Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WRITERLY WISDOM: Alison Hertz






It's time once again for WRITERLY WISDOM where every Wednesday we sneak a peek into the world of writing and publication.   This week's author also happens to be one of my critique partners who I rely on to help keep my stories vividly creative!  You can find Alison Hertz at her website (www.alisonhertz.com), or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AlisonHertzAuthor), on her blog (www.AlisonHertz.blogspot.com) or you can even email her at Alison@AlisonHertz.com.  Take it away Alison...






Weathering the Brainstorm: Tips for Creating a List of Picture Book Concepts
By: Alison Hertz

First of all, Donna, thank you for having me on your blog.

For those who don’t know me, I write and illustrate books for children. While I dabble in chapter books and mid grade novels, I write mostly picture books – a lot of them. I am often asked by writer friends and non writer friends how I come up with soo many different ideas for picture books and my answer is simple. Brainstorm.

Okay, I know that brainstorming can even be intimidating for some. You may be thinking, brainstorm what? People tell me that they enjoy writing for kids but they simply don’t know what to write about when starting to work on a new manuscript. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to sit down and come up with a list of 25 picture book story concepts off the top of your head. Here are my tips:

1.  Go to a playground or Chuck E Cheese or the play area at McDonalds and other places that children like to hang out. Go sit in the waiting area of a children’s dentist or pediatrician. Go to a children’s museum, an aquarium, or a planetarium. Watch how children behave, listen to what they are interested in or worried about. Just don’t take pictures of anyone or they might think you are some kind of creep. Take your own kids with you or your nieces or nephews or grandchildren – watch and listen.

2.  Now that you are thinking about those places that children go (they don’t have to like all of these places), make a list of as many as you can think of. Here, I’ll start it for you:

  • Playground
  • Restaurant
  • Doctor
  • A friend’s house
  • Grandma’s house
  • Their own backyard
  • (Now you add at least ten more places.)

3.  Now make a separate list of events in a child’s life. Think about the age you want to write for 0-3, 3-5, 5-8 and what events are specific to that age. Write down as many events as you can. I’ll start it for you:

  • Losing a tooth
  • Getting a pet
  • First sleep over
  • Birthday parties
  • Taking the bus to school for the first time
  • Making his or her own breakfast or lunch
  • (Now you add at least ten more events.)

4.  Here comes the fun part, combine your lists. Take an event from list 2 and have it occur at a place on list 1. There are no wrong answers here. Kids can have nearly anything happen anywhere. Make a list of combinations. For this step, I’m going to add “What If” to the beginning. Here are a few to start you off:

  • What if a child lost his/her tooth at a museum?
  • What if a child has his/her birthday party at Grandma’s house?
  • What if a child has a play date at the beach?

5.  You might think that you have a list of picture book concepts and we are done. You have weathered the brainstorm. Sorry but, right now, your list of story ideas are not yet picture book worthy. To turn this list into fun, page turners, we need to throw a wrench in the machine (so to speak). Next to your list of ideas, write something devastating or amazing that could happen during that event. Remember to think of what would be great or horrible for a child (not an adult). For example:

  • What if a child lost his/her a tooth at a museum – and the tooth dropped into an exhibit?
  • What if a child had his/her birthday party at Grandma’s house and Grandma drops the cake?
  • What if a child has a play date at the beach and they find a hermit crab together – who will get to bring it home?

These additions to your events and locations turn your idea into a story. Now, go weather the brainstorm and have fun coming up with ideas.



(Weaving Dreams Publishing 2012)


When Max and Katie decide to teach their little sister to fly, they quickly learn that telling her to flap, just isn't enough.
Page by page, the siblings get more and more inventive in an effort to help their little sister soar through the air.





Alison Hertz is a writer, illustrator, teacher, toy designer, juggler, and former summer camp director. Her picture book, FLAP, released in November of 2012 and is available in stores and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, and her website.
To learn more about Alison Hertz:
Twitter: @AlisonHertz





21 comments:

  1. Nice post, Donna and Alison! And thanks for the brainstorming tips :-)

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    1. Hi Penny! I agree...I like Alison's list and Susanna Leonard Hill also created one last year as well that gave good suggestions! You can never have too many ideas...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  2. This is great! Thanks for the hints for seeding our own brainstorms, Alison! And thanks (again) for this series, Donna.

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    1. Hi Beth! I think I have the greatest group of authors/writers contributing to this series...I couldn't ask for a better bunch of people!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  3. Thanks Donna and Alison! I needed some PB inspiration this morning and this was just the ticket :)

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    1. Hi Lori! It's all Alison...I'm just hosting this great post but I get to benefit from it as well...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    2. Lori,
      I hope my method of gathering picture book story ideas helps you gain some inspiration! Good luck!

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  4. Thanks for this! I could just see the silly combinations now. :0)

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    1. Hi Donna! I'm glad you liked it...I can't wait to try it out myself...lol...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  5. Great post! I love this brainstorming method. thanks!

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    1. Hi BJ! I didn't think much of brainstorming at one time but when you see wonderful posts like this one and the list Susanna Leonard Hill put on her blog last year, it's hard not to get excited about a little brainstorming...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  6. Another great Writerly Wisdom post, Alison and Donna! This is very similar to the way I brainstorm. Alison, I always love your story starter posts... in case you want to write any more :)

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    1. Hi Susanna! This post reminded me so much of your post last year about brainstorming. I printed off that post and used it for some PB ideas...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  7. I never thought of brainstorming like this. What a great idea!

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    1. Hi Iza! Isn't it great to find out new ways to create great stories?

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  8. I like this strategy, Alison. It's a new twist on some others I've tried, and simpler, for some reason. Thanks! Good wisdom, Donna!

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    1. Hi Genevieve! I thought so too...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  9. Replies
    1. Hi Erik! I love reading ANY tips or tricks helping me to be a stronger writer and this post helps me create lots of new story ideas...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  10. Brainstorming is great for so many things but especially for writing. A great post with tons of ideas. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Darlene! I agree and I can't wait to work on this list as well as making one of my own...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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