November is often seen as a rather gloomy month, as autumn gives way to winter in what can be a series of dull, grey days. My mother used to quote the poem by Thomas Hood that begins “No sun — no moon — no morn — no noon” … and ends “November.” Evocative and well-written as that poem is, it is still a bleak and cheerless view of the month.

Although November does have its bleak moments — especially weather-wise around here — and there is some personal heartache associated with the month as well, for me there is now a big ray of sunshine that permeates every day of this month, turning it from NO-vember to PiBoIdMo-vember, and filling it with the light of creativity.

Yes. I said Pi Bo Id Mo. (There’s some controversy about the pronunciation. I say it PIE-BOW-ID-MOW.) For an explanation, just click the magic words.

PiBoIdMo is an acronym (is it still an acronym when one uses more than initials?) for Picture Book Idea Month, the brainchild of the talented picture book author Tara Lazar. This challenge has been going each November for a few years now, but I first joined it last year. The basic idea is to generate 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. They can be as complete as a full draft if that’s what comes to mind, or as simple as a few words that will provide a starting point later. They are to be accepted as they come, without one’s self-critic and built-in editor casting doubts or aspersions on any of them.

Last year, I surpassed my goal of 30 ideas. Over the past year, a few of them have become picture book manuscripts, some well on their way to being ready for submission.

Besides the notebook or computer folder filled with potential however, there is also the benefit of honing what Peter H. Reynolds calls one’s “story radar.” One becomes alert to ideas wherever they may present themselves. (For a more complete explanation of this, see Emma Walton Hamilton’s blogpost about Peter’s concept here.)

There are marvelous learning opportunities throughout the month, as every day on Tara’s blog there is a guest post by an author, illustrator, editor or agent about some aspect of the craft of writing picture books. Even if one didn’t have a single picture book idea during the month, the guest posts alone would be of immense value.

There is also community, a thriving, supportive, encouraging community, that builds up through the month, both through Tara’s blog and through the PiBoIdMo Facebook Group. When I joined PiBoIdMo last year, I knew very few people in the picture book writing world. I met (online, at least) many wonderful people last November, and because of Susanna Hill’s fabulous Perfect Picture Book Fridays and also because of Julie Hedlund’s fantastic 12×12 in 2012, I have come to know many of these people much more deeply than many would believe possible. This year when I read through the comments on the sign-up post for PiBo, I saw so many friends! It was wonderful. It *IS* wonderful.

And so I’m once again trying for 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. Whether or not I reach that goal is almost immaterial. I know that this year, there will be a period of time when I may not be as productive as I might otherwise. (On the other hand, it might generate more ideas than I can imagine!) What is definite is that I will come away with great value from the entire experience, and I’m willing to bet I’ll come away with some intriguing ideas as well.

How do you plan to add a little sunshine to November’s grey days?

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