Suzy Kline author visit, notebook, seeds of book ideas

A Teacher Turned Author Inspires Writing Seeds

How Do You Get Ideas for Books?

At my parent-teacher conference for my 2nd grader, I looked over his writing assignment that focuses on small moments or seeds. The watermelon is the big idea, in this case it was my son’s soccer game. The watermelon slice is a smaller section, and the seed is a small event. My son talked to his teacher to whittle down his story idea to the seed of the moment he scored a goal.

The story was just about 3/4 of a page with very large lines and he dutifully circled the words he thought were misspelled, missing only a few. The idea of story seeds — small moments in time that form the base of the narrative is a wonderful way to help kids when they craft a story.

Suzy Kline author visit, notebook, seeds of book ideas

I didn’t realize it helps all kinds of authors until I saw Suzy Kline present to kids how she gets her story ideas. As a teacher for many years, her characters are kids she knew and taught. (What fun to be a student that ended up in her book!). As for her book ideas, she advises everyone to carry a small notebook to jot down story seeds. She demonstrates that story seeds can be a single word or just a few words …

A Notebook For Story Ideas Turns Kids into Writers

Suzy Kine writes the well-known Horrible Harry series as well as the Herbie Jones series. She had an impressive display of books and props!

Suzy Kline author visit

As she talked and brought out props, item by item, each had been a story seed that she had jotted down in her notebook that transformed into one of her books!

The purple hanger was a hanger she brought in from home to her classroom when one of the original wooden hangers original to the school broke. It turned out that everyone wanted to use the purple hanger! This conflict became … Horrible Harry and the Purple Hanger. And the story seed: purple hanger!

Suzy Kline author visit, purple hanger,






A yellow tubular scarf that doubled as a dress fascinated her when someone demonstrated its many merits to her. Story seed: yellow scarf! And this became a book as well!

Suzy Kline author visit, yellow scarf Horrible Harry, seeds of story idea

A hat with a name embroidered on it was another seed of a story.

Suzy Kline author visit

This tube made of PVC pipes was NOT a story seed. Instead, she uses it as a kind of telephone to read her book draft out loud to herself. If her story doesn’t work as a read aloud, she will make more revisions. This handy tool can be a DIY project for a child and parent!

Suzy Kline author visit

This necklace was handmade by a student and inspired a Horrible Harry book.

Did you know Suzy Kline’s books are translated into different languages including Korean?!

Suzy Kline author visit, Suzy Kline, Horrible Harry

Teachers and librarians turned authors are some of my very favorite children’s authors. Sharon Creech! Beverly Cleary! And now, Suzy Kline! Hooray for teachers who continue to teach and inspire even as they embark on their second careers as authors! You can take a teacher out of school, but she’ll always find a way to reach a student’s heart!

p.s. I’m told that kids after hearing Suzy Kline speak have returned home insisting on notebooks that fit in their pockets.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. vanita

    This writing seed concept is something my girls were introduced to in junior high. at first they found it frustrating, for the very first essays. but then they learned to keep a “moment book” and after that, those assignments? became a breeze. I’m not familiar with Herbie but i know Horrible Harry! Great author!
    vanita recently posted…Wear Your Blog With PrideMy Profile

    • Hi Vanita,
      I think the schools are doing a better and better job of teaching writing at a younger age. This writing curriculum is fairly new — can’t recall the name — but I’ve noticed the focus on “small moments” really does make kids better writers. And Suzy Kline is so talented to inspire kids to write! She’s so awesome! I am just now reading Horrible Harry for the first time — perfect for 2nd grade, 3rd grade I think!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A Teacher Turned Author Inspires Writing SeedsMy Profile

  2. Jennifer

    I love this idea. I started something like this with my young child as a list in a book of ideas hopefully one day it will lead to a journal of inspiration for writing. Great post
    Jennifer recently posted…Book Review | And One Last Thing …By Molly HarperMy Profile

  3. I love this post. What a fascinating speaker this author must be! I’ll have to look for some of her books – we haven’t read any of them.

    I think I need to find a pocket-sized notebook for my 6yo.
    maryanne recently posted…Learning Laboratory: Boston Museum of ScienceMy Profile

    • Hi MaryAnne,
      I am reading the first Horrible Harry right now and it’s fun. My girls told me they read them all at school. I had no idea. Suzy really tells a story that kids relate to because the characters are real kids from her years of teaching — Song Lee is an actual person but the other characters are compilations of kids. It really does ring true and the personalities are also fun and relatable. Horrible Harry is also not that bad of a kid; more mischievous than truly a bully.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A Teacher Turned Author Inspires Writing SeedsMy Profile

  4. What a fun and useful presentation! We have lots of “idea journals” lying around the house. I am going to encourage more writing by sharing the seed method with my kids. Thank you for this great post!
    Jill recently posted…Teaching Kids Gratitude: A Universal EthicMy Profile

  5. My son loves the Horrible Harry books and Suzy Kline is obviously a great writer to learn from. I love this post. Thanks for linking up to TCB! Pinning this.
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  6. Catherine Johnson

    How creative, that’s fantastic!
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  7. Shar Mohr

    Love the story seed post! So inspiring! 😀
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  8. I’m also a teacher/ elementary school principal turned author and suggest our kids carry a pocket size notebook with them to jot down their ideas and thoughts. I’m so glad to hear another educator pushing this. Susan from St. Petersburg, Florida

    Posted by Sue from my LinkedIn Group Elementary School Teachers of America
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  9. She was so great and she really does carry around a notebook to jot down her ideas. In fact, her husband published a book for the first time from doing the exact same thing. Afterwards, kids told their parents that they need a notebook for their pocket!
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A Teacher Turned Author Inspires Writing SeedsMy Profile

  10. Cheri Hall

    The Watermelon vs. Seed story idea may have come from Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for Primary Writing, presented through The Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project. This series is so valuable for teaching children as young as Kindergarten to see themselves as authors and to love writing!

  11. Cheri Hall

    Lucy Calkins also urges writers to jot down their story ideas in a little notebook like this!

    • Hi Cheri,
      I didn’t know Lucy Calkins has the same notebook seed idea! I suspect Suzy Kline knows all about the Lucy Calkins curriculum and I think she also tries to incorporate our school curriculum into her presentation but I know the notebook for ideas is so central to the way she writes that it’s great for the kids to hear this from a real life author that they read at school. Like star power to what their teacher tells them!
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  12. Beth Arnold

    I have used an idea book for years. I keep a small notebook in purse and jot down ideas or seeds for just about everything. Sometimes I have a blog post idea or some delicious creation I can’t wait to try at dinner. Sometimes I act on the ideas right away when I am particularly excited. Other times, I read my notes months later and act on the idea when the time is right. Sometimes old ideas spark new and better ideas. I love that the author was such a wonderful inspiration to the kids! Idea books really get the creative juices flowing. Great post…

    • Hi Beth,
      I use the note section of my iphone for the same thing and an little notebook that was a gift from Capability:Mom. It’s amazing how you think you will remember your idea but if it’s not written down, it’s so easy to forget. Thanks for the reminder to jot things down in a notebook. I should use it more for seeds!
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  13. What a fascinating insight into an authors thought process. I love the ideas and especially the telephone! Thank you for linking this post up!
    Bethany recently posted…Free Kindle Books for KidsMy Profile

  14. Ann

    Love reading about an author’s process! So true, everyone should carry a little notebook. Love all the props too!
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