Thursday, June 4, 2009

humor and kids' books

i was invited by our local chapter of the SCBWI to talk about writing humor for children. I eagerly accepted the invitation because I've had both editors and librarians tell me lately they'd like to see more funny books for kids. But once I began preparing for the talk, I ran into a little trouble. Can you really teach people how to write humor? I was reminded of E. B. White's famous observation that you can certainly analyze humor but it's sort of like dissecting a frog--you kill the thing in the process.

In retrospect, I realize I could have talked a little about joke-writing for kids--a skill I learned from the inimitable Rick Walton. Start with the answer and work backwards. So in other words if you want to write zoo jokes, you pick an animal (hippopotamus), play around with the word (hippopottymouth) and then come up with an appropriate question: what's big and gray and swears a lot?

But I didn't do that. Instead, the best I could come up with was the idea of modeling--pay attention to WHO makes you laugh (Sceizka? Park? Cabot?) and then ask yourself why. And then try to write in the style of . . .

it seemed like a really lame presentation, actually. I was halfway through and I thought to myself "I'm wasting everyone's time." I hate it when I waste people's time this way.


Louise Plummer said...

You asked why I was obsessing about THE TALK. This is why. I'm sure you were fine. But I hate that feeling when I'm still giving the talk that I am boring my audience.

Karey said...

Love following your blog on Goodreads by the by. Are you going to be at the Kings' English on the 6th for the little thingy?