Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Friday, May 7, 2010


I’ve been writing this week, but none of it has gotten to my blog. I’ve just finished another writing challenge. This time it is NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) the brain child of Paula Yoo. The object is to write 7 picture books in 7 days. Not an easy task at all.

I found this challenge much more difficult than NaNoWriMo was for me. I have heard the recommendation that picture books be no more than 600 words. That translates to a total of 4,200 words or less in 7 days. Compared to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days it should be simple, right? Wrong. Perhaps it is the very fact that instead of writing 1,600 words a day you can only write 600. Each day you tackle an entire story arc. With the month long challenge and one novel, you let it simmer. Your characters have time to develop, interact with your day (in your head of course), and you can work on the filler stuff. With NaPiBoWriWee you have to do it all each day. It’s exhausting. The nineteen ideas I had before the challenge started don’t all seem to appeal and I find I’m coming up with new ideas about half of the days.

So I have found out many things about myself.

• It is easier for me to write a middle grade or YA novel than a picture book.

• Coming up with an idea is not the same as coming up with a story.

• I’m wordy.

• Sitting down to write a story which you don’t think is going to work, works sometimes.

• Writing a picture book a day is exhausting and suddenly I’d rather do anything, but write one. Vacuuming starts to look like a leisure time pursuit.

• Everyone else has story ideas which sound great.

• My drafts make me think that the most I could hope for in a review is “…an additional purchase.”

• I’m sympathizing more with students when they whine “…but I don’t know what to write!”

• I haven’t found my pace writing picture books.

• My drafts are either too long or too short.

• Brain Drain was so severe that I put a “d” in the word onomatopoeia in class today.

• I’m teaching differently as a result of this challenge. I’m more talking with students about word choice, editing, writing, what works in a story and what doesn’t. Sometimes I suggest we change a detail of a story and ask them to reflect on whether they think the story will work just as well or whether it could be better/worse. These were not things I discussed with my young charges before.

• I’m choosing books differently. Haven’t quite figured out how to explain the difference, but I know there is one.

• I am now picking up picture books and saying “What were they thinking?” I guess I am becoming more selective.

I'm sure I'll think of something else once I finish the blog post.

Participating in a challenge like this is a great way to make yourself do the work. In reality, I could set myself this challenge any week I choose. It wouldn’t be the same, though. The group mentality of it, the camaraderie, the opportunity to become acquainted with many talented people, to offer and receive encouragement all added greatly to the experience. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me through Paula Yoo’s blog, Twitter or in my physical surroundings. You helped me to learn so much more.

To Paula Yoo, deepest thanks. Paula not only took on the monumental task of coordinating the event, but also of putting together a month of encouragement beforehand, daily words of encouragement during the event and put so much heart into the event.


Jim Hill said...

"Sitting down to write a story which you don’t think is going to work, works sometimes."

I'm going to tape this up on the wall next to my desk. Isn't it amazing when the story surprises the writer?

I love your observations on how writing is impacting your teaching. I bet your students have noticed it too (in a good way)!

Congrats on a great week.

purple glasses club said...


Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I think it is amazing when the story surprises us into being. Rather than forcing the ideas together, they seem to slide past us and into place.

It's the same way with teaching, really. I am always looking for the way to connect my students with the target through the backdoor. It seems that they absorb more when they are unaware that they are engaged in a task at which I want them to excel.