Writing Humorous Picture Books

27 08 2015

Rebecca witch 1Today I have the great pleasure of hosting my friend Rebecca Colby, an awesome picture book writer, whose book, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, released this month. She’s agreed to give share some secrets for writing funny picture books. And as a special bonus, if you read through the post, you’ll find a clue for her Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to collect all of the clues to be eligible for a prize.

And here’s Rebecca…

 

 

Show Them the Funny: Writing Humorous Picture Books

Everywhere I look on editor and agent submission wish lists these days, I read the following: WANTED: Funny, Quirky Picture Books. Why? Because everyone enjoys a laugh—kids and adults alike. Laughing makes people feel good, and as a result, funny sells.

But if you’re not the kind of person who automatically sees the funny side of life, you may find writing humorous picture books difficult. (And even if you do see the funny side of life, like me, you may still find it a struggle.) So here are some tips to showing editors and agents “the funny.” And if you’re playing my online scavenger hunt, here is one of the names you’re looking for: Sabrina.

 

JuxtapositionPirates Don't Change Diapers

Put two things together that don’t normally go together. This already sets the scene for a humorous story before you’ve even written a word. For example, Melinda Long puts ‘pirates’ and ‘a baby’ together in Pirates Don’t Change Diapers (illustrated by David Shannon). Who can resist laughing at babysitting pirates, especially when they think they’ve been given the task of sitting on babies.

 

Contradictions

Dear Mrs LaRueSome of the funniest books to read are those in which the illustrations contradict the text. Mark Teague does this so well in his book, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. In the book, Ike begs to be rescued from dog obedience school. He writes letters home to Mrs. LaRue, complaining about the school and painting a bleak picture of it, while the color illustrations tell a very different picture—that of a luxury, high-class school that is more akin to a spa retreat.

 

Potty HumorMorris the Mankiest Monster

Okay, so it doesn’t appeal to everyone, but most kids of average picture book age, love (and I do mean LOVE!) potty humor. And if you’re looking for an example of a book that is super-duper, hilariously disgusting then look no further than Morris, the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre. Morris lives in a house made of dung and eats green bogies. Need I say more?

 

The Web FilesWord play

Be it nonsense words, puns, tongue twisters, or other word play techniques, using fun language can add humor to a book. And the sillier sounding the language, the better. A picture book author that knows how to use word play to its best effect (and one to study) is Margie Palatini. With titles like Broom Mates, Moosetache, and Gone with the Wand, you already know she’s an author who likes to play with words. In her book, The Web Files (illustrated by Richard Egielski), someone has pilfered a peck of perfect purple almost-pickled peppers and Ducktective Web must investigate the fowl play. While it proves to be a hard case to quack, he eventually finds the dirty rat involved. Now how’s that for some fun word play?

 

Give it a twistI Thought This was a Bear Book

Another way to ensure your book is humorous is to add a twist. Your book should be anything but predictable, so surprise your audience. A recent book I’ve read that accomplishes this is I Thought This was a Bear Book by Tara Lazar and Benji Davies. The entire book is a twisted fairy tale with an alien accidentally falling into the pages of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But while some of the elements in the book, like the appearance of Goldilocks, porridge, chairs, and beds are expected, these elements are mish-mashed with the story of the alien, making for a completely new and unpredictable book. And just when you think you’ve got the book sussed and the happy ending is looming, a further twist shows up on the last page. But to find out what it is, you’ll have to read the book!

 

Illustrations

Illustrations are another way to inject humor into your picture book. However, since this is a post about writing, rather than illustrating, I’m not going to say much here, except occasionally–and only VERY OCCASIONALLY–if you come up with a strong, visual image that would enhance the humor in your text, then you might want to consider inserting an illustration note in your manuscript.

Humor is subjective so employing these tricks is no guarantee that every editor or agent will find your book humorous, but you’re sure to tickle a few funny bones.

Thank you for hosting me today, Laurie! I’ve had a great time and I hope everyone will get writing and “show them the funny”!

Thank you for being here, Rebecca. Lots of great advice for those who want to write “funny.”Here’s more about It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! and about Rebecca. Be sure to use that Scavenger Hunt clue.

It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! Blurb

Delia has been looking forward all year to flying in the annual Halloween Parade. But parade day brings heavy rain. So, Delia takes action. Using her best magic, Delia changes the rain to cats and dogs. But that doesn’t work too well! Then hats and clogs. That doesn’t work, either! Each new type of rain brings a new set of problems. How can Delia save the day?

About Rebecca Colby

When not staring at blank pieces of paper, Rebecca can be found scribbling on napkins, walking into lampposts, and talking to herself. You can learn more about Rebecca and her strange habits at www.rebeccacolbybooks.com Alternatively, check out some of her one-sided conversations on Twitter at @amscribbler.

Rebecca is the author of It’s Raining Bats & Frogs (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2015) and There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie (Floris Picture Kelpies, 2014), and the forthcoming Motor Goose (F&F/Macmillan, 2017).

 





Saddle Up for Adventure

2 08 2015

Her Cold Revenge 9781630790073 web Book 2 of the WANTED series has released. Grace Milton is back in HER COLD REVENGE, ready to do more bounty hunting and search for her family’s killers. Many dangers await, and she’s sidetracked by a chance meeting with Joe. But she’s determined not to let anything derail her plans, but can a sixteen-year-old girl capture outlaws plotting a train robbery? Lasso your copy to find out.

Available at your local bookstore, Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or Switch Press.

Read more about author Erin Johnson at The Bucket List:

“Her Cold Revenge was as good as the first, if not better.  It was great to be back in the world Erin Johnson created, back in cowboy boots and horseback riding through the Wild West.” ~ Jeanna, The Bucket List

“The second book in the gripping Wanted series, this Western revenge epic is a must-read for teen readers who are fans of relentless action, wild horses and heart-wrenching romance.” ~ YA Books Central

“Typical Western elements combine with the breathy emotions of a traditional romance in this sequel to Grace and the Guiltless.” ~ Kirkus

Her Cold Revenge by Erin Johnson may just be the story that hooks a new generation of readers on the Western genre.” ~ Smart Moms

“I just finished Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and wait till August, the release date for the second book. This book was so amazing that I don’t even want to pick up another book, due to a book hangover.” ~ Sassy ‘n Dangerous





Inspiration and Genius…

30 03 2015

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off the goal.”  ~ Henry Ford

 





Original Earth Day and Giveaway

21 03 2015

Raindrops on Green LeafDid you know that today was the original Earth Day? Here’s a link to a great post by middle-grade author Bonnie J. Doerr about the history of Earth Day along with a wonderful booklist of environmental titles that are perfect for celebrating today and for April’s Earth Month activities.

 





Need Some Inspiration?

20 03 2015

“Begin doing what you want now….We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand — and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.”
~Marie Beynon Ray





Realities of the Writing LIfe

16 03 2015

writingMost writers rack up rejection slips as they dream of the day that they’ll sign with an agent. Once they get the call and sign with their dream agent, most authors discover they’ll need additional edits on the manuscript they’ve already worked to death. And except for a lucky few, a long wait follows while the book goes out on sub. Then there’s the wait for the book to make it past the acquisitions committee.

Finally comes that glorious day of signing a book contract–one of the pinnacles of an author’s life. But wait…

You can’t tell anyone your fabulous news until it’s officially announced. So you spill the secret to a few trusted friends and family members and wait impatiently for the day you can shout it to the world. Then you bask in the congratulations and eagerly await the day your book heads to publication. Soon you’ll hold your baby in your hands! Yay! Um, no…

monkey reading

Although some days it may feel as though a team of monkeys is tearing apart your baby, in the end you’ll find the book has greatly improved.

It’s time for more waiting… For the editorial letter(s). And the REAL work begins. You thought your gem was finished? Sorry, the editor has plenty of requested changes. Then the copy editor. Then the proofreaders. And then is it ready yet?

Not yet. Next is waiting for the illustrator if it’s a children’s book. Then galleys, F&Gs, ARCs, final printing. Is it a book yet? Finally, yes. But there’s still waiting for release day.

And if you thought you were done working when you turned in your final draft, you’re discovering you’re working harder than ever — promoting your book, working on the next book, setting up school/library visits and bookstore signings…

But the upside of all this is that at least you can quit your day job and totally focus on your writing. Um, no…

Is This What Librarians Are Really Like?

Noooo!!!

Even if you got a six-figure advance (which most authors only dream of), you haven’t made much money yet. Don’t believe me? Check out agent Jennifer Laughran’s post about author advances, REAL TALK: $ix Figure Book Deal$, for the truth.

So you’ve gone through all of this and still need to keep your day job? Wouldn’t you have been better off working a second job for minimum wage? Probably. But why did you do this in the first place?  If it was for LOVE or to touch lives or to increase literacy, you’ll have the joy of seeing your book in reader’s hands. And nothing is more valuable than that.Children





Overcoming Fears

6 03 2015

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~Van Gogh
http://www.full-confidence.com http://full-confidence.blogspot.com/








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