What is Storystorm?

STORYSTORM is the brain child of Tara Lazar, a children’s book author and mentor whose blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) is a source of information and showcase of personality. In Tara’s words:

The Storystorm challenge is to create 30 story ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don’t need potential best-seller ideas.

You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas. Your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass. Eventually, you will have a list of ideas to flesh out into concepts, premises and manuscripts in the coming year.

On this blog, daily posts by authors, illustrators, editors and other publishing professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories.

Tara Lazar

This year, STORYSTORM inspired me to start a new journal in which I’m collecting ideas. Some may turn into stories and some may not, but one of the takeaways from this year’s authors and illustrators is to see where your creativity takes you. I’m up for the challenge!

I create with clay, yarn, fabric and, of course, ingredients. I imagine worlds with words.

Hon, where does creativity take you?

Outdoor Inspiration, Chalk Art

My neighbors have added more inspiration (and beauty) to the neighborhood. I love to come across a surprise on the street–a quote, saying, or picture rendered in chalk. Check out the burgeoning “collection” of chalk art care of @millburnchalklove and other street artists. I’m building upon posts Chalk Walk and Road Quotes.

Chalk Walk!

Do extraordinary things with ordinary love.

In a recent post,  Road Quotes, I shared pics of the beautiful chalk art popping up on my street. Care of the Instagram account @millburnchalklove and some other artistic neighbors, there’s more outdoor art to add to the collection. It truly lifts my “quarantine family’s” spirits to see creativity emerge from the asphalt.

“Quarantine Family” (Taken on a winter-cold day in May!):  Eli, Hannah, Darcy, me, Hubby and Teddy.

Spring Tulips & Shel Silverstein

After a The Max Challenge Zoom workout, the trainer read Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Voice.” The poem spoke to me on several fronts: trying to get through quarantine with a hopeful outlook, helping others with my particular skills, and focusing energy on long-term goals which seem, during this strange and unsettling time, to be floating on waves washing out to sea.

Wishing you a peaceful day filled with beauty in small moments, like noticing how droplets cling to tulip petals.

The Voice
by Shel Silverstein

Road Quotes!

The art may be fleeting, but the sentiment remains.

One of the bright spots in a sea of uncertainty is the chalk art in my neighborhood. When we walk our sweet-angel-aka-barking-maniac Lucy, we look forward to seeing the new creations of some very talented people. Check out the Instagram account @millburnchalklove.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Inspirational (and Funny) Poem for Picture Book Writers

Shout out to Derick Wilder, founder of Fit Lit Kids (Its mission is to “provide the highest quality in educational programs that are focused on Fitness and ​Literacy… and sometimes both at the same time!”) for allowing me to post his inspirational  poem for picture book writers. He shared it on KIDLIT411, a Facebook group/website with sources for Kidlit people.

Favorite line: “umm…giant anteater!” 

HAPPY KIDLIT NEW YEAR

May there always be time

to write and revise.

May you learn from the lows,

and rejoice in the highs.

 

May your stories be stuffed

with laughter and smiles.

May then end up on top

of all the slush piles.

 

May the right words emerge

and flow like sunshowers.

May your plotlines engage

and sprout like sunflowers.

 

May your narrative soar,

in verse or in prose.

May your “yesses” outweigh

your “maybes” or “nos.”

 

May your characters teem

with humor and heart.

May you never forget–

leave room for the art.

 

May your rhymes (unlike this)

be perfect in meter.

May your couplets make sense

umm…giant anteater.

 

May your journey be long,

response times be short.

May critique groups provide

advice and support.

 

May your misses be few,

your hits be plenty.

May your kidlit dreams bloom

in 2020!

 

Find Your Inner Superman, New York City Marathon

Yesterday was the perfect day to watch the New York City Marathon!

Trains heading to Manhattan were packed as Hubby and I rode in to see our son. He signed up in honor of his college friend, Alex, who was paralyzed in a ski accident a year and a half ago.

Alex is an inspiration and a real superman! He raced in a wheelchair!

Even if you don’t know someone running in the marathon, it’s awesome to watch. The energy, music, and spectators make New York City a five-borough block party.

While fundraising, Teddy sent this out:

I’ll be running the NYC Marathon with a group of friends to support research for spinal cord injuries. The Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation did a ton to help our friend Alex as he recovered from his accident last winter and we’re pumped to be able to give back to them and anyone else affected by paralysis.

We have been training hard and fundraising like crazy and are all excited to get out and crush the race tomorrow. With your generous help, our NYC Marathon Team has raised a total of over $360k for spinal injury research already! We are trending towards being their highest fundraising team in organization history.

Alex wheelchair-racing!

Teddy, in white baseball hat, passing 88th Street and 1st Avenue.

Friends Jenna and Meg join sister Hannah to cheer Teddy on. The sign says, “The Fastest Ever Triplet!! Go Teddy!”

IMG_9082
Stopping for a quick pic at 95th Street and Fifth Ave.

Funny signs! “Smile, remember you paid to do this!” “All for a magnet, 26.2” and “Consider this practice for the zombie apocalypse.”

Keynote Speaker Tami Charles’ Words of Wisdom

Author Tami Charles

Charles delivering her keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference.

Inspiration for Everyone

Tami Charles, whose middle grade novel Like Vanessa debuted in March, delivered a keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference this past weekend.

She talked about the value of hope. “Somewhere between no and yes lies hope.”

She talked about rejections. “The word no has empowered me, broken me, and put me back together again.”

She talked about persistence. “You keep writing. You don’t stop.”

And she said, “Step into your greatness.”

Thanks, Tami, for words of wisdom that ring true for me as a writer and also for anyone trying to reach a seemingly insurmountable goal.

Click here to watch a short video about Charles and Like Vanessa. Take one guess which book I’m buying as gifts for some important tween girls in my life.

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty. Goodreads

Lucy versus Groundhogs

'I'll go wherever you go, Mommy."
“I’ll go wherever you go, Mommy.”

"You never know what scents you'll pick up in the wind."
“I love to stick my nose out of the window.”

"I'm on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!"
“I’m on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!”

What is it about groundhogs?

Despite living in a New Jersey suburb of Manhattan, frequent visitors to our backyard include wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels and mice.  I call our neighborhood, which backs up to a nature reserve, the South Mountain Reservation “Animal Kingdom.” Lucy, our 4 year-old Labra-Collie rescue, is fascinated by all the animals, but morphs from Interested Observer to Psycho Doggie when groundhogs appear.

A few weeks ago Lucy was languishing in the heat, when she jumped up and made a bee-line down our hill.  She chomped down on something furry. I don’t know if she intended to shake the small animal–dare I say?–to death, or if she meant to scare the wits out of it.  Either way, it didn’t look good for the baby groundhog.

I raced down the hill, screeching, “Drop it!  Drop it!  Lucy, STOP IT!”  (Yes, I know that rhymes. I write picture books, hon. But, I digress.)

Did Lucy listen?  Noooo!

Instead, she proceeded to whip the baby groundhog back and forth like a stuffed toy while the groundhog struggled to free itself and while I chased her around the yard.  As I tried to catch Lucy, my youngest daughter watched from the sidelines.

“GET THE LEASH!”  I hollered.

In the meantime, I managed to grab Lucy and press on the outsides of her jaw until she dropped the groundhog.  My daughter arrived with the leash and dragged her inside.

I approached the poor little rodent, apologizing profusely. Guess what?  There were no bite marks or blood!  Lucy’s Labrador Retriever “soft mouth” clutch didn’t break any skin.  The groundhog, surely in shock, looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Despite its probable concussion, I figured it would get the word out to stay away from our yard.  Apparently, it didn’t.

Earlier this week, I heard Lucy barking with a high-pitched voice I hadn’t heard before.  I ran outside to find her nose-to-nose with an adult groundhog.  Again, I did the “Catch-a-Psycho-Doggie” dance.  Again, amused bystanders watched from the sidelines. This time, it was my son and hubby laughing as I screamed, “GET THE LEASH!”

After quite a bit of chasing (us chasing Lucy, Lucy chasing the adult groundhog), we caught Lucy and dragged her inside.

Would you believe me if I told you Lucy really is the sweetest little angel, a sponge for affection?  Don’t answer that question if you’re a groundhog or a… mailman…truck driver…repairman…motocycle driver…

 Related Post:  Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy