Guest Post by Jennifer Buchet
My debut picture book, Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, did not begin with a wish to write about, or even incorporate, ancient Greek mythology. But it did begin with snakes!
Several years ago after a very eventful trip to the library, I had the grand idea of writing a story that featured a pet snake. At first ink blot, the story wasn’t that fantastic; it was more like a meatball of a draft that had potential to become a delicious beef bourguignon.
Determined to rattle this tale to life, I played around with scenes and characters. Then one day, while sorting clothes and sentences, this creature skipped into the laundry room. I became still as a statue.
This creature sounded like my daughter and acted like her too, but this child had a head of tangled, knotty, out-of-control hair—a real-life Little Medusa!
Medusa….snakes….hair…scaring things to stone with a stare… More delicious ideas began simmering in my head.
But wait! Medusa is one of the world’s most infamous super-villains! Not exactly cute kidlit material. I knew that I had to find a way to take this iconic character and make her kid-friendly. I had to harness the humor.
Putting aside the socks, I dove into the mythology of Medusa. I also asked myself some tough questions.
- Did I want my readers to laugh at Little Medusa, or with her?
- Should Little Medusa’s actions be humorous, or was it more important that her reactions to the world around her are the rib-ticklers?
- What kind of humor did was the best for my storytelling style? And which would serve this story in particular? Slapstick, self-deprecating, potty, pun-filled, etc?
- Most importantly, what purpose was the humor playing—was it moving the story forward? Did it simply add lightheartedness or offer a glimpse of character?
The fun truly began when I dove into the immense power of what if….
What if my Little Medusa didn’t like snakes to begin with? What if Little Medusa was allergic to snakes? Or what if today’s Gorgons always wore snakes in their hair except for that one who didn’t?
After much consideration (and a little less laundry), I had recipe for this tale.
My Goal: Have my readers root for Little Medusa, not against her. (She’s really nothing like her namesake, except for a few serpentine interests!)
My Path: Create situations that revealed humorous physical challenges for Little Medusa and also those that exposed emotional conflicts.
The Result: I gave my heroine one pythonic problem! In Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, Little Medusa is conflicted between following traditions vs following her heart.
Two years and 60-something drafts later, I had my final story. And the rest they say is hissss-story!
Loads of topics can become kid-friendly funny; it’s just a matter of perspective and the power of “what if.” Do you want to test the waters of wit? Then go for it, even if you think you’re not a humorous writer. Look into classes, read lots of mentor texts and write because you never know what those meatball ideas will eventually become!
In honor of World Snake Day (July 16), Jennifer is offering a free manuscript critique to one lucky reader! Simply comment below and share this post on Twitter, tagging both @WritersRumpus and @Yangmommy! Winner to be announced by end of August.
Some days Jennifer Buchet rocks her own tangled Gorgon ‘do, but you won’t find a snake sliding through her hair! She’s an award-winning author, former marketing guru, pre-kindergarten educator and self-proclaimed foodie. Her kidlit career officially started in 2011, writing for Cricket Media. Today, she’s a feature contributor for Faces magazine while also creating new picture books, chapter books and yummy recipes.
You can swap tales & recipes with Jennifer here:
Jennifer’s debut picture book, LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork Publishing, May 2021) illustrated by Cassie Chancy, is on shelves now.
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