Happy February!
     My thoughts are turning toward my next book.  It's going to be a story about the Gingerbread Baby who you may know as a character from the picture book I retold and illustrated five years ago.  At the end of the book, the naughty but nice Gingerbread Baby is not eaten, but lives in his own gingerbread house in Mattie's room.
     I often wondered if the Gingerbread Baby ever got bored in his beautiful house.  He certainly couldn't roam the village as he is tantalizingly delicious looking.  Why, a passing dog or even a person could eat him up without even knowing he wasn't the usual kind of gingerbread cookie.  After all, he walks, talks and knows how to make mischief.
     Children often ask me, "How do I get ideas?"   Well in this instance, I retold an old folk tale.  Here's the basic story:  A baker opens the door of his oven too soon and the gingerbread man pops out.   The usual end is that the gingerbread man is eaten.  My twist on the tale was having a little boy catch the Gingerbread Baby by making a gingerbread house that would bring him home.
     When I work on the story for the sequel I will think about ideas that would be fun to draw and that interest me.  My first idea is of a peppermint pony.  When I was little I was sure happiness was having my own horse, and who doesn't like drawing red and white stripes!  I love to bake and often make my own bread.  When I visit a bakery, I love to see the beautiful creations.  The cakes are like works of art.  I bought a book on how to make all the beautiful roses, swirls, and designs on cakes.  In the olden days cookies were often put into beautiful molds to create shapes of animals and designs.  I bet the Gingerbread Baby would love to get inside a bakery and cook up something of his own, then I could draw those beautiful confections.
     I'm hoping that as you're reading this, your mind is thinking up a story of your own.  One of the good ways to get a story started is to think of a problem to be solved.  For me, it would be the Gingerbread Baby is lonely and bored.  It's also good to think of a turning point, or how the problem can be solved.  This might be that the Gingerbread Boy makes a friend.  I mean really makes a friend!  Like with a cookie cutter!
     Whatever your subject is, or where ever you decide to set your story, use your imagination first.  Listen to that voice that tells you what you wish could happen, then go back and work out the "How it could happen".  I'll be working on my idea when I go running.  I'm going in a big race and I will spend a lot of time outside running pounding the pavement.   I'll also think about my idea just as I fall asleep and hope something will strike me the next day.  That's letting ones subconscious help the story along!  When my story is half-baked, I'll tell it aloud to my husband Joe, a good critic.  If he likes it, I'll sit down and write it down for my editor, Margaret to see.
     Good luck with your story.  Kids always have the most original ideas!

                          Your friend,

                               Jan Brett