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!

PiBoIdMo Is Coming

November is Picture Book Idea Month. If you’re a picture book writer, you should definitely be signed up. And if you’ve ever thought about maybe considering the possibility of potentially becoming an aspiring picture book writer, you should sign up as well. (You can join the party here – it’s free)

What is Picture Book Idea Month? PiBoIdMo (for short) is a November writing challenge for picture book writers and illustrators. The object is to jot down one picture book concept daily. By the end of the month you’ll have at least 30 bright & shiny new ideas to jump-start your creativity and write new manuscripts throughout the year.

Every day in November, author Tara Lazar (founder of PiBoIdMo and weekend clerk at The Monstore) has a different guest blogger lined up to give some insight and hopefully inspire all of us writers. Check out this year’s calendar:

piboidmo2014calendar1

(pay close attention Wednesday, November 12th)

There are loads of prizes (signed book giveaways, agent critiques, and more).  It’s like a month long online party! Don’t be late!

So get your pens, notebooks, and brains ready to be inspired!

Tips for Writing Picture Books: Some Ideas Just Don’t Work

Picture book ideas show up everywhere. Some of them are great! And …

Some Ideas Just Don’t Work

Yes, it’s true, I have a couple picture books scheduled to be published over the next couple of years. But I’ve written my share of terrible manuscripts along the way. Some of those ideas were doomed from the start – I just didn’t know it at the time.

A few years ago, I thought I would jump into the vampire fad (I know they’re particularly popular in picture books), so I wrote a story about a vampire boy who wants to be scary but all the little kids just love vampires now. I think it’s sort of like the end of that Adam Sandler movie Hotel Transylvania – when they’re running through the streets but everyone loves the monsters and isn’t scared of them. Oops, is that one of those places I should have said ‘spoiler alert?’ Anyway, my plot didn’t really translate to a young children’s audience, and I didn’t learn that until I worked on it for a while and brought it to a critique group where nobody ‘got’ it.

[Side note: I unintentionally chose gender-neutral names and when the vampire finally fell in love at the end, some thought he fell in love with a woman and some thought he fell in love with a dude (I’m not gonna say which was correct – I’ll leave that up to the illustrator)]

But it’s okay that this idea didn’t work! Lots of picture book ideas don’t work. That’s why the ultra-talented Tara Lazar came up with Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) – where all participants come up with one idea per day during the 30 days of November. Because it might take 30 ideas to come up with the one that really hits.

Uber-Author Kate Messner recently wrote a blog post discussing how she comes up with picture book ideas. It’s a great post and I suggest reading it, as I do for pretty much all her writing (except maybe her Twilight fan fiction). Madame Messner says “Hey! That could be a picture book!” nearly once a day about something, but over the course of a year probably delivers only a handful of manuscripts to her agent. Her experience probably stops her from working on a bad idea for too long before she wastes much time on it. Even the greatest writers have ideas that just don’t work.

Then sometimes, an idea will work.

One  autumn morning when my children were deciding what to eat for breakfast, they began arguing. “Pancakes!” “No, French Toast!” “No, Pancakes!” “No, French Toast!” Two hours later I had an awful first draft and my children were still hungry. Two autumns later I had an offer on that manuscript. And two autumns after that, LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST is scheduled to be published by Sterling Children’s. (Remind me never to complain about bickering children again)

Pancakes and French Toast
No, I did not cook these myself.

So don’t give up when an idea doesn’t fully materialize into the potential you once thought it had. Just grab your notebook and find another one. Draft it, revise it, and bring it to your critique group. Which brings me to the next thing I’ve learned: It’s so important to …

Keep Learning

Until then…

 

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!