5 Unusual Places to Find Picture Book Inspiration

Picture book ideas can hit at the most unlikely times. In honor of picture book month, I’m reprinting my post from last year’s PiBoIdMo about my most unusual sources of inspiration.

1. YouTube
Kids say and do the darndest things, right? And so often, they provide tender or hilarious or wonder-filled inspiration for picture books. But why limit yourself to the kids you know. More than ever, proud parents and brilliant marketers are happy to share a little one’s latest escapades. While I’ve never derived a direct storyline from YouTube videos, I do find in them that wacky lens through which to view a kid’s world. Here are some of my favorites:

2. Artist and Illustrator Websites
Three of my six picture books were inspired, in part, by browsing illustrators’ websites. Whether or not a particular illustrator ends up paired with my text, by studying the works of today’s most celebrated artists, I enter an altered state (Twilight Zone!) of visual creativity that triggers my muse. In the process I often discover a tone, emotion, whimsy or character that might just complete my story.

3. Beat Boxing
Whether they rhyme or not, most of my picture books have a distinct rhythm. And every so often that rhythm comes to me before the story. Listen carefully to your life. Do you hear the thump bump of your feet hitting the stairs each time you go up and down? Do you hear the crunch and shush of your shovel in crusty snow? How about the screech and thrum of an old file drawer? Beat box, then play with those rhythms to see if they have a story hidden inside them.

4. The Timeout Corner
Kids adore naughty characters. Whether we’re seeing ourselves or giggling with relief at another’s foibles, we all love stories with a little mischief in them. “Do some time” with a kid in timeout and you might just find a story there. Or think back to your own timeout corner—come on, fess up—we were all there once. What got you there? What were you feeling? Just remember, keep messages light. Because even a little mischief needs to be a fun read.

5. Your Day Job
Okay, let’s face it. Few of us get to take a morning stroll along the beach or dream by the hour under the old oak tree. Instead we might get regular face time with a subway hissing and shrieking during a crowded commute. Or the steely skyscraper out our window. Or the deli man who serves us pastrami on rye. Or a carpool of crack-me-up kids. Or even a baby giggling at the garbage man. Whether your day job is at home or away, it’s those “regular” experiences that often provide fodder for great picture books. Keep your notebook handy!

What are your most unusual sources of inspiration?

Find out more about PiBoIdMo 2012 right here.

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