The Backstory: BATTLE OF THE BUTTS
Forget about Sunday Funday, today on the Backstory it's Sunday Bun day as Jocelyn Rish joins us to share the inspiration behind her picture book, BATTLE OF THE BUTTS (Running Press Kids, 2021) with illustrations by David Creighton-Pester. This nonfiction exploration of animal backsides is sure to hook even the most reluctant reader and spread knowledge and laughter along the way.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind BATTLE OF THE BUTTS.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
BATTLE OF THE BUTTS is a nonfiction picture book about ten animals that do weird things with their butts. There is a lot of science, but also plenty of scatological puns, so I hope it’s a book that will make kids laugh and learn.
Laughing and learning are the best combination. The topic alone will have students snickering and scooping up your book, while your amazing content and humor, along with the incredible artwork from David Creighton-Pester will keep the pages turning.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
Late one night I was doom scrolling Twitter (when I should have been writing or sleeping), and I saw an adorable picture of a manatee. It was a meme, and the words on the graphic said, “Manatees can control their buoyancy through an endless cycle of farting. There. That’s a thing you know now.”
I snort-laughed and thought that can’t possibly be true. So I googled it. And it is true! Even better, the google search pulled up additional articles about other animals that do weird things with their butts. So I started reading all these cool facts, and I thought they would make a hilarious book for kids (and adults!).
Thank you for giving us all validation that doom scrolling is not a waste of time, but instead a very valuable, writerly tool.
And thank goodness you fact-checked that meme, leading you to that treasure trove of inspiration.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now BATTLE OF THE BUTTS? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
Although I thought a book about weird animal butts would be perfect for kids, I did actually have to sit with it. I’ve ALWAYS been a fiction writer. A previous attempt at nonfiction was a boring disaster. So I wasn’t sure this was something I could pull off. Luckily, in a perfect-timing moment, the Highlights Foundation was promoting their workshop “The Nuts & Bolts of Science Writing.” So I signed up, and it was amazing. I learned a ton, and everyone was so supportive of my BUTTS idea, so I came home and wrote it in a frenzy. Within a few months I had an agent and a book deal, so I’m very, very glad I took the leap on trying something new that scared me.
How serendipitous! Good for you for seizing these opportunities as they presented themselves and for being willing to explore an unexpected path. This is also a great reminder of the amazing resources out there to help us all as writers continue to grow our craft and skills.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
I’ve always found my inspiration in news and science items. My first published short story (that later became my short film SAYING GOODBYE) is based on an article I read in the news about a death-predicting cat. Another published short story was inspired by a factoid I heard about the honey-guide birds. My current WIP is based on another tidbit I read on science Twitter.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
I should probably list a picture book or a nonfiction book here, but the truth is it’s the books I read as a kid, which were Dean Koontz and Stephen King. They fired up my imagination and made me LOVE reading and fictional worlds. In turn, this love of reading eventually made me want to try writing. So even though I’m writing completely different kinds of books, I never would have gotten to this point without the love of stories and words that they inspired.
I love this and it resonates so much with my teacher side. It is so important to help students find their love for literacy. It is this passion and enjoyment that will keep them reading and writing.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
I always have something to drink within arm’s reach. The contents of the glass depend on the time of day - either coffee, water, or wine. As for tools, one of my open tabs is always thesaurus.com - a must for coming up with butt puns and alliteration!
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
My advice is to try something new outside of your comfort zone. I’ve always written in different categories, like short stories, novels, and screenplays, which I think has really improved different aspects of my writing. But it was always fiction. However, when I finally tried nonfiction, which I thought was not my thing, it’s where I finally found my niche. So experiment!!!
Superb advice. It can be hard to explore and experiment, especially if you already feel like you have minimal time, but who knows where that experimenting could lead you.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Yes, I just recently turned in my final revision of the next book in the Battle series, which will be BATTLE OF THE BRAINS. It’s currently scheduled for release on 11/8/2022. The BUTTS illustrator (David Creighton-Pester) is currently working his magic, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for this one!
Congratulations! This is such exciting news. I cannot wait to get a chance to read it and see how David Creighton-Pester's artwork complements and adds to your words.
Where can people connect more with you?
Readers be sure to connect with Jocelyn to stay updated on all of her latest writing happenings. And if you loved learning all about BATTLE OF THE BUTTS be sure to pick up a copy or put in a library request.
Jocelyn thank you so much for joining us today and giving us the scoop on BATTLE OF THE BUTTS.
Thanks so much for having me! It’s fun to share how the BUTTS battle came to be!
Jocelyn is generously giving away a signed copy of BATTLE OF THE BUTTS to one lucky winner. (US only)
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Like our FB page and comment on this week's post.
4. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT JOCELYN RISH
Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who never imagined her cheeky sense of humor would lead to a book about animal butts. When she's not researching fanny facts, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her booty-ful dogs. Learn more at: www.jocelynrish.com
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.