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Open Your Eyes and Ears, Inspiration is all Around You.

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, Picture Book Agents, What's New.

My friends who know me, I mean really know me, keep asking where I got the idea to start writing picture books. “Where did you get the idea for a monster needing a costume?” They would ask. In a bit of a condescending way I might add, which I kind of deserve. Like I said they really know me. And I would tell them.

I stole it.

It’s true. From the mouths of babes, like candy from a baby, I plagiarized my 4 yr old daughter. Plagiarized might actually be a bit strong she can barely write her own name. But to be honest the idea came from my daughter.

GIVEAWAY: Paul is excited to give away a free copy of his book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: nrtomasheski won.)

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 9.36.57 AM    Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 9.36.29 AM

Column by Paul Czajak, who got an “F” with the words “get a tutor” on his college
writing paper and after that, never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending
twenty years as a chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained.
Living in Massachusetts with his wife, and two little monsters, Paul has
rediscovered his passion for writing and looks forward to sharing his
stories for years to come. Paul is the author of the highly acclaimed
picture book MONSTER NEEDS A COSTUME, the first book in the
Monster & Me™ series. His 2nd book, MONSTER NEEDS HIS SLEEP,
hits shelves on April 8, 2014.

 

 

With this simple phrase from her: “My Monster needs a haircut.” I became inspired.

So I wrote it down, and a story emerged. When I was finished with the first book I kept on writing “Monster needs” themed books. The idea seemed so simple I wondered how I never thought of it before. Then it occurred to me. I was too busy over thinking and I was missing what was going on around me. Books are written every day. We just need to open our eyes and our ears so that we can watch and listen to them unfold around us. The majority of stories I have written have all come from things I have observed; from my daughter pretending to be a dinosaur to scare bugs away, to my son climbing a tree to get away from a dog. Here is another example, on my way out from dropping my daughter off at daycare; I passed a child who said, “This is my tired walk.” The second I heard that phrase I loved it, and I wrote this piece:

This is my tired walk.

(How much money can you expect from selling your first book?)

I am so tired my hair is still asleep.

It’s my tired…tired…walk.

And it’s all because of a bunny and a hotdog.

Now I don’t know where this is going just yet and it may not go anywhere. But what I do know is a good line when I hear it. “This is my tired walk” is a good line. Most people can relate to it because we have all been there. We have all had our “tired walk”, and because we can relate to it we can all picture what a tired walk would look like in our heads; therefore making it a good line for a picture book. Now that I have this line that people can relate to I, as a writer need to turn it into something more. This is the trick to writing a good story, taking the common and making it uncommon. Why is this boy so tired? What kept him up all night? The possibilities are endless all because I happened to hear one little boy make an off hand comment.

This is what inspiration is all about. You don’t know where or when it’s going to hit but you have to be aware of it when it does. If I had to give a piece of advice to a writer who has writers block, or just can’t seem to come up with that great idea, I would tell them to stop trying! Go out and observe the world around you, not from the bushes mind you let’s not get creepy about it. If you want to be a good writer, stop talking and start listening, stop showing and start observing. If you allow yourself to see and hear the everyday happenings of the world I think you’ll be amazed at the flood of ideas that come to you.

GIVEAWAY: Paul is excited to give away a free copy of his book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: nrtomasheski won.)

 

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26 Responses to Open Your Eyes and Ears, Inspiration is all Around You.

  1. Debbie says:

    Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Gotta love imagination!

  2. EAYoungCO says:

    I have two daughters 8 & 5. They say some doozy things. I have taken to keeping journal handy, writing about so many conversations we have had and things that I noticed. I have two stories written and many more to create from. Someday I will have the confidence to submit them. Till then I will keep building on the imaginations of my two daughters. Thank you for your article.

    • pczajak says:

      EAYoung, I’m glad you liked my article. One piece of advice, find a critique group get your stories critiqued and then submit them. They are already rejected if they just sit in your desk drawer.

  3. TablaSaura says:

    Maybe I should listen to my four little ones more often. To be honest though, my kids say some pretty messed up things. Their little imaginations are often more in line with Stephen King themes than anything else. Seriously disturbing stuff. Thanks for sharing Paul!

  4. jdmstudios says:

    Love it!! Thanks for sharing, Paul…it is a pleasure to read your stories of inspiration!

  5. looks to be an instant classic

  6. marcsiegel says:

    HI Paul,
    Kids say the darndest things. How cool that you can parlay this into a book.
    Best of luck with it.
    Yours, Marc

  7. waughwright says:

    I have a monster at home. She needs things all the time.

  8. KarenLange says:

    Sounds like a wonderful series! I agree, ideas are everywhere. This is why I carry a small notebook with me all the time. You never know when an idea might strike. Best wishes with your books, Paul!

  9. burrowswrite says:

    this makes me want to re-read all my childhood favorites. Loved to hear your story.

  10. Haypher says:

    I’m trying to become more aware of places, people and happenings around me. And it paid off. The other day I was in the doctor’s office reading an article in the National Geographic magazine while I waited to be called in. It was about this desolate cold unforgiving place and the people that lived there. The next thing I knew instead of reading the words – I was thinking about how I could use this place/land and people in my fiction fantasy story. I keep a small journal in my purse. I never heard them call my name because I was jotting down all my ideas. ;o)

  11. Linda.H says:

    I used to “steal” ideas from my daughter, but now she is 15 and when I say “Oh, that would be a great idea for a book” she sometimes says, “Don’t even think about it! I am using that one.” Yep, she wants to be a writer, and she’s already had three things published.

    The monster book series sounds great. I think my nephew would like them.

  12. bookwormgrrl says:

    I have two little ones who would LOVE this. My husband and I are teaching them to love books at an early age and I think this would be a perfect addition to their growing collection. I would love to win.

    Ami

  13. Moovemkr says:


    Paul, thanks for the input but how DARE YOU steal your inspiration from your sweet little daughter.
    Can you have her give me a call?

  14. Vicky says:

    Paul,

    Your story is so inspiring! I’m so glad you are a success! So many wannabe writers can benefit from reading your advice. (One of those is me!)

    Thanks so much for sharing and happy holidays!

    Vicky

  15. Firefly123 says:

    Thank you for sharing how your little girl inspired your new book. The real life story reminds me of the old Art Linkletter show, “Kids Say The Darndest Things”.

    I work in an after school program where literature is strongly supported and believe this book would be a wonderful one to share with all the little munchkins and my two grandchildren.

    Keep on writing from who you are for that is a wonderful gift for yourself and the rest of us readers!

    Cleta Sabel

  16. jenay56 says:

    Thanks for this! I get loads of inspiration from my kids too. Four boys, five years and younger. They would love your book. I will make sure to look for it.

  17. mrohr says:

    Thanks for sharing the story behind the story. I would love to share the Monster book with my grandkids.

  18. NRTomasheski says:

    Inspiration! You are absolutely right: it’s the being open to inspiration that makes all the difference. Give my best to all the monsters.

  19. Chuck Sambuchino says:

    Thanks for the column, Paul! *I* wish I could win your book because my daughter would no doubt love it.

  20. Marianne Knowles says:

    Great post, Paul! FYI, a number of years ago, Sarah misquoted the back of a cereal box that offered a “glowing lanyard” for inputting some codes online as proof of purchase. She called it a “glowing landlord.” You know the rest of the story! Hoping many others do someday soon.

    Wow, posting at Writers’ Digest. Will you deign to post at Writers’ Rumpus again? ;)

    Marianne
    http://writersrumpus.com/

  21. vrundell says:

    Wow Paul,
    Great story about creativity, and being open for new ideas. I love listening to my own 4 y/o ramble on. They are so creative and make links between so many disparate concepts in their ‘storytelling’ that it’s a great guide to risk-taking. The monster books sound like a hoot! Best of luck!
    Veronica
    http://vsreads.com

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