Sunday, June 24, 2007

In the Coop with Dori Chaconas

Author Dori Chaconas won our fluffy hearts long ago with sweet, comforting picture books like On a Wintry Morning, One Little Mouse, and Christmas Mouseling. More recently she's been showing off her silly streak with When Cows Come Home for Christmas, Cork and Fuzz, and our personal favorite (for obvious reasons), Coriander the Contrary Hen. Silly or sweet, Dori's books are a treat and so is she! We are honored to have her with us in the coop today.

How do you know when what you write is funny?

I'm never absolutely sure, but when a piece of dialogue or scene comes into my head and cracks me up, I feel pretty confident it's funny. That's why I write in private. It's embarrassing to sit in a quiet coffee shop and suddenly bark a loud guffaw. But it's only when I read the material aloud to someone else that I know if the material is honestly funny or if it only appeals to my misguided sense of humor.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

For me, humor is magnified when it takes place in a non-humorous situation. If every line in a story is a funny one, the whole thing feels diluted because the funny lines compete against each other. But if you can have a handful of funny lines or situations scattered throughout a story that has some serious or soft tones, the humor stands out like a giggle during a stuffy speech. Comic relief.

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?

I can't think of a single example of one or the other. I've never been considered a funny person, but that's mainly because what people see of my controlled outside doesn't necessarily let on to the silliness that's inside. But I have a few friends who know me to the core, and when we're together, I can get them laughing pretty hard, often helped along by a bottle or two of wine. So there you have it. I'm a straight-faced, wine drinking humorist.

What are some of your favorite funny books?

I love Sara Pennypacker's CLEMENTINE, and Peggy Rathman's OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA. I love anything by Lisa Wheeler. My classic favorites are A. A. Milne's WINNIE THE POOH books – 'the bear of little brain.' There's a sweet innocence about Pooh and his friends, and I love the illogical way in which they think and speak.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

Probably the Cork and Fuzz books. Their world is practically ideal. They have no parents telling them what to do or how to behave. They don't have to work for a living, or pay bills. They don't have to bother with shaving their legs or putting on makeup. They always seem to have plenty to eat. The biggest problems they face are dealing with each other. Sounds good to me.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

Hmmmm… Can I pick the Smother's Brothers? I prefer whacky humor to slappy humor.

What was your best Halloween costume?

Several years ago I worked the reception desk at a busy health clinic and the staff was encouraged to wear costumes on Halloween. I decided not to go in costume, but to go incognito –like a detective who disguises himself to look like a different person. I borrowed my mom's polyester zig-zag print dress, which was much too short, but so perfect because you could see the hem of my slip and the tops of my knee highs. I wore a wig, reshaped my lips with too-red lipstick and my eyebrows with too-black pencil. After a little more makeup work, no one—not even my closest co-workers—recognized me.

The thing I never expected was that when you look like a person with no sense of fashion, no idea how to apply makeup, and are not even close to being attractive, people avoid eye contact with you. I must have checked in over 100 people that day, and NOT ONE person would look me straight in the eye. I looked too weird—too ugly. By the end of the day I felt invisible, as if I didn't exist, I didn't belong in their pretty world, and I didn't matter as a person.

Sometimes a thing can start out funny and end up sad.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

I'd work for the City Planning Department and be the person who named all the new streets. Not tired, safe names like Maple Lane or Elm Street, nor after aunts and uncles, like Louie Lane or Betty Ann Boulevard. I'd make up names like Kerfuffle Court, and Squeegee Square. But my identity would have to be kept secret or those people who had to live on those streets would be out to get me.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch. Pick your winner.

Definitely a mime. A clown is too 'in your face.' A mime draws the audience into the act by making them use their imaginations to figure out what the heck he's doing.

Funniest dead person you'd like to meet?

I haven't met a funny dead person yet.

You've written stories featuring a host of funny critters (muskrat, possum, hen, cows, etc.). Which creature from the Animal Kingdom do you most identify with?

The creature I would most like to be identified with is the tiger, for its beauty, grace, and sense of power. But more appropriately, I'd probably be identified with the ostrich. I don't like conflict and sometimes wish I could bury my head in the sand until the conflict went away. But then that would put me in an embarrassing position of having my fat butt stick up in the air.

I'll have to rethink this one.

1 comment:

ginseek said...

I love the ostrich analogy!!! I can relate - so funny, so true :)