Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Marx Brothers' Sisters

Marx Brothers’ Sisters by Jan Godown Annino

One of my coffee table book stalwarts is WHY A DUCK?
It’s a jolly look at verbal and visual gems from Grouch, Chico, Harpo & Zeppo. The legendary Marx Brothers.

      Funny gals Hillary Homzie & Kami Kinnard are soul sisters to the Brothers M – in a queue of writers who are gutsy grin spinners. These two visiting with us today weave the silly into stories for children & families. Their fun chapter books & novels are also well regarded. And they are each, educators of children’s authors.

Hillary Homzie


Kami Kinard

Comments pluuzeee…

     As a coda to today’s Q/As with these bizzy & buzzy folks, they would be honored to read a word or a bunch of ‘em about your gleanings from this visit in the comments box below. For example, how might this influence your reading/writing for children? Suggesting chapter book titles/authors who get their giggle on is warmly welcomed & are your other thots.

The Interviews
    With a honk of the bulb horn, A-hoo-ha! off we go. And remember to check out Homzie & Kinard chapter books/novels from your local li-berry or buy them from your friendly nay-bor book source.  Hillary is up first.


     Television surgeon, astronaut, juggler. There is almost nothing that accomplished author Hillary Homzie can’t do – in print, to her characters. The juggling she’s done, but the other stuff? Little fictions of this column. 
Hillary is a tested stage comic, sketch comedy creator/performer (with Sarah Silverman!) & general all around laugh unleasher. Fortunate children’s literature students (moi) hunker with her at the enchanted Hollins University summer program for a variety of class topics (not just humor.) Our lucky Aussie pals can tune into cartoon shows created from her madcap series, ALIEN CLONES IN OUTER SPACE (Children's Book-of-the-Month Best Books for Children & also, Suppertime Entertainment developed the books to become an animated television series. ) She teaches online at Mira Reisburg's Children's Book Academy.
A few LOL book titles for young readers (any genre) by other authors who give you the humor hiccups are….
Hillary Homzie -
The Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker
The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
George and Martha: The Complete Stories by James Marshall
The Minnie and Moo series by Denys Cazet
Humor hummus snacks will be served to a few comics. Who do you invite, living, or gone on to that great stand-up station beyond, & why?
Hillary Homzie -
Robin Williams—Saw him perform before he died, and I was awed at how he captured the excitement of improv into a polished, rehearsed performance. Crazy amazing.
Tina Fey—Yes, I realize she’s not stand-up but sketch, but she’s a funny, insightful writer and nobody does Sarah Palin better.
Anthony Clark—I saw him doing stand-up at the Boston Comedy Club in New York when he was starting out and I laughed so hard I seriously had to run to the bathroom. Love this guy. Plus, he’s from Lynchburg, Virginia, just down the road from Roanoke, where I teach (Hollins University’s children’sliterature and writing summer MFA program.)

Q. It’s raining/pouring, snowing/storming & beginning humor writers have time to read up on craft. Any titles to point us to?
Hillary Homzie
I like Stand up Comedy: The Book and The Comedy Bible each by Judy Carter! During my sketch comedy days in NYC, my troupe, Rubber Feet, used a lot of Carter exercises to generate new material. I highly recommend that anyone who wants to write funny check these books out.

J.G., thanks so much for hosting me here today. (You're most welcome! - jga)
I better get back to revising my (funny) new middle grade, QUEEN OF LIKES, since it’s due to my editor March 1. It will come out January 2016 and I’m super excited about it. But meanwhile, edits are a serious business, even for a comedy person. 
Happy writing and reading everyone!

Group Blog sez: Thank you Hillary (name from the Latin, hilarious = cheerful, merry. No wonder!) It's too soon to share a cover of QUEEN OF LIKES, but it's a great title & we look for it in 2016!!!

Hillary Homzie is the author of the forthcoming middle grade, Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster/M!X). Her  comedic tween novel, The Hot List (Simon & Schuster/M!X)  “captures the angst of young teen friendships and fragile identities,” according to Booklist. It followed her debut novel, Things Are Gonna Get Ugly (Simon & Schuster/M!X).
BONUS link! 
Hillary is a riveting rotating writer (along with Group Blog’s own Laurie J. Edwards) at From The Mixed-Up Files of… Middle-Grade Authors



        U.S. Senator, Carolina low-country cook show host & class guru, Kami Kinard has, like Hillary Homzie, done it all - not! Okeedoke - herding students into educated carbon-based successes is one of her many proven comedic skills. As a super-organized co-creator of wildly popular Kid Lit Summer School, Kinard’s name is revered by reams of attendees (moi) in this free annual online marshmallow roast of a camp.
      Kami creates endearing middle grade characters who trip in band room, crashing into the funny bone, as attested to by Booklist commentary including:

 " ...a rollicking ride through middle-school affairs of the heart. The Boy Project (Scholastic Press)

"...this giddy, giggly book reads like a diary...The Boy Problem (Scholastic Press)

 We interrupt this important intro to bring you a time-sensitive CONTEST:
Enter by Feb. 28 at Kami’s co-founded site, Nerdy Chicks Rule, to WIN!!!
DETAILS -Win What? Kami celebrates her new Curriculum Guides for The Boy Project and The Boy Problem with this giveaway that includes fun book bling and a free Skype visit! 

Enter by February 28!  Here:
       Now, back to our regularly scheduled silly.  

WD columnist Chuck Sambuchino turned to Kami for tips on writing funny in this article. And you can also glimpse Kami’s boffo process at  
Nerdy Chicks Rule (blog shared with Sudipta Bardham Quallen, funny picture book author who Group Blog enjoyed listing here.)

 A few LOL books for young readers (any genre) that give you
the humor hiccups are….

Kami Kinard-
 I think my sense of humor is right there along with the masses when it comes to funny kids’ books.
Some of my favorites are: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney (I laughed so hard reading one of them that my husband accused me of having the sense of humor of a middle school boy. He wasn’t wrong.)
The Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger
The Dork Diary books by Rachel Renee Russell
And, of course, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. (I’m not ashamed to say that I think it’s funny almost every time he busts through a billboard.)
It’s tough to find a great humor novel in YA, but Robin Mellon’s Ditched is a fantastic example of one. 

Humor hummus snacks will be served for a few comics. Who do you invite, living

Kami Kinard -
 Definitely Carl Hiaasen. His humor novels for adults are so creatively wacky.
Lorne Michaels. Who’s done a better job of organizing humor over the past few decades?
Jimmy Fallon. I’ve admired him ever since he was a regular cast member on SNL. His growth in the industry has not disappointed! Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances). No one gets into comic character better.
 Erma Bombeck, for teaching me the art of overstatement and satire at an early age.
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey who are both extremely funny writers and actors of comedy. And, of course, the authors of the books mentioned in my answer to the first question!


 It’s raining/pouring, snowing/storming & aspiring humor writers have time to read up on craft. Any titles to point us to?


 Kami Kinard

 I think it is important to read humorous books in the genre you aspire to be published in to get a feel for the rhythm of writing humor. Humor is usually about two things: surprising ideas and timing. If you want to write humor you need to train yourself to think outside of the

box. You also need to train yourself to build beats into your writing the way a stand-up comedian builds in pauses, so studying successful books that accomplish this is crucial. But if you want to read a book that explains the techniques these authors employ, check out Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer.


 Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Problem & The Boy Project, both from Scholastic Press.

BONUS link! Kami’s quotes from that late, great comedy maven, Gilda Radner.

Thank you to today's humor authors & our aspiring humor writers & all Group Blog readers.


  1. I've 'met' Hillary Homzie through a course at Children's Book Academy and she is a wealth of knowledge in addition to being funny. Thanks for introducing me to Kami Kinard, too, Jan. I adore funny books!

  2. I have a feeling that if you still had your bookstore, these two authors' books would be popular in your middle grade section.

    Very cool that you took Hillary Homzie's Chapter Book Alchemy Class (I think that's the title?) I agree she is a fabulous teacher-mentor as you have found out.
    And Kami's class in Kit Lit Summer School through Nerdy Chicks was a hoot.

    We are on the same page about funny books! Thanks so much for stopping by tonite.

    1. I actually did a blog post for Kid Lit Summer School through Nerdy Chicks so it's also fun for me to virtually get to know Kami :)

  3. SO great to get more insight into these authors' comedy tips and tricks. Writing funny that feels effortless can take so much work! I'm thrilled to have more resources for it from Hilary and Kami.

    1. So true, kateywriters, about Hillary & Kami's behind the scenes effort, crafting funny stories/characters that read so smoothly. Glad you liked their thoughts.

  4. Hey Jan, My Fellow GROGger, Thank you for a great interview. Both of these ladies, Hillary and Kami, are admired. This interview has given me new knowledge and provided an opportunity to know more about both. Thank you. ~Suzy Leopold

  5. Thanks for the interview Jan and the chance to virtually hang out with Hillary again! Also, thank you for the comments everyone. Keep laughing!

  6. We luv your double-billing.
    Looking forward to more smiles from your next books.