[Full Post] Our fall conference faculty spotlight today features a rising star in the children’s picture book world– the funny, talented Josh Funk. Josh has published nine picture books (three launching this fall!) with more on the way. Our chapter’s PAL coordinator, Korey Scott, chatted with Josh recently, and Josh has graciously shared some of his journey with us.
What brought you to this career path?
I’m a software engineer (and I’ve been one for about 20 years). I didn’t start writing picture books until I had children of my own. I was reading a lot of great books to my kids and in the summer of 2011, just about 7 years ago, I wrote my first (very very horrible) picture book manuscript.
Soon after, my wife saw a class taught through the local adult community education center about writing books for children and she suggested I sign up (so of course I did). That class became my first critique group. And almost immediately, the members (and teacher) of the class suggested I attend the New England Regional SCBWI Conference held annually each spring.
So I did. And now I’m here.
Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?
Other than being a parent who read a lot to his kids, I don’t have much of a background in the literary world. I spent the next several years learning as much as I could about the craft and business of the children’s literature industry.
In late 2013 I received an offer on my first book, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, which I had submitted to Sterling Children’s through their slush pile (they still accept unsolicited submissions). And on the Tuesday after the North TX SCBWI Keep On Truckin’ Conference (9.25.18), my ninth book will be published (Mission Defrostable, the third book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series).
Needless to say, I’ve been very fortunate. And SCBWI, especially attending conferences, has been a huge part of my path to publication.
What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?
- So, You Wrote a Book. Now What?
- Picture Books Are Short
- Every Word Counts
- The Illustrator Is Your Partner
- Show Don’t Tell
- Write with Active Emotion
- Story Arc Components
- Don’t Write In Rhyme
- Rhyming Is All About Rhythm
- Some Ideas Don’t Work
- Keep Learning
- Now You’re Ready! Dive In!
I think the best advice I could give to new writers is to learn as much as you can about the craft and business of writing (after all, it is still a business) – and keep writing new things. Don’t get stuck revising your first manuscript over and over and over and over and over again. As long as you keep learning, your next manuscript will start off in a much better place and have far better odds of being published (as will your next next and your next next next … and so on).
We all have our favorite children’s books, ones that we can read over and over again. What books are your favorites and why? For me, I grew up with Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Books and Richard Scarry’s books. I can read those over and over again. With each read, I find more elements in the illustrations and writing to explore.
As a kid, I enjoyed Corduroy (I think I always wanted to sleep over in a department store), Caps for Sale (I loved the hand and leg movements), and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (despite the fact that I’m pretty sure it caused lifelong claustrophobia).
As an adult, the four books that I credit with making me want to be a writer are Iggy Peck, Architect (clever rhyme, advanced language, and about a topic that hasn’t been done a million times in picture books – an architect), The Curious Garden (I love the art; the best artists in the world today are making picture books), The Gardener (I can’t read this book without crying – that wordless spread on the roof with Uncle Jim! I only wish I could write something that made people feel the way this book does that to me), and Vunce Upon a Time (a book about a vegetarian vampire?! Apparently anything is possible in the world of picture books).
What are some hobbies you enjoy other than writing?
Is drinking coffee a hobby?
I like to sing (see my musical book trailers). I like spending time with my family, watching sports, movies, and playing video games. And I like meeting book people (authors, illustrators, educators, etc).
Name a food or that you love and could never grow tired of eating.
Please tell us about any books you have coming out in the near future?
I just had two books released this past spring. First was Albie Newton, illustrated by Ester Garay, about a smart and creative boy who starts school, but doesn’t really have all the social skills down yet. Then How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios, combines my two professional worlds. It’s about a girl named Pearl and her robot, Pascal who use fundamental coding concepts to construct the perfect beach day (such as sequences, loops, and if-then-else statements).
On August 28th, Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis, will be released. This is the first picture book about Patience and Fortitude, the two lion statues that faithfully guard the New York Public Library (in fact, this book is published in partnership with the NYPL). When Patience goes missing, Fortitude realizes that Patience has ventured inside the library. So for the first time ever, Fortitude abandons his post to search for Patience before the sun rises and we, the readers, get to explore the library for the first time alongside Fortitude.
And then on September 25th, the third book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series: Mission Defrostable, illustrated by Brenda Kearney comes out. In this action-packed adventure, the fridge is freezing over – and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have to travel to parts of the fridge they’ve never ventured … and need to enlist the help of one of their fiercest rivals. Dun. Dun. DUN!
I look forward to meeting everyone in late September! See you in North Texas! (and Keep On Truckin’!)
Thanks for chatting, Josh, and sharing your wit and advice! We’ll be sure to have a supply of candy corn on hand at our conference.
Want to enjoy more of Josh’s silly stories and writerly wisdom? Register for our Fall Conference!
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), How to Code a Sandcastle (and the upcoming sequel How to Code a Rollercoaster), It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon, Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, and the forthcoming 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!
Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited (or virtually visited) over 300 schools, classrooms, and libraries. Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
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 __________.