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12 X 12 January Featured Author Ame Dyckman

12 x 12 January Featured Author Ame Dyckman

12 x 12 Featured Author Ame DyckmanI told our FIRST 12 x 12 featured author of 2016, Ame Dyckman, that I wish I had even 1/8 of her energy and humor. You’ll see what I mean after you read this EPIC post! It makes me so happy, I want to read it every day for the rest of my life. What a great way to kick off our 5-year anniversary! 

That’s right! the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge is now in its fifth year. We’ll be doing lots of celebrating soon. If you’re not already a member, you can join us beginning on January 12th. Information about membership is here, and you can sign up here to make sure you get an email reminder when general registration opens.

In the meantime, please get out your pom poms and welcome Ame!



Oops. Shoulda put the spaghetti away first.

Ignore that meatball on my head, guys, ’cause I have sumthin’ SERIOUS to share:

​One of my No-Fail Writing Tips For Kicking Off An AWESOME Twelve Months of Picture Book Writing!

​Ready to read it? Buckle up and goggles down, here we go! My Gearing-Up Picture Book Writing Tip is…

Get YOU…

​To a ZOO!


​(Author-eating hippo head optional.)

​That’s right, as soon as possibly possible, pop into a zoo!

​I’m not saying you hafta write a zoo book. Or even an animal book. But spending time in a zoo will help you write ALL KINDS of picture books!

​Why? What makes observing animals spark and shape your picture book writing?

​’Specially considering they don’t have shirts, animals REALLY wear their hearts on their sleeve. They’re not afraid to show whatever emotion they’re feeling, whether it’s:





​            #4 LION SNARLING

Even a Had Enough! moment.

Just like the kiddos we’re writing for, animals LET IT ALL OUT.

But nobody makes the animals stop. Or BEHAVE. And this super-genuineness is important to see when envisioning characters—ALL characters—that are super-genuine, too.

​Watch animals through the morning, and you’ll start HEARING possible dialogue:




“Don’t WANNA eat my veggies!”

​         #7 PUMAS FEUDING

“No, YOU apologize!”

​         #8 CAIMAN STARING


And one that’s happened to ME, too:

​       #9 TREE FROG

“Shouldn’t have played with the Superglue.”

Stay through lunch, and you start imagining whole SCENES:


“Mean ol’ walruses! Who needs ’em? Not ME! Takin’ my ball and goin’ home!”

And… KAPOW! That’s when your Creative Switch flips on, and you GOTTAGOTTARIGHTNOW plunk down on the nearest available bench, shoo away nosy peacocks:


“Hey! Whatcha writin’? Is it about ME?!”

​and scribble down all those picture book characters and ideas that are suddenly EXPLODING outta your creative little mind like… like…


Like this dude’s ’do!

While an all-seven-continents-represented zoo is best (and an eight-continents zoo’s better—harder to come by, though), a small zoo’ll work if that’s all you got.

No zoo like today’s fabulous Philly Zoo near you? Even a visit to your local animal shelter, pet store, or Crazy Cat Lady in your building will suffice in a pinch. (Apologies if you ARE the Crazy Cat Lady in your building! Nice robe!)

Point is, unless you have the aforementioned menagerie-at-home you can study at leisure, get thyself out and about and around animals pronto!

Your writing’ll love ya for it.

Now, who wants spaghetti? Get it off the ceiling and it’s yours!

(Bonus Tip: cleaning up the kitchen can ALWAYS wait ’til the writing brainstorm passes! Get those ideas down in the KAPOW! moment!)

2016, GUYS! Let’s learn from the animals! Let’s make it FUN! And LET’S MAKE BOOKS!

Ame Dyckman is the bestselling, award-winning, multi-zoo-membership-owning, mischief-making, funky hair-wearing, messy-cooking, short-and-loud little author of:

​and more picture books in the works, including:

HORRIBLE BEAR by Ame Dyckman

HORRIBLE BEAR! (also illustrated by the amazing Zachariah OHora), pubbing April 5, 2016! (And YES, Ame studied LOTS of zoo and park bears—and tantrums!—during the making of this book!)

Follow Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman), where she Tweets picture book reviews and pretty much everything that pops into her head.

PRIZES! Ame is offering one 12x12er a signed copy of her WOLFIE THE BUNNY, a picture book manuscript critique, and lunch (NOT ceiling spaghetti!) and/or a zoo outing with Ame and writing partner Adam Lehrhaupt if you’re local to central New Jersey. Get that first draft written today!


This Post Has 432 Comments
  1. I live on an island without a zoo, but perhaps I could go scuba diving and visit with the ocean animals! 😉 This is such a stellar idea – just called our local animal shelter to volunteer. How serendipitous. You inspire me, Ame!

  2. Thanks for sharing your great source of inspiration! Love all your books – can’t wait for Horrible Bear to be released!!

  3. Perfect way to kick off 2016! Thanks for the great post Ame! Your posts are always so original and inspiring. Love your books! Thanks for offering such great prizes for one lucky 12X12er!

  4. I’m one of those adults who has always loved a trip to the zoo more than some kids do. Now, you’ve given me a new reason to watch the animals. Thanks, Ame.

  5. Ame, you started my day with several chuckles-thank you ever so much 🙂 Your tips about visiting the zoo for inspiration have been added to my list of resources. I’m looking forward to your new book releases!

  6. Thank you Ame! I will get my butt to the zoo pronto!!! And then the pet store and then I’m definitely going to talk to the crazy cat lady! And then maybe dishes…

    1. Have you read My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell? He is fabulous at descriptions that anthropomorphise animals. All his books have funny and very revealing characterisations of animals. He and his wife started a zoo on Jersey island whose purpose is to rehabilitate endangered species and release them into their natural habitat.

  7. I’ve got my own zoo at home and each creature sure provides plenty of ideas! Ame, I love reading Wolfie aloud, especially the indulgent parents’ dialogue. Genuine for sure! Thanks for a fantastic and fun read.

  8. LOL, I had to laugh when I saw this post… because I AM the CRAZY CAT LADY!! And until last year I lived on a back dirt road in Vermont with 2 beaver ponds at the bottom of my hill… I had deer, turkeys, ducks, geese, blue herons, owls, hawks, coyotes, and fox traipsing by the place all hours of the day and night… not to mention a house full of cats… 10 of them to be exact! . To date I have had a total of 99 cats share my life…the most at one time was 26… the oldest was Snaps, who was 24 when he died. So you can see I lived with a zoo, not counting my 2 kids and husband! 🙂

  9. Thanks for the fun post and fabulous idea! I’ll be looking at the animals in a whole new way during my next trip to the zoo.

  10. We are five minutes from our local zoo and I go there with the kids all the time. Now it makes sense why most of my picture book characters are animals. I will look at them more closely in the future now though!

  11. Your post reads like a picture book. I’d fly to New Jersey to “zoo” with you and Adam! I’d meet some nice birds on the way, but boy would my arms would be tired 🙂

  12. Love love love all of your photos, Ame…thank you for sharing a stellar way for us to get inspired!
    Congratulations on your wonderful books and great success…they are an inspiration also. 😉

  13. Ame, I love WOLFIE and trips to our Zoo. Seattle has a great zoo for animal and kid/animal watching. Once the rain lets up a bit, I will head there immediately. Thanks for the marching orders! 🙂

  14. The ZOO!! YIPPEE!! I’m going to the zoo-o-o-o-o! Thanks for the inspiration, Ame 🙂 Oh, and I think you have some Parmesan cheese stuck on your nose…

  15. Wow, what a fabulous and hilarious post. I love your zoo posts, especially the nosy peacock that wants to know if you’re writing about him, hahaha! Thanks for the inspiration. We don’t have a huge zoo where I live, but it has been a long time since I visited so this should be fun!

  16. Fabulous post Ame! I love, love to go to the zoo. I’m lucky to be near the Bronx Zoo where I’m always amazed by animal antics. Thanks for the reminder.
    Congrats on WOLFIE!! We love it!!

  17. Sounds like a fun day wandering the zoo with Ame. I liked her captions for each animal photo. What a fun post. Thanks Ame.

  18. Wow great post Ame and where I live I get the added bonus of hanging out with Australian Animals yay!! I will get myself to the Zoo… I might have to take the children with me though :-).

  19. I love this post, Ame and you really captured some great moments from the animals at the Philly Zoo! We really enjoy your books at our house and I just gave Wolfie the Bunny to my niece who will soon be having her own wolfie around!

  20. Thanks for this great idea and post, Ame! It was so great to meet you in Princeton two years ago! I loved your workshop about the wordcount smackdown and use your tips whenever I write / edit / revise! You have amazing energy and great ideas! Thanks again for everything! Love all of your books, too! Will be sharing them with my little guy as he gets bigger!

  21. From a fellow Ame AND a zoo visit lover, thanks for the inspiration! Before kids I was able to sit and watch the animals for long periods of time, I think it’s time to leave them home and go by myself again! 🙂

  22. Love this post, Ame! My family and I just visited the Central Park Zoo in NYC last week, and I definitely found it to be inspiring. WOLFIE THE BUNNY is a favorite of my two children, and Mr. Schu read it aloud to one of my fourth grade classes during Picture Book month. Can’t wait until HORRIBLE BEAR! comes out!

  23. Sometimes I think I live in a zoo…does that count? 😉 Seriously, great ideas and inspiration. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

  24. I love the advice. I’m not near a zoo but I do live in the country and get to observe all kinds of wacky wildlife and pet behavior. Now I need to start taking notes and making sketches. Thanks!

  25. One of the reasons I have ten cats in the house is their unending source of chicanery and inspiration. Does that make them a business expense?

  26. Great post, Ame. I’m afraid I may be getting a “crazy squirrel lady” reputation. lol Lots of wildlife in my yard to observe, and of course, I’m always writing dialogue for them. Eager to read HORRIBLE BEAR! It’s on my “Get These PBs” list. Happy zooing and happy 2016.

  27. Great post thanks. For us illustrators there is nothing like the zoo for “life drawing” too! But I love the idea that my author self could be looking beyond the visual opportunities to the instinct-driven animal/kid behaviours!

  28. There’s no zoo near me, but I’m wondering if there are some online “live camera” zoos that can be “visited” instead. Thanks, Ame, for the inspiration! Here’s to an awesome and inspiring 2016!

  29. Such awesome advice!!! Love it … I’ve got characters pouring outta the trees I see from my kitchen window;) Gonna get ’em on paper fast! KAPOW!!! Thank you!!

  30. Thank you Ame for the great tips and entertaining post! I agree animals can give us so much insight and inspiration! Since I am not near a zoo anymore I am always happy to step outside and see the deer and many birds (and hopefully not a black bear or cougar).

  31. What a fun post. My hubby and I try to figure out what our cats and dog are thinking. Sometimes we really don’t want to know.

  32. I haven’t gone to our local zoo since my cherubs morphed into teenagers. I’ve missed it. This post has motivated me to go!

  33. Ame, what a way to start 2016. Get thee to a zoo! The animals don’t care how much money you have, what kind of car you drive or whether you are dressed in the latest fashion, just like most of the children we write for. They need to be heard and represented. Great post! Thanks so much!

  34. I love the zoo. The last trip was in Denver and my nephews and niece and I wrote a book together. They each picked a character and we ran out of time so I wrote it as a 2014 draft and made clay animal napkin holders for their birthdays….then I surprised them with the reading of the story. I would love to come east and go to the zoo with you!

  35. Thank you so much for your lovely insight. It’s true, I took my nephew when he was visiting me to the zoo last month and I started thinking of idea’s for stories. Great pictures too.

  36. Coincidentally, our local zoo was on my list of inspirational places to visit this week. Thanks for your sharing your take on the zoo – I’ll go with fresh eyes for observation and a light heart. Wonderful advice.

  37. So much fun seeing the animal pics and what you imagined them thinking. I love to do that with animals. Thanks for an inspiring post.

  38. What a brilliant idea! A zoo! I can hardly wait to start researching. (This has got to be the best job in the whole wide world.)

  39. Thank you, Ame! Great fun and great advice. Too cold for a zoo visit now, but I went to the aquarium recently and I can imagine the potential. Looking forward to Horrible Bear.

  40. I am so relieved that now I can spend endless hours watching my cats and justify that as writing research. (Okay, I am a Crazy Cat Lady in training. Or a witch in a past life. Or a witch in training. I can’t decide.) Seriously, since my kids have gotten older and are so busy doing other things on their own, like college, I haven’t given myself the luxury of visiting a zoo just because I want to. So, thanks for the suggestion. And Philly is definitely in my comfortable driving zone, yay!

  41. Oh we love the ZOO! We go rain or shine, snow or sun when we are in a city with one. How about watching kids interact with the animals? Pretty sure I won’t be able to get to a zoo with out a couple of tagalongs for several years yet…They just wouldn’t alow it.

  42. WOW, Ame! Great advice, and thank you for sharing your perky personality and your fabulous books, with all of us! Get Thee to the Zoo, 2016!

  43. Ame, you make me feel better about all the conversations I imagine the squirrels are having with my dog. By the way, I think modern cat ladies wear sweats. Can’t wait for your bear story. 🙂

  44. I have a VERY ROUGH draft of zoo book! Perhaps I need to finish up that draft an see where it leads…
    Thanks for sharing!

  45. I love this post so much, because I was at the zoo when my first idea for a picture book came to me. It was years ago when my kids were still very little, and we were in the children’s zoo playing with puppets, and the story just sort of presented itself. I wrote the story and tucked it away, but I’m going to pull it out this year for 12 x 12, after reading this post. By the way, if you are ever in St. Louis, our zoo is outstanding!

  46. thanks for the inspiration. I think that going to “kid places” can definitely generate ideas.

    And I LOVE animals so I enjoyed your photos and the funny captions

  47. This post was laugh-out-loud fabulous. Wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Ame! Thank you for the laughs and the great inspiration 😀 !!!

  48. I’m so going to quote you on the “cleaning up the kitchen can wait” line! In fact, I’ll print it out big & bold and tape it over the kitchen sink for all to see, LOL!

  49. Fun. I get lots of inspiration from my critters and those in the neighborhood. A trip to the zoo (or aquarium) for more inspiration would be a great way to spend the day.

  50. Haven’t been to a zoo in awhile…I’m scheduling a visit ASAP!
    Thanks for waking me up to the possibilities of animal watching!

  51. Ame, while I’ve watched the antics of my own dog and cat (such joy!) a zoo visit is such a great idea! It would be a day trip for for me, to Cincinnati or Columbus, but that adds to the fun. Thanks for sharing!

  52. Ame, thank you for this inspiring post.
    I love visiting the zoo at least once a year if I can and was there last summer with one of my daughters – the one who lives with four beautiful cats in her house. 🙂 That zoo visit inspired a story to develop into a draft for 12×12. It’s easy for me to also visit the animal shelter/hospital/veterinarian once a month because I take my little dog there for grooming. Cats are kept there waiting for adoption (another daughter adopted one from there), so I expect there are stories also waiting to be found.

  53. What a great idea to visit a zoo, Ame. It’s so simple and yet brilliant. today it is snowing her in Salt Lake City and that is a special kind of day to visit a zoo.

  54. This was so much fun to read! I have some crazy dogs so some days I feel like I live in a zoo. No wonder my stories are all about animals. Thank you for great ideas!

  55. Yes, just came back from the Phoenix Zoo. My two year old grandson leaped out of his stroller for the first time. That was too exciting, and gave me lots of writing ideas.

  56. This blog was a hoot! Had me laughing and thinking of my wacky visit to the farm. Farm animals, like zoo animals, have distinct personalities. The trip was a great basis for one of my manuscripts in revision.
    Love your energy!

  57. I love the animal photos. They do look like ready to talk but it’s the result of Ame’s funny captions. I ‘m going to do more bird watching now in parks and everywhere.

  58. Thanks for the Zoo info Ame. No Zoo here but plenty of wildlife around in their natural environment in Tasmania. Animals are great subjects. cheers, Mike

  59. Wow! Boy + Bot is one of our all time favorites! And you’re the author! #superduperexciting

    So the zoo for inspiration… Did you mean with kids? Cause I’ve been there loads of times (we have a early membership to the amazing Singapore Zoo); surprisingly I spend 97%of my time NOT looking at the animals. Would it be wrong to hire a babysitter to look after the kids while mommy spends her day at the zoo? HA! (that’s good stuff for a picture book right there!)

  60. Recently read about Horrible Bear in PW and am very much looking forward to reading it when it comes out in April!

  61. I love your humor, Ame! I can’t wait to read your books now! Zoos are scarce here in the boonies, but the wild critters are plentiful and right in my backyard. Not to mention my two “krazy keets” at home. Thanks for the inspiration!

  62. I loved your post. My first MS has a wren as the main character. Great idea to spend a day at the zoo. I also plan to spend more time observing children at the park. It will probably be similar to the zoo. 🙂


  63. I can see why you are a fabulous writer, those ideas and pictures made me laugh out loud and I totally could see the captions working. Plus, the idea of getting to the zoo really is fabulous.

  64. Visited the Zoo this month and had a great monkey encounter! Hmmm….
    Thanks for the great post!
    – Amanda Sincavage

  65. Loved this post!
    I am going to have to check out some of your books as I am sure the hilarity continues!

  66. I’m a member of the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, so we are there as much as we can. Can’t wait until the baby giraffe arrives in April. We are also getting a brand new restaurant, which the zoo really needed. It’s the best zoo in NJ! Thanks for giving your time to do this!

  67. Ame, I’d love to visit the zoo with you and Adam. Pick me, pick me! Animals are always inspiring story ideas! Thank you for the beautiful picture full post!

  68. I once had a photography class where we went to the zoo to learn how to take better images. It was surprising how much personality the animals had. I live in Orlando, and we have Sea World, Disney Animal Kingdom and Gatorland…I will definitely take your advice and spend some time there. Thanks for the inspiration!

  69. Your energy and humor shine in this! Best piece of advice though is write it when it hits you. Those little gens aren’t usually formed enough to stay in the memory otherwise. Good luck with the bascetti!

  70. For one who is not a natural animal lover, this was a great post! Appreciate how you made each animal a personality, which again lead me to look at each animal with different eyes. Alas I have no zoo nearby, but the local park has a designated dog field where the dogs can run wild and free (all other areas they have to be on a leash). Looking forward to go there and study the dogs from a new perspective – now that I can consider it writing research! (Perhaps I will become a dog lover in the process – who knows 🙂

  71. Awesome post. And spot on. The zoo is one of my favorite places to be inspired! Not only the animals but the kids – so many characters. Thanks for a hilarious post and a good reminder.

  72. Thank you for sharing, Ame! Gotta love a post that starts with “*BANGS POTS AND PANS*” and ends with an offer to share ceiling spaghetti. Great idea of looking to animals for inspiration (they really are so genuine and expressive). Love your books!

  73. Your creativity is inspirational. Wolfie is the book I am planning on giving my grand-nephew when a sibling arrives.-

  74. Oooohh! What great inspiration! I think I will start with my husband’s rhino collection…250 and counting! Congratulations on your books! I didn’t realize that Boy + Bot was yours! Can’t wait to see Wolfie.

  75. I no longer live near a zoo, but have plenty of animals outside my door. What a great idea for sparking stories. Love your books!

  76. I think 2016 is going to be all about seeing the world with new eyes. I don’t think I realized the humor potential in a trip to the zoo! (Although the time we went to the local wildlife ranch — where you drive through and the animals can come up to your car — including several zebras sticking their entire heads in the window, mouth wide open, was pretty giggle-inducing. Turns out zebras are NOT shy when it comes to alfalfa pellets!).

    Thank you for the inspiring post, Ame!

  77. Inspiration, Inspiration… it is everywhere! Eat is up! Literally or figuratively, depending on what is falling from your ceiling- right Ame? ha Thank you for your humor and great ideas. I am inspired already! 🙂

  78. I love this post. Animals are so fun to watch. So are the people who come to the zoo. I love listening in on the excited comments of children.

  79. Love this Ame! I was inspired last fall by a trip to my local zoo, AND the story that came from it is one of the manuscripts I worked on this month for 12×12! Thanks for the reminder of what the zoo can do!

  80. The librarian at my school was showing me some of Ame’s books recently. I smiled and she asked if I knew her. I said, “No, but I know her writing.” And now I am planning a trip to the zoo!

  81. Go to a zoo for inspiration? What a great idea! Love it. I haven’t gotten to the Jacksonville Zoo yet but now it is my mission. And p.s. I love your wit, Ame!

  82. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ame, for the inspiration and the laughs. I will get myself to a zoo as soon as humanly possible!

  83. Great idea, great post! Did anyone hear about the sea lion who walked into a shop in La Jolla last week? There has to be a story there!!! Thanks again!

  84. Great ideas! The world is full of all kinds of characters: furry and feathery, four-legged and two-legged, finned or not!

  85. Thanks for the fun post! Observing animals is inspiring as a writer, illustrator, fellow inhabitant of Earth…

  86. I love the zoo but just don’t go nearly enough. So now I have a great new resolution for 2016. Plan to go to the zoo in every city I visit this year–and to become a member. Thank you, Ame.

  87. I grew up going to the Philly Zoo, but it probably looks a bit different now. Fun post that gets the creative juices flowing!

  88. I’m a member of the Cleveland Zoo. I love seeing the animals, birds, and visitors. I always take m y camera and now I’ll take my idea book. Thanks for the great post. Wolfie’s already a favorite at this house.

  89. Ame, I LOVE this idea to get the juices going. In fact, I tried it last week and found it very inspiring. My favorite local was our Sciquariim, where I watched a pondering fishing cat, and a not so social otopus. This is a better than a walk in the woods which is what I normally would do. Thanks for the tips!

  90. What a treasure trove of ideas for inspiration! Thanks, Ame, for suggesting a fabulous way to get ideas. What if animals wrote about humans? Where would THEY go for insight?

  91. I LOVE these ideas! Animals are the best… they do exactly what they want, how they want, and when they want! You are super inspirational! Keep up the good work! :O)

  92. What struck me was the colours in this blog from showing so many pictures. You also look like a colourful person who loves quirky situations.
    What a delight to discover and see.
    Thanks to you from little old me.

  93. Recently, my husband and I travelled overseas, and we did what we often do in the states when we are in a city new to us- we headed for a wildlife park. This was a bird sanctuary, and it was fascinating. It’s kind of amazing when you start watching animals how personifying seems to come naturally- I like to imagine what the animal is thinking! Great source of inspiration!

  94. I always feel like I need a REASON to hang out at the zoo – like out of town company or grandchildren or something. But now I have an even better reason – RESEARCH and INSPIRATION! I’m going nest week! Thank you Ame!

  95. Sounds like great and fun advice! I’d just been thinking about visiting the Detroit Zoo to see their new Penguin exhibit – !! Thanks for the inspiration Ame.

  96. I’m not the crazy cat lady, but at one point we had two guinea pigs, three rats, a green-cheeked conure, and three dogs. That has to count! 😀

    Thanks for the fun post!


  97. Ame….

    1. I love the spelling of your first and last names!
    2. I love your blue hair and orange bow! One of my daughters is a hair stylist. I had a purple streak put in
    my locks back in 2015 for awhile. I think now I will try your ocean blue color!
    3 . I like the photo from the zoo with the alligator/crocodile. I am writing a draft with such a character.
    4. Is Wolfie a girl or a boy?

  98. I love this advice! I’ve always been an animal watcher, and most of my protagonists are animals. They do indeed wear their hearts on their sleeves. Thanks for taking the time to inspire us!

  99. Ooooooo, I’m-a hop, skip and a jumpity-jump from the phabulous Philly zoo! If I could grow the wings of an eagle and fly over that parking lot known as the Schulykill Expressway, I’d be as happy as a clam. Clams! Maybe I’ll head to the shore to visit my water-logged friends, too!

    As if our animal friends don’t provide enough joy – they can be writing partners, too! I’ll keep a keen eye or two on ’em and let my imagination run WILD!

    Thank you for sharing your tips and going the extra mile to add a menagerie of pictures.

  100. Love the zoo-visiting idea. We have 3 year old twins in our house and they already love “Wolfie.”
    Since we just moved to Nashville, TN, I have boxes and boxes of research on creatures just waiting to be opened and thought about.
    That’s my own brand of zoo.

  101. Ha, how did I miss this post!!! Your sense of humour is uplifiting Ame!
    The Zoo is on my to-do list! My lazy cat and fish just don’t quite do if for full-blown inspiration!

  102. Ame, I love your humor and your enthusiasm! I love animals too and find when I walk my own dogs I’ll see other walkers and imagine dialogue-so much fun. Great blog post-hoorah!?

  103. Thanks for bringing the fun in this year’s opening Featured Author post! Looking forward to taking a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo this spring. After reading your post, I have no doubt I’ll find inspiration for at least one story there. 🙂

  104. You made me want to actually go out to a zoo, with out my kids, as my duty as a Mom! 🙂 What an interesting perspective. Thanks!

  105. Ame,
    Thanks for your fun post. It was easy to read and it really showcased your fun sense of humor!

    Hmm. Maybe I have a new story coming to fruition starring a punk-rock peacock based off of the photo you posted in your blog.

    Thanks for being you!
    Kristen Olsen

  106. The zoo is one of my favorite spots for inspiration. Loved all the great pictures and your encouraging words, Ame!

  107. Thanks! This is a great idea–although the zoo in Chicago in winter is less than appealing! This fall I was traveling in Central America and saw lots of interesting bugs that were also inspiring:)

  108. Ame,
    Your post made me really happy as you used photos of animals to help tell your blog. I absolutely love animals so you really resonated with me. Since I was a little kid I made up dialogue for our dogs and the animals outside.
    Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

  109. When I was in art school, my plant and animal illustration teacher, Olivia Petrides, had us meet at the zoo every week! It was so fun to draw and paint right there for several hours every week. It is a fun idea to pick it up again.

  110. What a fun post, Ame! I’ve been talking about heading down to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park for years, but now you just gave me an even better reason to go (although getting the opportunity to feed a teeny tiny lorikeet by hand has always been a compelling reason for me)! Thanks for the inspiration!

  111. Great post and advice. We’re members at the Detroit Zoo, and my wife and I find that we are more interested in the zoo than our kids.

  112. I’m with you; I LOVE watching animals & birds for inspiration! Oh how I’d love a 12X12 field trip to the zoo! 😉

  113. My draft idea for February features a dog I know. Your great advice has now given me a tool for really developing his character. I can already see his annoyance at my constant staring the next time I see him. Thanks!

  114. Love animals & love zoos. The Orange Pup staring me down from her perch atop the fur-covered sofa not so much. “How dare thee contemplate inspiration other than from me,” she whines, before, head down, she tucks into her next nap. Thanks for sharing your tips & dinner, Ame!

  115. Ame! <3

    I think my family bear a pretty, preeeetty close resemblance to zoo animals BUT this is a really good excuse to finally, actually go to THEE ZOO since I promise myself I'll go nearly EVERY DAY. Hey, no chance you could take a detour down under and see the wildlife of Oz? I'm sure it will hardly make a dent on your schedule … 😀

  116. Thanks for all those terrific photos and their comments. Great inspiration and advice about visiting a zoo. And I get to tell you how much I love the ending of WOLFIE THE BUNNY! Just brilliant and very true to life. Bravo!

  117. We bought a little place in the hill country for an escape from city life. It’s a three hour drive for us but we have deer that eat out of your hand, birds of all kinds, and oh the squirrels. We bought a little piece of nature when we got that place. I love watching all the animals. I can sit and do it for hours. You are sooooo right!

  118. I spent this morning watching ducks in Boston Harbor and the harbor seals at the aquarium with my 7 year old (the people watching was pretty good too!)

  119. Great advice! We don’t have a zoo that is close, but we do have a huge aquarium. I will be taking my kids there soon to get some ideas. I love the captions you wrote for the photos!

  120. We’re in the CA desert and more than an hour’s drive to a zoo. But we have a dog and are always watching her and oogling over her antics. Our back yard is a haven for birds. And in Nov and Dec -when we are lucky – the bighorn sheep come down onto the golf course and roam around the condos looking for water. At home in MA we have a farm where a local farmer puts his goats and sheep in our fields. We love to watch them. The animals have been a major part of my writing. A zoo visit would broaden my animal perspective. I might look for time to visit a zoo this summer in MA. Thanks for this idea!

  121. We have a wonderful zoo here in North Carolina. Actually an inspiration for a song I wrote for children. Made a picture book from it – title: At The Zoo. You are right on target about a zoo as an inspirational place. Thanks for tips.

  122. I love this idea of being inspired by the characteristics of animals. I already feel inspired at the possibilities. I live near enough to the Pittsburgh zoo…
    Thank you for the insight, Ame!

  123. I am sad there is no zoo with crazy animals, but we do have a children’s petting zoo nearby, with the “running of the goats.” I think it deserves a visit 🙂
    Thank you for the great inspiration, and I love the photos you have included!

  124. Being a former employee at the Milwaukee County Zoo and giving my kindergarten class the theme of the Classroom Zoo, I know all too well all the ideas a zoo can provide. 🙂

  125. Hi Ame… Thanks so much for your great post! We have a wonderful zoo here in Washington, DC, and we love to go there throughout the year. Many of my ideas are based on animals and your use of the zoo for inspiration is a great suggestion!

  126. What a great post filled with information and humor. Watching birds at the various feeders or squirrels playing tag could also provide some inspiration. Feathered and furry friends are everywhere.

  127. We are having a great time reading “Wolfie the Bunny” in our house. I liked the fact that the carrot patch was the name of the grocery store. I didn’t expect it, but I guess no one gets their food the way they used to- not even bunnies.

    I think aquariums are equally inspirational when it comes to picture book idea hang outs! Get thee to an aquarium, Ame! 🙂

  128. Great post, thanks, Ame! I can either visit our zoo, or look out our window for deer, bunnies, coyotes, or my kids!

    Thanks for the tips!

  129. We have a membership to a nearby aquarium and nature center and I usually people watch – not in a creep way – in an author-researcher way 🙂 but animal watching puts a whole new spin! Thanks for the tip! Will be using this. Also plan to ask my 5 and 7yo what they think they animals are thinking/saying 😉

  130. Well, I sort of did this backwards tonight since I am still reeling from tonight’s episode of Downton Abbey, but this is such a great article. My kitty cat Brillo is the inspiration for many of my story ideas. Yes, I am the crazy cat lady ( and thank you so much for the compliment on my robe ?). I love zoos and visit them whenever I can. Now I will have much more to think about next time I visit one. And do you think this holds true for aquariums to Our? I’m in Boston in March and hope to get to the NE Aquarium. I’ll have to see what kind of antis inspire me!

  131. Loved “Wolfie the BunnY” and looking forward to your next book. Also loved your comment about using pet stores for zoo inspiration.

  132. Thank you for the witty post and terrific photos. Funny (and validating) because I’ve been working on a manuscript with a zoo-ish theme! Wolfie and Boy + Bot are a hit at our house, so thanks for those too.

  133. First things first – LOVE your hair! Thanks for your fun insight on how to get our creative juices flowing. Congrats on your success!

  134. A visit to the zoo! A wonderful energizing source of inspiration – just like your post. Thank you for the effort and creativity you put into this with the great photos and amusing captions. It was such fun to read – truly enjoyable.

  135. I couldn’t agree more! A zoo is a great place for inspiration. Even those little ones. Some, like the Caldwell Zoon in Tyler, Texas, are real gems.

  136. Ha! This is fun. We are always acting like animals in my drama class (the teenagers more than the little ones….hmmm) so I really only need to look at my students’ body language for ideas. However in March I am going to Dubbo in NSW Australia where we plan to visit the Western Plains zoo. I will keep my ‘go with the flow creative’ hat on rather than my ‘tourist’ hat and use the visit as an opportunity to go wild and crazy with ideas. As I say to kids all the time…..”why not?”

  137. What a fun idea to imagine what the animals are saying! I may have thought about that before but not using it for picture book ideas. Thanks for the encouragement to be intentional and recording those ideas!

  138. Ame!

    I love your books. They tickle the funny bones and keep us all children at heart. I could have used a sister like Wolfie’s when I was younger. Thank you for your great work.

  139. I have always found it funny the comments people attach to animals. Their pictures and antics are sometimes the jumping on point for a story and often the beginning of group discussions. We can really set human attributes to animals and their actions that reflect our own thoughts. Still I enjoy animals for just being theirselves without anything attached to them.

  140. What a great idea! I’ve lived in Philly for three years, and I’ve yet to visit the zoo…I think I’m going to have to change that. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  141. I loved Wolfie, and look forward to Horrible Bear. I will take my sketch book to the zoo as soon as the weather improves. Thank you for the inspiration!

  142. Ame- I enjoyed every little smidgen bit of your post! I LOVE animals (and all the animals at the zoo- especially pandas if they’re there!) And I totally agree- observing them is a fantabulous way to get those Picture Book wheels turnin. Thanks for the inspiration, and FUN post!! 🙂

  143. I actually have a zoo story I’ve been revising this month. Thanks for the fun pictures and funny dialogue. And the great advice!

  144. I’m so glad I had a reminder to read this post as it was fabulous! Great photos, by the way. And excellent advice. Thank you!

  145. That is a great idea, I haven’t been to the zoo in like forever. I’m not however interested in driving into DC so I’m going to learn how to take the metro (another story in there somewhere, haha). Thanks for the idea Ame!

  146. This is a great inspiration post! Animals can evoke all sorts of hilarious and poignant ideas. They also get us thinking outside the human box. Thanks!

  147. Thanks for this great advise. I’ve never thought of the zoo quite this way but your dialogue for them had me laughing.

  148. Ame…..LOVE your word energy…..your blog post inspired and revved me up….Naples Zoo is on my list to visit…thanks for the dynamo launch to my first step in 12X12!!!

  149. Great idea, Ame! It’s going to be my first suggestion at critique group tonight. This is the best job in the world.

  150. Have to say I have never read one of your books-can’t wait to pick one up! Thanks for your words of wisdom 🙂

  151. I love getting inspiration from animals. Going to the zoo is an excellent way to see other animal expressions and actions rather than just from family pets. Awesome article – love the pics!

  152. Fun, encouraging way to kick off 2016:) . Time for a road trip to glean some of those genuine animal emotions.
    Thanks Amy.

  153. Love your energy, enthusiasm and your animal pictures! 🙂 Thanks for sharing… and for the advice, too! 🙂 I appreciate the time you took to write for us, and the inspiration provided! 🙂

  154. I found it difficult to write in January. Hoping this changes in future months. But, I DO have more ideas to flesh out for PB’s! Maybe my mind is just a slow starter. 🙂

  155. Philly Zoo rocks – nice to see the pics. I’ve been working on a revision in which the new addition is a menagerie of zoo animals – but I confess, I hadn’t really considered the animals’ personalities. I’ve been struggling to get it across the finish line. Maybe I need to let the animals tell me how to do that…. Good food for thought – thanks.

  156. Hello fellow New Jerseyan 🙂 I never thought of this avenue of inspiration–thanks a bunch!
    I look forward to seeing you again–we met at the NJ SCBWI holiday party. You are a hoot!

  157. Great motivating post and perspective, Ame! I have to agree with Julie, I wish I had half your energy. Thanks for sharing and suggesting a great way to let our inner child resurface and nudge our creative muses.

  158. Ame,
    Just this morning I mentioned we should visit the Kansas City Zoo. You’ve confirmed my intuition. Thanks for your inspiration!

  159. Hi Ame,

    We live in the middle of nowhere, so there’s no zoo. But yesterday my husband and I watched a hawk on a tree pluming himself. I know what you mean. You are so right!

  160. This is great advice, Ame. I just got in from giving my chickens a snack and sat with them a while. They are full of emotion and movement and surprises, so spontaneous! I will plan a zoo visit soon. By the fun, exciting voice in your post, I can see how much your audiences must love your books… and presented by you, that would be a super duper treat!
    Thanks, Ame, and good look with your new bear book too!!

  161. Very engaging post–always refreshing to be reminded to spend time outside of our regular zones and observe nature and all of its lessons and humor and emotions and….and…
    It also makes me think of watching animals at play in natural habitats as well. Here in Michigan we have super squirrels–they rule and are hilarious and very determined.
    Thank you for this wonderful inspiring post Ame and I will check out your books!

  162. I’ve often thought my kids could easily stand in for a zoo. But, there is nothing like REAL animals to give you inspiration I’m sure. 🙂

  163. I love your advice!! I have been trying to think of way to get some more creative juices flowing and your suggestion makes perfect sense! Can’t wait to get out and about today 🙂

  164. Boo Zoo! I was 100% sure I had read and commented on this FABULOSO post at the time. Can’t find it. Now I’m late to the party. Oh well, you should see my monkey winter hat! I LIVE in a zoo! (well, it feels like it a lot of the time) and going officially – WOOZER – color me zoo-ed!!

  165. I’m loving (and am greatly encouraged by) the variety of authors here! Thank you for your post Amy. It’s a delight to read your work!

  166. How did I miss commenting on this hilarious blog post??!! Love to see authors who epitomize childhood in such a positive way. Thank you Ame! May all zoos become welcome places where animals feel loved & free.

  167. I don’t get to the zoo as often as I once did when my kids were younger, but I do work in a school so that is almost the same some days!

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