Theresa, critique-partner, writer-friend, and fellow triplets-mom, is getting good press! Time for Kids magazine featured her “How to Write Funny” advice and Highlights for Children Magazine asked her to share some “tips and tricks of the trade.” So cool!
Theresa Julian, critique partner, writer-friend, published author, and fellow triplets mom, can be called a humor expert. Her first book, The Joke Machine, teaches kids how they can increase their own funny factor. Her second book, 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES, illustrated by Pat Lewis, is now out in the world! Woohoo! Darlene Beck-Jacobson added an excellent post to her blog “Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life,” in which Theresa gives potential pranksters a leg up by sharing tips from her book. Darlene’s post is re-blogged below.
Did you know:
Cows moo with different accents – depending on where they live?
The bones in the human body are held together by marshmallow taffy?
Snakes don’t live in swamps, they live in potato chips cans, like this:
If you didn’t know these facts, it’s okay because – none of them are true. I’m pulling your leg. Kidding. Pranking you.
If there’s a little jokester in your life who wants to learn about pranking, check out 101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokes, a middle grade book written by me and illustrated by Pat Lewis. This super silly book includes – you guessed it – 101 pranks, AND explains how to pull the perfect trick.
The book teaches kids how to pace their prank, find the right attitude, and create a story around it. It explains how kids can kick their pranks up a notch through physical humor, which is using their body to make someone laugh. It’s using goofy faces, funny voices, slipping, tripping, and weird smells and sounds to make their pranks extra awesome.
Here are some tips from the book:
Start a prank with the right attitude. How would you feel if you were really in the prank situation? If you’re pretending you’ve just won a million dollars, act thrilled. If you’re pretending you broke a window, act shocked. If you’ve filled the cabinet with ping-pong balls, act casual and wait for someone to open the door. Pick an attitude, commit to it, and sell it.
Create an interesting story around your prank. Let’s say you want to convince your friend that your family has a “dead finger” collection and you’ve brought in your favorite one to show her. But, of course, it’s really just your finger in a box, covered in ketchup and avocado mush.
If you walk up to your friend and show her the box, it may not be very effective. But if you build it up with a story that draws her in, and then show the box, you’ll get a bigger reaction.
Try creating a story like this: You crept down your creaky basement stairs; opened the rusty door to the back room; and gagged at the stench of rotting skin. When you turned on the light, you found that there, in your very own basement, was a dead-finger collection – probably great-grandpa’s from the war. Now, when you show the box, you’ll probably get the reaction you were looking for.
A good prank is carefully paced, not blurted out or rushed.
Picture this: Your brother walks into the kitchen and hasn’t yet seen the fake tarantula on the cheese casserole. Do you jump up and yell, “Look at the cheese casserole, ha ha!”? No, of course not. You sit and wait, distract him with comments about how good you’ve been (which, is always true, right?), and wait for the time to be ripe. It’s sooo much better if he finds the hairy spider himself!
Let’s face it, facial expressions are key to a good prank because they help sell your story. Picture a face that’s afraid, amazed, annoyed, or bored, like the ones below.
The right face can say a lot more than words. So when you’re pranking, let your face do the talking!
Kooky Arms & Legs
Get your whole body into the prank. If you tell your friend the rat in the garage is THIS BIG, fling out your arms and show just how big. If you’re pretending you’re about to vomit, clutch your stomach, moan and double over in pain. In the prankiverse, body language reinforces your story and paints a picture, and is often funnier than words.
Silly Voices and Sounds
Silly voices and sounds make pranks more believable and fun. If you’re pretending you’ve broken a window, download a crashing glass sound and play it on your phone or computer. If you’ll make a prank call, you’ll need to disguise your voice with an accent or different tone. Funny voices are fun to create and once you’ve nailed a few, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!
Slipping, Tripping and Prat-falling
101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokes teaches you how to pretend you’re slipping, tripping and falling, so you get the reaction you want. For example, here’s how to pretend you’re hitting your head on a door:
The book also explains how to crack your nose, bite off your finger, detach your head, spit out your teeth, push a pencil through your head, rip your eyeball out, slip in poop, and control gravity. You’re welcome.
So, if there’s a little prankster in your life who’s looking to learn completely ridiculous skills, such as how to use goofy faces, funny voices, bad smells, weird sounds, and smooth body moves to trick their friends, check out 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKESwhich goes on sale Sept. 28, 2021. Then — watch your back
Theresa Julian loves chocolate, changing her ringtones, and writing humorous books for middle graders. Her books have been featured in TIME for Kids magazine, the Barnes & Noble Kid’s Blog, and Today.com. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master’s in Corporate Communications. After many years of writing business documents for large corporations, she’s now happily living on the beach, writing funny books for kids. Her mother claims Theresa spent most of first grade sleeping on her desk, but don’t worry, she’s awake now, dreaming up new ways to keep kids reading and laughing.
Independent Book Store Day, April 24, 2021, is billed as “One Day. Hundreds Of Bookstores. Fifty States. Join The Celebration!” My two favorite Indie bookstores are The Book House and Words. Both have great selections, calm, welcoming atmospheres, special events, and the personal touch and help that you can only get at small stores.
I hope to one day, very soon (fingers crossed, wish on a dandelion, Flying Wish Paper and more), enter one or both of these stores as a Kidlit author, not just a customer.
The Storystorm challenge is to create 30 story ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don’t need potential best-seller ideas.
You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas. Your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass. Eventually, you will have a list of ideas to flesh out into concepts, premises and manuscripts in the coming year.
On this blog, daily posts by authors, illustrators, editors and other publishing professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories.
This year, STORYSTORM inspired me to start a new journal in which I’m collecting ideas. Some may turn into stories and some may not, but one of the takeaways from this year’s authors and illustrators is to see where your creativity takes you. I’m up for the challenge!
I create with clay, yarn, fabric and, of course, ingredients. I imagine worlds with words.
“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA
Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2, in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago.
Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.
Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event, “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.
“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”
To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.
Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.
Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)
“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com
What You Can Do:
There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.
Want to find out more about these pandemic-inspired picture books and E-Books and related info, activities, and free downloads? Check out Pippinherohelpers.com.
NG:How did you come to children’s writing and illustrating?
DM: I think like many of us in the KidLit realm, I fell in love with picture books as a young child and have always been drawn to storytelling. As I got older I developed the desire to create books myself, but never did more than write some poetry and short essays. I visited it again, briefly, before my son was born, having designed a little girl character, but never took her anywhere till the 90s. At that time, when my health declined enough that I became disabled and was moved to write poetry again, a friend encouraged me to write.
I was thinking it was the perfect way for me to be able to stay home and earn a living. Little did I know how difficult it would be to get published! Had I known, I likely wouldn’t have pursued it. As difficult as it has been as far as the pursuit of getting traditionally published, it has also been incredibly joyful because of all the many kindred kidlit friends (like you) I’ve met along the way and I can’t imagine having missed out on all that—ever.
NG: What did you learn in the process of self publishing that most surprised you?
DM: I can’t really say anything about self-publishing actually surprised me because I knew it was a huge undertaking having to do literally everything myself. It’s why I never wanted to do it! I hate dealing with the business/money end of anything and with self-pubbing it’s unavoidable. I considered the project worth it though. I was already very familiar with the process, but did a lot more research and purchased a few “how to” books, including the legalities, etc., all of which helped me make important decisions. Ultimately, because it seemed the wiser choice to keep as much control as possible, not limit where and how I could sell, and keep my private life and finances separate, I ended up investing in my own ISBNs and establishing an imprint.
I guess the one thing I didn’t expect was that the ebooks, though cheap and readily available, weren’t what people (at least my age) preferred. Feedback was the desire for paperback. That pushed me to re-format all six as paperbacks. I can tell you, my father is happy he—and children—will be able to hold a printed book in their hands 🙂 So am I!
NG: Did you start with the story, the art, or was it a combination?
DM: It’s funny—you would think with me being an artist, that art would tend to be where I start, but the only time that really happens is if someone offers a picture prompt! For me, an idea comes, regardless of what triggers it, and I write first. I visualize while I’m writing so the spread illustrations are forming from the beginning of the writing process. My word and art creativity are seamlessly connected in my imagination.
NG: How did you manage your time in order to work on writing, illustrating and publishing the series?
DM: This question actually made me laugh! Manage? Time? From the very beginning I felt pressure because the nature of the subject matter is very timely and I wanted it to be of use as soon as possible, at a time we all hoped would be the worst of the pandemic. (Sorrowfully and tragically, that’s not the case, and in the U.S. will be living with this serious threat for a long while.)
As per usual, I estimate something to take about half the time it actually will so, although I was hoping the books would be available by May/June, the reality of creating 6 books, a website, establishing an imprint and logo, all the glitches that happened along the way and being forced to food shop on occasion and get “some” sleep, there’s never been enough time and here we are at the end of August! And the thing is—I’m not done! Now that the books are finally published and “out there,” I can go back and create the additional artwork required to make 2 more versions: interracial and same-sex parents.
And I feel like I have to give a “shout out” to technology, without which this entire project could not have been possible. I have that proverbial love/hate relationship with it, but in this case — except for the glitches — it was “loooove.” 😉
NG: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
DM: I’m such an open book, I’m not sure there IS anything! (You) might think that because I thoroughly enjoy good conversation and love to socialize that I might not like to be alone when, in fact — I love being alone!
NG: Who would you like to read your books/what are your goals with the series?
DM: I’m hoping families with young children, and teachers with young students can benefit by the content of the books (ages 3-8), especially now with the problems faced as the school year begins. I think children being able to see their experience in book form, with illustrations that explain something as abstract as a virus, can help them more understand it.
I did my best to show why washing hands, wearing masks and staying physically distant are so important, and by doing these things they become Hero Helpers. By doing so, along with helping the people in their own lives, they ultimately help the heroes who are risking their own lives to help others.
Naomi, thank you SO much for featuring my books on your wonderful blog and giving me the opportunity to talk about them and a bit of what is behind them.
One of the positive aspects of writing Kidlit is the supportive community, and writer/illustrator :Donna Marie has been more than supportive; she’s volunteered countless hours to NJSCBWI. When the pandemic hit the U.S., :Donna wanted to find a way to help kids understand Covid-19 and why their routines were disrupted, and show how they could stay safe. She turned her idea into a reality by publishing Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers, which are available in 6 different versions with 2 more inclusive versions on the way. In addition, on the website Pippinherohelpers.com, :Donna offers additional info and tools for kids and adults and free printable downloads to post anywhere from bathrooms to classrooms that illustrate hand hygiene, wearing/handling face coverings, and more.
What’s the story about?
One morning in March 2020 a child wakes up and gets ready for school only to be told by Mom that he/she has to stay home—it’s a rule. The child doesn’t understand, is upset about no longer being able to play with friends and do many “normal” things like go to the playground, the movies, school or anything outside their home or family. The mother then tells the child about the pandemic—the deadly virus that’s “sneaky and quick.”
Accompanied by illustrations, she explains how easily the virus spreads, how it can make some people very sick, who the heroes are who help the people who need hospital care, along with the many essential workers we count on. The child learns that by doing “stay safe” things like staying physically distant, wearing masks and washing hands they become “Hero Helpers.”
Highlighted are many positives about staying home, and lots of “stay at home” activities, including a surprise “fun” idea Mom has the family do. The child is reassured that, until the doctors say it is “safe” again, they will visit friends and family virtually, continue to be grateful for the good things, and how they will stay strong till this pandemic passes. Kathy Temean on Writing and Illustrating
In :Donna Marie’s words:
When this pandemic hit the U.S., I saw the plethora of wonderful stuff being offered by the KidLit community, librarians and teachers to families with children to help them get through the whole stay-at-home situation and was blown away by it. My natural inclination was wanting to contribute and what came to mind was a book I wrote back when my son was in maybe 3rd grade, so 1993ish. It was called The Rainy Day and in it were ideas of what to do on a rainy day. I figured maybe I could list them and post it in a blog post, but quickly poo-pooed that since it really wouldn’t offer anything more than what was already out there, so why waste my time? But one thought led to another, I ended up writing an almost totally new story, and when I realized I had the power to execute these books digitally to make diverse and inclusive versions, there was no stopping me!
Where can people find Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers?
:Donna is a proud and blessed mother and grandmother, and as a woman of love, hope and faith, she has loved stories since the first time she held ARE YOU MY MOTHER, THE CAT IN THE HAT and MADELINE in her hands. Passionate about storytelling in all forms, the wonder of words and pictures in books has long inspired her to tell stories of her own. As a small voice amid the glorious chorus of book creators, her hope is to add some small measure of value and joy for her gracious readers. And all of this while doing her best not to consume more “goodies” than good books! 😀
I’m currently reading the insightful, researched, and devastating book Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson, and realize how much caste and hierarchy is present in The War I Finally Won, the 2017 sequel to The War That Saved My Life. Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley doesn’t sugarcoat how people were seen and treated in WWII England, whether they were poor or wealthy, children or adults, single or married, Jews or Nazis, and soldiers or spies. One of the most refreshing things about the stories is that the target audience of 8-12 year olds isn’t patronized. Cruelty, physical and emotional pain, disability, sickness, war, and death, and grief are faced head on. So are understanding, acceptance, loyalty, friendship and love.
What’s the story about?
Ada and her younger brother, Jamie, now have a permanent home with their loving legal guardian, Susan Smith. Although Jamie adapts more easily, Ada still struggles with the aftermath of her old life, and how to fit into her new life.
World War II continues, and forces the small community to come together and rely on one another. Ada has never been interested in getting to know her friend’s family—especially Maggie’s mother, the formidable Lady Thorton. However, circumstances bring them in close proximity along with other unexpected characters.
Ada comes face to face with another German! This time she isn’t sure what she should do. How can she help the ones she loves and keep them safe?
Ada’s first story, The War that Saved My Life, won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Josette Frank Award, in addition to appearing on multiple best-of-the-year lists. This second, marvelous volume continues Ada’s powerful, uplifting story. Goodreads
Quotes from The War I Finally Won
“Love isn’t as rare as you think it is…You can love all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. Nor is love in any way dangerous.”
“People used to draw dragons on the edges of old maps. When the world hadn’t been fully explored, mapmakers imagined dragons living at the far ends.”
“Fear and what you did with it were two separate things.”
“I don’t want to have to feel grateful,” I said. Susan smiled. “I understand,” she said. “Do it anyhow.”
“I stored this information in my head in the bulging file titled “Things I Wished I Didn’t Know.” It included what it felt like to walk on a clubfoot for ten years, and what it sounded like to have your mother say she never wanted to see you again.”
“That’s your map of the past. What’s in the map of your future?” I stared at her. “What do you want?” she persisted. I had no idea. When I’d first been evacuated I’d wanted to be like the girl riding the pony, racing the train. Now I was. Parts of me were still jumbled—but maybe that girl had been jumbled too. I’d only seen her from the outside.” Goodreads
My family talks about books. My friends talk about books. And my SCBWI critique group writes, edits, dissects, revises, and recommends books. Shout out to Kathy who suggested the Newbery Honor and multi-award winning middle grade historical fiction by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,The War That Saved My Life.
I found it interesting to read about efforts in England during WWII to Make Do and Mend while we were quarantining and making do and mending ourselves. At the same time I read about re-purposing fabric, my daughter and I were turning sheets into masks. While characters in the story found meat hard to come by, my butcher rationed his inventory. Fictional and real dinners were invented by using what was in the pantry.
War and quarantine efforts aside, it’s the main character’s struggle and strength in the face of cruelty and uncertainty that makes this story compelling and relatable on so many levels.
What the story about?
This #1 New York Times bestseller is an exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War II. For fans of Counting by 7s and Sarah, Plain and Tall.
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother? Amazon
Quotes from The War That Saved My Life
“There,” she said, smiling, her eyes soft and warm. “It’s perfect. Ada. You’re beautiful.” She was lying. She was lying, and I couldn’t bear it. I heard Mam’s voice shrieking in my head. “You ugly piece of rubbish! Filth and trash! No one wants you, with that ugly foot!” My hands started to shake. Rubbish. Filth. Trash. I could wear Maggie’s discards, or plain clothes from the shops, but not this, not this beautiful dress.
“All the words in the world are made up of just twenty-six letters,” she said. “There’s a big and a little version of each.” She wrote the letters out on the paper, and named them all. Then she went through them again. Then she told me to copy them onto another piece of paper, and then she went back to her chair. I stared at the paper. I said, “This isn’t reading. This is drawing.” “Writing,” she corrected. “It’s like buttons and hems. You’ve got to learn those before you can sew on the machine. You’ve got to know your letters before you can read.”
I knew ponies from the lane but had only seen them pull carts. I hadn’t known you could ride them. I hadn’t known they could go so fast. The girl leaned forward against the pony’s flying mane. I saw a stone wall ahead of them. I gasped. They were going to hit it. They were going to be hurt. Why didn’t she stop the pony? They jumped it. They jumped the stone wall, and kept running, while the train tracks turned away from their field. Suddenly I could feel it, the running, the jump. The smoothness, the flying—I recognized it with my whole body, as though it was something I’d done a hundred times before. Something I loved to do. I tapped the window. “I’m going to do that,” I said.”
“It had been awful, but I hadn’t quit. I had persisted. In battle I had won.”
During quarantine and this unprecedented time, there are the projects I’ve gotten done, the things half finished, and a bunch of projects I haven’t even started. And then there are books. I’ve been reading a lot so, hon, so get ready for a bunch of book reviews.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe is a beautifully written coming-of-age YA contemporary novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It’s no wonder the novel, published in 2012, garnered so many awards! I was invested in the main characters’ relationship, families, backgrounds, and thoughts on the worlds they lived in. The story drew me in, made me laugh out loud, and brought tears to my eyes.
What’s the book about?
Fifteen-year-old Aristotle (Ari) has always felt lonely and distant from people until he meets Dante, a boy from another school who teaches him how to swim. As trust grows between the boys and they become friends (a first for Ari), Ari’s world opens up while they discuss life, art, literature, and their Mexican-American roots. Additionally, the influence of Dante’s warm, open family (they even have a “no secrets” rule) is shaping Ari’s relationship with his parents, particularly in regard to a family secret; Ari has an older brother in prison, who no one ever mentions. In a poetic coming-of-age story written in concise first-person narrative, Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) crystallizes significant turning points in the boys’ relationship, especially as Ari comes to understand that Dante’s feelings for him extend beyond friendship. The story swells to a dramatic climax as Ari’s loyalties are tested, and he confronts his most deeply buried fears and desires. It’s a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame. Publisher’s Weekly
“One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.”
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.”
“Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe? What did you think?