Nov 30, 2011

PiBoIdMo Day 30: Ideas















I had an idea last night: "I'll write a poem about ideas." So I did.

IDEAS
by Tim McCanna

Ideas are out there. They want to be found.
Look high in the sky. Dig deep underground.
Ideas are easy. You just have to think.
The hard part is finding the ones that don't stink.

A few might be perfect. While others might not.
They could be alone. Or there may be a lot.
This one is silly. That one is great.
Here's one that's nice, but a little too late.

Ideas for poems, ideas for books.
Ideas for builders and painters and cooks.
Ideas can change the whole world in a day.
Or take years of trying for someone to say.

They rattle around in our hearts and our heads.
We keep them in journals tucked under our beds.
And once in a while, when the timing is right,
Maybe early one morning, or late in the night...

You have an idea that feels like "The One."
It's simple and crazy, fantastic and fun.
The greatest idea you'll ever conceive!
How quickly it came is quite hard to believe.

And once you calm down, here's a question or two:
So what happens next? Now what do you do?
Go write it. Go sing it. Go teach it. Go fly it.
Go bake it. Go build it. Go for it. Just try it.

Your super idea could be a success.
It might be a flop. It's anyone's guess.
Ideas are only the first step of many.
Ideas are magic. So... do you have any?


It's been a great month of brainstorms. I met my projected goal of 100, and now I'm very excited to get cracking on some of them. Special thanks again to Tara Lazar, who had the excellent idea of PiBoIdMo. See you next November!

Nov 28, 2011

MeeGenius? MeeHopeSo.

The presidential elections are still a year away. But if you've got a hankering to do some voting now, then here's your chance, baby! VOTE FOR MEE!

The folks over at MeeGenius (the hottest kids' ebook publisher on the World Wide Web) are hosting their second annual Author Challenge. Grand prize is $1500, a publishing contract resulting in the winning manuscript being made into an awesome, illustrated ebook, and free access to the MeeGenius library for a year to the school of the winner's choice.

Just over 400 submissions were made back in October, including my manuscript, E is for Apple. Tired of the same old ABC books? The way I see it, the first letters of words have been stealing the show for far too long. E is for Apple celebrates the LAST letters of words through fun rhymes and unexpected subjects. Observe:

Tuba and Scuba end with A.
Crab and Cobweb end with B.
C is for Static. D is for Toad.
E is for Apple and Pie a la Mode.

STARTING TODAY! NOVEMBER 28 THROUGH DECEMBER 18, head on over to www.meegenius.com/challenge/e-is-for-apple-by-tim-mccanna to read E is for Apple and all the others. Winners are chosen by a public vote (This means you!), and the MeeGenius gang will also push through some of their preferred picks. Remember, you don't have to vote for mine (please vote for mine). What's most important is that you get out and vote (for mine, please).

Thanks for your support!
Tell your family and friends!
VOTE FOR E IS FOR APPLE!
LAST LETTERS DESERVE EQUAL ATTENTION!

Nov 22, 2011

PiBoIdMo Day 21: Shooting for 100

I just wrote down my 75th idea to kick off the final week of PiBoIdMo. It's a shame my family isn't flying anywhere for Thanksgiving this year. I always seem to brainstorm well on airplanes. I don't know why. Anyway, between now and the end of November, I'm shooting for 100 ideas. Twenty-five has been my 3-week average, so it seems pretty doable.

Then the tough part begins. Weeding out the weaklings and picking my favorites. They can't ALL be book-worthy... Can they? The sad truth is, the odds of these 100 little ideas becoming published books are seriously against them. Like the process of natural selection, the strongest of the ideas will survive. And, even if they get past my filtering system and eventually evolve into manuscripts, they'll still have a lot of challenges to face out there in Submission Land. Yet, I am hopeful for all my PiBoIdMo ideas. I like them all! I wouldn't write them down if I didn't. So, here's to 100 ideas. And maybe, just maybe, ONE of them will conquer the elements and some day become a real live book.

Nov 14, 2011

PiBoIdMo Day 14: "Simpsons did it."


As we reach the half-way point of PiBoIdMo, I recall one of my college professors boldly proclaiming that there had not been an original idea since the 1930s. According to him, after that golden era, every story, every image, every note of music can be traced back to an earlier, trailblazing creator and their work. All we can hope to do now is infuse our own fresh twist to the stories, conflicts and dramatic arcs that were conceived long ago. 

Along that same line, there's a great episode of South Park where the character Butters is planning revenge on his friends. But after presenting his best idea, his nerdy neighbor replies, "Simpsons did it." No matter how original Butters tries to be, every one of his new ideas was already thought up and performed to perfection on The Simpsons TV show--and it drives him crazy. I feel Butters' pain.

Whenever I'm brainstorming and come upon a snappy title that screams "Story potential!" and "Marketing gold!" my very next step is to head straight to Amazon.com and see who already came up with it. It saves me the agony of falling in love with a title or toiling over a story only to find out someone basically already wrote it. The best scenario is when those seven lucky words pop up: "Your search did not match any products." Then, of course, I do a wider sweep on Google just to be sure. It's not very scientific, but at least it gives me hope that I'm not inadvertently rehashing someone else's work. After all, even if my professor was right, even if we are doomed to never truly create an original idea, all we can do is strive to be as fresh and original as possible. Sure, there are billions of bedtime stories out there. The trick is to write a bedtime story that surprises, one way or another.

Then there are parodies and modern retellings to consider. Many wonderful picture books out there use twists on classic fairy tales and such, like Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, or more recently, Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex and Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd (Get it? Android?), both very funny parodies of Goodnight Moon.

Poor Butters. He didn't know he was being so unoriginal. In his mind, his ideas were his own--until his hopes were dashed. Maybe ignorance is bliss. But if someone else has already written a rhyming story about a grumpy green guy who hates Christmas, please let me know.

Nov 7, 2011

PiBoIdMo: Day 7

We're a quarter of the way through Picture Book Idea Month, and I'm averaging around 4 to 6 ideas a day. That's got me up to a whopping 31 new story ideas in just one week! Woo! And several of these new picture book concepts got me especially stoked to explore further. I can't wait to see what ideas the next three weeks bring.

Ideas seem to come in batches for me. The PiBoIdMo goal is one idea per day, but when I'm doing dishes or folding laundry or sitting at my desk or driving around town, my mind starts clicking. It's hard to only think up one idea! Is that even possible? The real question is quality, though. I could rattle off a hundred ridiculously stupid ideas, but what's the point if they aren't worth pursuing? The truth is, some ideas will always be better than others. You gotta get 'em all down, though. Even the stinkers. For some reason, if I come to an idea and say, "Naw, that's lame," writing it down somehow frees me to move on to a fresh, new idea. If I don't, then that lame idea tends to clog the pipes in my brain. That's just me.

And, lame ideas look different on paper than when they're floating in the ether. Casting them out of my mind by writing them down or typing them out allows me to log my thoughts without judgement, but also enables me an opportunity for a second, visual perspective. You never know! Maybe one word within that junk pile could lead to something much better.

My other problem is when the flash of an idea piques my interest, but within a few minutes, I've completely forgotten it. That's where smart phones live up to their name. I used to email myself ideas when I didn't have a scrap of paper nearby. Now, I use Evernote, a handy note-taking app that syncs to all my digital devices. In Evernote, I have a PiBoIdMo Ideas "Notebook". Any time and anywhere an idea strikes me, I pop open Evernote on my iPhone, type in the idea, and SAVE. Even if it's just some random thought, like, oh, I don't know... "Deep-sea ninjas," at least it's mine, I've captured it, and later I can give it further consideration. Like, um, how could ninjas fight underwater? Or, maybe they have a shark-powered ninja submarine? Now THAT's a good idea. Good thing I wrote it down.