The Real Housewife of Kidlit: Daily Life Holds the Key to Humor with @TaraLazar

Oh, remember that old saying “write what you know”? Scholars have been trying to simultaneously support and debunk that adage for millions of years. (Yes, it dates back to the early Jurassic period and Shakespearasaurus.) But me? How do I feel about it? I can confirm and deny the statement with equal fervor, depending upon which story I am writing.

LazarT_headshotFor today, I will tell the tale of how my own life informed the humor of NORMAL NORMAN. I will support “write what you know” even though I had no idea what kind of animal Norman was when I began writing. That little tidbit I will leave for later…

One of the most common phrases overheard at Chez Lazar is, “Mommy, you are NOT NORMAL.” So that is how Norman came into being. I created NORMAL NORMAN with every intention of making him ABNORMAL. His opposite-than-expected antics are the basis for the humor throughout the book.

Then, I gave this strange animal his own stuffed animal. Guess what I named that stuffed anteater? Something soft and cuddly which would sound funny when Norman referred to his pal. I stole the name “Mr. Scruffles” from my daughter’s favorite plushie and had Norman call him “my wovey-dovey Scruffle-di-poo.” Again, real Lazar life crept into my story.

Then at one point Norman tries to escape. I wanted something hilarious for him to race away in. It triggered a memory of my husband’s favorite stuffed toy as a child, a koala named Rufus Dunebuggy. So what did Norman hop into? A dunebuggy. Think of it, a purple orangutan driving a dunebuggy—what’s not to love?

NNFinally, there is a line in the book when the junior scientist tries to pretend that all the previous madness did not happen. She tries to gloss over her major meltdown. So she says, “Please pardon that interruption. We were experiencing temporary technical difficulties.” Once again, I mined my mind for that humorous little pause. A similar thing happened to me in elementary school. I was being filmed but made a mistake and I asked the teacher to start over. She shook her head NO in that very authoritative teacher way and I had to think quickly to cover my goof. So I said the line above. And I’d also like to say that I got an A on that project!

So try it—comb through your own experiences to find humor for your stories. You don’t necessarily have to come up with something out of nowhere. Take it from somewhere. If it happened to you and it made you laugh, that’s good material. It’s gold. Write what you know!

But I am going to be abnormal (and a pain in the butt) by telling you that you can also write what you don’t know. Like, what kind of animal your character is. I did not know what species Norman was when I wrote NORMAL NORMAN. I thought the illustrator would have a far better idea than I would. There had to be some visual humor at play, and I did not know how best to approach that, so I left it up to him. And guess what happened? S.Britt created a character so far beyond anything I ever could have imagined!

In conclusion—write what you know…? Or don’t? That is for you to figure out in your next manuscript, my friend!

tarafall2011picTara Lazar loves writing bios that make her sound witty and interesting, but often fails. Her picture books play with puns, irreverent humor and irresistible characters. NORMAL NORMAN, featuring a nerdy purple orangutan, released this spring from Sterling. Tara is the founder of Picture Book Idea Month, affectionately known as PiBoIdMo. She is a RUCCL council member and a speaker at SCBWI events. Tara guffaws with a unique laugh that is often mocked by her two daughters and husband. If you’d like to bribe her, Manchego cheese and Rice Krispie Treats will do the trick.

To stay in touch with Tara, follow her on Twitter @taralazar and check out her website at




38 comments on “The Real Housewife of Kidlit: Daily Life Holds the Key to Humor with @TaraLazar

  1. Deborah Allmand says:

    Thanks so much for reminding us to look within our own lives for moments when things made us laugh or make us laugh now! Thanks for sharing your manuscript journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita Banks says:

    Thank you for sharing, your stories make me smile!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Write what you know and what you don’t know: the best of both worlds. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s always fun to know another writer’s journey to a completed story. I love the crooked roads that usually lead us to completion. Tara, you’re lucky to have a family to laugh with! That’s the best inspiration to write, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very funny stuff. And I’d recognize that carpeting (in you’re photo) anywhere. It’s not normal either.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. writersideup says:

    I just LOVE hearing “behind the scenes” stuff about the creation of such ABNORMAL MASTERPIECES! 😀 And, Tara, humor runs through your veins–ALSO “abnormal” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. donnacangelosi says:

    Hi Tara! I love how random and not so random things appear in our stories. Thanks for the insider’s look at the humor behind NORMAL NORMAN. I second that it’s an abnormal masterpiece 🙂 And I recognize that carpet too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I found this to be a really refreshing perspective on adding humor! Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Laura Rackham says:

    a good reminder to watch, listen and mash it all up.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Being inside Tara’s mind is like being at the best amusement park ever! 😀 I have tried to mine my own life but it’s not nearly as interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lori Dubbin says:

    Tara, I love your humor and how you mine it. Humor and story don’t have to play out exactly how they happened in real life; they can be derived from something in real life. It works much better that way and yields outrageous surprises as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Andrea Mack says:

    So great to find experiences from your own life to use in your writing. Great advice!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ptnozell says:

    I love that you bring what you know, and what you don’t know, into your stories, Tara, and that the humor always shines through.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Karen says:

    Thank you for this post! I am new to children’s writing and your post has inspired me! I appreciate your candor and humor!


  15. Thank you, Tara, for the tips to find humor within our own family. Love your books!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Juliana Lee says:

    It’s so much fun learning the backstory of a beloved character. Thanks for sharing Norman’s backstory with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. JEN says:

    Yep, I know what you mean. Many seeds from my own humorous life grow into manuscripts. 🙂


  18. JEN says:

    I know what you mean. Many seeds from my own humorous life grow into manuscripts. Finding those gems is a great way to make the story shine!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a great post. Very inspirational. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Janie Reinart says:

    Thank you for reminding us to leave room for the illustrator. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Amy Benoit says:

    I really enjoy your authentic advice (in person and in writing) I love that it’s okay “to not know..” everything. Thanks, again!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. tinamcho says:

    Love this post! Thanks for showing how to add humor to our ms.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Keila Dawson says:

    Love how you came to create NORMAN! He is such a fun character. And many have known a Jr. Scientist. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Marge Gower says:

    As said before be authentic, be yourself and write your own thoughts and words. Have fun and creative. Thanks for the advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Val McCammon says:

    Excellent reminder that what we need to write is really already in us. Thanks, Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sheri Rad says:

    Tara is so much fun to read and listen to, She definitely makes lemonade out of lemons. And she has many helpful ideas to share.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Lynn Alpert says:

    Thanks for the tips, Tara! And thanks for all you do with PiBoIdMo and being an awesome Family Feud player!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I’m sorry I didn’t meet Norman at NESCBWI. Maybe next time? *passes the Manchego*

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Kirsten Bock says:

    So funny! Thanks so much for this post, Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. judyrubin13 says:

    Thank you for the inspiration.


  31. What’s there not to love about NORMAL NORMAN? Thank you, Tara, for sharing your thoughts and humor.
    ~Suzy Leopold


  32. Love your sense of humor! Thanks for your post.


  33. Kristen C.S. says:

    Thanks for tackling being in the know. An artistic rather than formulaic balance for all of us. =)


  34. Maria Marshall says:

    Your post is as humorous as your books. What a fun lesson using our own lives for material. Thanks Tara.


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