Ode to Tara Lazar

Want to know what I love? PiBoIdMo, that’s what!


Picture Book Idea Month is the brainchild of friend and author Tara Lazar. Each November, Tara encourages picture book writers and illustrators to jot down one idea for each day in the month of November. That’s it. We don’t have to write full-blown manuscripts. We don’t even have to scribble down outlines or bullet points. All that is expected of participants is to jot down ideas.

Not only does Tara offer this doable challenge, but she’s created a community of people who are in this together. What is more, she provides guest posts from various authors, illustrators, and other members in the publishing community that offer all sorts of idea-getting strategies.

Many of my books and upcoming books have gotten their start in my PiBoIdMo Files. My very first PiBoIdMo Success Story came from my 2009 PiBoIdMo File.


This is a post I wrote for Tara’s blog after I got the YES:

            When Tara asked me to contribute a post to PiBoIdMo 2009, I was honored. And, truth be told, scared. For me, getting a Really Good Idea is hard. Crazy hard. How could I possibly offer idea-getting strategies to others when I felt this was the toughest of all the writing challenges?

            Well, that November I wrote the blog post. I also pushed myself to come up with 30 ideas. Whew. Wasn’t easy. It took me every bit of that entire month to get those 30 possibilities on paper. Most of those ideas were tiny snippets. A character. A title. A phrase.

            One of those snippets, however, seemed as if it might have potential. Nugget and Fang. I thought the unlikely best friendship between a minnow and a shark might have the makings for a story. I brainstormed. I jotted down a first draft. And a second draft. And a third draft. With each draft the story got a little tighter, the word choice got a little better, and the humor got a little stronger. But I never really got that YES feeling from the manuscript. So…I put it away for a few months. Then I wrote a fourth draft. And a fifth draft. And I put it away for a year.

            Then, in March 2011, my week to submit something to my critique group came around. I had recently finished my latest manuscript and I needed SOMETHING to send the oh-so-awesome PBJeebies. So I dug through my files. And found two old friends. Nugget and Fang. I read the most recent version. Then I revised. And revised. And revised some more. I started to get excited.

            I sent the manuscript to the PBJeebies, and they pushed me to revise the manuscript a little more. That YES feeling came around. I shared the manuscript with my agent.

            These are my favorite three sentences from her response: 

“I absolutely love this manuscript! It’s hilarious, original, and wonderfully paced — with totally fun illustration possibilities. Yay!”

            Oh, happiness! Oh, time-to-print-out-that-message-and-tape-it-to-my-computer!

            The manuscript went Out There.

            Months went by. Then I got the call. And I got ANOTHER call.

            Two fabulous houses were interested in the manuscript.

            After much careful consideration, I decided Nugget & Fang belonged at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The amazing Michael Slack signed on to illustrate, and the book swam onto the scene April 2013.

Over the years, I’ve sold seven more books that found their start in PiBoIdMo.  For this reason and a million more, I owe an ocean-sized thank you to Tara Lazar.

These are Tara’s books. May you fall for them hook, line, and sinker.




Coming March 2015…







Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit tammisauer.com and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. I just completed PiBoIdMo 2015 and loved it! Tara’s created a great event with a wonderful community. It’s nice to know several of your fabulous stories came from PiBoIdMo ~ It gives me hope!! 🙂

  2. Very inspirational! Love your books and Tara’s too. I agree, Tara is amazing and we writers love and appreciate her more than words can express!

  3. Tara’s PiBoIdMo challenge has definitely pushed me to be more creative and try new things in order to come up with ideas. I actually finished with a whopping 60 nuggets this year! Of course, most won’t pan out, but you never know what might be hiding in there either. Congratulations, Tammi, on your many successes!

  4. I, too, just completed PiBoIdMo 2015. With each day and each inspiring post an idea, a sentence, a draft and much more may blossom. Tara has created an absolutely amazing creative opportunity for so many of us. I loved reading about your own PiBoIdMo successes, Tammi! Congrats and Thanks!!

  5. What a lovely ode to Tara. You both write wonderful stories. Tara is the best and helps others find success 🙂

  6. Thank you, Tara, for all you do! 🙂

  7. Thank you, Tammi! I think you are the WINNAH of the most PiBoIdMo success stories! WOW!

    • What?! Do I get a sash?!

      These are the PiBoIdMo Ideas that sold:
      Nugget & Fang (from 2009)
      Quiet Wyatt (from 2010)
      The Farm that Mac Built (from 2011)
      Your Alien (from 2012) + sequel
      Caring for Your Lion (from 2013)
      Truck, Truck, Goose (from 2014) + sequel

  8. Just finished the month of ideas. Great stuff. Thanks to Tara!

  9. Yay! Tammi, that cheer goes out to both you and Tara. Thanks so much for welcoming us into your writing journey with Nugget and Fang.

  10. Just completed my first PiBoIdMo. Whew! I just loved it when ideas crashed into each other and blew into outlines, complete with beginning, middle, end. Thanks to Tara for sponsoring this each year.

  11. I just completed PiBoIdMo, too! Thanks for sharing your success stories, and for showing appreciation to Tara Lazar. Best wishes!

  12. What a great testimony to the power of PiBo! (and Tara!) Congrats on turning your ideas into published books! And thanks, Tara, for starting it all!

  13. Thank you, Tammi and Tara! I too successfully completed the 2015 PiBoIdMo challenge and am happily sitting on 30+ ideas with unlimited potential. Now, I just have to tap into that!

  14. She certainly deserves to be celebrated! Thanks, Tammi, and thanks to Tara 🙂

  15. Yea, for Tara and PiBoIdMo!

  16. This is an awesome post, Tammi, thank you! I feel motivated and inspired to give it a go— and terrific to give Tara the thanks she deserves!

  17. Love Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo!

  18. Awesome! I love participating in Piboidmo, too.

  19. Love this post! I’ve only done PiBoIdMo once, and I got some ideas I never would have thought of otherwise. You wouldn’t think coming up with ideas would take a concentrated effort like this, but boy, does it work. Thanks, Tara!

  20. Cindy Williams Schrauben

    Love this, Tammi. Thanks for sharing. Go Tara

  21. PiBoIdMo was my very first PB Challenge in 2012 and it ignited a fire! So so many ideas that turned into polished stories! I hope one day I can also say, “This published book was PiBoIdMo idea #___ in the year ___. I love challenges and I really have to give partial credit to Tara for inspiring a deep rooted wild love for challenges…so wild that it caused me to create my own! 🙂

  22. It’s true what they say. PiBoIdMo participants do have more fun! I, too, find Tara inspiring and love the comradery that she creates all month long. Congrats on your success, Tammi!

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