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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!).
Today 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!
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 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 __________.
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.
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.
by 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…
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 …
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.
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 …
Or you want to see a piece of French Toast go 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?
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).
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.
These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!