An Interview with Kelly Bingham

Voted one of the best books of 2012 by the New York Times Book Review, and labelled F for Funny by Kirkus Reviews, Z is for Moose is an alphabet book with a difference. It tells a story, rather than just going through the letters. And, not just any story. A hilarious story from author Kelly Bingham.

Kelly worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation for several years, on such films as: Hercules, The Emperor’s New Groove and Tarzan. Now, she’s an author, an artist, a poet, a teacher, a mentor and a friend to Moose everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen put your hands and your antlers together for Kelly Bingham. Woohoooo!

crowd cheering
Woo-hooo! Kelly rocks! I want Moose! We love Moose!

Hi Kelly, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed on Tacos. I just want to say upfront how much I love Moose. He’s one of my all-time favourite picture book characters, so I have to ask, have you seen Moose lately? Are you still in touch? How’s he going?

He’s doing well. We do stay in touch. Moose is not the quiet type, after all! He stays busy learning about shapes, colors, the alphabet, and of course, reading with his friend Zebra!

Poor Zebra. Now Moose is a very, I wouldn’t say jealous type, but he does like the attention, does he get his antlers in a bit of a twist when you’re writing other books with other characters?

He’s okay with it as long as I include him in some way!  Moose is my junior editor.

Z is for Moose - Review

Are you writing anything special at the moment?

At the moment, I am busy teaching picture book writing online through The Writing Barn. (www.thewritingbarn.com)

Wow. That’s something that’ll interest our readers.

They are a wonderful institution offering classes online and in person (Texas) to writers for all ages. 

And Mooses?

They have a huge faculty with experience in all different forms of writing and publishing.  Check them out!

Yes, do!

I am also teaching poetry-novel writing for young adults through writers.com  (www.writers.com) My next class will be in July.  I am enjoying both of these opportunities. It’s fun to see what everyone is working on!

That’s right, Shark Girl was a verse-novel wasn’t it?

shark girl by Kelly Bingham

As a teacher, do you think that some new authors send manuscripts off before they’re really ready? What advice would you give someone starting out in the children’s book industry?

I think we all do that, because when you’re starting out, you don’t really know what “ready” looks like.  You go by how it feels, or what your family says. If your writers group assures you that your manuscript is ready, what else is there to do but send it?  

It takes time to figure out how to know when your manuscript is truly ready, or when it needs something more.  And sometimes what it needs is time to rest.  My advice to new writers is to have your manuscript workshopped at a professional conference–specifically, if possible, something at SCBWI. (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.) You will be critiqued there by a professional author, editor, or agent for a small fee in addition to the conference.  They’ll be straight with you. If that’s just not possible, then go with your gut.  Submit to agents and if your book is rejected, ask nicely for a quick feedback.  You may get one or two comments that open your eyes to areas that need improvement.

Most of all, of course, don’t ever give up.  MOOSE was rejected the first time I submitted it…and it went on to do wonderfully.  Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right match for your manuscript.  And as always, while you are submitting and waiting to hear on your book, keep writing!  Work on the next one!

Wow. That’s some in-depth advice. Thank you so much!

What books make you laugh?

I love MY PET WANTS A PET by Elise Broach and Eric Barclay.

Yes! The boy and the dog and the kitten and the bird and the worm and the flea. Absolute classic.

Who is your funniest fictional character of all time?

Moose says HE is!

Hahahaha! I just love that Moose. I’m starting to think maybe he is.

Should pineapple ever be on a pizza?

Of course!

Woo-hooo! One for the yes column!

Do you reckon a hot dog is a sandwich?

Absolutely not. A hot dog is an entity all to itself.

That’s pretty definite! I love your passion toward the hot dog.

Do you have a favourite joke?

Did you hear about the dog who went to the flea circus?

No

He stole the show

Hehehe. I think Moose could steel a circus. Not because he’s a flee bag of course, but because he’s Moose!

We’ve been talking a lot on this blog lately about why kids read books and the importance of humour in children’s literature. Do you think humour is important in children’s books? 

Definitely.  What child doesn’t want to laugh?  A funny book can encourage learning – as was the case with Moose. I wrote it for my son when he was three. He was learning the ABCs.  He was eager to learn, and we enjoyed the basic ABC books I brought home from the library. But he asked for a “funny” ABC book.  That’s what engaged him the most. I couldn’t find a funny ABC book back then, so I wrote Z IS FOR MOOSE for him.

Wow! I like how you said humour engaged him the most. I think that’s a big strength of humour.

What tip would you give someone who wants to write or create a funny story?

Relax, have fun, and read lots and lots of picture books that you find funny.  Just absorb those funny books and how they’re done.  It’s a learning process and one of the best ways to learn is to read, read, read.  And then channel you inner child.  Remember to see things through their filter.

Moose is such an endearing character, what do you think makes a good character? 

A character who has a strong desire for something (like Moose, wanting to be in the alphabet book!) A character who is real, who is authentic, and who is always themselves.

That’s awesome advice. Thanks.

Do you have to be in a funny mood to write a funny story or can it be a learned technique? 

Writing is a hard business. It’s a job, much like any other job. I don’t mean that it’s not magical or special, because it is.  But like any job, you can’t depend on your mood to get the job done. As all of my teachers used to say, writing involves a ton of BIC… “Butt In Chair.”  Show up for work each day, and do something – even if it’s just free write. Even if you’re not feeling funny. Keep at it and the funny will come!

Awesome, so glad you could join us today.

Thank you, Ken!

For more information about this wonderful creator of children’s books, check out her website here:  (www.kellybinghambooks.com)

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