Tag Archives: humor

Interview with Debut Author Kristi Wientge – KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE

I recently got the chance to read a  new debut, KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE , by the talented Kristi Wientge. It’s a wonderfully funny, thoughtful look into a subject you rarely see —  female facial hair.

When 12-year-old Karma discovers seventeen hairs growing above her lip, she is mortified and determined to get rid of them. Karma’s path to hair  removal includes navigating shifting relationships with her parents, her  best friend, and her comfort level with being the only kid in school who brings sardine masala and chapatis for lunch.

This interview with Kristi was especially fun to do because my son and I read KARMA together, and he contributed a few questions:

How did you come up with the character of Karma? Is she modeled after someone you know? (From my son) (First of all, can I just say that I love that you read this and came up with some excellent questions!)

 Karma evolved as a character. She started off as just a name and a problem: her mustache. Slowly, she became who you read in the book. Her situations mirror mine and things that have happened to my girls, but really she’s very much her own person. Much stronger than I ever was at her age!

How did you first get the idea to write this book? (Also from my son)

 The idea for Karma has been bouncing around in my head since I was ten years old. I wanted to read a book about a hairy girl, but never found one. Once I had children of my own and saw them go through similar situations, I knew it was time to figure out how to make this idea of a hairy girl into a book.

Your main character, Karma, is so wonderful for so many reasons. She’s also very different from many of the tween girls in today’s children’s literature – facial hair and a dad who wears a turban are wonderful distinctions. Yet I also came away with the impression you intended to illustrate not just the lovely diversity in her family and life but also the commonalities that connect all girls this age?

Yes, you really nailed this! The world is so interconnected we can no longer remain ignorant to things outside our normal. The more we explore outside of our comfort zone, the more we find we have in common with everyone.

Madeleine L’Engle famously said that if a subject is too hard for adults, write it for children. You tackle some pretty heavy concepts in this book – karma, spirituality, what it means to be a good person. What are the themes you hope will most resonate with your readers?

 All of the threads in my book really evolved naturally. I didn’t set out to make a statement on diversity or spirituality. I set out to write a book about a girl dealing with facial hair and the rest just layered on organically. I hope that whoever reads this book walks away with a broader horizon and more empathy. I hope that Karma is a springboard into conversations about female facial hair, something I didn’t talk candidly about until I was in my twenties. My last hope is that more facial hair stories get out there so girls can feel comfortable in their own skin. My readers should definitely check out Harnaam Kaur who actually blurbed the book. She has embraced her facial hair and is a fabulous example of self-acceptance.

How will you be celebrating your debut on August 15?

 I’m delaying my celebration until November when my kids and I are traveling to the US. I hope to to meet my agent, Patricia Nelson—which will be a huge deal. Then, my kids and I are going to eat Chipotle like we haven’t had it in 2 years—which we haven’t! Oh yeah, and I can’t wait to down a jug of sweet tea from Chick-fil-a.

Have your children read KARMA?

 No! And they call themselves my children! I really should punish them, but I’m actually relieved in a way. I get so, so nervous when people I know well read it.

What’s next for you – will we be seeing another book about Karma or do you have another book in the works?

For now, Karma’s story is done and I like where I left it. I’m excited to tell more stories with other characters. I’ve got a few things I’m playing with. One I hope Patricia, my agent, and I can get out there.

Is there anything I didn’t ask but you’d really like us to know about KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE?

You guys did a great job with these questions! I’ll let you in on a little secret about the book. You asked if Karma was based on anyone and I said mostly no. That’s true. But Daddy… don’t tell anyone, but he is HUGELY based on my husband!!! There are some word-for-word quotes from him. A few times during dinner, I’d run and get my notebook and chuckle to myself as I scribbled down something he said as I imagined the perfect scene to add it to! I LOVE that secret! Very funny – adds a whole new layer of fun to that character.

Thank you so much to Kristi for this wonderful interview. And because we had so much fun reading her book, we’re giving away a copy to one lucky winner.

Enter the Rafflecopter below!! Note: Rafflecopter will accept entries until August 8 at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

courtesy of Kristi Wientge

Kristi Wientge is originally from Ohio where she grew up writing stories about animals and, her favorite, a jet-setting mouse. After studying to become a teacher for children with special needs, she spent several years exploring the world from China to England, teaching her students everything from English to how to flip their eyelids inside out. She’s spent twelve years raising her family in her husband’s home country of Singapore, where she spends her days taking her four kids to school, Punjabi lessons, and music. With the help of her mother-in-law, she can now make a mean curry and a super-speedy saag. Karma Khullar’s Mustache is her debut novel.

Happy Clerihew Day!

What is a Clerihew, you ask?

It’s a comical poem made of four lines – two couplets and a specific rhyming scheme, aabb. It was created by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) at the age of 16 and duly named after him. In a Clerihew poem, the first line names a person with the end of the second line rhyming with the person’s name. Most often, these poems make light of or take the serious out of the person being focused on. They’re funny and light-hearted.

If you’re unfamiliar with rhyming scheme and all the differences, here’s an informative video for you to peek at.

How does Clerihew poetry play into middle schoolers reading and writing? Just that – play. And it can actually play into more than the R and W of school, too. Clerihew poems are all about being silly and causing giggles. They’re all about fun and seeing things in a different way.

Everyone is probably familiar with Garfield the cat. He’s lazy, overweight, has an aloof attitude about life and pretty much everything. His constant picking on Odie in the comic strips is presented in a silly or funny way, even though some of Garfield’s actions really aren’t funny.

That’s what a Clerihew poem does. It takes a person (most of the time famous or well-known) and sheds them in silly or humorous shadows, presenting them in an altered way. It makes light of who they are and shows the flip-side of that person in a nice way. By doing this, it forces the writer to see more than is visibly there, plugging into their creative mind and exploring possibilities. What a great exercise to have middle grade readers/writers do. And they can be silly to boot!

Here’s an example:

Garfield the cat
On his rear he sat.
Eating lasagna galore
All about the decor.

Copyright © 2000 James & Marie Summers

Here are a couple videos about the art of Clerihew poems I think you might find helpful. Here & Here. Take a view and then try an exercise with your students or kids. I remember doing exercises like this with my kids to pass the time as we traveled to yet another of their travel hockey or soccer games.

Have you ever written a Clerihew poem? Why not give it a try in the comments and share? We’d love to read!

Interview & Giveaway – Pixie Piper author Annabelle Fisher

Book jacket for Pixie Piper and the Matter of the BatterI’m so excited to chat with Mixed-up Files’ own Annabelle Fisher and celebrate the release of her newest middle grade, Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter. This is the sequel to her 2016 release, The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper. Read all the way to the end for a chance to win a copy of this fun, Mother Goose-inspired two-book set.

JA: How long did it take you to write Book Two?

AF: I spent over two years writing and revising The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper before it ever went to my editor, Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow. But I’d only written a couple of paragraphs of description for Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter. However, Virginia gave me a contract for two books and the second book was scheduled to be published one year after the first! That meant I had to work on all the different stages of getting the first book ready—revising, responding to copyediting, proofreading, checking chapter illustrations, etc.—while writing and revising the second book. Sometimes I felt like Taz, the whirling, maniacal Looney Tunes character. But I turned in the sequel on May 16th, 2016 and it releases today. Phew!

JA: How was it different than writing the first book?

AF: When I finish a book I always have trouble letting my protagonist go, so I was excited to be able to follow Pixie into her next adventure! But as a writer I don’t outline; I like to see where the story takes me. Except that in a sequel, you have many of the same characters and you’ve already started them on a journey. The trick was to stay open to the possibilities of plot while keeping the promises of Pixie’s magical mission.

JA: Did any feedback you received on the first book impact your writing in the sequel?

AF: Yes! The kids I spoke to in classes and libraries loved the funny parts of Pixie Piper best. So I worked hard to make sure the sequel had plenty of humor too.

In Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter, I gave Pixie’s Goose cousins and Aunts humorous traits. For example, the head Aunt is ancient and wears a Mother Goose hat the size of a traffic cone. She never takes it off. She’s snarky, but she loves her goose, La Blanca, who greets Pixie by biting her backside. There are also humorous baking accidents—one of which produces flying biscuits. And as in the first book, lots of humorous rhymes. I won’t give away anymore specifics, but I do use some ‘can’t-miss humor tools’ such as hyperbole, metaphors and similes, and villains that are a mix of scary and absurdly silly.

JA: Was it harder to write the sequel?

AF: Well, I thought it would be easier!

The arc over the two books was always clear to me: How would Pixie Piper change from a girl resisting her Mother Goose heritage (so that she can be ‘normal’) to one who yearns to join her magical Goose family and take up their mission? But of course an arc isn’t a plot. The arc is the overarching structure and the story’s goal. The plot is the motor that keeps it running. For plot, you need to know what is at stake for your protagonist.

The first book takes place on the estate where Pixie lives. (She’s the caretaker’s daughter). Once she is enticed by a Goose Lady Aunt to become a Goose Girl apprentice, she must prove herself ‘braver than brave’ and ‘truer than true’. Pixie helps hatch a magical gosling that she must protect from Raveneece Greed, an old enemy of the Goose Ladies. She must also protect her rhyming power, which Raveneece is trying to steal. So the first book is about proving herself worthy to become a part of Mother Goose’s “legacy.”

The second book takes place at Chuckling Goose Farm, where the Goose Ladies and their apprentices use their rhyming powers to bake magical birthday cakes that make wishes come true. Once again, I needed to figure out what was at stake. After a rocky start, I went back to the idea of family and how the generations work together to preserve Mother Goose’s legacy. They are passionate about the rule that their magical cakes be distributed randomly, so that all people have a chance to get their wish. The ancient Goose Lady Aunt who heads the family is a direct descendant of Mother Goose and she seems to hate Pixie right from the start. The bond they finally form is hard won. But after the two begin to love each other, their old enemy returns. Once again, Pixie must be braver than brave to save her great-great-great grandmother and the legacy of Mother Goose.

Thanks for joining us, Annabelle. Readers, please comment below for a chance to win a set of Pixie Piper books!