Wednesday, September 2, 2015


START A BOOK by Jan Godown Annino

How do you start a book? Or story? Let's look at examples of inspiration.


Rebecca Colby writes rollicking fun picture books. I found out about
her as I searched for spin offs of that surefire laugh-getting, longtime
fun rhyme, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”
Here is her entry, illustrated by Kate McLelland.

BUT I didn’t know about Rebecca Colby’s latest picture book
until I visited the site Teaching Authors, which I think several
Groggers enjoy reading.
By following links at TA, I learned that Rebecca Colby’s
inspiration poured for her next book after THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE
WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE with a walk in the rain.
As she tells it, she was writerly stuck. And then she and her daughter
went for a soggy soak. And her writing went whoosh! All
the way into a romp of a new book, IT’S RAINING BATS AND FROGS,
illustrated by Steven Henry.

This can also work for non-fiction. If some aspect of weather
has your full attention, consistently, maybe there is a book there.


Small community television news stations, local weekly papers
and big city media outlets share a common characteristic that is
a big assist to astute writers. They offer a ba-zillion of story ideas.

The trick is to look past the giant lead stories or headlines that
aren’t going to work for our genre. No, not a bit. But find smaller,
less shouting pieces, the sweet or curious human interest stories.
And then ask yourself questions about the story. How might an aspect,
one slice of that event, fit for a children’s book. If you had
more information.

Debut picture book author Katheryn Russell-Brown was fascinated
to hear about a high energy woman musician, an African-American
woman, who played in jazz bands in the 1940s.  

 Melba Doretta Liston worked with Dizzie Gillespie & all the best. 
Later she performed with The Supremes.
She continued composing music into the 1990s. Katheryn became curious
about that talented artist’s child days.

How did she learn about Melba? Well it wasn’t in history class or at a
small club meeting or from an online newsletter. She heard the news one day.
She heard the news the same time a ba-zillion other folks did, via their local 
public radio station. Katheryn heard Melba Liston’s story on public radio – a
national report. I recently interviewed Katheryn  at Bookseedstudio, where she
briefly mentions the radio broadcast as the key tip.
And the author’s own article, offers more detail about the jump from
listening to research and to writing & publishing at KidLit Celebrates Women's

Her title is LITTLE MELBA and HER BIG TROMBONE. It is a lyrical
Coretta Scott King honor book, illustrated by Frank Morrision. I think you’ll
like it. For story ideas, try The News.



Many families are known for at least one sleuth who
dove into research on the story of the ancestors. For two
authors, family connections provided an interest that helped
them conjure up their lively middle grade novels.

Sharon Lovejoy has long been intrigued with her family’s
Quaker past and possible but never proven, abolitionist links. 
Although her acclaimed story, RUNNING OUT OF NIGHT, 
isn’t about her ancestors, treasured old family letters she read and
laboriously copied, and questions about whether
her ancestors had ever assisted in The Underground Railroad,
helped her decide to imagine an atmospheric historical fiction 
tale that is a page-turner.


Debut author Lisa Lewis Tyre’s interest in the past and her colorful
ancestors assisted her desire to spin the contemporary
It is brand-new to me, having arrived in a batch of books
I ordered for late summer fun, but my reading of it so far, tells me it’s destined
for deserved honors. It features a girl who teams with pals
to save her ancestors’ home, which she lives in. In the process
she is distressed to discover that her family once thought they
owned people, as slaves.
Lisa’s interest in the mysteries of history have lead her to
feature a section at her website called History Fun.
And some of her blog articles are devoted to tidbits of her own

 So, when searching for a topic remember THE FAMIILY.



What’s a writer to do if weather, news, and family don’t
equal story ideas? Hunt up some events to attend.
One-time community gatherings, such as an annual
day to celebrate the local food product or significant
animal, could produce the spark of an idea. Look into
taking lessons. Here I am, wet in the middle of a coastal
systems class this summer. The course is doing double
duty for this writer, informing children’s poetry and
a middle grade novel. So sign up or schedule THE EVENTS.



  1. Lots of super ideas for where to find one's story muse. TY, Jan.

    1. I know you find 'em all the time, Kathy. Happy Labor Day weekend!

  2. Yes, these are super ideas, and I love your list of "mentor" books. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Mona. So sweet of you to say so. Happy Labor Day weekend!

  3. I love mining the news, Jan, especially the weird or quirky stories. Or sometimes a photo will start my writing engines. My suggestion is to always have a journal close at hand so you don't forget those first sparks of inspiration. (I keep one in my purse, one in the car, and I use my phones "Notes" app, too.)

    1. Hey there Patty,

      Gre8t eyedear about those photos.
      And to have something along to collect those eyedears.
      I'm doing better about keepig the smaller journals in a pocket or the car, but I'm still often jotting eyedears, lines, words, thots on paper receipts, napkins, the odd ticket, etc.

      Happy Labor Day weekend!

  4. Great ideas here! Thanks for the helpful info.

  5. Great ideas here. It's funny where we get story ideas. I am still working on one inspired by a Jeopardy question. Thanks for the post.

    1. Hello Rosi -
      A Jeopardy question! I think there may be a column (not for me) in eyedears from watching the tube & the flicks.
      Any takers?
      Good look with that game show inspired eyedear. And all your writing.
      Happy Labor Day weekend!

  6. Yep, there are stories everywhere we look!

  7. Great information, Jan--thanks for sharing. Your blog is wonderful--I'm looking forward to reading more! ; )

    1. Hey there Becky - Appreciations that you've found us & for the kind words. Please consider Group Blog a writing home away from home.

  8. I love hearing about the inspiration behind a book! Thanks for a great post, Jan, and for including my books. It was a pleasant surprise!

    1. Hello Rebecca, Your visit here is a treat - appreciations & happy halloween 2015 in advance of what is likely to be a happily extra froggy, toady, batty & witchy time for you!

  9. Jan, your sense of wonder shines in this fun post - and that's probably something all these terrific authors you featured have in droves. :0) Thanks for the inspirations!

    1. Hi Robyn - How groovy of you to say all this. And yes, I think all of us dreaming up poems & short stories & rebuses & novels & the like for kids share this
      excitement about the little & big discoveries of each day. Appreciations for your visit, again, to Group Blog.