What a treat it is to be part of Josh Funk’s Short & Sweet/Long & Savory blog tour! In fact, we’re the final stop; check the calendar at the end of this post if you want to see other blogs Josh has visited. As you can tell by his books, Josh is a very funny guy. And an incredibly nice one, too. We had the immense pleasure to be participants in Authors in April in Rochester, Michigan (check out the roster for 2021!) and while we worked ever so hard, we managed to have fun, too. And we even did a good deed together, rescuing a sick kitten from a restaurant parking lot! Read on to find out more about how Josh creates his picture book magic.
Hey, Kirby! I’m so honored to take part in Friend Friday! I can’t believe it’s been almost a year and a half since we went shopping for underwear in Michigan together! (inside joke, but technically a true story)
But enough inside joking. Let’s step inside the refrigerator together. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast’s fridge, that is. Earlier this month, the fourth book in the series, SHORT & SWEET (Sterling Children’s Books; illustrated by Brendan Kearney) was released. It’s sort of amazing that any of these books exist at all.
As you know, I spend my days writing code, as a software engineer. I only started writing picture books back in the summer of 2011. The first few stories I wrote were pretty … terrible. But I kept writing new ones. Nine months into my journey as a writer, on April Fool’s Day, in fact, I was inspired by my squabbling children and the impending 2012 presidential election. I started writing a story called Lady Pancake & Mister French Toast who were debating about who deserved the last remaining drop of syrup left in the bottle.
About three and a half weeks later I finished a first draft, THIS first draft, in fact, and brought it to my critique group.
The rhyme scheme was pretty awkward (AABCCB?), and I have a hard time reading it properly myself. The consensus in my critique group was that this wasn’t one of my best stories, and it was suggested that I should probably focus on my other projects – and give up on this one.
I tried to focus on what wasn’t working about the story. Eventually I realized that while a debate might be interesting to adults, in a picture book it was too stagnant. Once you get past the fridge setting, almost every page would show virtually the same image. It needed action. And more varied imagery. And that’s how it became a race.
14 drafts and 14 months later, I started sending Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast out to agents. Most responses were black holes. Some were form rejections. Of the two rejections I received where the agent actually read it, both said something along the lines of “anthropomorphic food books don’t sell.”
But I stubbornly didn’t give up. A dozen snail mail submissions to publishers’ slush piles and a many months of waiting later, Sterling offered to publish my very first picture book. And as soon as I saw Brendan Kearney’s sketches, I knew I needed to explore more of the fridge and write more stories in the world.
I’m not sure who said it first (Stephen King? Shakespeare? Homer?), but I’ve always subscribed to the idea that you should put your characters in the worst situations possible and see how they get out of them. And what’s the worst thing that could happen to characters in a fridge?
A mysterious and horrible odor led to THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (Book #2).
Everything starting to freeze led to MISSION DEFROSTABLE (Book #3).
And after three adventures (and five years), it made sense that finally, the titular characters would begin to go stale, which led to their newest adventure, SHORT & SWEET, in which Professor Biscotti accidentally shrinks them to toddlers in an homage to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
What lies ahead for this duo?
I’ve always kind of liked that each book is a different genre (race, mystery, action/adventure, sci-fi/comedy). Maybe next will be a horror ‘cabin in the woods’ style picnic adventure? Or perhaps a cutlery alien-invasion? Or maybe a musical spinoff with Spuddy Holly, Juice Springsteen, and The Peach Boys?
Who knows? For now, I invite you to dig in and devour these bite-size morsels.
About Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast: SHORT & SWEET
Top 10 Indie Kids Next List (#9): “Josh Funk pours on the adorable once again … well worth the carbs for all readers.”
“A series that just keeps improving, with an adorable couple taking center stage. A must purchase.” – Starred Review from School Library Journal
“The quality remains consistently high for this series, linking edibles and emotions with excitement and ease.” – Kirkus Reviews
Don’t miss the previous 29 stops on the Short & Sweet “Long & Savory” Virtual Tour:
Josh Funk is a software engineer and the author of books like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the It’s Not a Fairy Tale series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series, Dear Dragon, Pirasaurs!, Albie Newton, and more. For more information about Josh, visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @joshfunkbooks.