I am absolutely delighted to have debut author Tara Lazar today on the blog. She is the ingenious creator of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). It was discovering this event in 2010 which helped he get started with my own picture book stories. I will be forever grateful for that jumpstart. Tara’s first book, THE MONSTORE was just released this past month. Yeah! Check-out my review of this monsterly wacky book.
Tara is here to tell us about a great platform where writers young and old can create STORIES with PICTURES!
What is Storybird?
Storybird is a website where you can create your own stories using a plethora of professional illustrations to accompany your words.
You can create stories for FREE which can be viewed/shared online with family and friends. There is also the option to have your book printed for a fee.
How do you feel it helped you in becoming a writer?
It helped me to think visually, which is an important skill required of picture book writers. When you visit Storybird, there are thousands of images from which to choose and you pick a set from a particular artist, then study the images to unlock the story inside them. It’s like putting together a story puzzle.
What advice do you have for PB writers with regards to Storybird?
Picture book writers are problem solvers. That’s what we do—we get a character into a sticky situation and then we have to save them (well, they save themselves, but you catch my drift). Storybird forces you to write with the images in mind—it requires you to solve a story puzzle. The images have a story to tell, but you have to find it.
Also, when we write a manuscript, there aren’t images at all! I think more writers should think visually, which helps to bring down your word count. (Remember, 500 words is the magic number!) Most manuscripts by new writers over-describe and forget that the pictures are going to tell the reader so much more than their words alone. By using Storybird, you can write text that’s sparer because you have an illustration in front of you. It makes you more cognizant of the image-text connection.
How can parents use Storybird with their kids? Any tips for the parents? (I got a little overwhelmed while trying to find an artist, and then trying to figure out what to do with the pictures.)
Let your child pick the group of illustrations they like best. Then stick one on a page and ask them questions about it. Who is this character? What’s their name? What are they doing? What is their secret? Where do they live? Where do they want to go? Who is their best friend?
Add a new page and let them pick an image. Rinse. Repeat.
Have realistic expectations about their ability to tell a fluid story. My daughter is in Kindergarten and she just likes to tell me something about each character, which I type in for her. She often lacks a logical story sequence, but she is learning to be imaginative and descriptive, so that’s my goal with small kids. Get their imagination churning. Ask them to describe what they envision, and let them pick the illustrations they like best. There’s a certain purple puppy my daughter wants to use over and over again!
You can also gently guide them toward a story by asking them what kind of problem the character needs to solve. I suggest things every once in a while to insert more of a story. But if she doesn’t like my suggestion, I don’t force the issue. Let the children make the decisions. They don’t often get to make decisions—like what to eat for dinner or when to take a bath—so just let them have fun with it! When they’re finished they have what looks like a real, professional book to flip through. You can even purchase a hard copy. Mighty cool. Why didn’t they have Storybird when I was a kid?!
With older children, it’s a great tool to teach story structure. Start with a problem, attempt to solve the problem three times, and come to a resolution. I admit it can be difficult because you might not find a picture to go with what you want to say, but I think that’s the fun of Storybird—let their pictures guide you. There’s a story buried within the images; you just have to discover it together.
I can’t wait to use this platform with my kids. If you would like to learn more about Storybird check-out Tara’s post from 2009. Also checkout her links to her Storybird stories, scroll to the bottom of her “Tara’s Books” page. My personal favorites are The Runaway Rabbit and The Magic Chair.