Greg Leitich Smith
About Greg
Teacher Guides



What advice do you have for someone writing middle grade comedies?

Don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be easier or less profound simply because it's a comedy. To write a comedy, you have to do everything you would have to do to write a drama or “serious” work – but you must also make it funny. By “everything, I mean EVERYTHING: character, plot, theme, rising action, conflict, etc.. And then it has to make you laugh.

What advice do you have for someone writing a multiple viewpoint novel?

Make sure the characters have distinctive voices and are all well-developed themselves. They should each have both inner and outer conflict and their inner and outer conflicts must intertwine with those of the other viewpoint characters – otherwise, all you have is multiple stories in parallel. The intertwining is the trickiest part, because you also have to have the rising action occur together and the characters’ epiphanies also happen congruently.

What is your approach to plotting?

Don’t have one. At least, not per se. What happens is that I’ll get a “What if” idea (“What if the Galileo story was set in junior high?” Or “What if there was this character who was a vegan and she had to go live with her relatives who owned a German delicatessen and butcher shop?”) and then start building more “What ifs.” Because both my books to date have been comedies, this also means trying to come up with the “extreme” premise, or the extreme juxtaposition.

How do you develop your characters?

Basically, I come up with a character and then give him or her a comedic “twist.” Honoria, for example, is a perfectly nice girl who’s REALLY REALLY into bugs. Shohei is a Japanese American kid who is as unstereotypical as you can get, but with parents who are, apparently, trying to put him into the Japanese American box. Elias is a guy who’s just trying to get along in a family with ultra-hyper-overachievers.

Writing and Reading Resources

How To Write Books For Children and Teenagers

The Purple Crayon

Austin SCBWI

Austin Public Library

National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature

Paper Tigers Texas Book Festival

Texas Library Association

Writers League of Texas


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