, but I did set goals for myself personally. Those goals were: read 5 new verse novels and write 10 new poems.

Did I make it? Yes! Admittedly, I wrote two of the poems today after realizing that I was only up to eight. But that counts!

I'm not prepared to share any of the poems I wrote in the past thirty days, but I'm always happy to share about books I read! Here are the 5 verse novels I read this month, along with some quick thoughts about each one:


This book was engaging, beautifully written, and a bit horrifying at times. Highly recommended! See my full review here.

RONIT & JAMIL by Pamela L. Laskin

I was disappointed in this book, primarily because it was hard to follow and I felt that the romance was poorly developed. It has some beautiful language and form poetry, but it just didn't work for me as a novel.

I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY by Samantha Schutz

This book was a little different in that it was a memoir. I found the verse format to be effective and the writing to be engaging, though the book ended a bit too abruptly.

ONE by Sarah Crossan

This is a beautifully written and heartbreaking story about conjoined twins. Loved it!

YOU CAN FLY: THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN by Carol Boston Weatherford

This is a quick read that is both engaging and inspiring. It's a bit different in that it is historical, and it's told in 2nd person.

Did you read any verse novels or write any poems this month? I'd love to hear about it!