There is something about Halloween that evokes a lot of childhood
memories for me.
I get a teary-eyed smile when I see the little trick-or-treaters
out gathering their candy. I remember eating donuts and drinking cider while carving pumpkins and toasting their seeds. Getting all upset when my mom tells me I have to wear a coat over my costume. Eagerly waiting for “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” to be aired (of course this was before DVDs and On-Demand viewing).
One particular memory that has me laughing every time has to do
with a robot costume made out of a large cardboard box covered in aluminum foil, a dark driveway, a vicious poodle and shaky footing. Yeah. Such great memories.
Of course, any bookstore is just brimming with Halloween themed
picture books right now. Jerry Seinfeld did a great job of capturing the Halloween experience for those who grew up in the 70s and 80s in his picture book, Halloween. I question whether it would be enjoyed more by adults than children, but it is really quite funny and obviously autobiographical.
But we aren’t all stand-up comics. So how do we capture the “funny” from our childhood and turn it into a picture book?
Marcie’s 5 Steps for Mining Memories to Create Funny Picture Books
1) List 5 memories from your childhood that make you laugh. You know, those stories that get shared at family get-togethers? Now these should be vignettes. Moments. We aren’t going for an epic novel here, only a short picture book.
2) Pick one of those 5 memories and create a stream-of-consciousness list. Remember your 5 senses. Flesh out the memory, listing all you can remember about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of that moment.
3) Regress, yet stay present. Go back in time. Reconnect with the younger you. But remember, this is a story
for today’s kids, not adults, so you want to be sure to have a kid-perspective that today’s kids can relate to. Might require some jiggling. Not sure kids can relate to the costumes in the “cardboard box with the cellophane top” that Seinfeld talks about in Halloween.
4) Fill in the holes. These are stories. They are based on truth, yet as a writer you are able to take artistic license. Is your memory foggy is parts? Who cares! You are a writer. Give yourself permission
to write and create. Embellish and exaggerate. Remember, kids books are about the main character’s BEST or WORST day. So pump it up and think big!
5) Mash and Twist. Is your memory about your pet dog? What if you change it to a dinosaur in your re-telling? How does that change things? How does that add humor? Have fun with it. Think of Peter Brown’s Children Make Terrible Pets. It was inspired by a childhood memory, however I don’t think Peter was ever a female bear or that he was captured in the woods by one. Yet, he twisted the memory and what we have is a brilliantly funny
book. Remember, you are telling a story here. Up the ante to up the fun!
So what are you waiting for? Mine those memories and have some fun!
PS. A very special thank you to Brianne and Marissa for the use of your childhood photos!
In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher and theatre
educator, but now she splits her days between chasing the Picture Book Writer dream and chasing toddlers on the playground as a nanny. Both are equally glamorous!
Her blog, The Write Routine and her Teacher’s Guides, can be found at www.thisismarciecolleen.com. You can also follow her on Twitter. Additionally, Marcie is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month. She contributes the 4th Friday of the month, as a Blogette, right here, posting on humor in picture books.
She lives with her fiancé and their mischievous
sock monkey in Brooklyn, NYC.
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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