Featured Interview in Huffington Post

I was interviewed by The Book Doctors in the Huffington Post today in an article entitled “Josh Funk on the War Between Pancakes & French Toast, SCBWI & Getting Published” – it’s probably the most in depth interview I’ve done to date, with some seriously awesome questions, such as:

  • How did you go about getting a book contract not only for Lady Pancake, but also for your next two books which are coming out?
  • Hasn’t anyone told you that rhyming books don’t sell? How did you overcome this ridiculous idea, and why do you think people keep saying that?
  • What are some of the most horrifying things about being a professional author?
  • How has being a member of SCBWI helped you in your career and as a person?
  • Why in the name of all that’s good and holy would you choose to get into the publishing business? Have you had your head examined recently? Been checked for brain parasites?
  • How do you keep it so funky?
  • and more …

And I got to share the #TeamKrush logo designed by Jessie Devine.

Team Krush Logo TeamKrush

Check out the entire interview here.

Two for You

(two books I highly recommend)

1. Backhoe Joe written by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Craig Cameron

Backhoe Joe

Want a backhoe for a pet? Of course you do!

2. There Was a Wee Lassie Who Swallowed a Midgie written by Rebecca Colby and illustrated by Kate McLelland

there was a wee lassie

A Scottish twist on this much-loved rhyme!

My First Podcast Interview: Let’s Get Busy with Matthew Winner

Just a quick note today: if you’ve never listened to the Let’s Get Busy Podcast with Matthew Winner, you certainly should. And today you have TWO reasons … because I am the featured guest on Episode #193 talking about Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast!

podcast

In this interview I:

I highly recommend you subscribe to the Let’s Get Busy Podcast if you haven’t already. Matthew Winner has so many amazing interviews with fabulous guests in the previous 192 episodes (and many more lined up to come!). And certainly check out his new home for the podcast – All the Wonders, a home for readers to discover new books and to experience the stories they love in wondrous ways.

Also, I decided today to start a new tradition. Because so many of my blog posts are about me, I’d like to share two favorite books by others at the end of every post from this day forward. I’ve decided to very creatively call this:

Two for You

(two books I highly recommend)

1. Boats for Papa written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley

boats for papa

I love everything about this book. Get the tissues ready, cause it made me start crying in the middle of a bookstore.

2. Snoozefest written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Kristyna Litten

snoozefest_big

Great rhymes and illustrations, and starring a sloth.

Josh Funk’s Guide to Writing Picture Books (in 12 easy steps)

Yesterday I updated my official website (joshfunkbooks.com) to include a new Resources for Writers section.

Josh Funk's 12 Step Guide to Writing Picture Books

For those of you that have been following this blog for a while, those 12 lessons may look familiar. I took my Tips for Writing Picture Books series and reorganized it a bit to make it a little cleaner and available all in one place.

See all of Josh Funk’s 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books

Lesson #1: So, You Wrote a Book. Now What?
Lesson #2: Picture Books Are Short
Lesson #3: Every Word Counts
Lesson #4: The Illustrator Is Your Partner
Lesson #5: Show Don’t Tell
Lesson #6: Write with Active Emotion
Lesson #7: Story Arc Components
Lesson #8: Don’t Write In Rhyme
Lesson #9: Rhyming Is All About Rhythm
Lesson #10: Some Ideas Don’t Work
Lesson #11: Keep Learning
Lesson #12: Now You’re Ready! Dive In!

I hope that these lessons help any prospective picture book authors, as it’s basically a massive brain dump of things I’ve learned in the last ~4 years.

Feel free to share – and enjoy!

Books That Have Stayed with Me … and Inspired Me | Part 2

Continuing my non-blog hop post, the following books are ones that have stayed with me and inspired me as a writer (see Part 1 where I discuss books 1-3: Iggy Peck, Architect, The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, & Vunce Upon a Time). But rather than simply listing them, I’m sharing explanations as to why I hold these books in such high personal esteem. Onward we go!

4. The Curious Garden written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Why this book? The first best book of the century

The Curious Garden

I can’t remember when I first encountered The Curious Garden. It was probably in 2009 when it was originally released, but it was well before I had any interest in diving in to the kidlit community. While the illustrations are fresh and modern, they still have a classic feel. This book gives me chills, a quality in a picture book I strive to someday write. The story is simple but also deeply layered, as are Brown’s illustrations. Yes, it’s Loraxian in content, but rather than telling us we can make a difference, Liam shows us how a single child can change a community (and the environment).

In my opinion (and to me, that’s one of only a few that count), I believe that 40 years from now we will look back at the first hundred years of picture books and The Curious Garden will be labeled as one of the best ever. To me it already is.

 

5. The Gardener written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small

Why this book? Talk about shivers, this one may cause a tear or two

The Gardener

While both The Curious Garden and The Gardener involve urban gardens, that’s about all they have in common. First off, The Gardener is written entirely in letter form. I recently learned that literary technique is referred to as epistolary via a rejected query of my ‘soon to be published by Viking/Penguin’ manuscript Dear Dragon*. I very much enjoy non-standard storytelling techniques, as well as non-standard story arcs. I’ve never been much of a rule of 3 writer, myself.

The Gardener has multiple plots and subplots. Will Lydia Grace fit in in the city? Will Uncle Jim like his surprise? Will Lydia ever get home? Not to mention minor, but critical characters like Ed and Emma Beech & Otis the store cat. The wordless spreads are priceless. I think I tear up on each of the final three spreads.

And yes, this won a Caldecott Honor, but it doesn’t need the honor to be a classic. It’s also nice to find out that the author and illustrator are wife and husband (I’m still trying to get Mama Funk to collaborate with me on something. I haven’t given up, Mama Funk!).

* I used the word epistolary in every subsequent query of Dear Dragon. #QueryTip: Re-use the positive language and remarks from personalized rejections in future queries – if that’s how agents & editors write about your manuscript, then that’s probably how they’d like to hear it.

 

6. Jurassic Park written by Michael Crichton

Why this book? Because I faked being sick in junior high so I could stay home and read this book

Jurassic Park

What? Jurassic Park? Josh, have you lost your mind? Well, this book is here for one simple reason (stated above). I was far from a voracious reader as an adolescent. Having said that, this was probably the first non-Beverly Cleary / Cam Jansen / Matt Christopher / Johnny Tremain / book report book I’d ever read. Jurassic Park was an eye-opener.

Why not Harry Potter, you ask? Well, to be honest, when I came up with the list as a Facebook post, for some reason Jurassic Park popped right into my head. Maybe Harry Potter was too cliche? Maybe it was too obvious? Maybe because it’s 7 books and I would have a hard time picking only one (#3) or two (#3 & #6)? Maybe it’ll be in the next post (it won’t)? I really don’t know. Much of the list was sort of a stream of consciousness (see The Curious Garden followed directly by The Gardener). So, yeah. Jurassic Park. Deal with it.

 

7. The Sneetches and Other Stories written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Why this book? Dr. Seuss. Duh.

The Sneetches

I had a hard time deciding between this and The Lorax (I was only going to pick one Dr. Seuss). Of all the long-form Dr. Seuss books that espouse some semi-veiled political angle, I think I’ve always appreciated the subtlety of The Sneetches. And the outcome. The war never ended in The Butter Battle Book. All we’re left with is hope in The Lorax. How safe is the tiny speck of Whoville once Horton’s tale ends? (Perhaps I also don’t like open ended stories, huh?)

Also, in my effort to end all Facebook and blog hops, I subtly tagged characters from each of the books rather than actual people -> and Sylvester McMonkey McBean sounded more subtle than The Onceler or The Lorax (not much more subtle, I know).

I know that no writer can ever write like Dr. Seuss or s/he will simply be copying Dr. Seuss, but while waiting for the midnight release or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at Borders (R.I.P.) in Sterling, VA, I read that Dr. Seuss fixated on every syllable in his stories. I believe that’s one of the reasons why his rhythm was so perfect. I also believe that not only every word, but every syllable deserves that kind of attention (and as I said earlier, my beliefs are really all that’s important to me).

And those other stories aren’t bad either. But I really chose this for The Sneetches.

 

The final installment of this series will appear … soonish!

 

Jump to Part 1

Jump to Part 3

The Moment

On Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 at 3:29 in the afternoon, my phone gave two short bursts against my leg notifying me that I had received an email. When I pulled it out of my pocket and looked, I saw a subject line containing the title of one of my manuscripts. In most circumstances, this would mean a form response from an agent (and in rare cases, the agent may have read enough of my manuscript to explain why it wasn’t a good fit). But unlike most emails with one of my titles in the subject, this one didn’t start with “Re: QUERY.”

In fact, this wasn’t a response at all. Someone manually typed the name of my story into the subject line of their outgoing email. This had never happened before. My head spun as I read words and phrases like “editor” and “imprint” and “really like the spirit.” I couldn’t believe this might actually be happening.

A dose of reality smacked the pit of my stomach when I got to the words as it currently stands, I’m afraid it probably won’t work.” Nooooo!!!!! Could this be nothing more than the nicest rejection letter ever?

Calendar-July-9

But wait! There was more. When my eyes arrived at “Would you open to writing a revision?” I realized this was not actually a rejection! And a few sentences later, the author of this email actually said “I look forward to hearing from you.” THEY were looking forward to hearing from ME?!?!? (how weird – that’s exactly what I say at the end of all my queries)

The next two weeks were a flurry of revisions and excited anxiety, and some day I’ll tell the whole story. It was another four months and more until I received offers of representation and publication.

But precisely one year ago, at this very moment, I received the first ever positive response to one of my manuscripts from an industry professional. *shivers just thinking about it*

So, You Wrote a Book?

In the past two days, I’ve been referred to twice as a gateway of sorts to the publishing world. Two friends each contacted me regarding friends of theirs who have written a book (or books) for children. These friends of mine asked if I would meet/advise/consult/critique/etc their friends’ work.

I have yet to speak to either of the two writers, just our mutual friends. But I’m relatively confident this is the first time either writer has stepped outside their circle of family and friends regarding their writing.

So what should I tell them? I’ve written posts before about where to begin, but I really don’t want to overwhelm anyone. I want to educate, give a dose of reality, but ultimately inspire them?

What if I could find 5 articles or websites they could go to as that starting place?

$200 is about what you'll get in an advance as a first time author
$200 is about what you’ll get in an advance as a first time author

Here are my five:

  1. Start with Jennifer Laughran’s Word Count Post. It’s not impossible to get a 3,000 word picture book published in today’s market … no, actually it is. Get the disappointment over with first. You’re 15,000 word Young Adult novel just isn’t long enough. Let’s rip off the band-aid and move on.
  2. If you’re still with me and haven’t cried yourself to oblivion (or your word count is actually in line with the genre for which you’re writing), then GREAT! Let’s make sure your craft is as good as possible. There is no single link that will help make this happen, but if you join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, you’ll be able to find workshops, critique groups, conferences, retreats, and more -> and that will help you hone your craft. So the second link is to Join SCBWI.
  3. If you’re confident your manuscript is the best it can possibly be, it’s time to find somewhere to send it! Whether you are sending directly to publishers or looking for an agent, try to find a copy of the most recent Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and SCBWI The Book. These will help you find out about which publishers are looking for what, as well as the agents looking for whom.
  4. But don’t send yet. You still need to write your query. What’s a query, you ask? A query is the professional business letter you send to the agent or editor ‘asking’ if they would like to read your manuscript (oh, I get it? asking=querying). How do you write one? I suggest starting at AgentyQuery.com. There are links from there to other sites, which will link to others, which link to an unending list of others – all filled with help writing queries. Querying is hard. But you will survive.
  5. Now that you have some sense of what you’re in for, read Delilah S. Dawson’s 25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author. First, it’s hilarious. Second, it gives an exciting account of a success story. Third, it truly goes through every step of the trail to publication – highs, lows, and in-betweens.

I think that’s enough to fill anyone’s brain for a little while. If you had just 5 links to give someone starting out in the writing business, what would they be?

Happy Old Year, 2013!

Before celebrating another year since the birth of the Earth (hey, that rhymes!), I’d like to congratulate 2013 for being pretty awesome to me. Here are some highlights:

I began 2013 with a little over a year’s experience, a single handful of decent manuscripts, very few contacts, and no online presence.

I adopted a pseudonym.

I wrote. I revised. I joined a new critique group and critiqued.

I dipped my toes into the pool of social networking.

Facebook LogoInstagram LogoTwitter LogoPinterest LogoWordpress Logo Google Plus LogoGoodreads LogoMammoth Logo  Tumblr Logo
(did I forget any? Probably…)

I ate lunch with at the same table as a Newbery Honor winner.

I made real and virtual friends with skillful sarcasm.

I attended 4 book launches and purchased more signed books than I can count.

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I started another critique group and became a board member.

I queried and submitted with a success rate higher than 0.0%.

Marsal Lyon Literary Agency Logo

I abandoned the pseudonym.

I end the year in the process of waiting.

Waiting for the phone to ring

The lessons of 2013? Don’t use a pseudonym. And get out there. And my wife is always right. Even if I crossed off the last five things from my list, it would still have been a pretty awesome year.

I wish all (both) of you a 2014 as ‘happy’ as my 2013.