WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
When I left Colorado Springs almost three years ago, I knew I would miss my writing buddies. But I also knew that the Boston area would be less than an hour from my new front door…and believe you me, there is a vibrant kid lit community there. After all, that’s where our Will Write for Cookies guest of honor hangs out!
Here is the skinny on Josh…in Josh’s own words:
Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.
Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people to publish them as books with pictures – such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), as well as the forthcoming picture books PIRASAURS! (Scholastic 8.30.16), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin 9.6.16), and more.
Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.
Now…wasn’t that fun? And we haven’t even started the interview yet! Hold on to your seats, dear friends…this is going to be an exciting ride!
Welcome, Josh! I’m so thrilled you were able to stop by. I know how busy you are with book events and signings for Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, preparations for book launches for your other two books coming out later this year, plus organizing for the NESCBWI conference which is coming up at the end of the month. I know you’ve got so much to share with us, so let’s get to it.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
I’m not sure I paid too much attention to particular authors or illustrators, but I certainly had my favorite books. I loved Corduroy by Don Freeman, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, The Amazing Bone and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (although I definitely attribute the latter to causing me a bit of claustrophobia – being trapped as a rock … yikes!). I certainly enjoyed Dr. Seuss – I remember taking a lot of Dr. Seuss ‘records’ out of the library (not sure they were called ‘audio-books’ yet).
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
It’s important to learn and absorb as much as you can. Writing for children is an art form, but it’s also a business. Those are two disparate disciplines and both were relatively foreign to me.
Also, the first manuscript I wrote was terrible. The second was a little less terrible. Every story I wrote was better than the last and I probably held on too long to those first few, revising and revising when the truth was that they were probably never going to get published. I do think that going through the process of getting those first stories critiqued and revising them was a worthwhile exercise, though.
I was very fortunate that my wife found a local kid lit class/critique group very soon after I wrote my first (terrible) manuscript. Getting feedback and direction from the start was invaluable.
ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?
Laptop – on my lap, in bed. Writing isn’t my day job, so I do most of it from home. My wife is a teacher, so she gets the office.
ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?
Definitely as the muse strikes. And often that’s in the middle of the night (I woke up and texted myself the “word” Pirasaurs! at 2:53 am on February 27th of 2013). Sometimes I go weeks without writing, and then I’ll write a full first draft over a weekend (like last weekend). It totally varies.
ME: Why do you write for children?
The short answer: to entertain
The real answer: “books for children” aren’t only books for children. In the case of picture books (at least the ones I write), they are meant to be read by an adult to a child. So they’re also for adults (librarians, teachers, parents, etc). So, yes, I write for children, but I also write for the adult who is expected to read a child’s favorite book over and over and over and over and over again.
Also, I can’t draw (or paint, or sculpt, or any of those visually artsy things). But sometimes I get (what I think are) fun ideas that I’d love to see illustrated (like food racing around a refrigerator or a boy who is pen pals with a dragon). And since I can’t do it, the only way to make that happen is to trick a publisher to find an illustrator to do it. So far, I’ve gotten away with it and no one is the wiser to my selfishly nefarious motivations… heh, heh…
So to rephrase the question: why do I write for children and the adults who read to them? I write to entertain both the child and the parent. And myself.
ME: Josh, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?
I certainly have loads of other thoughts and advice for aspiring writers, and I’ve written most of it down on the Resources for Writers section of my website:
- 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!
Oh my gosh! This is amazing, Josh! You’ve given us all an entire course on writing picture books for children. WOW! I know that wasn’t part of the deal…but I also know that everyone is applauding…and thankful they stopped by here today.
If you’d like to connect with Josh or find out more about his books:
I did a review of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast for Perfect Picture Book Friday here.
And I know you will want to try out this yummy treat recipe…anyone who can write a book about Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast must know all about sweets…just think maple syrup, honey, and jam.
Take it away, Josh!
DESPICABLY HEALTHY BROWNIES/CUPCAKES
1 Box Brownie Mix
1/2 cup unsweetened wheat germ
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
3/4 cup PURPLE PUREE (see below for recipe)
(OPTIONAL) 2 large eggs OR 1/2 cup applesauce OR energy egg replacer
- Preheat oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with inserts (should make about 12). Or coat a baking pan with cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients together until well blended (use a mixer on low speed or stir vigorously for about 2 minutes). Follow mix package directions for baking times.
PURPLE PUREE (makes two and a half cups)
- Put two 10-oz packages of frozen (or fresh) spinach in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 6 to 7 minutes. Drain.
- Puree spinach, 1½ cups blueberries (can be frozen), ½ teaspoon lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth for 1 minute (in chopper, food processor, blender…). If necessary, add 1 tablespoon of water to make puree smoother.
- You can store the extra in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, or freeze ½-cup portions in plastic bags or containers.
(This may have originated and been tweaked from Parenting.com: http://www.parenting.com/article/better-for-you-brownies.)
Thank you all for stopping by. Next week I’m off to Chicago for the Wild Midwest SCBWI conference so it is possible I might not be able to post again until I return. I will be back for Perfect Picture Book Friday on May 6th and we will announce three winners in the National Library Week giveaway.
In honor of National Library Week, I’m donating THREE copies of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. Wouldn’t it be awesome to present a copy of this valuable parent/teacher resource to your children’s librarian? Just subscribe to my mailing list. Three names will be chosen by Random.org at the end of April. Already subscribed? No worries…your name is already entered.
Many libraries are very limited in what new materials they can buy for their collections because of reduced revenues. Help your library receive a resource that will be used by parents and teachers. Just click on this link and subscribe to my mailing list.