Unless you have been living under a kidlit rock, you know Josh Funk. He is, hands down, one of the busiest and most prolific people in the industry. In addition, he’s a huge supporter of both established authors and new writers. It would have been so easy for Josh to say he was too busy for Writing with the Stars, but he rearranged his fridge and found some space behind the condiments, making me as happy as a Pirasaur with treasure! So to thank Josh, I asked my friend and fellow writer, Derick Wilder, to kick things off with a rhyme (I hope it doesn’t leave a stinky stench).
Josh’s Funky Beats
All of Josh’s children’s books
have his distinctive style.
He is known for flawless rhyme,
his beard, and playful smile.
Authors conjure characters
to keep the kids engrossed.
So, of course, Josh brought to life
a pancake and French toast.
Check out Josh’s writing guide.
Each lesson is sublime.
Oops, I just read number 8—
to never write in rhyme.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a school visit?
In truth, I don’t do too many school visits due to the day job (I’m a software engineer).
One of the things I like to do during school visits is to create characters with students, asking volunteers for their input. I often ask one student for their favorite food and then another for a job they want to have when they grow up—and then we combine them to create a character. Usually it’s something basic like Professor Pizza or Doctor Hot Dog. But every once in a while, I get a great one.
At one particular visit, I got a President Peanut—which was incredibly spot on. At another, a tiny toddler gave me “geneticist”—which was brilliant—and the most adorable thing coming from someone so small (it’s possible I misheard her and she was saying chicken nugget, which would have answered the previous question; in retrospect, she might not have been that brilliant after all).
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Hmm. Twitter, I guess? I dunno. I’m not sure I have one Kryptonite that rules them all. I actually don’t think too much about my time management issues and it’s been working out pretty well.
When writing picture books, I often get really excited about a particular idea and spend a frenzied amount of time on it for a few days. If I don’t have any ideas at a given time, I have enough to do regarding revision, publicity, events, etc., that I’m always busy with something.
Now I feel like I should have a writing Kryptonite. Maybe not having a writing Kryptonite is my writing Kryptonite?
What is the best thing you ever bought with your earnings?
Earnings? You know I write picture books, right? I started getting large coffees instead of medium, I guess.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?
I’ll read the professional journal reviews. And also Kirkus (zing!). And if an educator or blogger has taken the time to review my book, I’m happy to tweet back to them.
But user reviews—I try not to. At the beginning of 2017 I stopped looking at weekly sales numbers, sales rankings, star ratings, etc. I thought “What would Ame Dyckman do?” And then I asked Ame Dyckman what she does—and her answer was to act like a five-year-old.
So that’s how I approach reviews—I act like a five-year-old.
How many stories do you write a year that never make it to your agent?
As the years have gone by and I have less free time to just write, I’ve had to be more calculated about how I spend my writing time. I’m definitely very picky with the ideas that I decide to pursue. I’d say that I probably send 80% of what I write to my agent, but not everything gets shopped to editors for various reasons (timing/quality).
What is the best money you spent on learning the craft?
Going to the Annual New England SCBWI Regional Spring Conference. In 2012, my first writing conference ever, I went for a single day of the three day conference and it was a life-changing experience. As soon as I walked into the conference hotel I knew this was the place for me. I was fortunate to meet a few people who suggested I volunteer the following year, which was exactly what I did in 2013.
And in 2013 I met all the right people—new critique partners, mentors, friends, and lo and behold, in 2016 and 2017 I was co-director of the NESCBWI Conference.
If you live anywhere near New England, mark your calendars for April 20-22, 2018. Registration usually opens in early February, and it WILL fill up—so sign up fast!
You are a huge supporter of independent bookstores and spend a lot of time in them. What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you while doing an event? Best thing?
I think the weirdest and best thing were probably the same.
At Bookbug in Kalamazoo, MI (which you should totally visit if you can), about five minutes before my event, Joanna Parzakonis (owner of Bookbug) whispered to me, “Sarah Stewart and David Small just walked in.”
As I’m sure you know, Sarah Stewart and David Small are an incredible husband and wife author/illustrator team (fwiw, David Small has a collection of seals marked ‘Caldecott’). Their book, The Gardener, is one of my all-time favorite picture books (one of four books that I often credit with making me want to become a writer).
Now don’t get too excited. David and Sarah didn’t come to Bookbug for my event; they’re locals and were there to sign some orders that had come in. But of course, Joanna introduced me and when I told them that The Gardener is one of my favorites, Sarah looked at me sternly and asked, “Why is that?” It was almost as if she was testing me, because, truth be told, The Gardener is one of their most famous books, so any respectful person might say the same thing even if they didn’t mean it—or even know the book that well.
I said, “Because of that wordless spread at the end when Uncle Jim comes to the roof and sees the garden … I get chills every time I read it.” Then Sarah gave me the warmest smile and a hug (apparently I’d passed her test). Joanna had them sign a copy of The Gardener for me, and Sarah wrote the sweetest inspiring note inside.
I was certainly flying pretty high for the rest of the day after that one!
If you ever had the opportunity to open your own indie bookstore, what would you call it?
Since this is totally hypothetical (running a bookstore is soooooo much more work than just ‘reading books all day’ like we all dream), I’m waffling between going with something sassy like Between the Sheets or something on the nose like Coffee and Books.
Did anybody mentor you while learning, officially or unofficially? If you could choose someone to mentor you right now, who would it be?
Starting in the fall of 2011, I took a class through the Lexington (MA) Community Education program taught by author Jane Sutton (The Problem with Cauliflower, Don’t Call Me Sydney, the upcoming Paulie’s Passover Predicament). The course (that I took 8 times between 2011 and 2014) was an incredible introduction to the world of picture books – and it’s still being taught today!
When I met author Anna Staniszewski (Dogosaurus Rex, Power Down, Little Robot, The Dirty Diary MG series) in 2013, she offered invaluable writing insight via critiques of my manuscripts as well as terrific and timely career advice.
And there are so many others who helped me along the way: Heather Kelly, founder of The Writers’ Loft, author Kristine Asselin who connected me to my agent, a plethora of critique partners over the years, and so on. I don’t think there’s anyone in particular I’d choose to mentor me—I’ll just keep soaking up as much information from as many talented individuals as I can.
You are a Little Free Library steward. What is the most unusual book you have seen in there?
Multiple novelizations of the Olsen Twin movies. Hands down.
Thank you, Josh. Please remember to support these mentor authors by buying their books, leaving on-line reviews and telling your librarians.
Bio: Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books—such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the Stinky Stench and the upcoming Mission: Defrostable), It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon, Pirasaurs!, and the forthcoming Albie Newton, How to Code a Sandcastle (in conjunction with Girls Who Code), Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in conjunction with the New York Public Library), It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and more coming soon!
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 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 __________.