Obligatory Blog Hop Post (My Writing Process Blog Tour)

Following my good friend’s example, blog hops die here. However, I will oblige another good friend and still participate in one. Please visit Kristine Carlson Asselin’s blog to check out her entry in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. To participate, I must answer the following four questions. Unlike previous blog tours, however, I think I might actually answer them seriously (for once):

1. What am I working on?

I am currently working on several items.

  • I’m writing a picture book series which might end up being a chapter book series which might not be any good so I might decide to stop working on it altogether.
  • I’ve got a couple ideas for new rhyming picture books, all of which are currently in the contemplative stages.
  • I’ve recently finished editing some picture books that have been acquired by publishing houses. In case you didn’t know, LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST was acquired by Sterling Children’s for a 2015 release and DEAR DRAGON: A Pen Pal Tale was acquired by Viking/Penguin (release date unknown – 2016, perhaps?).
  • I’ve also been working on a series of blog posts highlighting things I’ve learned about writing picture books. As someone relatively new to the field, I thought people might find it interesting to see what I’ve found most useful in the past two and a half years of learning.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmmm…. I write humorous picture book texts, mostly in rhyme. While none of that description is entirely unique, put together, it’s a bit different … from unfunny non-rhyming picture books. I can’t think of too many picture books that take place in refrigerators – that’s pretty different. And while there are some epistolary picture books out there (The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small is one of my favorite), there aren’t too many of those (especially written in rhyme … and about human-dragon relations).

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small

3. Why do I write what I write?

One of my goals is that I hope that my picture books appeal to both children and adults. Not that this would make them totally unique – there are LOADS of picture books that I enjoy – but there are enough that my many many many kids might like that I’d rather not spend my time reading. I’d like to think that children will want their parents to read my books over and over (and dare I say over) again … and the parents gladly do just that after every request.

4. How does my writing process work?

Honestly, I find it best not to think about that question. I just write what and when I’m inspired.

… unless someone asks me to join a blog tour. Then I spend hours and hours thinking about what to say.

Thanks for passing people along, Kris!

BLOG HOP DIES HERE

The Mortimer Minute

I was asked by the soulfully poetic Matt Forrest to follow him in The Mortimer Minute, a children’s poetry blog hop. Thank you, Matt for the invite. One of the pictures below is Matt Forrest. If you click the correct one, it will take you to Matt Forrest’s Mortimer Minute entry!

Is this Matt Forrest? Is this Matt Forrest? Is this Matt Forrest? Is this Matt Forrest?

For the Mortimer Minute, I’ve been asked to answer some questions about my experiences with poetry. Now, I don’t really consider myself a ‘poet.’ I believe poets to be much more in tune with people’s emotions (and their own emotions) than I could claim to be (ask Mama Funk for examples). Some have described an occasional picture book manuscript of mine as ‘a poem’ in the past. So maybe I write poems. Maybe…

To the rabbit’s questions!

Question #1 from Mortimer: What projects are you working on now?

Answer from Papa J Funk: Well, Mortimer, as always, I’m working on multiple rhyming picture book manuscripts. Last week I was revising three different ones. One of them is awesome and ready. One of them is going to sit and stew on a shelf or in a drawer for a few weeks/months, and a third I’m still working on.

My Unpublished Manuscripts
My Unpublished Manuscript Shelves

Lately I’ve been participating in several critique groups, both in person and online. And as always, I’m working on the ‘craft’ of writing. Without giving too much (er.. anything) away, that’s what I’ve been up to.

Question #2 from Mortimer: How do you come up with ideas for your poetry?

Answer from Papa J Funk: Well, as I intend all of my poems to be illustrated … for children … in about 32 pages … and in about 500 words or less … I usually start by trying to come up with something I haven’t seen in that format. Have you seen any picture books about a little girl and her doll? Probably. Well, I’m not going to write that one.

Although I do have many many children to spy on, only some of my ideas are stolen from them. Sometimes I just like to spend hours acting as childishly and child-like as possible (again, ask Mama Funk for more details). These states of mind (and body) often produce wonderful rhyming picture book fodder.

Question #3 from Mortimer: What children’s poem to you wish you had written?

Answer from Papa J Funk: I am going to reinterpret this question as ‘what poetic or rhyming children’s picture book do you wish you had written?’ To that, I have lots of options. Do I go with a recent classic like Iggy Peck, Architect? Or do I go with a classic classic like The Lorax? Or maybe I’m gonna cheat and say I’m happy with those that I have written and don’t wish to take anything away from anyone else?

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No. The answer is Chicken Cheeks. Period.

Thanks for joining me for the Mortimer Minute. If I have poet friends, I’ll link to their blogs below. Until next time, Mr. Rabbit!

Four Questions from a Monster

Would I like to participate in a Blog Hop? This was the question posed to me by Paul Czajak (author of multiple picture books about a monster named Monster). Of course, I answered yes! Here’s a little more about Paul and don’t forget to check out his blog hop entry here:

Paul CzajakPaul Czajak got an ‘F’ with the words “get a tutor” on his college writing paper and after that, never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending twenty years as a chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained. His first picture book, Monster Needs A Costume, illustrated by Wendy Grieb was recently released through Scarletta Kids.  This is the first picture book in the Monster & Me series (all of which will be illustrated by Wendy), with the second, Monster Needs His Sleep due April 2014 and then Monster Needs A Christmas Tree set for September 2014.  He has also recently signed a contract for Seaver the Weaver which will be illustrated by Ben Hilts of The Hilts Brothers and is planned for April 2015.

So let’s get right to the nitty-gritty.

Blog Hop Question #1: What are you working on right now?

Well, I am writing a post on my blog called Four Questions from a Monster. Wow, that was an easy one. Let’s go to question #2.

Blog Hop Question #2: How does it differ from other works in the genre?

What? Wait. I think I might have misunderstood question #1.

Oh, what ‘writing projects’ am I working on? I’m in the middle of lots of stuff, but it all involves picture book manuscripts and rhyming. You see, I have impeccable rhythm and rhyming ability (when I write). Mama Funk will tell you my rhythm outside of writing is (what’s the opposite of impeccable? blemished? I’ll go with that) blemished. Some of it involves alien caterpillars. Others involve megalomaniac grasshoppers. I’m really into insects. Or maybe all of that is a lie.

But how does it differ from other works? Well, first of all, it isn’t published. That’s one difference.

But seriously, what I’d like to say is different from some (not all) works in the genre, is that my writing is intended to entertain both parents and children. If it can’t entertain parents, then who is going to read it to the kids? I want to enjoy the books that my many many offspring bring to me at bed time(s). There are lots of books that entertain kids, and many that entertain me. Some entertain all of us. That’s what I’d like to see more of, so that’s one thing I’m trying to do.

Blog Hop Question #3: Why do you write what you write?

I really should have read through these questions before I started typing. I write what I write because I want children and parents to be entertained (as I said while answering question #2).

But I have other reasons. I think that children’s books should also educate. Picture books should push the boundaries of language and teach kids new words. Not always through definitions and glossaries. And not so that parents will have to stop and explain what a word means. Picture books have pictures, so kids can glean meanings from context, especially if the books are read multiple times. I’m not saying I want my five-year-old to speak like Charles Wallace, but I really don’t want to dumb it down for him.

I also try to be unique. I’m sure many people endeavor toward originality, and along the way, I’m sure agents, publishers, acquisition editors, etc. push to the mainstream.  But I’ve read enough books where a bear needs to learn how to get dressed (if you wrote a book like this, I apologize – I am not thinking of any book in particular).

There are lots of unique books being published today, but again, I want more!

Blog Hop Question #4: What is the hardest part about writing?

So many possible answers … which one do I pick?

  • Coming up with an idea?
  • Hammering out that first full draft?
  • Receiving discouraging critiques?
  • Revising?
  • Writing queries?
  • Submitting?
  • Receiving rejections?
  • Promoting?
  • Travel away from your family?
  • Paparazzi?

(many of those I haven’t yet experienced)

I’m going to go with waiting (I swear I wrote this before reading Paul’s answer to this question – although I’m not surprised we share the same one).

Tom Petty

Whether it’s

  • waiting for critiques
  • waiting for an answer from an agent
  • waiting for an answer from an editor
  • waiting for an answer from an acquisitions team
  • waiting to see your illustrator’s interpretation of your text
  • waiting to see your book in print
  • waiting for your release day
  • waiting for your launch party
  • waiting for your sales numbers
  • waiting for your royalty check
  • or waiting for the whole chain to start again …

(again, I have not experienced most of those)

Waiting is definitely the hardest part about writing. So what do I do while I’m waiting? I write more, of course!

And now, to pass this blog hop on to more willing participants. If you see links below, you know I have writer friends who are interested in sharing their lives with you. So click over to them. And be sure to click backward to Paul Czajak’s as well!

Let’s Have a Blog Party!

My e-friend Carrie Charley Brown invited me to a Blog Hop (via an email chain letter). I’m supposed to talk about writing, so I will.

Writing. Why do I write? It would be a bit hubristic to say because I’m good at it, but I think I am. But I’m not that good at it yet. Maybe someday. I write rhyming children’s picture book manuscripts. I have to say manuscripts because I’m not published yet. Some might say I’m pre-published. But my many children are also pre-published and they may have no aspirations to become published. So I prefer to use the term PIMD (Published In My Dreams) – the implication that I dream to someday be published. But that’s not the question. The question is: why do I write? Or more specifically (and a completely different question): why do I write what I write? I write in rhythm and rhyme. I write for children. I write what should ultimately be illustrated (not by me as I can’t illustrate – or at least I haven’t tried and have no formal training and haven’t picked up a crayon to draw something  other than with a child since I was 8 myself).

Why rhyming in rhythm? Because I can. Not everyone can. Not everyone should. Why for children? Because I read at a child’s level. I can’t write for young adults or new adults or adults or old adults because I can’t read as well as them.

Although I can’t draw, some of my favorite authors are also illustrators. Two of my tops are Mo Willems and Peter Brown. I’m also a big Dan Santat fan, but he mostly illustrates. Amy Krouse Rosenthal is incredibly prolific and talented. I admire Tara Lazar and Ame Dyckman‘s ability to use social media to their advantage. And who doesn’t like Michael Ian Black? I guess I admire people who push the boundaries and make books that are different. It’s hard to do when you’re PIMD, as you sort of have to toe-the-line of what’s acceptable and standard in the children’s writing world. Everyone says they like to see things that are different, and it’s not like I’ve been rejected all that many times, but it feels like when I submit my ‘different’ things, the responses I get are “your type of different isn’t marketable.” So while I want to be different some day (and tow-the-line), for now I have to be outstandingly normal.

Ooh, I think that just answered another question from this blog hop list of questions: how does my writing differ from other works in its genre – the answer: It doesn’t … yet.

For some reason, one of the questions on this hop is ‘what scares you?’ So I’m going to be honest here – Poison. I really don’t like heavy metal music. Especially waking up to it. I can deal with some alt-rock. Black Hole Sun is great as an alarm, as it starts off slow and smooth, crescendos, and then leads into Spoon Man. If you’re not up by the end of Black Hole Sun, Spoon Man will certainly send you to the shower.

I guess I really fear The Unknown (and I’m not referring to the tv show starring Dominic Monaghan). But I’m not going to tell you why (is that irony? I never really was fully able to define that word. The best I could get is that the word ironic couldn’t be defined. And maybe that fact is also ironic).

The hardest part about writing for me, is getting disappointing feedback from a critique group. I’m too new to writing to have ever had writer’s block (at least for more than a couple of hours). But when you bring something to a crit group and people just don’t get it, that can be truly heartbreaking. Even if everyone’s totally nice about it and follows all the proper critiquing rules to the letter. Once I wrote something and people thought that the main character was a girl when it was supposed to be a boy. Once I had been told that I should probably not work on this piece any more (in the context that the rest of my manuscripts were so much better). Once I was told that this might make a good magazine article, but not a picture book. Several times I’ve been given great advice that would totally make my story so much better and deeper and move to a whole new level – and it would require a total re-write to achieve that. And once you step back and away from the crit, you’ll realize that some (if not all) of the advice is true, even if it hurts to hear. And sometimes you just need to go with your gut and ignore it (I did keep working on that piece and lots of people love it … not the right people, but lots of the wrong ones).

So, back to writing for me. The people below are the ones who I sent this blog hop chain letter to. If there are no links below, you’ll know I have no friends.

Heather’s Post for this Blog Hop!