Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 16, 2020

Writing Fiction Inspired by Life by Dr. Mira Reisberg

Writing Fiction Inspired by Life

Sometimes you’re itching to write, but you’re stuck for ideas to write about. Why not be inspired by your own life? This could be anything that gets your creative juices flowing–maybe it’s a favorite setting or location, a troublesome best friend, a distant incarcerated relative, a perpetual personal conflict, an embarrassing family event.

Think about something from your own life. Is there something that you really, really, wanted to do or have or wanted to change or do differently as a child? How did you do it, get it or change it? How do you learn to do something you thought would be impossible for you?

Perhaps in your family background, there’s a story about a really eccentric relative. Like the one that Erin LeClerc wrote about as the basis for I’ve got a Cow called Maureen? Maybe, you, too, have an interesting relative or a proverbial ancestral black sheep you don’t know about. Maybe do some family sleuthing and trace your family tree, or get your DNA tested–you may find some unexpected results.

Maybe ask relatives how your family came to be in America? Or ask your grandparents how they met? Maybe your family has its own very own Romeo & Juliet narrative in the near or distant past? Do we have any criminals in the family? Did anyone do anything amazing or semi-famous in your family? Were there any eccentrics or weirdos in your family? How does your family connect with American or other history? Did anyone discover or invent anything? This is a fun creative research project, even if you never end up writing about it.

We’ve got a bevy of examples of former students who have successfully gone the route of turning life into fiction and publishing them. And we are so excited that six of them will be sharing their secrets to success giving you even more food for creative thought about your own picture book writing in the Picture Book Palooza on Saturday December 5th along with other exciting panels, participants, and events through the 7th.

Melissa Stoller is the author of many now published books. A former practicing attorney and legal research and writing instructor, Melissa lives in Manhattan with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing, she can be found observing the stars, swimming in the sea, and searching for treasure.

Melissa will be talking about Writing Fiction from Family Traditions. She used her family’s history to write Sadie Shabbat Stories, in which Sadie loves listening to her Nana’s tales about their ancestors, especially her stories about the traveling candlesticks, Kiddush cup, and challah cover they use every Friday night for Shabbat. Sadie wonders if she will ever find her own voice, and tell special stories, just like Nana.

Melissa also drew from her lived experiences in earlier books like Ready, Set GoRilla! and Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and will be giving tips on how to harvest stories from your own life.

Claire Annette Noland is the author of easy readers, board books, and picture books for young children. She knows that everyone who reads is a winner, and, as a children’s librarian, reading specialist, and author, her life’s goal is to excite kids about books and reading. Claire will be sharing about Turning Childhood Disappointments into Picture Book Magic in the Picture Book Palooza and helping others turn their childhood defeats into kidlit gold. She’ll be focusing on her recent book Evie’s Field Day where she got to recreate a childhood event in a totally different way while sharing other books that turn childhood disappointments into triumphs.

Super-competitive Evie loves to run, jump, hop, and especially win. She even has ribbons and trophies to prove it. So, when the school’s field day comes around, she is sure she will add to her winning collection. When Evie finds herself ahead of the pack, she is faced with an important decision. Does she choose the chance at a trophy or the chance to be a good friend? This heartwarming story follows Evie as she navigates the playground and learns about sportsmanship and the challenge of losing.

Next up on in the Palooza Bryan Patrick Avery will be showing how all lives intersect with history. Bryan discovered a love of magic and mystery at the age of four, after receiving a magic set and his first Bobbsey Twins Mystery book. Today, he is an award-winning poet and author, and a member of both SCBWI and the Mystery Writers of America. Bryan’s greatest joy is making stories appear out of thin air!

In the Freeman Field Photograph, Sidney fears she may never see her Daddy again. Her father, a Tuskegee Airman, has been arrested for protesting segregation at Freeman Army Airfield. Proud but sad Sidney seeks one last photograph of her father, setting off to find the one man she believes can help. Set during the 1945 Freeman Field incident, this story encourages readers to stand up for themselves and for what they believe and shows how something small (like a photograph) can make a big difference. It’s a story based on Bryan’s grandfather’s experiences as a Tuskegee airman photographer and is a fascinating example of how to take a family history event and turn it into a kid’s book with larger social meaning.

As far as stories go, Sandra Sutter’s became a writer “for real” after attending her first SCBWI conference in the winter of 2017 and then joining the Children’s Book Academy. After that, she was hooked and off on a new adventure. Sandra works on multiple projects at any given time including picture books, concept book, narrative nonfiction, historical fiction, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult novel. Originally from Northern Colorado, her love of the West tends to get sprinkled throughout her stories, including her debut picture book, The Real Farmer in the Dell. Sandra lives in the beautiful town of Saratoga Springs, New York with her husband, Wes, and two spunky, adorably sweet kids.

Everyone knows the song, The Farmer in the Dell. But no one knows the REAL story. Find out the truth from a little mouse who was actually there. Prepare for a modern twist that turns the original stereotypes upside down and empowers girls and boys to imagine new possibilities. Filled with humor and fun retro-rodeo illustrations, this book is sure to delight and surprise you to the very end.

In Stan’s Frightful Halloween, Stan is a clumsy young werewolf who injures himself the night before his favorite day of the year – Halloween! When clumsy werewolf Stan breaks his leg on the eve of Halloween, he is heartbroken when his friends leave without him for what’s sure to be a scary good time. But Stan isn’t one to stay at home as he sets off with his heart full of determination on this frightful Halloween adventure to see if his clumsy mishaps might lead to a surprisingly scary and satisfying end.
Sandra will be inspiring you with her Making Magic from Memories presentation.

In addition to the panelists, Moni Richie Hadley, author of the forthcoming The Star Festival will be presenting on Creating Kid’s Books from Cultural Traditions and moderating the panel, while Masha Sapron, author of the forthcoming YogaGirl will be hosting the Writing Fiction from Life breakout room/party where she will be sharing about Harvesting Your Loves and Hates for Drama and responding to your own fiction from life story ideas. (Attendees will receive worksheets to help them generate ideas)

Moni Ritchie Hadley grew up in a military family and bounced back and forth from the USA to Japan. Daydreaming was a favorite pastime. She received a BA in Psychology at UCLA and later became a home/hospital teacher for the LAUSD, where she taught students with medical needs. Today she lives in Los Angeles, where she turns her sky-gazing daydreams into stories for children.

Masha emigrated from Russia in the 1980’s when Russia was considered the evil empire and changed her name to Marsha to mask her soviet inception. Used to living under cover, she was an actress in New York while working on Madison Avenue in advertising and worked for a restaurant guide while living in Paris. Masha became a yoga teacher to keep her sanity. She became a mom only to lose it. She became a writer to document it. She is the creator of where she’s made more than 12 million of her mom friends laugh. Masha writes about yoga, motherhood and writing at Her debut picture book, (Super?)YogaGirl will be out in 2021.

This panel is one of eight that will be happening December 5-7th to inspire, educate, empower and delight attendees. You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity to learn oodles at the Picture Book Palooza. And every penny of the incredibly low cost of $20 cost goes to our scholarship fund! We hope to see there (virtually)! Please share with your kidlit friends.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This sounds great!


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