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Getting To Know Franz Kafka


Recently, I wrote a humor piece for the comedy site Points in Case. It’s called “Franz Kafka’s Bar Mitzvah Speech.” You can check it out HERE.

I was inspired to write this piece when I was doing some research for a nonfiction project and I accidentally came across images of the Old-New Synagogue in Prague. My research told me that this was where Franz Kafka had his Bar Mitzvah. All of a sudden, images of Franz Kafka as an awkward, obnoxious 13-year-old Bar Mitzvah boy filled my head.

It struck me as funny. What would his Bar Mitzvah have been like? What gifts would he have received from his friends and relatives? What would his Bar Mitzvah speech be like? Who would he thank in that speech? Then I realized that I should write that speech. So I did.

When I first started working on this humor piece, it didn’t seem like it was really coming together. Kafka’s novels and essays and short stories are SO relentlessly dark and depressing and bleak. How would I make his Bar Mitzvah speech funny while still making it feel like something the REAL Kafka would write?

Then I realized I should make the adolescent Kafka sound like a combination of Gru from Despicable Me and Nandor from What We Do in The Shadows. What both of those characters have in common is that they’re very whiny and petty. If I could make teenage Franz Kafka that whiny and petty, while still making him somewhat dark (but, you know, not “adult-level-Kafka” dark), this humor piece could work.

Also, I needed to tap into teen Kafka’s anger, his rage against his parents and other authority figures. If he wasn’t angry, he’d just be sad, and this humor piece would ALSO just be sad. But the more teen Kafka railed against his parents and his rabbi and the frustrations in his life, the funnier he became. He was like an angry chihuahua: tiny and physically frail and not to be messed with.

There was just one last component I needed to really make this adolescent Franz Kafka come to life: I had to think about some of the things that were on my mind when I was preparing for my own Bar Mitzvah. So yeah, I put some of my own teenage grievances into the mix while writing this piece.

Hope you enjoy it! (Which is a needy thing to say, and one that Franz Kafka totally wouldn’t be on board with. Oh well…)


The Journey of the Child!


Earlier this year, I wrote the back-of-the-card copy for all of the cards in the Mandalorian: Journey of the Child trading card set, which was published by the Topps Company in April 2020. Writing the text for the Journey of the Child card set (aka the “Baby Yoda” card set), was a really fun experience, largely because I wrote it while re-watching the first season of The Mandalorian with my daughter, Aviya.

I talked about all of this with Greg McLaughlin when he interviewed me for Episode 76 of the Rebel Base Card podcast back in October. During the interview, we also talked about some of the comic books, children’s books, TV shows, and video games I’ve worked on during my career as writer. You can check out the Rebel Base Card interview HERE.

(Just FYI, “Baby Yoda” is not really a baby version of Yoda; he’s just a baby who comes from the same species as Yoda. In the television series The Mandalorian, the title character simply referred to this adorable infant as “The Child,” until recently, when he learned that the Child’s real name was Grogu. But if you’re a Star Wars fan, you already knew that.)


Meet Frankie Marble


Recently, I wrote three original graphic novels for kids: Frankie and the Dragon (illustrated by Cesar Samaneigo), Trevor, the Very Best Giant (illustrated by Miguel Diaz), and The Troll Under Puzzlefoot Bridge (illustrated by Alex Lopez). All three of these OGNs will be published by Capstone on January 1, 2021. I’ll be talking about Trevor, the Very Best Giant and The Troll Under Puzzlefoot Bridge in future blog posts.

But in the meantime, I just wanted to share a few thoughts about Frankie and the Dragon.

Here’s the official publisher’s description for this book: “Frankie Marble is shy. She is afraid of heights. She is too scared to enter the school talent show. But all that changes when she meets Bandit, the dog-that-is-definitely-not-a-dragon! Read all about their adventures in this graphic novel!”

Frankie and the Dragon is a tribute to my daughter Aviya. Like Frankie, Aviya is Black. Like Frankie, Aviya wears glasses. And like Frankie, Aviya is an introverted bookworm who loves to draw. Also, like Frankie, Aviya wears her hair in a “pineapple” hairstyle (at least sometimes). My daughter likes reading books and graphic novels which feature characters who look like her. I know she’s not alone in that regard. So in a way, this book is for all the nerdy Black girls out there who are like my daughter (and my wife, for that matter). Representation matters.

Learning About Baseball With Harley Quinn


Recently, Harley at Bat, a Batman leveled reader I wrote, was published by Penguin Random House. It was illustrated by Fabio Laguna, Marco Lesko, and Beverly Johnson.

I knew NOTHING about baseball when I got the assignment to write Harley at Bat. The story was supposed to be about Harley Quinn stealing a white diamond roughly the size of a baseball and Batman pursuing her. And at some point in the story, Harley and the Joker play baseball, using the diamond as the ball. Those were the rough parameters I was given by my editor. And within those parameters, I would flesh out the plot and figure out why Harley was doing all of this, how Batman figures out what’s going on, how Batman captures Harley, etc. Then I would write the manuscript, based on that fleshed-out plot.

But you see, when I was a child, my father signed me up for little league three years in a row and I absolutely hated it. As a result, I’ve scrubbed all baseball knowledge from my brain. But now I had a paying gig writing a Batman children’s book where baseball was central to the plot. How would I work baseball terminology into the manuscript when I don’t KNOW any baseball terminology? How could I become baseball-literate in time to meet my deadline for this book? How indeed…

There was a strict word count for Harley at Bat. I had to use a certain number of words – and a certain number of lines – on every page of this book. This made me feel like I was writing poetry. Like a haiku or a sonnet. So then I thought, “Why don’t I just read some poems about baseball? Maybe that will teach me how to write ABOUT baseball, and specifically, how to do so in a concise way.” So I googled “poems about baseball.” Know what? It really helped! Here are just some of the baseball-themed poems I read while writing this book:

* Kidding! It was written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. But you already knew that.

I also watched a bunch of YouTube clips of people playing baseball. The clips didn’t just show me what actually happens during a baseball game, they also showed me how the announcers talk about what’s happening. How do they describe, deconstruct, demystify, and unpack what’s just happened for the people in the stadium and for the viewers at home? In baseball, much of the language is really colorful and expressive. Like, “Neil Walker clobbers a home run.” Or “Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits an absolute monster home run.” Or “Tiki Broward takes that home run into a dark alley, beats it senseless, steals its wallet, and stomps on its phone so it can’t call 911.” Okay, I made that last one up. I also made up Tiki Broward, who is not a real person as far as I know.

The things the announcers say in baseball games often sound like the stage directions in a screenplay for an action movie. Superhero movies (and by extension, superhero children’s books) are a lot like action movies. And baseball players (like superheroes) wear colorful costumes. So this was very appropriate.

I had a ton of fun re-educating myself about baseball while writing this book. And I hope that that comes through when you (or your kids) read it.


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