Story Starters: 3 Easy Ways to Gather Picture Book Ideas From Your Childhood Memories | Kim Steadman | Skillshare

Story Starters: 3 Easy Ways to Gather Picture Book Ideas From Your Childhood Memories

Kim Steadman, Author, Doodler and Creative Entrepreneur

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8 Lessons (44m) View My Notes
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies Needed

    • 3. Prompt 1: Your Inner "Old Timer"

    • 4. Prompt 2: If the walls could talk

    • 5. Prompt 3: Timeline

    • 6. 100 Things Kids Like

    • 7. Brainstorming Ideas

    • 8. Recap and Class Project


About This Class

Have you ever looked at a blank page, trying to come up with your next (or first) children's book idea?

You're ready to write the children's book you've dreamed about your entire life. 

But, what happens when you sit down to write? Do you draw a blank? Or, maybe you're looking for some fresh, new ideas.

In this class, you'll learn 3 easy ways to  brush away the cobwebs and jog your memory in order to curate a list your childhood events, people and places to use as your writing prompt for a children's book. Worksheets for the class are provided in the class project area.

This class is for anyone who desires to come up with children's book ideas. You'll understand the basics for memory recall methods that will leave you with a treasure trove of story ideas.

I'm Kim, a cubicle-nation escapee, and I love to write fun & engaging stories for children. I'm on a mission to help other writers so you can write more, write now!

You can also find Kim at: and in her Facebook writing group at


1. Introduction: Beatrix Potter said, What heaven could be more real than to retain the spirit world of childhood. Hi, I'm Ken Stedman, content curator, idea instigator, author and founder of Right More right Now. And that's my writing cohort. DENVER Four years ago, I left my job in the corporate world to come home to heal stress about mind, body and soul. In my time Here at Home has afforded me the opportunity to work as a virtual assistant and education coordinator, social media coordinator, at work as a creative mentors, toe authors and to do writing and self publishing. I've loved working and helping others with their businesses. I've also been ableto work on one of my personal dreams to write Children's stories. This year, for the first time in my life, I completed a 30 day challenge to curate ideas for Children's books. One of the methods I used was the same method I used to help writers curate ideas for their memoirs, and I'm excited to be able to share this method with you today. In this class, I'll teach you how to use three easy memory recall methods to curate events, people and stories from your childhood you'll use thes skills as a framework to create Children's book ideas. This class is important because, as writers, we always need to be filling our idea bucket as your project For this class, you'll choose one of those curated memories and then turn it into some type of exaggerated , twisted, humorous, silly story that could be the foundation for your next Children's book. Who knows? You may have a John Newbery or a Caldecott Award winner lurking in the recesses of your memories, so let's get started. 2. Supplies Needed: Hi. I'm so glad that you're here. OK, so this has a writing class, so you probably don't have to guess very hard. What type of supplies That you're going to me. You will need a pen or pencil. And guess based on what the second memory prompt is, my guess is going to be that you probably going toe What a pencil. Then you will need some paper. So I have be downloadable sheets in this class. But if you choose to not download them, then you'll need at least five blank pieces of paper and then you'll need a timer whenever it comes time to do these. These props I do have suggested time limits for them because the whole idea is to use thes memories that come in surface to the top in a quick, quick manner. So you'll do. You do what? To keep track of your time. Okay, so let's move along to the first prompt 3. Prompt 1: Your Inner "Old Timer" : now, I don't know about you, but I grew up in a time in an era when the old timers would sit around in there easy chairs or on the rocking chair on the front porch and swap stories about their younger days. And I really enjoyed listening to their stories, and especially when they started talking about their childhood. I mean, some of the stories that I would hear I could believe the things that they went through and that they did. And not only did they get away with it, but some of them they actually survived and lived. And it still amazes me. I'm asking you right now the kind of instead of stepping into your inner child, step into your inner old timer because I know that you have a treasure trove of really fun ideas in your memories, story starters, things that happened to you as a child. Now, remember, all you're doing in this class this is to help you generate ideas and to remember your memories. Um, I I always stop right here and say, I know everybody did not have a perfect childhood. And so some of your lessons uh, wow and some of the things that you might think of might not be so cool and cheery and fun . But if you do any exploring in the Children's book realm and you see the topics of things that are covered, yes, there are happy and happy topics. But there's also some heavy topics that are covered, and they need to be taught. They need to be shared, so I just want to kind of cover that I want respect you because I know everybody didn't come from perfect childhood. But I just ask that you kind of go along with this and follow through the hole through the whole class and see what you come up with. In this lesson, I want you to generate some ideas and memories by starting your thoughts with the phrase. Remember the time that and then you'll fill in the blank with whatever memory, um, surfaces and comes and you may have to repeat that phrase several times before the memory start coming to you before they can start coming into your mind. Um, so you'll end the prompt with just a little blur of of the story that comes to mind. There we are all different. There will be thousands of different entries and endings, only millions of different endings. I mean, nobody has the same story. So when I do this exercise, it never fails that as I've done it, more and more new memories come up our new aspects of memories that I've already thought of before. So what will be just very simple? Remember the time bat I ate a whole box of chocolate and I got sick? Remember the time that I fell off the pony? Remember the Remember the time that I caught a big fish when none of the adults caught a fish and just go through your list, generating those thoughts? Set your timer for five minutes and Onley work on on that on this particular prompt. Remember the time that Onley work on it for about five minutes as a reminder. Don't judge whether or not when a prop comes to your mind. If there's a story that deserves to be told for right now, all you're doing is just generating a list. This is just like rough draft, brain dumping, mind mapping. It's just, you know, just get it out there. You're just generating a list of childhood memories, and that's all you're doing is building a list. There is no judgment. If you think about it, just write it down. And you could decide much later in the process much later years, whether or not you're going to do anything with the product. So if you happen to within five minutes already, get 10 to 12 prompts on your list, then stop. Okay, that's all you're gonna kind of need for the fourth this class. So, um, steps. Set your timer for five minutes and take a little stroll down memory lane. Remember the time that is Bill in the book? 4. Prompt 2: If the walls could talk: Now we are moving. Teoh, if these walls could talk in this exercise, I want you to think about one of the places that you lived when you were a child. And it may be an apartment Are, ah, home or any type of dwelling where you grew up during a part of your childhood. You're going to draw in this lesson. But Poland, you don't have to worry about perfection. You don't have to worry about how it looks. You don't have to worry about it being scale. Don't worry about lines being straight. Really? This is just I wouldn't even call it a sketch, okay? And I will. I wouldn't even call it a floor plan. But that is what you're going to kind of draw, draw the main walls and we're there were rooms, anything that you can think of inside that dwelling that kind of comes to mind. Maybe there was a huge kitchen table. Or maybe there was a grandma's old recliner that was, you know, ready. And, oh, uncomfortable looking. But she wouldn't let anybody get rid of it. Are you know, whatever. Okay, just kind of draw the floor plan. Drawl. The frames and kind of draw some key elements that were in in that house or in that home in that dwelling and then kind of just roughly step outside. And what was the surrounding area? Was it a suburban home with the yard trees near a street was in an apartment on a on a busy city straight. And there was other apartments and cars all around, you know, or whatever. Just kind of What was it like outside? Was there, uh, a carport nearby? All some of that. And you do not. I mean, we're talking drawing furniture, using boxes and circles. I mean, just that's all you really the circle represents. This is was the bad, and the circle represents. This was the table and the circle represents. You know, this chair and this chair. I'm not going for perfection here at all, because I just want you to spend about five minutes. That's Oh, so that's why we're saying this is not to scale. This is not your not expected to be a Picasso here. But once you have all that down because if you don't spend five minutes in trying to be over have be a perfectionist, you'll spend way too long on this drawing, and that is not what it's important. What's in heart. It is because a lot of times it's hard to remember things until we visually see some. And then when we visually see it, then we remember things that happened. And so the drawing is simply met to be a prompt. Okay, now, after you have the drawing, I want you to t work to kind of go back and work through and just Are there any memories that come up about a particular room about a person? Are their feelings that come up and Artie vote? When you think of these memories, whether they're cold memories happy, sad, warm. You know just what comes up, what comes to mind, what people come to my and you know, what happened in that room repeated at, you know, the kitchen. You know, Did everybody eat at a kitchen table or, you know, did you know everybody take their plate and go to the living room and eat, You know, just start just just looking it and see what memories and things that you can think of, and once you spend a little bit of time indoors, move yourself outdoors and see if there's anything that you can remember. I'm I've done this exercise several different times, and even when I did, I did my homework along with y'all so that I could work along with you. I remembered two or three different things that had not come to my mind before. So take about 15 minutes for the whole project. So that means five minutes for your rough sketch and then 10 minutes for just walking through and seeing what memories, events, people. Things just kind of what surfaces when you're looking at your picture of and an old childhood place where you lived and after 15 minutes, I'll see you in the next listen. 5. Prompt 3: Timeline: all right. This lesson is called timeline, and this prompt is another great visual strategy to help you add a curate memories from your childhood from her story list. And it really involves making a timeline of your childhood years. And here's the easy way that I do this. You'll see on your handout that what I do is just put a column down in grade school in increments. I've started with kindergarten in I'm actually I did this in United States, uh, version of grade increments. So if you are in, uh, the UK or another country, your timeline obviously may have to look a little bit different. But I did grades. And then I've also put in parentheses what age is usually in those grapes. So as you go through your list, look at that grade or age bracket and write down a quick memory that pops into your mind. Now this one for me is the hardest prompt to do, and I don't want that to scare you away because you may be younger than me. And so the memories might come a lot faster to you, But it may be a teacher's name. It may be the grade that the teacher taught or the subject that they taught, or a skill that you learn in that great. It may be an accomplishment that you had in that grade a memory of a childhood friend, a sickness, relationships that you had travel that you did during that year. For me, it's easier to think of my timeline according to my grade. And it's probably because as a child, everything revolves around what great drink, right? You know what greater you in. I'm going to this, you know, we just We are very attached to his Children. What grade worrying in this story starters. I did decide to use higher grades as well, not just elementary education, but higher grades as well. And go ahead and do those. Because even though we're talking Children's book, I'll show you in the subsequent lessons of how to get what to do with all that information , how you can curate from those things, even from those memories, even if they're not, you know, childhood elementary memories. This should on Lee take you about 10 minutes. Only spend about 10 minutes. So if you don't get all the grades in, um, that's Okay. Nobody's no judgment here. Okay? So about 10 minutes. And do your story Starters based on things in childhood memories by Greg and I will then see you in the next lesson. 6. 100 Things Kids Like: Okay, now we start getting to the fun part of the story generating. But before we do that, you got one more thing that you need to do. And this is easy sneezy I have for you a a sheet of 100 things kids like. And this is my little template that I used to combine with the memories to then come up with a story idea. So I encouraging at a print this off or at least haven't handy for when we go through the next process. What is the next process? I'm going to show you. I am going to take my actual memory problems. Combine them with these story starter things that kids like and show you how it could develop into a book. All right, let's get started. 7. Brainstorming Ideas: the best way that I can show you This is to actually just dive in to do the homework with you. So, um, you had your little spread sheet of the kids like categories. So I've put that up here. This is just to get you started. This helps me break apart a memory. So the first memory let's go over and look at it that I stopped them was I made a worm family out of fishing lures so that immediate memory I wrote in under the columns of fishing and miscellaneous fun of playing pretend and it had to do with worms. So see, I took that memory and just based on the memory alone, I wrote down some of the things that were that kids like fishing a sport pretend and worms . Now I start breaking apart that memory and saying, OK, the fishing part in that memory I was with family and friends, and we were fishing. Are they were fishing. I was actually getting kind of bored because after about five minutes of fishing and I didn't catch anything, I was done. But I didn't have any toys. Um, where we were at Well, where were we? So I come over here to the nature side. We were at a pond. Okay, so that's when I wrote down Pond. I've previewed some of this, so I was bored. We were at a pawn and my pretend I was making a little family out of the worms. These were a particular type of fishing lure that my dad was using. They were rubber farms, and he, uh, had him sitting on top of the fish fishing tackle box. I guess because I mean, I just dove in and started. I took them, I played in the dirt, I made a house for the worms and I was just playing pretend and having a good old time. So, out of this memory, you know, I played pretend with something that wasn't considered, you know, normal. Most little girls are playing pretend with their dolls or with some type of toys. But I just took what was available to me. So you may. Could I make you know, brainstorm some more about, um, about playing, pretend Oops. Keep spill train. Pretend with unexpected grease. Okay, so let's another. That's one part of the memory that I could could grow on. Children get bored all the time and they play Pretend you know, there. That's when our Children's imagination really sores is when they're allowed to get bored and their imagination has to kick in. So this particular instance I made a worm family. You know what other things do? Maybe Children that are around you, that you see them playing pretend, you know, capes. You know, they put on to be a superhero, you know, so my mind could kind of start going that way. But the part here that I really kind of for me started standing out was I like to kind of write stories where you're using animals and animals are the ones telling those stories. So I got to thinking about bears, fish and otters fish. Okay. That's how they get some of their nourishment and food. Bigger fish eat smaller fish. You could even do a Google search of what type of animals have fish as a main part of their food source. Because, um, you know, what about a bear family that that goes fishing? And you know what kind of things my would happen otters. Oh, man. Little baby orders. They're so cute when they're floating on their mamas of Tunney and, you know, maybe some type of little story about the otter family. What's going fishing? And can't you just see the little baby orders sitting on Mom's tummy with their little fishing poles? Fishing could really be cute. Fish fishing, fish, eating other fish, some type of I don't know, some type of cute story about a little fish. Try that trying to get away from keep getting eaten. But what he doesn't see is the the big fish behind him trying to eating well, there's just a trail of other bigger fish eating the next sas fish eating the next ice fish . Um, I don't know. That could be that could be a fun aspect. So nothing that you right here at this point is is written in stone. This is actually just another stage of brainstorming. You'll personally. What I do is I end up saying, Okay, this particular one as I'm going through the brainstorming process really resonates with May, so I'll circle it with a mark marker or something like that. So, like this initial this story about the others, that part really kind of resonates with me. So let's pretend I marked that up and said, Okay, I'm going to come back to that maybe later and flesh it out and see if there's a little story that I might could run with them. Also, this one about the fish, because kids like counting books and stuff like that. So that could be that could be kind of fun. Um, all right, so just brainstorming. So let's do on. Let's do another one. Um, let me look clean my list here because I did the homework with you all. Um, let's see. Oh, here's one. When I was in elementary school, I thought of like, I know I wasn't a bully. No, I didn't get in a fight that looks the story from that comes from, um, walking in line. And there was a little boy supposed to be holding the door and the door, I guess, slipped out of his hand or something. And I got a black eye because the door hit me in the face. So, um, this really wasn't a miscellaneous fun, But I was just at school, even being growing, the lunch is what I was doing. And you know this is all about. See, maybe I could say that this is about relationships, because I remember the little boy feeling very, very. He was very sorry. He did not mean for that to happen at all. And so, uh, now let me sit here and brainstorm. You know, I remember people kind of joking with me, especially some of the adults joking with me because I did have a black eye and fortunate for me, I was kind of a tomboy. It really didn't bother me, but, hmm, what would happen? Like if a little girl was supposed to be doing advance recital and this happened to her and she got a black eye before dance recital and some Now she's got her her really, You know, ballet to two or whatever. And she is sporting a shiner. How could a child it's react with that? You know what? What fun? Of course. Actually, some relationships, things and stuff about storyline, about feeling good about yourself, even when you don't look great on the outside. You know, some inner It could be some inner mindset work for Children, you know, just because they needed to look and it was a time in their life that there was expected to look all pretty with your hair all done up in a bun. But, you know, got the black eye. Oh, something else that could be fun. Miscellaneous fun, maybe. Is what about school pictures? Oh, that's a big thing. You know, school pictures being done. And what happens if the child was toe? Have a black eye? Um, you know, how could that be? Handle. It could be handled fun in in a joking way. Not joking that they got the black eye that they have the blackout. But but, you know, school pictures easy. The pictures that Grandma and Grandpa are going to get put in their wallet and their grain child has a black eye. This could be a really funny story Line. Wasn't funny when I have a black eye would have toe, uh, talk about that, you know, But it could be fleshed out now. I was a human with a black. I don't know. I'm gonna come over here to do the nature and stuff, So I'm starting to think about what kind of animals look like they have a black eye. So hand does. Um, raccoons have what? You know, have a little mask. Um, there are some dogs that have markings around the eyes, and it looks like they have a black high. And so it's a cup of storyline. Maybe, um, we're a raccoon. Maybe is misunderstood that he's his money moved to a new neighborhood in the forest. And the kids think he's a bully because he has a black eye. But it's not that he is a black eye. That's justice markings. That's just the way he is. And that could really be fleshed out as a story. Okay, so see how I use these categories to help me move through, uh, the thought process. Okay, let's do another one. Let me look at me. Film for three. My shapes and just grab one, um, head job. Draw that drawing of your house and walk through our work through the childhood. A place where you lived. And so when I did this, I actually remembered about, um, remember it about us. About there was rain. It was raining and raining and raining and raining. And a stray dog. This came into our house, had a garage where you park a vehicle parked across car and a stray dog came up in there and because it was raining and everything. I don't remember what day it was, but I just know that the dog was, um it was funny because my mom opened the door and that dog just kind of was sitting there at the back door and looked at her and just wag like this tale and walk right on in like he knew us and he was a good dog. We ended up keeping that dog for years, so that, of course, is a memory. It has to do with a dog and miscellaneous run. I know kids love to play in the rain. I don't know it could. That doesn't like to see trump around and get in the rain. So, um so there could be some type of of cute story about That's how a child adopts and finds a dog or, um, a dog's dog. Kids playing in the rain and having fun, and Mom calls them in and you know they're sopping wet or something. This, you know, it could. It was a fun memory. It would actually be just. This is usually I tried. It converts stories over to tell from an animal perspective eso this one could actually be about. It could be something to do with path adoption and the friend way that, you know, a pit is added. Teoh family added to line. I don't even know on this. If I would change too much about it, I'm out with just sit and really flesh out the story. Um and I don't know, maybe even do some rhyming with it because it was raining so much. It was a lot of rain. And so maybe get some repetitive rhyming words going about rain or something like that. Okay, let me grab another one and just showed on one more year. There's no specific science to this. It's just going through the memories. So let's take one that from the timeline sheet Let's see. Um, when I was in was when I waas in fifth grade in states with grave. I was bullied. Okay? I was fully there was a girl that threatens to beat yet in, um that was the base memory. So now, as I'm even talking to you all I'm thinking about that. She threatened to beat me up. There was another little boy than overheard her threat. And he was bigger than her. And he just He just told me that after school that he would walk me to, um, tomorrow Reid, who is picking me up after school, and he ended up doing that every day after school. I don't remember. I think it was towards the end of the year because I don't remember this going on for a room for a long time. And truthfully, you know, I don't remember if I told my parents or anything like that, but I do know that unfortunately, in todays age that bullying is something that is very serious. So even though I have miscellaneous friends, uh, this is not fun. This is miscellaneous. But bullying is, unfortunately, needs to be a topic for some Children's books. And you know how there's this could be from how to I had a handle. Bullying? No. What should the child do? And the thing about this particular memory is, it could be told from the perspective of an animal. Y'all on me, I'm just you'll get to know me. I really like I always go back to Litton animals tell stories. I think, you know, kids just like animals. But anyway, I just like to let that so, you know, choosing some type of animal that maybe, um is it isn't known to be as fuzzy and cute. And some people might well like possums, possums and armadillos here in Texas. Aren't those possum there? They are not, um, as well like, and could be made fun of. So it could be, um, tote from that animal's perspective. But unfortunately, just a story about bullying. These could be flushed out and needs to be told. And they're probably can't be too many books about, you know, have the child should respond if they're being the one being bullied. Um, I had a help if you you know, like that little boy that overheard and he came alongside me to be my friend and to help me . Um, I'm sure we told the teacher, but I don't know. I can't remember that part, but, you know, so it be a perfect way to line out a book story of how should a child handle it? And, you know, unfortunately, in today's day and age, I don't think kids that are being bullied can be they. They shouldn't stuff it down. They need to let teachers be aware. They need to let grownups be aware. So, um, so that could be something. Let's see that you do that. What else happened? Oh, in ninth grade on my timeline. Um, my family moved, and I ended up having to go to a huge new, um, high schools what they call it here in the States. And that's where the 14 15 16 17 year olds go to school. Anyway, it's a huge building. Family moved. I was shy and terrified to go to any school. So let's kind of like the universal thing for kids, you know, nobody likes toe move. And so even though that is something that happened to me in my high school years, remember I told John brought going and write down those memories because you can find bits and pieces to apply it to an elementary school aged book and so moving family moving and having the main new friends. So, you know, family moving, making new friends, um, new home, the room, the school. You know, um, we really be fleshed out. If I was gonna look at it from a from a looks on recipient France, but from an animal perspective, any animal telling that story. But for some reason, a turtle comes to my mind right now while in fleshing this out just because hurdles had a live in their shell. You know, their shell is their home. But turtles also very down in the dirt and some, you know, seeing a turtle family and down in the dirt. And maybe the creek dries up and they've got to go find a new area over by some pond or something. So they've got to move, and now they're gonna make new friends. I don't know. Could be fun. Could be fun with that. Um, any animal, though, Uh, I always like to tell story with animals. Um, okay, let's see, Let's do one more memory, cause I'm gonna run out of sheet here, and I don't wanna, um I'm just trying to help you figure out how toe had a flesh through this. So, um oh, in 12. Right? What do you want to be? That was like, when you're 17 in 18 years old, Especially back in the dinosaur days when, um when I was young. Now what do you want to be? What are you going to go to school for? What do you want to do for your career? That seemed like to be the big question all the time, but, you know, in so so kids, elementary school kids, they vacant imagination. We got imagination and pretending the, um, the cream of the book. And maybe it's, you know, it just starts out. What do I want to be when I grow up and a child could go through all different things that they want to be? But let's have fun with this And let's pretend, you know, because most kids, they'll say that they want to be a fireman or a policeman or they want to be a doctor. But what could be some fun careers, unusual careers that a child says that they want to be. So maybe because actually, that reminds me just me as I'm going through this, it reminds me of I have a book that I found, and it was one that my mom was like a little journal each year. And one of the questions in that journal was, you know what do you want to be? When you grew up in each year, it changed for me. But one year I wanted to be, um, an Avon lady. Now, if you don't know what Avon is that it's a company that sells like lotions and makeup and stuff like that. And so that's so yeah, so, like, what kind of unusual things that a child could say that they want to be when they grow up? So maybe they want to be a dump truck driver. Um, maybe they wanna be. Let's let's think of some fun, unusual things that are that are reputable jobs, but it's just not what kids would normally think of. And so you would really have toe get a really good illustrator or something to really illustrate it out. But it could be a lot of fun. Them truck driver, monster, a monster truck driver. This is all kind of getting in the things that move, uh, Dept Truck driver, monster truck driver. Um, I don't even know what the piece of machinery is called when they're doing cement work and laying down a highway. Um, there's this spreader machine that rolls over the big piece of the highway and is helping to kind of spread down the scene. It where we have having highway work done close to our home. And so I've seen this and I thought, that is a monster piece of equipment. And how much fun could that be to be driving that equipment? Yeah, that could be fun to flesh out. See? Okay. And then out. Boom. I'm going on. I'm just throwing down some notes to come back later, and I'm I'm even gonna high life this one pink. 8. Recap and Class Project: this is your story starters, recap and your class project. So in story starters, I shared with you three different ways that you can generate some childhood memories that can in turn possibly be used as Children's story. But ideas work. She called the time that and then we did work she to which wasif the walls could talk. And then number three. We did the timeline. So now it's time for your class project. In this class is project. Have I for you to just choose one of your childhood memories that was prompted during one of the three story starter worksheets. So yeah, three different sheets. But just choose one skin through, Choose one and brainstorm a Children's book idea that has been generated from the memory and then just share your ideal with the class. You don't have to flush Now. We're not talking about even having a book draft, but just something that seems to kind of pique your interest. And it appears to maybe be an idea that you would like to think about. Don't forget to share your book idea in the your project section and please follow me on skill share and leave a review of this class. I wish you all the best in your writing adventures. This is Kim Steadman, and I'll see you soon.