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Hey, Tara! Thanks for letting me share about my Stinky Stench!

(Umm, P.U., but OK…?)

Over the last year and a half—ever since first book LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST was released—a small handful of bookstores around the country reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in visiting to do readings and signings.

For those in and around New England (my home), I tried to make it happen. But occasionally, a store far out of driving distance asked. And while I was honored, I didn’t have any imminent plans to travel to New Orleans or St. Louis or Los Angeles*.

Well, word got back to my amazing publicity and marketing team at Sterling Publishing. In preparation for the release of the sequel, they offered to send me on a short tour to celebrate THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH and they even worked it out that I could visit a bunch of those stores that had contacted me!

So for the first two weeks of May I traveled from Boston to Allentown, PA to Asheville, NC to New Orleans to Kalamazoo, MI taking a detoured route through Indiana and Illinois to St. Louis, then finishing up in Baltimore.

I had seven bookstore events: The Novel Neighbor, Octavia Books, Spellbound Children’s Bookshop, Bookbug, The Ivy Bookshop, and two Barnes & Nobles (Allentown, PA and Portage, MI).

At Bookbug they made these cupcakes:

And I got to hang out with a bunch of nErDcampMI friends.

At the Novel Neighbor, they ordered special Flapjacks Lip Gloss:

At The Ivy Bookshop, it was standing room only!

But the best part was that I got to visit 19 schools in those ten school days.

Some days I visited three different schools. Other days I’d stay at a single school all day and do multiple presentations.

Sometimes I’d be reading to a single class or grade at a time. Other times I presented to entire elementary schools—from 600 students in the gym to 200 students in the auditorium to 150 students in the library to 20 preschoolers in the art room—I tried it all.

One school got creative with life-size minecraft and Pirasaurs!

Sometimes I had slides and a microphone.

Other times I had neither. Luckily I’m not a diva …yet (traveling with a personal masseuse is totally acceptable, right?).

One school that I had Skyped with previously got me to read my poem about my cat that poops all over the house.

So I’d like to thank Sterling for everything! From the tour all the way back to taking a risk on the slush pile submission in 2013 that was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (yes, it was a slush pile submission – Sterling accepts unsolicited submissions via snail mail – see guidelines here).

*Don’t worry, Los Angeles. I promise I’ll get out to you eventually!

Josh is giving away YOUR CHOICE:

  • EITHER a personalized signed copy of THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH
  • OR a written critique of your picture book manuscript (Josh values this at an estimated $1 billion)

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected soon!

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books – such as Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and its sequel The Case of the Stinky Stench along with Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk (9.19.17), Albie Newton (Spring 2018), Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (2018), and more coming soon!

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences. He’s written a free 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books available on his website here.

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 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 __________.

Find out more about Josh at his website joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

by Josh Funk

Yesterday, Tara told us to be mindful and also to daydream. Mindfulness and daydreaming may seem like opposites; pay close attention to the world…and pay attention to only what’s in your head. And just to prove that ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, today I’m going to suggest you do a third thing—something right in between.

Only half concentrate on what you’re doing. Space out…a little. Don’t pay too close attention. You know you’re gonna anyway. You’re probably multi-tasking while you read this post; maybe you’re exercising (good for you!) or driving (please pull over before continuing. Seriously.), or in the bathroom (hey, that’s where I’m writing this!).

suspenderdorothyToday I’m going to tell you why I love otter car wrecks. Sorry, I meant autocrrects. Bah! I mean autocorrects. And typlos. Seriously? AUTOCORRECTS AND TYPOS! And how they can inspire goofy, absurd, and sometimes preposterous creativity.

Do you want a robust hobbit dude?

Why wasn’t I invited, poo-head?

I solved your evil baristas.

I said or wrote all those things over the past few years…sort of.

I like to think that I have pretty good hearing. But if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you I’m not the best listener. I clearly wasn’t paying close attention when I thought I texted my wife, “Do you want to go out for food?” but ended up asking her about a chubby cowboy creature from middle earth. While a book about a hobbit is probably copyright protected, I’ll be there’s a market for LOTR fan-fiction.

When Anna Staniszewski told me in gchat that she was having a book launch, I responded with what I thought was, “Why wasn’t I invited, though?” I can’t say that I didn’t not not start working on a manuscript about a birthday party for an anthropomorphic piece of—wait, never mind. As Tara always says, don’t give away your ideas.

And I honestly have no idea what I said when Siri searched for those evil baristas. My best guess is that I wanted a burrito. But I made sure to write it down because a villainous coffee artisan sounds like a perfect future foil for Inspector Croissant!

the-case-of-the-stinky-stench

So use those absurd auto-corrects to your advantage. If you mishear someone speak, maybe what you think you heard will bear a brainstorm. It may seem nonsensical now. But definitely write it all down. For all you know, a typo isn’t just a typo—it’s your subconscious genius giving you an inspirational kick in the barista.


_josh-funk-headshot-with-monkey-dudeJosh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books, such as Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and its upcoming sequel The Case of the Stinky Stench along with Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk and more! This morning he started drafting a book about otters getting into car wrecks.

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conference. He has a 12 Step Guide to Writing Picture Books in the ‘Resources for Writers’ section of his website. 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 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 __________.

Find out more about Josh at joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.

prizedetails
Josh is giving away one signed & personalized copy of each of his three books: Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, Dear Dragon, and Pirasaurs!—one each to three lucky winners.

Lady Pancake Cover Image _dear-dragon _pirasaurs

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

Josh Funk Head Shotby Josh Funk

I know it’s only Day 2, but I want you to get all your BAD ideas out today. I want you to think of THE WORST idea you can.

Right now.

What would NOT make a good children’s book?

Maybe it has a horrible lesson.

It could be something completely unappealing to kids.

Or perhaps something adults will hate to read over and over and over again.

Make sure to think of something seriously flawed.

Okay. Have you got one?

Now let’s find a way to make it work—cause it’s bound to be unique and amazing.

A baby with a mustache? That’s absurd. Who would publish that?
pibo-mustache-baby
Clarion. That’s who.

A vegetarian vampire? Not a chance!
pibo-vunce-upon-a-time
Or maybe…

A canine with intestinal problems? Potty humor is just for adult novelty books …
pibo-walter-the-farting-dog
… and children with a sense of humor!

In fact, a book about a paranoid adult afraid of a skunk and a book about an international con man just made The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015.
pibo-the-skunk pibo-tricky vic

In my debut picture book, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (available now), the two main characters find out on the first page that there’s only a single drop of syrup left—and they both want it. And that exact conflict has been there since the very first draft. The resolution in print (I won’t spoil it for you) is also the same as that first draft.

Lady Pancake Cover Image

But when I brought the first draft of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast to my critique group, I originally had the two main characters arguing about who deserved the syrup more and why. For the entire story. Just dialogue. (I believe I was inspired by the debates prior to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.)

Yes, the argument escalated. I tried to heighten tension as it progressed. But one member of my critique group suggested I stop working on this project because there simply wasn’t enough illustratable space in a closed refrigerator to make a picture book work.

Instead of giving up, I took it as a challenge. My critique partner was right. But how could I make it work? I needed to expand the world. I realized I needed more action, not just two static characters and dialogue. So I turned this political race into an actual race. There was my action.

So today, go wild. Think of something crazy. Something that makes absolutely no sense in the picture book world. It’s bound to be unique. So try to make it work.

Maybe you’ll come up with a story about a city-wide power outage,
pibo-blackout
or a noir-style horror homage with villainous carrots,
Creepy Carrots cover
or a story about an elderly zoo worker with a cold.
top10asickdayforamosmcgee

Those ideas are award-winners!

Now it’s your turn.


Josh Funk is the author of LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), as well as the forthcoming picture books DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin 2016), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic 2017), JACK! [and the beanstalk] (Two Lions, 2017), and more.

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 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 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 __________.

Find Josh Funk at joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

PrizeDetails (2)

Josh is giving away two Swag Sets, one each for Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.

Each Swag Set contains:

  • 1 Tote Bag
  • 1 Magnet
  • 1 Pin
  • 1 Collectors Card
    for the assigned team (either Lady Pancake or Sir French Toast).

tote-bagspins and magnetscards

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

Quick, think of a picture book with a long title!

DUH, I KNOW.

alexanderterrible

Of course, Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz’s classic sports a long title for hyperbole purposes. The author wants you to know that Alexander’s day was straight-up disastrous…and that Alexander is perhaps a tad overdramatic. The title sets up the plot and character perfectly.

However, you don’t see long picture book titles like this one too often. Why?

Picture books tend to sell on concept. That concept must be communicated succinctly in order to capture a young child’s (and a parent’s) imagination. Yes, people really do judge a book by its cover.

If your picture book manuscript has an overly long title, it may suggest your concept is either too vague or too complicated for the format. You want to nail down your concept and make it snappy, catchy. BAM! SELL THAT BOOK!

Even though character name titles are short, I personally tend to shy away from them. The title ERIN & JOAN doesn’t tell my audience enough about who the characters are. Here’s an interesting case study: the talented Ame Dyckman’s WOLFIE THE BUNNY was originally called WOLFIE & DOT. The final title WOLFIE THE BUNNY practically sells itself (with Zacharia OHora’s bold artwork), whereas the original title doesn’t necessarily relay enough clues about the tale.

wolfie

But there are exceptions when two names work. GEORGE & MARTHA, one of the most popular picture books of all time, totally blows a hole in my theory.

So does Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s upcoming LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST. But here the names give you a lot to go on.

Lady Pancake Cover Image (2)

Now let’s examine SLJ/Fuse #8’s Top 100 Picture Books. The majority of titles are between one and four words. The longest title? THE LITTLE MOUSE, THE RED RIPE STRAWBERRY AND THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR, published in 1984. But let’s take a look at the cover…

thebighungrybear

…interestingly, THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR is emphasized in larger letters, juxtaposed against the image of the delicious strawberry and an anxious-looking mouse. I’m going to predict that in today’s market, an editor might have cut that title down to just the BEAR part. (But alas, the world will never know. Just like we still don’t know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop!)

tootsierollpop

Now here’s a title for ya:

POPPY THE PONY PICKS A PERFECTLY PATIENT PLAYMATE

This isn’t a real title, but notice how long it is and how it fell into an alliteration trap! Ahhhhh! I tend to see this often with new writers’ manuscripts.

The_Stinky_Cheese_Man_Book_Cover

THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES

This is a real title. It’s long but it’s allowed to be. It features “stinky” and “stupid,” two words especially beloved by the target audience. (Plus it’s Jon Scieszka! You gonna argue with JON SCIESZKA?)

jonscieszka

So take a close look at your picture book manuscript’s title. If you haven’t found a clever moniker, it may be that your story isn’t focused enough yet. If the title is long and complicated, maybe your story is, too. The title is going to be one of your most important selling points, so spend some time on it and get it right!

Bottom line: long titles can work, but be sure to know when they don’t.

Now it’s your turn:
What are some of your favorite picture book titles?

jfunk_headshotby Josh Funk

Someday someone will ask me why I write picture books. I won’t say “because I have stories that must be told” or “because my words are so important, all children simply must read them.” And I definitely won’t say “because I want to be rich and famous.”

I write picture books because I have funny ideas in my head that I think would entertain children.

But most importantly, I can’t draw. I mean, I’m allowed to draw, but I’m terrible at it. This was as good as I ever got as an artist…

bad_drawing

I drew this picture yesterday.

So what’s the easiest way to get these ‘entertaining’ thoughts out of my head and allow them to be visualized by me (and others)?

Write them down …

and hope that many …

many …

years later …

they’ll be published as picture books.

And in general, PiBo-ers, that’s how I come up with my ideas. I think of something I’d like to see illustrated. Something new that I haven’t seen before. Something that will make me laugh (and hopefully make children laugh). Something that an illustrator will have fun with.

Often this comes as interesting characters or their names. See: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Sketch

It was harder to figure out what they should do. How do I fit these two into a plot with conflict and tension?

*Ding* They’re fighting over syrup (obviously). What started out as a quasi-political debate about who deserved the syrup more (I wrote the first draft around the 2012 presidential elections) needed more action and a bigger setting.

So I turned once again to my rationale for writing picture books: what would I find entertaining to see illustrated?

They’ll race for the last drop of syrup throughout an entire refrigerator landscape! 27 drafts and 45 rejections later I had LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling, Oct 2015). [illustrations are by the fantastically talented Brendan Kearney]

Sometimes the answer comes in the way of an interesting situation. A boy and a dragon become pen pals? Ooh, that would be fun! But again, there’s no plot (meh, who needs a plot when you have dragons and an interesting situation? See: DRAGONS LOVE TACOS). But it still needed more.

What would be entertaining to see illustrated? Here I used the ‘what if’ technique. What if the boy thought he was writing to a boy … and the dragon thought he was writing to a dragon? That might make for some funny pictures due to misunderstandings?

16 drafts and several title changes later I had DEAR DRAGON (Viking, Winter 2016).

So if you want to see a Pancake run through Broccoli Forest and past Orange Juice Fountain …

Lady Pancake in Broccoli Forest

Or you want to see a piece of French Toast go skiing …

Sir French Toast Skiing

Then just make sure it has an interesting hook, compelling characters, a riveting plot, and is appropriate for ages 0-10.

What do you want to see illustrated?

guestbloggerbio2014

Josh Funk lives in New England with his wife and many many children. He is the author of the forthcoming picture books (all written in rhyme) LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling, 2015), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin, 2016), and PIRASAURS! (Scholastic, 2016). 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 __________. Find out more information at www.papajfunk.com, on Twitter @papajfunk, on Facebook at Josh Funk Books, at Victimless Rhyme, on goodreads, or the end of the ‘F’ section at a library in the future (time machine required).

prizedetails2014

As Josh does not (yet) have any books published, he is giving away FIVE signed books from his critique family: THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL by Kirsti Call, REX WRECKS IT! by Ben Clanton, MONSTER NEEDS A CHRISTMAS TREE by Paul Czajak, RUTH THE SLEUTH AND THE MESSY ROOM by Carol Gordon Ekster, and ESTHER’S HANUKKAH DISASTER by Jane Sutton.

joshfunk_pibo_prize

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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