Society of
Children's Book Writers
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Unearth Your Funny Bone: Getting Serious About Writing Humor

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Unearth Your Funny Bone: Getting Serious About Writing Humor

Editors and agents agree, if you can make your reader laugh, you’ve gifted them publishing gold. But how do you get your LOL to pop?

On Saturday, May 5, 2018, SCBWI-MI offers a one-day, jam-packed conference concentrating on finding and nurturing the funny in your kidlit manuscript. Join executive editor Mary-Kate Gaudet, children’s publishing pro Heather Alexander, award-winning author and VCFA mentor Tim Wynne-Jones, stand-up comic Mike Geeter, and VCFA grad Anita Pazner at the Aloft Hotel in the David Whitney Building, in the heart of revitalized Detroit.

Registration: An incredible bargain at $115 for members, $140 for not-yet-members includes all programming. Registration opens March 15 at 9:00 AM. (FYI, no early bird rates, just first come first registered until all 100 seats are filled.)


Schedule: The clown-car of events begins early and runs till evening. You won’t believe how many information-soaked sessions are squeezed into one day. Yet, there’s still a generous lunch period to explore the awe-inspiring and mouth-watering aspects of Detroit, and time to schmooze with your friends and colleagues.

Check-in at registration begins at 7 AM, and the sessions seriously start at 8 AM with a 15-minute introduction. Mary-Kate and Heather jointly tackle humor in its many guises. Tim deals with writing pitfalls in “A Kid Walks Into a Cliché: A Semi-Autobiographical Account of a Life Spent Avoiding the Obvious.” Anita Pazner rounds out the morning with her session on the Comic Toolbox. She’ll show you the tools that screenwriters have known for years, and apply them to current young adult, middle grade and picture book examples. There is something for everyone.

You’ve got an hour and a half for lunch, with lots of exciting dining options. Greektown is less than a mile away. There’s tapas or tacos, soul food, coney island, deli, burgers, breweries or wine houses up and down the street.

On a writer’s budget? There’ll be inexpensive and abundant food trucks in the park right across the street from the hotel.

And, if you’d prefer to tour the area, the Fox Theater is almost next door. Ford Field and the new Little Ceasar’s arena are in the skyline, with Campus Martius and Eastern Market a hop, skip and a jump away.

Not interested in traveling by foot? No worries.  You can board the People Mover and circle the area in comfort. Or check out the new transit option, the Q-Line, Detroit’s retro streetcar. Both have stops at the conference location.

At 12:30, Mary-Kate resumes the funny with her investigation of humor in children’s books, followed by Heather and her session on increasing the laughs. There’s a short mid-afternoon break because there’s more to come.

Tim follows with “Dialogue: Blah, Blah, Blah.” Then special guest comedian Mike Geeter gives you comedy secrets of stand-up pros in his presentation Comedy and You: How to Make Your Humor Funny. A quick wrap-up with door prizes and you’ve got an evening in Detroit, or a drive home where your creative well is overflowing, and your face hurts (in a good way) from all the smiling and laughing you’ve experienced.

Lodging: The Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney is located at One Park Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226. Limited double queen and king rooms are available for $199 a night, a substantial discount for conference attendees. Valet parking and overnight parking rates have also been dramatically reduced to make parking easy and efficient.

Additional, accommodations in the area available by using your preferred travel app.

So come for the day, or make a weekend out of it.



Mary-Kate Gaudet is an executive editor for Little Brown. In her own words:

I edit a variety of licensed, brand, and media tie-ins titles and manage publishing programs with such partners as Disney (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Hasbro (My Little Pony) and Warner Brothers (Teen Titans Go!)

I also acquire and edit trade picture books–championing offbeat, yet poignant storytelling–and work with creators such as Liz Climo (Rory the Dinosaur Wants a Pet), Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora (Horrible Bear!) and Refe and Susan Tuma (What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night: A Very Messy Adventure).

A graduate of Fordham University, I joined Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2012 after having worked at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Sterling Publishing and Denise Marcil Literary Agency.

Heather Alexander recently joined Audible Originals as an Executive Editor, where she makes original audio content for kids. She understands that you didn’t know that was a thing because she basically gets to invent it, which is the best. Before that, she was an agent at Pippin Properties, and before that, she was in editorial at Dial Books for Young Readers at Penguin Random House. In the ’90s, she was in an improv group, and she is thinking about taking a stand-up class but keeps chickening out. For her most mundane observations, follow her on Twitter @heatheralexand.

Tim Wynne-Jones has written thirty-five books including adult novels, picture books, short story anthologies, and middle-grade and young adult novels. His collection of short stories, Some of the Kinder Planets, won the Governor General’s Award in Canada, as well as the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. His novel The Maestro won Tim his second Governor General’s Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Prize in the UK. The Boy in the Burning House won the Edgar Award and the Arthur Ellis Award and was also short-listed for the Guardian Prize. Blink & Caution won an “Arthur” as well as Tim’s second Horn Book Award. His work has been published in a dozen languages. In 2012, Tim was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His last novel, the Emperor of Any Place, received seven starred reviews. His latest picture book, Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes came out in 2017. His new novel, The Ruinous Sweep, will be out in June 2018.

Mike Geeter is a stand-up comic and father of four. Hailing from Pontiac, Michigan, Mike brings a pointed look at family and relationships that few others can, or should. Mike laughs about his early years – Growing up in a family of  17 children to discussing his plight as a father and husband. His comedy consists of jagged wit mixed with a smooth delivery. Mike has worked in some of the finest comedy venues in the country opening for comedy legends Bobby Slayton, Jim Norton, Artie Lange, and Rickey Smiley. He was also a finalist in the “Border City Comedy Fest” in Canada, performed and hosted in the “Windsor Comedy Festival” and was recently featured on Fox Television’s comedy showcase “Laughs.”

Anita Pazner is a longtime member of SCBWI-MI and the Advisory Committee, where she’s worked on numerous conferences. She recently completed her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she studied closely with Tim Wynne-Jones and other writing luminaries. She is currently working on a humorous middle-grade novel as well as a YA historical. She also has a stable of unpublished picture books waiting to find homes. Growing up an immigrant to this country, her first language wasn’t English. It was sarcasm…which makes her a perfect fit for a conference on humor.


Limited manuscript critiques are available after the event from Mary-Kate, Tim, and Heather. If you’re a writer or illustrator of picture books, or if you create middle grade or young adult pieces, humor can make your projects more competitive and sellable. Take this opportunity to unearth and exercise your funny bone, rub elbows with industry professionals, friends and colleagues, and experience the rejuvenated Detroit scene.

Anita Pazner
Conference co-chair
Charlie Barshaw
Conference co-chair