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Storystorm 2021 Day 13: Joana Pastro Makes Lists

by Joana Pastro

In my 2020 StoryStorm post, I talked about always having my senses on, and my brain ready to make the necessary connections to generate ideas.

But then the pandemic turned our lives upside-down, and somewhere along the way, I lost the habit of searching for ideas. It was like my senses were turned off and I was going about my day on autopilot. Not making connections. Not allowing my mind to wander, or my heart to wonder at the beauty and emotions each day brings. Yes, dear Storystormer, I forgot to follow my own advice.

But fear not! Storystorm is here to make it all better, and I’m happy to report that I’ve been having at least one idea per day. I hope you are too!

Today, I propose we set out to find an idea for a story only you can tell. After all, that’s one of the top pieces of advice that writers get. To do so, you’ll have to dig into your memories and find an idea near and dear to your heart. How?

The first idea spark for my upcoming book BISA’S CARNAVAL (illustrated by Carolina Coroa, coming November 2021 from Scholastic), happened when I fell in love with the picture book FESTIVAL OF COLORS by Kabir Sehgal and Surishta Sehgal. I knew I HAD to write a book as bright and vibrant as that one. But what would MY story be about? What was the ACTUAL idea? I found out by doing the following exercises.

Make Lists!

I love making lists. They keep me organized, on task, and, because of their visual aspect, I can literally see the ideas that are already floating in my head!

So, keeping in mind your heritage and/or your childhood, create the following lists:

  • Festivals/celebrations
  • Music, dances
  • Clothing, accessories
  • Food, dishes
  • Places
  • People
  • Sports, entertainment
  • Nature – plants
  • Nature – animals

Feel free to add other categories. Take ownership of this activity! I suggest saving and adding to these lists for future idea hunts!

Now, take a closer look, and select the words that are begging for your attention. When I make these lists there’s always something that will almost immediately hook me, even if it’s only a faint spark of an idea.

Take those words and:

  • Let them simmer.
  • Do a quick research about them. New? Wikipedia? Fun facts? Wacky news?

In addition to the lists, I recommend taking your chosen word(s) and. . .

Go on a journey!

Well, not exactly, but I like to think of this as embarking on a train that you’ll keep riding from one memory to another, until you reach one that you feel strongly enough to explore. The goal is to dig deeper on a more personal level. Ready?

Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and think about what memories those words prompt! What do you remember? Allow your memories to roam free, and see where else it takes you.

Make connections, catch those ideas and write them down!

Here’s to a healthier and happier 2021 filled with an abundance of ideas!

Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream came true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, was published by Boyds Mills Press in 2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in Fall/2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children, a rambunctious Morkie, and a needy Maltipoo. Visit her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram @jppastro, or at joanapastro.com.

Joana is giving away a copy of LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS.

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Source: Writing Competition

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