Stephan Pastis: On the Importance of Humor in Middle Grade Fiction

New York Times bestselling Stephan Pastis discuss the process of creating his very first graphic novel for middle grade readers, Trubble Town: Squirrel Do Bad.
Author:
Publish date:

Stephan Pastis is an attorney-turned-cartoonist. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the UCLA School of Law, he worked as a lawyer before trying his hand at cartooning. Pastis lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Stephan Pastis: On the Importance of Humor in Middle Grade Fiction

In this post, Stephan discusses the process of creating his very first graphic novel, Trubble Town: Squirrel Do Bad, how that process differed from his previous titles, and more!

****

Writing the Middle Grade Book

Take this online workshop and learn the essential elements of writing for kids and how to break into children’s publishing. Throughout this 8-week course, you can expect to read lectures and complete weekly writing assignments. Plus, you will read The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb and learn how to write a middle-grader’s book.

Click to continue.

****

Name: Stephan Pastis
Literary agent: Dan Lazar
Book title: Trubble Town: Squirrel Do Bad
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing/Aladdin
Release date: August 31, 2021
Genre/category: Middle Grade
Elevator pitch for the book: From the author of the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip and New York Times bestselling Timmy Failure series comes a laugh-out-loud, heartwarming, full-color graphic novel series about a quirky town—just right for young readers starting to read longer books!
Previous titles by the author: Timmy Failure series

Stephan Pastis: On the Importance of Humor in Middle Grade Fiction

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

What prompted you to write this book?

Well, it was the year of COVID, and being sequestered away as we all were, I wanted to try something completely new that would challenge me. And so I tried my hand at a graphic novel—which I had never tried before. And I loved doing it. And I wanted it to look a bit amateurish graphically—so I drew it on very cheap copy paper with a pen that bled.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

A very long time, because the first draft did not have a child character in it, and the kids book publishers wanted it to have a child. And thus, I had to rewrite it to add a child. But then there wasn't quite enough of said child. So I had to rewrite it yet again to add more of the child.

But eventually, I got it right! Or at least I hope so.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

That kids books should involve kids!

Stephan Pastis: On the Importance of Humor in Middle Grade Fiction

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Yes, that doing an entire book (as opposed to a book that's mostly text like Timmy Failure) is a lot of work. More than I was expecting. And then you have to color everything.

But it's also more rewarding in a way. It's fun to see the story come to life visually like that.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

As with all my books, I just want people to laugh. For me, that's always the most important part, maybe given my background with doing my comic strip, Pearls Before Swine. And then secondarily, it would be great if they saw themselves in Wendy and were somehow inspired by her spirit and attitude. That would be even better.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

I think the key is to always entertain yourself. Because if you're not entertained, how can you expect anyone else to be? And also, to be courageous enough to write stuff that maybe you as the author don't even understand. In other words, let the subconscious roam a bit when you write, and don't try to always control it. For me, that often leads to good stuff.

writer's digest wd presents

WDU Presents: 7 New WDU Courses, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new WDU courses, a chance at publication, and more!

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

Editor is a very broad term in the publishing industry that can mean a variety of things. Tiffany Yates Martin reveals what a professional editor is and why writers should consider using one.

From Script

How to Find the Right Reader for Feedback, Writing Female Characters and Tapping into Emotionally Authentic Characters (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, read film reviews from Tom Stemple, part three of writing female characters, interviews with Free Guy scribes Zak Penn and Matt Lieberman, The Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.