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Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy    edited by Leonard S. Marcus order for
Funny Business
by Leonard S. Marcus
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his Introduction to Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy, Leonard S. Marcus says that 'Laughter is one of my favorite things.' He goes on to explore 'the hidden clockwork of comedy' by asking thirteen popular children's authors 'how they found their funny bones, their voices, and themselves.'

These writers - Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Sharon Creech, Christopher Paul Curtis, Anne Fine, Daniel Handler, Carl Hiaasen, Norton Juster, Dick King-Smith, Hilary McKay, Daniel Pinkwater, Louis Sachar, and Jon Scieszka - share childhood experiences; explain what drew them to writing; give insights into specific works; and talk about how they approach their craft. They are also generous with good advice for young authors in the making. I found the marked up drafts from some of their stories especially intriguing.

Judy Blume emphasizes the value of reading your story aloud, especially for humor. Beverly Cleary talks about her inspiration for The Mouse on the Motorcycle. Sharon Creech wrote 'to fill the silence left behind by her father's passing' and finds humor 'more potent when it is juxtaposed with sorrow.' Christopher Paul Curtis calls humor 'a survival tactic.' Daniel Handler tells how A Series of Unfortunate Events came to be. Carl Hiaasen writes about 'ordinary kids who step up to the plate and make a stand.'

All these writers express the satisfaction they get from hearing that they have made their young audience laugh - 'My god, how good is that?' asks Jon Scieszka. I really enjoyed sitting in on Leonard S. Marcus's chats with children's authors - the majority whose works I know well and others whose books I now want to track down and read. If you want to write comedy then Funny Business is a must read, but you'll enjoy it just as much for its insights into favorite authors' lives and mindsets.

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