Interview with Zanni Louise.
Zanni Louise is passionate about writing quality books for children, making kids laugh, and inspiring people to write their own stories. Zanni teaches ‘Writing Picture Books’ and ‘Writing Chapter Books’ through the Australian Writers Centre and runs workshops on writing for children.
She’s an internationally acclaimed writer, writing teacher and mentor who lives in a house full of silly jokes. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a big cheer for Zanni Louise – woo-hoooo!
Hi Zanni, and thank you for joining us today
I love great characters and you’ve got some wonderful characters in your books, including the cheeky Errol. What do you think makes a character both funny and endearing?
My characters seem to pop up from nowhere. They just emerge, fully formed. I think a great character seems real, in many ways, and is relatable, even if they are a penguin in a red beanie.
I know that guy
A great character is flawed. A great character breaks stereotypes. I’m not sure how to contrive that magic.
What tip would you give someone who wants to write or create a funny story?
Have fun with the process. I’m pretty loose with my approach to creativity. I don’t have many rules for myself. I just have fun with it, and explore where it goes.
I like that – explore where it goes.
I have never studied comedy, so I don’t technically know what makes things funny. I just know what I find funny. My husband is a great source of bad dad jokes – that helps.
I like that you focus on what makes YOU laugh. That seems to be a common thread with advice I’m receiving. It’s write what you find funny and others might find it funny too. Besides, bad dad jokes are the best.
Find a dad who likes making jokes. Endless source of material there. Also, some kids are pretty funny. Mine the gold.
Is humour a big part of your family life?
I personally am a comedy addict. Since having my own kids, I only watch comedy. I need the lightness in my life. The lightness offsets any heaviness around me. It also spills into my family life.
Life is a string of silly jokes in our house, and that keeps things fresh and light for us. I never set out to write funny books. It just happened that the story comes out in a slightly quirky, humorous way. Given the amount of comedy I’ve watched over the years, it probably makes sense!
Is humour important in children’s literature?
It’s not essential, but I like it. When I quiz kids what they think is important in stories, 9/10 someone will say ‘humour’. There are some wonderful sentimental, sad or deep children’s books, and there’s a place for that too. Not all kids love humour all the time.
Yes, balance in everything is so important.
Do you have a funniest book?
When I first picked up MOPOKE by Philip Bunting, I laughed aloud in the bookstore. That’s rare for me. I also laugh aloud reading Canteen Carol and Mr Bambuckle’s conversations, by Tim Harris. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID gets me every time too. Especially Manny. I fall apart when I see Manny’s overbite.
You don’t have to answer this one, but, do you think farts are funny? Do fart jokes have a place in kid lit?
I don’t think they are that funny. I am pretty surprised there’s a whole shelf dedicated to bum humour at Kmart. I think there are funnier things in life. Death can be funny. Farts … well, more awkward than anything. Especially in lifts. Or in a business meeting.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or spirit animal?
A jellyfish. Mouldable. Adaptable. Cool and iridescent.
Nice! Definitely traits you need when writing for kids.
Moving on to a food related topic, but still important. Should pineapple ever be on a pizza?
Never. Unless it’s for a child. I have no idea why kids like pineapple on pizza so much.
Hey, are you writing anything special at the moment?
Yes! I am creating my first author illustrated manuscript.
I’m nervous as hell! But I feel like this is a direction I need to go in, as I create all my picture books visually.
That’s inspiring. I can’t wait to see the final product. It must certainly help to have that visual element in your work. And, don’t be nervous. You’re a Jellyfish!
For more information about Zanni – her books, her mentor programs and writing courses, see website here: http://zannilouise.com/