#ThinkingThursday – Finding Your Inspiration


Thinking Thursday:
Finding Your Inspiration

One of the most asked questions I have is:

“Where do you find your ideas for your stories?”

My answer, quite simply, is: EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere. I’ve gotten ideas from

  • pictures
  • long walks
  • over-hearing a snippet of a conversation
  • a tree
  • a cow mooing
  • a song
  • writing challenges
  • writing prompt
  • magazines

… and the list can keep going on.  😀

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

card-orson-scott-athousandstoryideasThe trick is to keep your eyes, ears, and nose open. Yes, use your senses. Allow your mind to wander. The possibilities will begin to open up for you. Once you train your mind and body to notice these thing, you’ll find inspiration all around.

Until next time…


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#SummerSparks Day 9 – Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller

by Pat Miller

One day, Little Red Writing Hood realized she needed some writing tips. She heard that Granny W was a prolific writer, so Little Red packed a basket of treats and decided to visit her.

When Little Red Writing Hood knocked on Granny W’s door, a gruff voice invited her in. Little Red was shocked to learn that Granny W was a wolf!

She started to say, “Hi Granny W, I need some writing advice…” But her train of thought was derailed by Granny’s appearance, and she blurted, “What big ears you have!”

“Yes my dear,” said Granny W. “And those big ears help me get a lot of my ideas. Keep your ears open—some of my best ideas came from overhearing the TV or a conversation at the Critter Café. But don’t forget about your internal ears. Those are the ones that pick up ideas that flit through your dreams or your imagination. I have a notebook with me at all times, in my pocket, by my bed, even one in the shower! Listen to me: you will not remember unless you WRITE IT DOWN!”

girl with notepad“Good point,” said Little Red Writing Hood. “May I borrow some paper to jot this down?” Granny W motioned her to the desk, which was covered with notebooks.

“Grab a notebook,” said Granny W, “I’m just getting started.”

Little Red wanted to ask Granny how to fix a story once she had the first draft. Instead, she said, “What big eyes you have!”

“I do,” said Granny W, “The better to do my rewrites. First, I read my draft looking for ways to punch up the details. You gotta show—use your eyes—instead of tell! Do that by painting a word picture. What would the reader see? Hear? Get my drift?”

“Right,” said Little Red Writing Hood. “First, you make sure you create visuals.”

“Next you have to squint your eyes up and get tough with that story. That’s when you look over every sentence, every word. Is it doing its job? Does it add to the story? Can I cut it out without hurting the story? Then you gotta slice out the lazy words! Scratch off the dull sentences!” Granny punctuated each sentence with a swipe of her claws.

Little Red’s pencil flew over the paper. She wanted to ask how Granny got the gumption to write every day. “What’s your secret for writing every…” before she finished, she was startled by the proximity of Granny’s pearly whites. She couldn’t help herself. “Granny, what big teeth you have!”

“Big teeth, maybe. But I also have tenacity. Know what that means? It’s the ability to bite into my story every day and not let go until it’s finished!” said Granny W.

“But how? I try to write every day, but it gets overwhelming and then I resist even going to my desk,” said Little Red.

“Small and steady is the secret,” revealed Granny. “Tell yourself you only have to write for 10 minutes a day. Just ten! Now how can you resist sitting down for that little dab of time? After 10 minutes, you can quit for the day. Celebrate. Give yourself a gold star for accomplishing your goal. Of course, you might find yourself writing for more than 10, but that’s not a must.”

“I can write for 10 minutes,” said Little Red Writing Hood. “That’s not scary at all.”

“Do it every day—it adds up quickly. Plus, you feel good about yourself for meeting your goals. Small is better than nothing. Tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to show you my Star Chart.” Granny W pointed to a cabinet. Open that door and see what’s taped inside.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of stars! What are the two faces for? They aren’t happy or sad,” said Little Red.

“Well, I learned that no matter how big my teeth, how determined my intention, life gets away from me sometimes and I can’t even make my small goal. But I don’t beat myself up. I just draw a face that means try again tomorrow.”

“Got it,” said Little Red. “Take a Bite Daily.”

Little Red started to say something else when BING! a story idea popped into her head. Quickly, she jotted it down. “Granny, here are some goodies for you. But I’ve got an idea burning a hole in my brain. Gotta run!”

As Little Red Writing Hood ran out the door, she heard Granny W say, “What good instincts you have!”


1. Fiction Prompt The best question to ask is “What if?” Choose a folk or fairy tale and turn it on its head.

  • What if Cinderella didn’t want to let the prince try on the glass slipper because she had such ugly feet?

  • What if the three Billy Goats Gruff had the little one go last, and she bested the troll because she was very good at tickling?

  • What if instead of a gingerbread boy it was a mischievous three-year old running from his mother, his babysitter, his preschool teacher, etc.

Make a list of five tales. Next, figure out not one, but three different ways you could twist the story. This is an excellent way to free your imagination from its confines. Then choose one of your 15 ideas to write about.

2. Nonfiction prompt: Your inciting questions are the 5 w’s and how. Go to Important Dates in American History: or Origins of Everyday Things. Make a list of several events or people, and come up with questions for each.

For example:

1886 Geronimo surrenders – Why did he surrender? Who did he surrender to? What happened to him?

Next, choose one you know least about from your list. Do ten minutes of Internet research. Based on what you learned, what hook could you use to tell children about it? One possibility, Geronimo was an American prisoner of war for 23 years. How does that compare with how America treated its prisoners of war in the Civil War, or in one of the World Wars? Another hook: In Geronimo’s formative years, the Mexican government offered $25 for an Apache child’s scalp. How did that affect Geronimo’s outlook on life?


  • Big Teeth: Use this Star Chart to keep track of your own ten-minute tenacity. Choose your favorite color each day you write for 10 minutes. Use the non-judgmental face if you don’t. Just don’t give up! [Ten Minute Tenacity Chart]
  • Big Eyes: Go here  to see the first version of Pat’s first book, Substitute Groundhog, and the final version (written after 32 rejections). You can see that very little remained the same.


Pat Miller photoPat Miller has been writing since she was a kid, but started getting paid when she began writing on the side as an adult. At the time, she was the mother of three young kids and worked full time as an elementary teacher and school librarian. SO MANY BOOKS!

She now works full time writing children’s books and teaching adults about writing. She is also a certified Master Gardener, and gets some of her ideas while pulling weeds or watering her gardens.

As a freelance writer and contributing editor for LibrarySparks, Pat has published more than 200 professional articles, 20 books for school librarians, and a number of books for children. Three of them are Substitute Groundhog (Junior Library Guild book), Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, and her upcoming nonfiction book, The Hole Story of the Doughnut (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2016)

She and her husband have twin sons, a daughter, and six preschool grandkids, including twins. Reading to them and buying them books are two of the joys of being a grandmother. She lives in the Houston area and has an illiterate Jack Russell terrier that lies by her feet when she writes.

NF 4 NF: Children’s Nonfiction Writing Conference


Let me know, are you participating  in this years #SummerSparks writing challenge?
Do you have any interesting places or people in your area?

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2015 Summer Sparks post:

  1. Family Celebration by Tracey M. Cox
  2. Back Where I Come From by Tracey M. Cox
  3. The Benefits of Playdough: Molding your PB Idea Into A Story by Donna L. Martin
  4. Go Jump In a Lake by Tracey M. Cox
  5. Take a Vacay! by Tracey M. Cox
  6. How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript by Nancy Raines Day
  7. Don’t You Know that You Are a Shooting Star? by Tracey M. Cox
  8. Sun Burst by Tracey M. Cox
  9. Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller
  10. Get Out! by Tracey M. Cox
  11. Pieces by Tracey M. Cox
  12. Make Your Non-Fiction Leap Off the Page! by Jennifer Swanson
  13. Do the Twist by Tracey M. Cox
  14. Celebrate! by Tracey M. Cox

Tuesday Tips – Idea Jar


~ Catching Ideas ~

*sparks*                                                 *flash*                                                           *spark*
*jolt*                                            *bang*
*flash*                           *spark*                                                         GOTCHA!

Have you ever felt like that? There’s a tickle of an idea… yet it fades out before you can fully mull it over and grasp it.
I think we all do this from time to time.

I like to think of ideas as fireflys.  Zooming around, every now and then a flash, and then gone.  When I was little, I loved catching them in a jar. I would get on their level, watching them up close, before letting them go again. There was still the mystery of them, but I had enough to hold onto… until the next time.

I like to think of us writers and our ideas like that too. We get that spark, flash, jolt, bang, and we are off. We are on a chase, trying to capture it. When we do, we pull it close, inspect it, and give our observations. Then we release our ideas into the world as manuscripts. In hopes that an editor will see the  mysteriousness of our story and want to capture it too.

Now… to keep those ideas fresh in our minds. We don’t want that spark to fade. Or the flash to dim too quickly. What can we do??? I have a video where I show you what I do:

I hope that helps give you some inspiration on keeping your ideas fresh.   🙂

Let me know what you think of my Ideas Jar.
How do you capture your ideas and keep them fresh?
If you choose to make (or already have) an IDEAS JAR, I would {{{L-O-V-E}}} to see it!!! Blog about it or post it on social media and tag me in it!

Here’s to many captured ideas!!!

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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industry. Click  ~HERE~  to be directed to my Newsletter sign-up page.

~ HAPPY NEW YEAR ~ from Tracey M. Cox

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~Happy New Year~

Welcome to 2015!

I know many of you are focusing on your New Year’s Resolutions, and I do have a few of my own, but today I like to reflect back on the past year and see where I have grown and what I have accomplished.

  • Platform Building
    My goal for 2014 was to establish myself on the internet and become comfortable with what I stand for. Pre-2014 when you did a search on “Tracey M. Cox” you would find a different author. Now I have at least 2 pages full of articles, videos, social media contact, etc where you can find me. My platform? How to market with little to no money is still in its infancy, but I know the direction it is heading in and I feel confident in where it is going.
  • Better Content
    I’ve done research and feel my output is so much better this year. I hope others learn from me and can pass it forward too. Better content also builds on platform. I hope to be known as a trusted source and someone who loves to bounce ideas off with.
  • Marketing
    THIS was a biggie for me. I’ve learned to toot my own horn. Carry business cards and books with me. Not to be shy about telling others I write AND love it!  🙂  I also am learning the fine line of marketing and being pushy. Nobody wants to be battered over the head and I don’t want to be the person you see and want to run from.  😉
  • Writing
    My writing has improved so much this year. Researching again and again. Critique groups!!!!!!!!! Taking classes. All this, and an open mind, has contributed to my writing this year.
  • Friendships
    I’ve lost some this year. Some by death, others by their choice. I don’t know which is harder. Still, you have to learn to let go.
    I’ve gained some this year. There are some wonderful people I can’t wait to get to know better.
    Then there are the ones who have remained a constant in my life. I’m thankful for all they have given me. I only hope they feel the same about me.

So what is up with this year?

I’ll be keeping up with the same schedule:
Monday – Marketing
Tuesday – Tips
Wednesday – www.
Thursday – Thinking
Friday – Features (when I have some volunteers)
So two to three posts a week.  🙂  I plan on going into better depth and expanding my knowledge on marketing and kidlit. I hope to have a few surprises this year too. *fingers crossed*

What I hope to accomplish past this blog?

  • Learn to use social media more effectively.
  • Get an agent
  • Book contract
  • Work on writing
  • Work on illustrating
  • Books Love & Taters Book Festival (4th annual) to be bigger and better this year

I hope to see you into the year too!

Let me know what you would love to achieve this year.
What are some things you accomplished in 2014?
How do you plan to build on last year?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

*Don’t miss one post! Email sign-ups are over here —>
**Did you enjoy this post? Feel free to LIKE, SHARE, and COMMENT ON THIS POST.  Easy, peasy buttons found  below.
***Sign up for my  N E W S L E T T E R ! I will be sharing writing challenges and other tidbits related to the kidlit industry. Click  ~HERE~  to be directed to my Newsletter sign-up page.


Read!!!Celebrate Picture Books!!!

It’s November and that means it’s Picture Book Month


And it’s Picture Book Ideas Month…



Can you hear me cheering?????? */*  */*  */*

Take time to read a great picture book every day. If you are a writer or illustrator, click on the PiBoIdMo banner above and join Tara Lazar’s month long idea generating adventure. Today is the first day and sign-ups go through this week. So it’s not too late to join.

I’ll be journaling about PiBoIdMo this month and would love to see a few others join me in the adventure.

Let me know what you are going to do to celebrate picture books.

Happy Writing!

*Don’t miss one post! Email notifications sign-up is over here —>
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#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story


9 Ways to Tighten Your Story


Donna Earnhardt wrote a terrific post, Burning Down the House, that covered how reading out loud helps to revise. Then, saputnam had a great comment about how she color-codes her submissions, and that reminded me of another way to revise. Then that got me to thinking of other ways to revise. That lead me to thinking, just how !any ways are there to revise. Here’s my list:

  • Read out loud (thanks Donna)
    This not only gets your brain working, but your ears as well. You will stutter and stumble over words and phrases that are out of place and don’t belong.
  • Read backwards (thanks again Donna)
    This will help see gaps in your plot, where you need to rearrange or add to build the right sequence.
  • Read to an audience (Donna is the bomb)
    This is where you can see how people react. Did they laugh? Was there an Ah-ha! moment.
  • Observe a reading.
    Here’s where you combine watching you audience reactions with listening to the story to see of things are off, Make notes. Don’t have a reader? Record yourself and play it back.
  • Highlight your text.
    Use different colors for dialog, action, passive texts. This will give you a color-coded visual of your story.
  • Cut up text and place in a storyboard.
    This will show pacing. you can see where there are holes and where text !at be too heavy.
  • Draw it out. (thanks Alison)
    You can also use doodles of your text to make sure your story is moving forward and hasn’t stalled out. In picture books, every word counts!
  • Draw a story arc. (thanks Alayne)
    This is also called ‘The W Factor’ or ‘The Heartbeat of the Story’ and shows pacing well too. Here you go up and down determined by the conflicts and resolutions -aka Cause and Effect– of your story.
  • Read, read, read.
    Yes read your story, parts of your story, and then read it some more. Make it flow effortlessly!
  • Set it aside.
    How is this revision?Think of wine, if you taste it right away, sure it will be good, but if you put it away. Don’t open it. The body develops. When you taste it again, there will be notes that highlight the flavor. The body will be fuller. It will be like tasting it for the first time. The same can happen with your story. You will have separated yourself from the text and can see it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will pop out. Things will make you smile. You will get the goosies when you read THE LINE.

So what are some of the ways you revise? Do you have a routine that is different from those listed?

:::Leave a comment:::
Let me know how you tighten a story.


You have one more day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est. THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!


Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!