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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

It's All About . . . Ideas!

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

This post originally appeared on the Children's Book Academy blog.

Ideas for children’s books are all around. Sometimes you find and harness them. Other times you may need to kick start the idea avalanche. Being open and receptive to thoughts, visuals, snippets of conversation, children's antics, pets, nature and science, current events, music, art, and just the world around you can often lead to a wonderful idea discovery. Here’s the genesis of the ideas behind my three children’s books, inspired by my grandparents, a trip to a museum, and an observation on a walk around New York City: THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND: The first book in my chapter book series is based on the story of how my grandparents met on the Coney Island trolley in the 1920s. My grandmother told this story many times and it was part of our family lore. I had wanted to tell the story for many years, and finally took a leap and started to write. Mining your family history can be a wonderful way to discover ideas and to memorialize treasured parts of your family legend.

SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH: One day, I was standing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, gazing at paintings by one of my favorite Impressionists, Monet. I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. From there, a series of “what if” questions entered my imagination. What if I could paint perfect paintings with a magic paintbrush? What if the magic brush was lost? What if it was found again? Ideas swirled around, and now my debut picture book with illustrator Sandie Sonke is out in the world! My love of art history and a little sprinkling of magic helped me catch this idea.

​READY, SET, GORILLA!: I happened to be walking along a New York City street and saw a huge billboard overhead that read, “Ready, Set, Go.” For some reason, the words, “Ready, Set, Gorilla” popped into my mind. I imagined a little gorilla racing, and shouting “Ready, Set, GOrilla!” to all his friends. A bit later, I imagined a little GOpher joining in the fun. I love puns and wordplay and enjoyed creating some fun in this story. I’m glad I was receptive and had an open mind when I saw that billboard. I’m so excited that this idea led to my newly releasing picture book with illustrator Sandy Steen Bartholomew!

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As you go about your daily routines, stop and consider that moments from your everyday world can lead to your next great children’s book idea. Happy creating!


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