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Once Upon a Story: Five Tips For Aspiring Story Writers

How to get a story started...and finished. 

Book Cover A Squiggly Story

Writers' block is not just the bane of literate. In A Squiggly Story, a new picture book written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Mike Lowery, a young boy wants to write stories as avidly as his big sister does, but even though he knows his letters, he can't write many words yet. Can he write a story anyway?

With his sister coaching him, the boy figures out how to make it work. And what he learns and the advice he gets turns out to be applicable to writers of any age. 

Here, Andrew Larsen shares with us five tips to get a story started...and finished. 


1) Don’t be afraid to begin. Every story starts with a single word and every word starts with a single letter.

Illustration A Squiggly Story Larsen Lowery


2) Write what you know. Ideas for stories are everywhere. They’re in your imagination. They’re in your memory. They’re in your family. Sometimes they’re tickling your funny bone.

Illustration A Squiggly Story Larsen Lowery


3) Remember that you are the boss of your story. It’s your story.


4) And if you get stuck you can ask yourself, And then what happened?

Illustration A Squiggly Story Larsen Lowery


5) Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The End.

Illustration A Squiggly Story


About A Squiggly Story

A young boy wants to write a story, just like his big sister. But there's a problem, he tells her. Though he knows his letters, he doesn't know many words. “Every story starts with a single word and every word starts with a single letter,” his sister explains patiently. “Why don't you start there, with a letter?” So the boy tries. He writes a letter. An easy letter. The letter I. And from that one skinny letter, the story grows, and the little boy discovers that all of us, including him, have what we need to write our own perfect story. 

This picture book from award-winning author Andrew Larsen playfully and imaginatively explores a young child's process of learning to express himself. It promotes the idea that stories are available for everyone to tell, whatever way we can, and will inspire pre-readers to try writing stories of their own. The lively, fun illustrations by Mike Lowery incorporate story panels with dialogue bubbles, adding visual texture. Also helpful, the boy's story is shown both as he actually writes it—with just a few letters, some punctuation marks and typographical symbols—and as he imagines it. Celebrating self-expression, self-discovery and imagination, this book would enhance an early language arts lesson on writing, particularly on the parts of a story. It beautifully highlights the exciting worlds that are opened up when children begin to read and write. In a sweet touch, the boy and his sister model a close and supportive sibling relationship.

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