Girl, You Crack Me Up! Funny Female Authors in Middle Grade Fiction, a conversation with authors Jessica Kim and Arianne Costner
Hey all! I am Arianne Costner, author of MY LIFE AS A POTATO. Fun fact: This post also includes pictures of Jessica and I jumping out of an airplane!
And I am Jessica Kim, author of STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG. Isn’t it wild that our debut books are out there in the world now? Feels like just yesterday when we met for the first time.
A: It does! I remember meeting up over the summer with some other writer friends. We were excited because our books have one thing in common–they’re both marketed as humorous. We realized that we both have a love for comedy and want to see more of it, especially written by females. We’ve done lots of fun things together since then–even skydiving! I’ll attach a pic of that below! So I’ll kick this convo off and ask you, Jessica: Why is writing comedy important to you?
J: Personally, funny books are the ones I like to read the most. I tend to gravitate toward people who have a good sense of humor, so it makes sense that the characters I end up loving are also the ones who can make me laugh.
I think comedy is especially important during tough times, too. It can give readers an escape when things are too serious or scary outside. Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine, right?
I also think it’s important that girls see funny books written by other girls, because the comedy genre is pretty male-dominated. Why do you think that is, anyway?
A: I’m not sure! In trade reviews (and non-trade reviews alike,) I’ve been compared to authors like Jeff Kinney, Gordon Korman, Lincoln Pierce, and Chris Grabenstein. It’s flattering of course because I LOVE these guys! But it’s interesting that I’ve never been compared to a female author–not that I’ve seen, anyway. This could be because I have a boy main character, and books with boy MCs are often written by males. It’s glaring, though, that there aren’t as many females thriving in this space of “goofy” middle school stories.
Honestly, it’s been a little intimidating. At times I’ve worried that kids would see my name on a book and decide it wasn’t going to be as funny. Earlier on, I even considered going by A.L. Costner to keep my gender ambiguous, but then I thought, you know what? No way! Girls need to see female authors write books like this! Besides, kids today are very keen and I never want to underestimate them.
What about you? Did you ever feel intimidated trying to write a funny book?
J: I didn’t necessarily feel intimidated while writing the book, because funny books are the only ones I know how to write, but when I was promoting my book, I noticed I was often the only woman on the funny book panels. What’s that all about? I really hope that changes quickly because the world is missing out on some awesome hilarious-girl content! Speaking of which, can you share your process of creating humor? How did you know a joke was landing?
A: I tested most of the quips on my husband, and he is very honest–brutally honest, sometimes, but that’s why he’s helpful! I also did lots of good old Youtube and Google searches about creating humor and humorous scenarios. We are so lucky to have a world of resources at our fingertips! And of course, I read other books for inspiration. Speaking of which, I’m curious: Who are some of your favorite funny female authors?
J: I’m a big fan of Dusti Bowling, Remy Lai, Lisa Yee, and Booki Vivat. They crack me up. What about yours?
A: First of all, YOU obviously haha. I also love Niki Lenz and all of the authors you mentioned above! If we are going to kick it old school, Judy Blume is fantastic. I grew up reading her Fudge series. Louise Rennison is a crack up and a total inspiration! And, of course, Renee Watson is an icon. Since it’s April Fools Day, I have to finish by asking: What was your favorite April Fools joke you’ve played?
J: Well, this didn’t happen on April Fool’s Day, but once my friends and I mixed some spicy wasabi into our friend’s green tea ice cream while she was in the restroom. We thought it’d be hilarious but then she started coughing and her eyes started watering and she turned bright red and I was afraid we were going to have to call an ambulance. I’ve been wary of playing pranks of anyone ever since. Though I did see this hilarious thing on the internet where someone scratched creepy messages onto some bananas (like: I know what you did or HELP or DO NOT EAT etc) for unsuspecting grocery buyers to discover as the bananas brown a few days later. I’d never do that though! What about you?
A: Oh, the banana thing sounds hilarious! We are all a little wary around produce right now haha, so maybe not the best prank for this year! Growing up, my siblings and I would TP my parent’s bedroom on April Fool’s Day. That wouldn’t go over well these days, amiright?
J: With toilet paper being such a scarce commodity these days, it may be more of a favor than a prank. In any case, I hope you have a delightful April Fool’s Day and thanks so much for chatting with me. And also thanks to those who listened in on our conversation! We hope you’ll check out our books linked below.
Arianne and Jessica
And as promised, here are pictures of Jessica and I jumping out of an airplane. Have a great April Fool’s Day, everyone!
Meet Arianne Costner
Arianne Costner lives in the middle of the desert with her husband and three children. She is a former English teacher who believes that writers should crack up at their own jokes. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing the piano and composing music. Her favorite kind of potato is the tater tot, with mashed potatoes coming in close second—as long as they’re not gluey.
Arianne’s twitter: @ariannecostner Arianne’s IG: @authorariannecostner. website: ariannecostner.com
Meet Jessica Kim
Jessica Kim writes about Asian American girls dfinding their way in the world. Before she was an author, Jessica studied education at UC Berkeley and spent ten years teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades in public schools. Like Yumi, Jessica lives with her family in Southern California and can’t get enough Hot Cheetos, stand-up comedy, BTS, and Korean barbecue.
About My Life as a Potato by Arianne Costner
For anyone who has ever felt like a potato in middle school, this hilarious story about a boy forced to become the dorkiest school mascot ever will have readers cheering!
Ben Hardy believes he’s cursed by potatoes. And now he’s moved to Idaho, where the school’s mascot is Steve the Spud! Yeah, this cannot be good.
After accidentally causing the mascot to sprain an ankle, Ben is sentenced to Spud duty for the final basketball games of the year. But if the other kids know he’s the Spud, his plans for popularity are likely to be a big dud! Ben doesn’t want to let the team down, so he lies to his friends to keep it a secret. No one will know it’s him under the potato suit . . . right?
Life as a potato is all about not getting mashed! With laugh-out-loud illustrations throughout, hand to fans of James Patterson, Gordan Korman, Jeff Kinney, and Chris Grabenstein!
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 03/24/2020
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
About Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim
One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.
On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.
Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura—and Yumi doesn’t correct them.
As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/17/2020
Age Range: 9 – 12 Years
Jessica’s local indie is
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network