This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Monday, January 9, 2012

#PBDummy Challenge Step 1

Remember to register by January 15 to be eligible for the Agent Pitch contest at the close of the challenge. To register, leave a comment at the sign-up post.


I suspect most of you who have signed on for this challenge have at least an idea in mind—something you’ve always thought would make a great picture book someday. If so, congratulations! Use this week to get yourself in picture book mode.

By that, I mean take your idea seriously. “Someday” is today. This is really happening. It’s commitment time. Prepare yourself mentally to give it all you’ve got.

The rest of you fall into one of two categories: 1) no idea; 2) too many ideas.

If you truly feel you have no viable picture idea, we can do no better than to point you toward the posts of Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo—that’s the Picture Book Idea Month challenge, in which participants aim to come up with one picture book idea a day for 30 days. It happens every November: Tara assembles an amazing group of authors, illustrators, booksellers and industry professionals whose sole focus is to provide inspiration for recognizing and capturing great picture book ideas.

Each guest post is a mini-tutorial on getting in touch with your muse. They’re all archived on Tara’s site . . . three years’ worth so far! (Hint: Go to the archives and click the month of November for 2009, 2010 and 2011.) If you immerse yourself in this material, there’s practically no way to avoid a picture book idea!

Now, suppose you have the opposite problem: you have file folders full of picture book ideas. You can’t walk down the street or turn on the radio without an idea popping out at you. Your task this week is to sift through until you find the handful that really speak to you on an emotional level. They may all be great ideas for someone: which are only for you?

Which ones could you be comfortable finding other homes for, and which one do you have to keep for yourself? Maybe it’s the runt of the litter—an idea only you can love. Maybe it’s the one that comes out wagging every time you visit the kennel. Creating a picture book is hard. You’ve got to love your idea even when it makes messes or needs to be walked in the rain.

By the way, this process of emotional investment applies equally those of you who are not particularly interested in developing an original story. A picture book dummy is a wonderful way to showcase your skills to an editor or art director who can give you someone else’s words to interpret. If that’s your goal, find a familiar fairy tale or fable in the public domain that you gives you that same emotional connection. In trying to establish a career, you’ll be up against hundreds of illustrators who draw or paint well: you must not only demonstrate competence with the format and with your chosen medium, you must be able to bring a unique sensibility to your interpretation of text. Pick a story that makes your sketching fingers itch!

Enough with the philosophy—it’s time to get this challenge started. We’re going to have a great time!

Ready? On your mark . . . get set . . . GO!

Join us this Thursday (January 12) at 9 pm EST for this week’s #kidlitart chat on beginnings and thresholds: why is that pencil sometimes just too heavy to pick up?

#PBDummy is now on Facebook!

Reminder: Wendy Martin has compiled the #PBDummy posts from the 2011 challenge into a handy ebook you can download for $5 here. You can also scroll back through and read the 2011 posts on this site: last year's challenge started in January of 2011. The first 25 participants who left a comment on the sign-up post will be receiving a link for a free download. 


  1. Story is picked out so I am ready to roll (he says nervously).

  2. so... where do we sign up at? I am on the FB Dummy page... I put my blog on the blog list... but is that enough? am i in?

  3. Louise got to the http://kidlitart.blogspot.com/2012/01/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html post and leave your name in the comments -- that's all you need to do to be signed up.

  4. I certainly have my idea and I am ready to go.