My co-conspirator, Cece Bell, summed up the way we worked on our Inspector Flytrap series like this: I wrote it to make her laugh. She drew it to make me laugh.
That’s really where a LOT of our books come from.
Crankee Doodle, for example, was all plotted out on a car ride and the whole thing started with one of us saying something like, “Wait, what if his name was CRANKEE Doodle?”
And then we kept piling it on. Trying to add on a little twist to what the other person came up with. Eventually we had a whole book and it would be pretty hard to say who did what.
Of course, not everything gets a laugh.
Just this week, I told Cece an I idea I had for an absolutely hilarious book…. and she didn’t bust up laughing. In fact I’m not sure she laughed at all. So maybe that one needs some work or just a quick trip to the trash can.
That’s the other important thing about the way we work.
Sometimes when one of makes a joke or a nice turn of phrase, the other says “That would make a great kids book!” (Or sometimes we just say that about our own idea.) And then we think it over for a bit and… often we realize that, NO it wouldn’t.
It’s a good thing we do this, because when we’re rolling it can happen several times a day. And obviously no one can publish 365 times several kids books a year. You have to be willing to let some sail off into the sunset. (I’ve always wished we kept a list of the ideas that didn’t make it, because a list of things that didn’t turn out to be all that funny … would be funny.)
But then other ideas, like “a talking origami Yoda puppet,” are worth pursuing. When I started that, I had no idea I’d pursue it for (at least) 7 books. Or that I’d spend my time agonizing over questions like: what pun can I make out of Princess Leia?
I don’t really remember when I decided that the idea of a crime-solving plant was worth the pursuit. He sort of forced himself past the early stages and jumped out of my head ready to ride his skateboard, fight crime and banter with his assistant, Nina the Goat. Cece claims she has had a lot of fun illustrating it — although it looks like hard work to me.
But that’s really the crazy thing about this job of trying to make kids laugh via books: it takes a lot of writing, drawing, revising, editing, emailing and promoting to take whatever that first joke was and try to press it between the pages of a book so that it falls out on some kid maybe 10 years from now and it’s still — hopefully — funny.
has been a newspaper reporter and columnist, juggler, weed boy, lawn mower part assembler, and biology research assistant. He is the bestselling author of many funny books including the Origami Yoda Series, Fake Mustache, The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain!, and more. He is married to author illustrator Cece Bell. Visit his WEBSITE
to find out more about Tom and his books. and follow him on Twitter @OrigamiYoda
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