Puns Intended: A Guest Post by Ryan Milligan, Author of My Very Punny Dad
Why Guest Posts?
On the blog, I have several series related to writing and reading whether it be short story challenges, how-to's on self-publishing, or book reviews. But one of my favorites are guest posts.
Over a year ago, I decided to feature other self-published children's book authors in hopes of hearing their stories. What inspired them? What avenues did they take when it came to self-publishing? What audience are they catering to and on what platforms? All these questions I had when self-publishing my own children's book, Princess Gabriella and the Never-Ending Kiss.
This week's guest post, by Ryan Milligan, is one I've been following since he began posting about his new children's book, My Very Punny Dad. From the illustrations down to the very idea of a book written with puns was captivating.
From what I'd seen and read, Ryan was very passionate about his project, which is why I decided to reach out. Take a look at what Ryan had to say about his children's book, My Very Punny Dad!
By Ryan Milligan
Long before I became a father myself, I was fond of puns, or “dad jokes” as they’re now commonly referred to these days. I believe I was in second grade when I read Amelia Bedelia for the first time, and found the word play in that book to be such a clever form of humor. (For those unfamiliar, Amelia was a maid who grossly misinterpreted a list of chores due to the wording, such as “dressing” a chicken with actual clothes instead of preparing it to be cooked by the homeowners.) I always giggled when reading it, and the fascination with puns stuck with me from that point on.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2021. Writing a children’s book had been a goal of mine for several years after my wife and I started a family. We read to our kids almost every night and I thought it would be neat to make something special that could be shared with them. Our daughters were five and three years old at the time, and I wanted to ensure that whatever I did create was something I could read to them for at least a few years. I had just finished graduate school, so my nights were no longer filled with studying and writing papers. This was effectively a “now or never” moment for me. I started to brainstorm some concepts and ended up with quite a lengthy list, but nothing got me excited except for one idea that was still hanging around in the back of my mind. “Write what you know” is one of the classic pieces of advice for aspiring authors – and of course, I know puns.
So what if I wrote a children’s book that made puns and “dad jokes” the actual topic of the story? And what if I also incorporated rhyme and meter? Pretty unique, right? After all, I had done some extensive research and, despite my best efforts, couldn’t find any works that combined all those elements together. Not the “100 Dad Jokes” books I occasionally see in stores that just simply puns without a story or illustrations. Not even Amelia Bedelia, my source of inspiration. It was certainly ambitious, but I wanted to go for it.
Now, being a native English speaker, I take the language for granted. But boy, is it nuanced. Writing My Very Punny Dad was like putting together an incredibly complex jigsaw puzzle. It’s difficult enough with rhyme and rhythm; any bumps or inconsistencies can derail the entire reading experience. The puns took the challenge to a whole new level. They had to make sense in the context of the story, they had to keep the poetry style intact, and they ideally needed to appeal to both the adults and the children reading it.
I spent two months writing the story and dedicated a third month solely to making minor tweaks in the wording. I must have read that manuscript out loud hundreds of times until I was satisfied with it. I’m not kidding – hundreds. After my wife and the kids were asleep, I’d be in our home office mumbling the same lines to myself over and over again, crossing out words that didn’t fit just right and placing questions marks where I thought another pun may be more appropriate. By late spring though, I had my story and was proud of what I managed to pull off.
Fortunately, I knew someone who could bring the words to life. I had known Justin Castaneda for years; he and our wives were all friends dating back to high school. I also knew that he was an incredibly talented artist and had a style that I knew would mesh well with the tone of the story. He was gracious enough to take on the illustrations over the summer months and did an incredible job. I gave him full creative liberty and remember my only true request being to “make it fun.”
And that’s what My Very Punny Dad is meant to be for readers: fun. Language is something you can play with, and I filled the story with silly one-liners that showcase that. I made sure to include some underlying themes such as love and respect since those are values we hold near and dear in our own home, but laughter is what I wanted out of the book above all else.
After I read the proof copy to my kids last October, they asked if I could read it again the following night – that is a moment I know I’ll never forget. The response from the public in the book’s first few months has been incredibly heartwarming as well. I’ve received messages from parents telling me not only that they enjoyed the story, but also that their children have started trying to come up with puns of their own. For me, that’s the proverbial cherry on top of achieving my goal.
I strongly advocate for any opportunities to express creativity and imagination at a young age, and language is another just avenue to accomplish that. You have the option of staying within its rules and constructs, just like following the step-by-step instructions to build an intricate castle out of LEGO bricks. On the other hand, you can use those bricks to build whatever you want, regardless of what they were originally intended for. Puns are one of language’s ways of tossing that instruction manual aside, and they do so in a way that can make people smile.
One last thing. Remember that if you ever get a copy of My Very Punny Dad and it happens to fall on your head, don’t get upset at me. You only have your-shelf to blame. (Sorry, but I had to!)
My Very Punny Dad is a story for parents with an appreciation of word play and kids who are starting to understand all the silly ways in which language can be used. While a young girl goes about her day, her father wants to keep the laughs coming with his constant puns and “dad jokes.” But just like snacking on cheese, can there be too much of a gouda thing? Humor through rhythm and rhyme from author Ryan Milligan, combined with heartfelt illustrations by Justin Castaneda make for a reading experience that will bring a smile to everyone's face – and perhaps some eye rolls as well.
Click here to purchase My Very Punny Dad on Amazon today.
Guest Post Wrap Up
I love how Ryan decided to go with his gut feeling when it came to this out of the box idea. This book will definitely stand out for years to come.
I thought I would try to think of a pun of my very own during this guest post wrap up but have yet to think of one so I'll leave it to the expert in this case. If you love puns, go check out My Very Punny Dad by Ryan Milligan now!
If you're a self-published author who would like to tell their story on the Kali Kuzma Author and Storyteller send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out other guest posts by Massiel Zaragoza or Donna Howard to see if it is something you are interested in pursuing.