Thursday, April 16, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver "How We Write Children's Books and Why"

New York Times bestselling authors Henry Winkler and SCBWI's own Lin Oliver have published 35 books together! Today, they shared the key ingredients of writing humor for kids and gave us insight into their collaborative process and what motivates them to reach out to children.

Both Henry and Lin shared their backgrounds, and how they met over a fateful lunch... leading to 18 novels in their Hank Zipzer middle grade series, and then a series of chapter books (also the stories of Hank, for a younger age, where Frank hasn't yet been diagnosed with dyslexia), published in a typeface that helps kids with reading issues decode the page.

They discussed their collaborative process and its connection to both of their backgrounds in television.

Henry holds up a copy of his and Lin's latest book, Alien Superstar

And we got tips!

Some highlights of Henry and Lin's tips for writing humor:

"Make yourself laugh." Write what you think is funny - not what you think kids will find funny. As Henry puts it, "When we write from our center, it connects with someone else."

And there are so many kinds of humor: Observational humor, character humor, wordplay, slapstick, jokes...

Another tip on humor:

"Don't be general. comedy comes from specific details."

They then shared examples of funny details from their books. Like the mole shaped like the statue of liberty (without the torch) on the face of Hank's school principal.

Or, as Lin put it for another example, "It's the coconut soap that makes it really funny."

They shared tips on Dialog, Book Series, Creating Plot, and Creating Heart and Warmth. Henry did some acting exercises to illustrate their points, and Lin shared some writing exercises she uses as well. Henry gave a brief reading to show what it means to write with heart – such a sweet moment. There was also a Q&A, touching on critiques, how to best handle a lesson you want your story to convey, and so much more!

Final tip to share here:

Writing a Book Series: Rule #7: Series readers want to be part of a recurring group of friends. Develop each member of your cast and characters fully.

It was an informative, inspiring, funny(!), and heartfelt session.

Thank you, Henry and Lin.

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

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