Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Giving Back: Ideas that Move

 Picture book author Jenny Sulpizio joins us today to talk about ideas.
Jenny Sulpizio
By Jenny Sulpizio

It’s PiBoIdMo 2011! Now, for those of you who think I may be speaking another language, picture book writers know exactly what I am referring to. You see, this month we are hard at work (and play), bursting with creativity and jotting down thirty (+) ideas for future picture books.  That’s one idea per day, folks and while it does manage to absorb most of our brain power, there’s nothing more fun then gathering inspiration from one’s environment and turning it into a story for little ones to enjoy.  

In fact, when you think about it, anything and everything has the potential to be turned into a storyline for a children’s picture book (and I mean everything). Take a plain, old tree for example (yes, I said a tree). I mean honestly, what sort of story can result from something as simple as a tree you might ask?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that trees are beautiful, provide much needed shade, and have a general overall purpose-but how does the existence of a “tree,” result in a revered children’s keepsake title that spans the generations?

The answer is simple-IMAGINATION!

You see, if you take an ordinary object and provide it with a voice, a personality, and throw in the ingenious, creative talents of a children’s book author, something as simple as a “tree,” can become something extraordinary. I bet Shel Silverstein felt the same way years ago when he sat down to develop his own picture book manuscript. His inspiration? None other than his surrounding elements and yes, you guessed it-a plain old tree.  The result? The Giving Tree has grown to become an all-time children’s classic that has not only appealed to younger readers, but also holds a special place for its adult audience as well.  Packed with an endearing message, this book describes the love, compassion and sacrifice that one little tree exhibits towards a human boy during various stages of his life. The Giving Tree in essence, is a book that continually gives back to the reader by reminding us that nothing is more important than the bonds we share with others. No matter what we have or don’t have in this world, the love we have for one another is truly all we need.

Like Shel Silverstein, the majority of children’s book writers want to bring that same type of magic to life in each of our stories, no matter who (or what) the main character may be. As we rack our brains this month searching for new ideas, and plots that have yet to be written, have you asked yourself what your writing goal is? What it is that you want to accomplish in this big, crazy world of publishing?  We all have a desired goal in common on our paths to publication, but what are the hopes that we have for our words? What is the message that we want our precious readers to understand? The question we have to ask ourselves as authors is, how are we giving back and just who are we writing for?

For me, this answer is pretty simple. After producing two children’s picture books (Mommy Whispers: Isaac, 2010 and There’s Just Something About a Boy: Ajoyin, 2011), I can honestly say that my audience is at the forefront of my mind when I put pen to paper. Not only do I want to initially capture their attention, but I also want to write material that they can grow with and enjoy as adults…material that spans generations if you will. Like The Giving Tree, I want to be able to give something back to my readers, to bless them with the content of my stories, peak their imaginations, and have them get lost in my words. I want to provide each of my readers with something extraordinary.

How about you?  How do you want your readers to respond to your works and what is your main goal when developing your stories?

Jenny Lee Sulpizio, M.S. is a wife, business owner, and mother of three residing in Boise, Idaho. She is an active member within her church and community, and enjoys tapping into her creative side whenever she gets the chance. Mommy Whispers, an ode to mothers and daughters everywhere was the first children’s picture book released in a series that also includes, There’s Just Something About a Boy. Jenny is a member of SCBWI and is currently represented by The Seymour Agency for her Women’s Christian Non-fiction works-in-progress.

Please visit Jenny at to learn more about her projects, or to read her blog.


  1. This was a great post. I'm really starting to wish I had signed on for this project. Thank you, Jenny and Stacy.

  2. Thanks for a wonderful and inspiring post. I guess I would say my goal when setting pen to paper is to entertain, enlighten, enrich, delight, reassure, comfort - in short, help children understand a little something about the world and their place in it in the context of a fun story. No small task, is it? :)

  3. Was looking forward to this discussion with Jenny and was not disappointed! So apropriate for this month. It was inspiring and nudged me a bit. Also looked at her website and enjoyed exploring. Her books look engaging -- love the titles. Thanks Jenny and Stacy for such a great post.

  4. Thank you, Jenny for a great post. Your books sound like something I would enjoy reading and I will look for them in the library. I love hearing about how others get their ideas and how they are moved to write a book from there.

  5. Thanks Jenny! I really appreciate the post and the conversation here.
    @Karen - I think you are participating.
    @Susanna - that's a huge task and from your books I've read so far - you do that.
    @Patricia - It nudged me too.
    @Clar - I enjoy hearing how others find their ideas too.
    And, when I write, I hope to share a bit of fun and whimsy.

  6. OK - how 'Twilight Zone' is this??? A friend sent me a link this week to for "The List: Children's Book Publishers Who Accept Unagented Submissions [Kindle Edition] Lauren Boyd" and the reviewer was...Jenny Sulpizio!

    Great to follow up my reading of Jenny's Amazon books with this nifty post! Thank you - Jenny and Stacy - for sharing the great insights!

  7. Glad to be part of your Twilight Zone moment Covetcat!

  8. Thanks Stacy for sharing Jenny's inspiring post today.

    How would I want my readers to respond to my work and what is my main goal when developing my stories?

    I'd want them to be amused and entertained. Main goal = to have a fun & positive flow to the overall story.

  9. Appreciated the glimpse into PiBoIdMo 2011! And The Giving Tree is one of my all-time favorite books!
    The whole "who is your reader" question is talked about a lot in the writing world. Some imagine one particular person. Not me. But I do hope my readers are encouraged, that they find truth in what I write, and that, yeah, they have a laugh or too. (Laughter is important to me.)

  10. I think my main goal for stories varies with each one. Some are more serious and some are more for entertainment. I think at the end, though, they have to impart something universal to the reader - both parent and child. And no, that is not easy to do.

    Great post!

  11. @Jennifer - I love a "positive flow to the overall story" too.
    @Beth - Laughter is important to me too.
    @Julie - True, the goal varies with the stories. As a parent, I like a take away from a children's story too. It's better than an annoying line that I can't get out of my head. :)

  12. Hey, Stacy! Hey, Jenni!

    This is a great piece - thanks for sharing it! Like you, Jenni, I always think of my audience first when writing. After all, if they don't like what I'm writing, I guess I need to work harder! :)

    Keep up the good work, ladies!

  13. Great post! I love trees, most of my inspiration comes from trees. :)


Comment moderation is enabled. This blog is now maintained at