PiBoIdMo Wrap Up: Let it Be

Duck Duck Moose by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

My upcoming picture book!

Now that Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month is over, I thought it would be nice to reflect a little bit on what we’ve accomplished in the past few weeks. If you participated in PiBoIdMo, first off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made great progress on your writing journey. Publishing is an art where creativity and magic come together to make great books. But publishing is also a numbers game – the more manuscripts you create, the more likely it is that some of them will get published. And how do you create manuscripts? Well, it starts with ideas. And now you have lots of ideas – at least 30 if you got through the month! (More if you followed my PiBoIdMo advice.) So you’re all set!


I’ve got some bad news. Well, potentially bad news. More like bad reality, actually. Except that reality is never bad.

Here’s the reality of the situation: not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas.

I know you want them to be. I know that’s what you intended and planned for. I know you have great dreams for these ideas, dreams that are so good that you want to will them into existence.

But for some of your ideas, those dreams will never come true.

I’m not saying these things to upset you, or to de-motivate you. You shouldn’t lose your momentum. I just want you to focus your energy on the best paths to maximize your ability to succeed and get published.

Here’s the thing: your story ideas are like your children. You give birth to them, you nurture them, you guide them toward the goals you have carefully set for them. You know what’s best and you will make that happen.

For those of you who have children, you’re probably already guessing where this is going to go.

With our children, no matter what we have dreamed for them when they were helpless babes in our arms, those kids who once needed us for their very survival somehow end up being the people they choose to be. Not necessarily the people we intended them to be.

This is the kid who was supposed to grow up to be a doctor…

My parents wanted me to be a doctor. They even bought me a $100K science education from Caltech. And in the end, I write books about talking pigs.

With our characters, our story ideas, they will also be who they are, regardless of what we want them to be.

Early on, I said that not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas. That is reality. Some of those ideas will turn out to be chapter books, or middle grades, no matter how hard we push them to be something else. (Just like some of our children will become kidlit authors, no matter how hard we push them to be doctors.) That’s ok.

Some of those ideas will turn out to flounder and struggle, will find it difficult to ever realize their full potential. That’s ok, too.

Because the reality is that some of the ideas you have are picture book ideas. They need you to cultivate and develop them, but with your help, they will grow to be wonderful picture books.

The key here is to let your characters be who they are. Let your stories be what they are. If they grow into something different than you thought, follow them on their path instead of forcing them onto your own. The end result will be truer, will have more heart, and will be better written.

Good luck to everyone and see you next PiBoIdMo!

(In case you missed it, here is some more PiBoIdMo advice from Kami and from me from earlier this month.)


I’ve been very down this week. A lot of troubling news coming out of places like Steubenville,  Ohio makes the mother in me cringe and wonder what kind of world I am sending my children into. I don’t want to spend time on this blog discussing all the bad things. There are many people already doing that, dissecting the mistakes and the problems that have been brought to light by recent events. I’m glad that is happening – we cannot fix anything before we understand what is broken. But dwelling on it further will not lift me out of the doldrums I am feeling.

Instead, I want to share what I’ve decided I can do to try to change things for the better. I don’t know how much influence I have over the world. I do know, however, that I have a great deal of influence over my children. So I have been thinking of what I should be saying to my children. Here is what I’ve come up with:

(Disclaimer: This is obviously not a complete list of what can or should be done, nor is it in any particular order. Please do not find offense where none is intended.)

110912_Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen_BB_AB_0012

These are the children I will teach, entreat, and hold.

I will teach all my children – not just my daughters, but my son, too – that they have ownership of and responsibility for their bodies. That means they can say “no” or say “yes,” and that they have the right to be respected and free from shame. That also means that they need to treat others with the same respect I expect them to demand for themselves. This seems so obvious – and yet, so much of the news that has made me weep this week would never need to be reported if people who wouldn’t push their way through a grocery store line would have learned to respect other people’s personal space in every instance.

I will teach my children that no one ever has the right to take advantage of them, no matter what bad choices they may have made. As a society, we must stop blaming victims. We all have the right to move through our lives without fear of harm. Victims are never, never, never at fault. But I will remind my children that having the right to do something does not make it right to do. I will ask my children to not put themselves in situations where they can be victimized – not because that makes them culpable in any way, but because I do not want them to be hurt. Because while victims are never to blame,  they do get wounded. I want my children to protect themselves from that as much as they can.

I will ask my children to consider, before they get in a position where they are impaired to a point where memories may disappear, how some of the most enjoyable things about fun experiences are the memories that are created. Again, not because any impairment makes them fair game. It does not. I only ask this to increase the likelihood that they will be safe.

I will teach my daughters and my son that despite whatever false machismo they see on the internet, tv, or other media, a real man does not look at someone helpless and see a deserving victim. A real man sees someone who is helpless and does what he can to help. I don’t know how we ever got to a point where this is not obvious to everyone.

I will teach my children to listen to what a person says and take note of what a person does, and to be cautious if the actions don’t harmonize with the words. This applies to everything from politics – why doesn’t that senator’s rhetoric match his voting record? – to social situations.

I will pledge to my children to try to be less judgmental, critical, or disapproving of the things they tell me, so that when I say they can come to me with anything, they can believe my words to be true. So many tragedies can be averted if people stand up and say something, but that doesn’t happen as often as it should. I understand how hard it is to say something when everyone else is silent. But I will teach my children that while doing the right thing is harder than doing the popular thing 99% of the time, it is still what they should expect of themselves 100% of the time. I will do my best to show them that when they do have to stand up to do the difficult and right thing, they will not have to worry about where to find the strength to do that. Because I will be standing behind them, supporting them, every time they need me.

But most of all, I will hold my children closer, in the hopes that I can protect them with my body and with the strength of my will for as long as I can. Because it is a scary world out there, but parents do not have a choice but to let their children go. Because I cannot control my children’s happiness in life, but I can control whether they feel loved and supported by their mother. And because sometimes, hope is all we have.

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Michelle Rhee

File:Michelle Rhee at NOAA.jpgToday’s Quotable Nerdy Chick is someone I have admired for a long time. Michelle Rhee is the daughter of Korean immigrants who has become a force on the American education stage. Not everyone agrees with her positions — I can’t say that I always do, either — but it is impossible to deny her passion for school reform and her commitment to every child’s right to a quality education.

Michelle started her career as a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1997, she founded The New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization that has trained over 43,000 teachers to work in many of our country’s city schools. Between 2007 and 2010, she was chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, and when she left that position, she founded StudentsFirst, an organization which is devoted to political advocacy on education reform issues.

Quotes from Michelle Rhee: 

  • “As a nation, we should get engaged and involved in changing laws that are not serving kids.”
  • “Are we beholden to the public school system at any cost, or are we beholden to the public school child at any cost?”
  • On the perceived failures of the public education system: “I have talked with too many teachers to believe this is their fault. I know they are working furiously in a system that for many years has not appreciated them — sometimes not even paying them on time or providing textbooks. Those who categorically blame teachers for the failures of our system are simply wrong.”
  • “My job is to hear all the input, and then as the leader, then decide which are the things that I think are going to move student achievement forward in this district. And I have to make those decisions. That doesn’t mean that I’m not listening. It just means I have to choose to take into consideration all of that input.”
  • On teacher’s unions: “People often say to me the teachers unions are here to stay, that they are big players, that I have to find a way to get along. I actually disagree with that. It’s important for us to lay out on the table what we’re willing to do, but what our bottom line is for kids. The bottom line is that if you can’t come to agreement then you have to push your agenda in a different way, and we’re absolutely going to do that.”
  • “Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don’t know how to read, I don’t care how creative you are. You’re not doing your job.”

To learn more about Michelle Rhee, click HERE.