Monday, 23 May 2016


by Michelle Robinson

I was busy minding my own business when I found myself copied in on a (non-publishing) person’s question to an illustrator: “Do you think we could just make books without writers now?” The illustrator was just as astonished as me.

Talk about putting the twit in Twitter. Zero marks for knowing your audience, minus ten for understanding picture book chemistry, straight to hell for underestimating the art of the author. That's right, ART. 

A few snippets from my notebooks.
Just because the writing process doesn't lend itself so readily to showboating, doesn't mean we're not crafting away like billy-o. A snapshot of a scribbly, crosshatched notebook may not be as visually pleasing as a sketchbook, neither is it as simple to interpret, but us writers have some serious skills. It's harder to prove it, but then we shouldn't have to.

We create heroes - and not just on the page. Read our words aloud and you become a joy conjurer, memory maker, child whisperer. We weave the words whispered into waiting ears. "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams." Perhaps the Twitter twit could do without the likes of O'Shaughnessy, but I'd rather not.

So anyway, I thought I'd lay myself bare to ridicule and failure and attempt to showboat.

Finding a story is a bit like finding a gem. In order to dig one out, you must first dig your way through a lot crappy rock. But us writers can't find that gem, can't weave the magic words, without first creating the crappy rock. All of it. From scratch. So here I am, starting from scratch, brainstorming 100 different ways with just one word: ROCK. 

  1. Rock on (Tommy).
  2. Rock 'n' roll. Rollin' rock. Gathers pace and just can't stop.
  3. Rock music.
  4. Rock around the clock.
  5. Rockabilly.
  6. Rockabetty.
  7. Rockabenny, too. I like a rockabilly band, how about you?
  8. Rockabilly goats gruff.
  9. Rockabye baby, on the treetop. Call social services, this must stop.
  10. Rocks in your socks.
  11. Stick of rock. Stuck of rock. Stack of rock. Rock stock.
  12. Crocodile rock.
  13. Rockodile.
  14. Get your rocks off. (What an odd phrase, honey. Write it down now, need a hundred, wow.)
  15. Rocks in your head, heavy as lead. Rocks on your head instead? SPLAT. You're dead.
  16. Rock hard.
  17. Rock solid.
  18. Rock steady crew.
  19. Rock teddy in your beddy, god bless you.
  20. On the rocks. Off the rocks. Over the rocks and far away.
  21. Rock buns. Mmm.
  22. Sit down, you’re rocking the boat.
  23. Rocking horse.
  24. Rocking chair.
  25. Rocking stocking.
  26. Rocky road.
  27. Precious rock.
  28. Rock layer.
  29. Solid rock.
  30. Tick, tock, get ready to rock.
  31. Rick.
  32. Rock, paper, scissors.
  33. Rockstar.
  34. Rock hammer.
  35. Rock climber.
  36. Dashed upon the rocks.
  37. Rock pool.
  38. With rocks on her fingers and rocks on her toes, she shall have blisters wherever she goes.
  39. Rock of ages and ages and ages. And ages.
  40. Rocky Mountain High.
  41. Rocky Horror Show.
  42. A rock and a hard place.
  43. Glam rock.
  44. Rock bottom.
  45. Rocky Balboa.
  46. Jailhouse rock.
  47. You’re my rock.
  48. 100 ways with one word? I must be off my rocker.
  49. Rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay, all bound for morning town, many miles away.
  50. Hard Rock Cafe.
  51. Roxanne.
  52. Rocky Raccoon.
  53. It's hard, being a rock.
  54. The Rock stars in "Another Bad Movie".
  55. Rock up.
  56. Rock god.
  57. Rock me, Amadeus.
  58. How much rock would Woodstock stock if Woodstock could stock rock?
  59. A flock of rocks.
  60. Rock, stone, pebble, grit, gravel, sand.
  61. Bedrock.
  62. Shamrock.
  63. Mary Mary, quite contrary, how is your garden rockery? With silver bells and cockle shells and a splendid set of crockery.
  64. Did stone age women wear f-rocks?
  65. Do rockhopper penguins wear clodhopper shoes? 
  66. Get your rocks off, get your rocks off, honey. 20% off rocks today.
  67. Rocket.
  68. Rocketeer… rocket there. Ride a rocket, everywhere.
  69. Rock slide.
  70. You call that rock? What a crock. 
  71. Why did you set yourself this challenge? It’s almost impossible. But you can do this. You’re an author. You set yourself difficult word challenges every day, and you rise to them with tricks like added alliteration and internal rhyme all the time, so come on. Keep going. Don’t forget to think catchy. Think commercial. Think great to read aloud, like rolling a sweet around your mouth. You can do this. You rock.
  72. Rockin’ Robin.
  73. Is this even how you spell ‘rock’? It’s starting to look weird and between you and me I’m beginning to doubt my own existence. Rok? Rokk? Wrock? 
  74. Throw a rock upon the ground. Hit a number, hop around. What am I…? Hopscotch.
  75. If you hide a rock in that snowball, I’ll hide my fist in your face.
  76. What rock did you crawl out from under?
  77. Ayer’s Rock, actually, sport.
  78. I am a rock, I am an island.
  79. Rock dweller.
  80. Number 80? What rock have you been hiding under?
  81. School of hard rocks.
  82. Chock-a-block, full of rocks: a giant’s hole-y walking socks.
  83. River bed rocks, so slimy and wet. Off with your socks, paddle in, go get.
  84. Michelle, meet enormous house spider. Enormous house spider, meet heavy rock. True story.
  85. ‘Hey, big human - that’s my home. Leave my rock, go find your own.’
  86. Rough rock. Tough rock. Made of stronger stuff rock.
  87. Rock carving.
  88. Does a statue have a heart of stone? (Okay, that didn’t contain ‘rock’ but I love it so I’ll go to 101).
  89. Curl up your fingers. What have you got? A fist that’s hard and round as a rock.
  90. I named my dog Rock. He won’t shift. I should’ve called him Rover.
  91. Moon rock. Space rock. Space ROCKS.
  92. Saw this sign at a car boot sale: ‘RARE ROCK, FIFTY QUID’. Thought, ‘Can’t fail.’ Traded rare rock for my cow. Hope to grow a beanstalk now.
  93. 'Who threw that rock? Was it you?' 'No, I threw a kangaroo.'
  94. Holding a rock is like holding a piece of history. A really boring, grey piece when nothing much happened.
  95. If mum won’t let you keep a pet, keep a rock, the best pet yet. Rocks are quiet, rocks are cheap. Rocks spend all their time asleep.
  96. They puts rocks in boats, but dem boats still floats.
  97. What’s big, red and eats rocks? The big, red rock eater.
  98. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but rocks will really squish me.
  99. Race you to the rock and back. Which rock? The big grey one. They’re all big and grey. GO!
  100. Take a rock and draw on eyes. Instantly the rock looks wise.
  101. Bonus rock! Free rock with every 100 nonsensical rock word plays created! Enjoy your free rock.
This is just stage one, where stories and books start, all thanks to some story chasing, idea hunting, thesaurus loving buffoon who just cannot help mucking about with words, glorious words. Go ahead, try making all books without writers. Meanwhile, I think I'll just carry on digging.

★ Michelle Robinson's latest book, 'Goodnight Spaceman', illustrated by Nick East and published by Puffin, will be read from space by ESA astronaut, Tim Peake on CBeebies at 6.50pm, Monday 30th June 

Find out more about Michelle and her books at


Paeony Lewis said...

Your mind is a scary and glorious place, Michelle! What a good idea for stretching the imagination. No. 91 is especially pertinent because... wow... you must be squirming with excitement that 'Goodnight Spaceman' will be read in space. As I said, WOW!
And I agree that the words in a picture book can be underestimated. Sadly when we look at picture books in shops, if we don't like the illustrations then we don't buy it. Plus I'll admit to having bought some picture books because of the illustrations, but then felt frustrated when I read the story and now I always read the story before buying.

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Pippa Goodhart said...

Brilliant! You make me proud to be a 'child whisperer'! That's absolutely right. And please, pretty please, DO write the story about the robot who wants to be a rabbit!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Nice work -and huge congratulations about being read in space! Very exciting. We'll try and tune in on the night... x

Unknown said...

Okay - so I can't help myself but . . . You 'rock' Michelle! So does this post And that your book will be read in space!

Michelle Robinson said...

Thank you! It's on iPlayer now. So cool!

Michelle Robinson said...

Thanks, Clare!

Michelle Robinson said...

It's in the notebook, Pippa, along with umpteen other as yet unfinished works! I'll get to it one day.

Michelle Robinson said...

Yes, I've done that before. It's an unpopular thing to say but I think it happens a lot with author/illustrators who are excellent artists but less practised at the written word.

Jane Clarke said...

Love the 100 ways with rock - and congratulations of the space reading!