I raced through February on my annual Picture Book Marathon. Ran past the groundhog’s forecast of spring. Jogged through tales of historic Black Americans. Lingered long in expressions of love. Cheered and clapped as teams blocked and blazed their way to touchdowns. Skated, skied, twisted and twirled, with U.S. Olympians in Beijing. Shoveled snow, enjoyed unexpected puddles before they crystalized to ice. Then with a nod to past presidents’ birthdays I skid to a halt. Teetering on the edge of February 2022, I pause.
What wonders will March bring?
Batches of paczki? Emerging crocuses defying the snow? Shall I trade snowflakes for shamrocks; drifts of snow for bundles of green? Will lion-like winds lift kites wildly on high? New life emerges all around. New possibilities to explore. Clutching my newest story in hand I wonder…
Good-bye, Fantastic February. It’s time to meet Marvelous March!
February 2020 comes to a close, with an extra day to finish the Picture Book Marathon. Once again, creating 26 picture books in a month was a rewarding exercise. More than half of my books were fiction, three were versions of ABC books, four played with numbers or counting, three were nonfiction embedded in fiction, and the others played with repetitive phrasing or putting a new twist to an old nursery rhyme.
Are they all prize winners? Of course not! But there might be a seed for a successful rewrite.
Was it easy?
Absolutely not! Some days I spent hours researching animals that I wanted to incorporate into my story. That’s one of the things I love about writing, I am continually learning and then try to pass that on to children in a fun and imaginative way.
Some of my favorite stories this month are those that are ridiculously fun. The impossible happens, the ridiculous runs to extremes, and by the end laughter has lifted child and adult reader beyond this ordinary world.
Another favorite of mine, was a counting to ten book I imagined my 18 month old granddaughter might compose. It was filled with all her favorites, such as ten wild blueberries on her purple plate, which she couldn’t resist eating, and replacing, again and again. When it came to her five favorite colors, they started out all different, but let’s be honest, her favorite color is orange. So she substituted orange for four of the five colors, allowing only yellow to remain in the group.
So you see, the Picture Book Marathon for me was a month to stretch my creativity within a set deadline while underlining my belief, that all learning can and should be fun.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I have run the Picture Book Marathon since 2010. But after 9 years of successfully completing the race, in 2018 I went off course for a very exciting reason.
November 2017, I had participated in my ninth Nannowrimo, (National Novel Writing Month). The fantasy middle grade novel that I wrote that month was one I knew I wanted to spend time and effort to revise and rewrite in the coming year.
The holiday season was a time to put aside the novel and enjoy family and friends. In January an opportunity arose to test the level of interest my novel would gather. Hurriedly, I rewrote and prepared the first six chapters to apply for the opportunity to appear on Kindle Scout for one month.
Four days into February 2018, with 4 picture books completed, I learned that Kindle Scout accepted my submission. Starting February 5, 2018, the first six chapters of my book were available for people to read.
I was overjoyed!
For the rest of February, people were reading my book! It was even called “hot and trending” several days. There’s not a better feeling to a writer than to have his work read and enjoyed.
The rest of February was spent sharing this event with friends and family. That’s how I went off course in Picture Book Marathon of February 2018.
The positive feedback from that month supplied the energy to work on the novel to its completion. That’s the year I went off course from the Picture Book Marathon.
Thursday, February 13, is the official halfway point in the Picture Book Marathon. It’s always good to celebrate your accomplishments. If you actually ran thirteen miles, you would celebrate! So, too, writing thirteen picture books, or creating thirteen ideas for stories, is reason for celebration.
You need thirteen more ideas to finish the Picture Book Marathon. Allow me to offer a few suggestions to help you finish the race.
Ideas are all around.
A photo, a saying or phrase, a memory from childhood, pets, fears, joys, foods, disappointments, overheard conversations, new twists on nursery rhymes, or fairy tales, ridiculous impossibilities, nature, friends, family, failures, successes, concept books, such as ABC’s, counting, opposites, or shapes.
The best advice I can give is to relax. Have fun. Try writing things you’ve never written before, like a new version of Hickory, Dickory, Dock. Make it wild. Make it touching. Try nonfiction, fantasy, or rhyming.
Make this Picture Book Marathon a race of exploration and fun. Remember, this is just the beginning of your creative projects that could turn into a wonderful picture book!
Yay! February has arrived! Today I begin writing for my traditional Picture Book Marathon.
In 2010 I stumbled upon a website that challenged picture book writers to create one picture book story, or at least the idea for one, for each of twenty-six days through February. I was looking for a new writing challenge since finishing my first NaNoWriMo novel in November 2009. That challenge was to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.
Writing a picture book a day seemed like it would be a walk in the park, after the demanding quota of 1,667 words per day of the Nano novel challenge. Writing 500 to 800 words or less seemed like a cinch
A piece of cake, I thought. And, as icing on the cake, you only needed 26 stories to match the 26 miles of a marathon, leaving 2 whole days in February to relax! (Unless it was leap year, like this year, then you had 3 whole days off!)
But the Picture Book Marathon had its own tests of endurance, in store for me, unique to writing for young children.
Though sometimes gasping for air, or clutching cramped writing muscles, I have managed to cross the finish line for 9 of these last 10 years.
More, later, about that one year I went off course. Right now, the starter gun has fired and I’m off to start my second decade of picture book marathons!