Monday, August 10, 2009

DONNA GEPHART: "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones"

DONNA GEPHART: "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones"

Some hilarious higlights from 2009 Sid Fleischman Humor Award winner Donna Gephart's panel:

-- She provided handouts for everyone with a list of techniques and details to hone one's humor skills.

-- She advises taking risks. "Mine your embarrassment," she said, discussing how writers should not be afraid to talk about real life embarrassing moments.

-- "Embarrassment is funny but humiliation is not," she said. "You want to empathize with your character. Readers want to laugh, not cringe."

-- She gave a writing exercise in which conference goers had to do: List embarrassing things that happened to you or list things that embarrassed you as a kid.

-- She suggested paying attention to the "sound of language" as another tool to write humor. For example, the "K" sound is funny, such as "Chicken is funny. Roast beef is not. Pickle is funny. Cucubmer is not. Twinkie is funny. Pie is not."

-- She also advised using exaggeration and understatement as tools for writing humor. Examples included "Exaggeration: referring to a tropical breeze as a hurricane" and "Understatement: referring to a hurricane as a tropical breeze."

-- Ultimately, she says writers should not TRY to be funny. "Forced humor is no fun for anyone."

-- She also gave a handout listing funny picture books, early readers, chapter books, and MG/YA novels.

It was a packed room where people participated with a lot of enthusiasm to Donna's writing exercises. And yes, there was much laughter!

Yet another shining example of great lectures provided by award-winning writers at the SCBWI national conference.

Posted by Paula Yoo

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