Some might call it nosing through Elaine Wickson's embarrassing photos but we say it's a deeply respectful look back at the
making of a Snort Queen. Ladies and gennulmen, it's
time to play Queen Elaine, This is Your Life ....
Aged baby. I still have these cheeks.
I was, and always will be, a very happy introvert thanks very much. I wasn’t going to smile on cue for nobody. Besides, I was too busy thinking up stories about
horrabillies that could steal
your soul and leave you for
dead in the woods.
Properly getting into Aesop’s Fables here, doing the
voices and everything. My sister would clearly rather
be on a space hopper.
My fave childhood book was The Lion, The Witch,
and The Wardrobe, so a highlight was dressing
as the White Witch and coming 3rd in a
school fancy dress competition whilst wearing
a a load of tinsel and a sheet. World Book
Day before World Book Day was a thing.
It’s hard to know if my expression is
the result of being Disturbed Whilst
Reading a Book, or just from being a Sulky
Teen. Either way I wholeheartedly apologise to
We asked Snort Queen, Elaine Wickson, to give us her five favourite funny books. This is what she said ...
Choosing five of anything is really hard when there are a bajillion choices. I could easily list my top five favourite toes. But these five have brightened my life with sunbeams and laughter.
Picklewitch & Jack, by Claire Barker, illustrated by Teemu Juhani - not only is this series hilarious, it plays so cleverly with language it feels like it’s putting you under a spell. Hopefully Claire Barker is busily writing one-hundred-and-twenty more.
Mutant Zombies Cursed My School Trip, by Matt Brown, illustrated by Paco Sordo - book 2 of the snort-out-loud Dreary Inkling series, and this one is all about Ian Iansson who comes from a long line of Ians. It’s such a complete joy to read, it’s like taking a holiday from your life.
Bad Nana, written and illustrated by Sophy Henn - my Nan’s house was exactly like Bad Nana’s: mainly roof, always had biscuits, and you never needed a jumper. Quite frankly The Many Faces of Liberace the Cat is worth the price of this book alone.
Encyclopaedia of Grannies, written and illustrated by Eric Veillé, translated by Daniel Hahn – a charming guide to Granny Sayings, Granny Nicknames and what to do if granny sometimes feels like a lump of old mashed potato. Also includes this gem: ‘Inside every granny there’s a small house, and in that house is the same granny when she was a little girl.’
Waiting for Callback, by Honor and Perdita Cargill - This series should be available EVERYWHERE. It has so many genius one-liners you’ll want to quote them out loud to your neighbours. Once you dive into Elektra’s story, you won’t want to dive out. Yes that is a technical term.
Your glorious splendiferousness, our humblest gratitudes for allowing Your radiance to shine upon we grovelling,
slightly smelly, peasants. And felicitations on your coronation. The jewels in that crown really make your eyes pop.
Are there any offerings we can lay at your feet?
Blush. I am truly honoured to be crowned Queen of Snort. Never did I imagine when I was a sit-at-the-back-
of-the-classroom small-year-old, I would end up ruling everyone for a week (whilst being a sit-at-the-back-
of-everywhere grown-up). And thanks, I wouldn’t mind a crisp sandwich.
And would you majesty wish to issue any royal decrees?
Yes. I decree that children’s books should get at least as much coverage as All The Other Books, and
every time a sleb appears on The One Show/Zoe Ball/Newsnight/EastEnders plugging their book they
should plug at least five other non-sleb books alongside it. Send the lift back down and all that.
All Snort Queens must complete the Quest of Great Writing before they are crowned. When did
you set off on your adventure, and what inspired you?
I was but a small-year-old when I first put pen to paper, waffling on about talking vegetables.
Books inspired me (thanks to the mobile library), and my English teachers encouraged me –
it’s amazing how much of a difference that made to my confidence. But I didn’t start focussing
on writing until a visit to the Oxford Literary Festival, where I listened to inspiring authors and
my agent-to-be Julia Churchill. I wrote down everything she said and went away to write a
story, which she rejected cos it was pants, but she loved my third one and the rest is history.
Obviously, you triumphed eventually. Were there any epic failures along your path to glory?
Of course. Behind every writer are epic failures. The first manuscript I submitted to agents got about
645 gajillion rejections, and a manuscript I had my heart set on went out on submission but failed to
find a publisher. The trick is to get good at not giving up, even after you’re published.
And what was your greatest moment of victory?
There have been lots of lovely moments along the way – the phone call from Julia, the book
deal with OUP (proper WOW), seeing my book in a shop window, and being shortlisted for the
Lollies which was a dream-come-true ASTONISHING moment. But I think actually seeing the idea
that came from my brains in book form for the first time, with illustrations by Chris Judge, was
probably the best ‘I did it’ moment. Like Marty McFly’s dad.
No writer ever became Queen of Snort without making a LOT of people laugh. If we may be so bold,
where did your majestic sense of humour come from?
From watching loads of comedy on TV. I loved Blackadder, French & Saunders, Morecambe & Wise,
and The Young Ones growing up – and watched them over and over till I knew the scripts by heart.
Comedy is still my favourite thing to watch - The Detectorists, This Country, and Bob Mortimer Full Stop.
I haven’t analysed it too much, but I guess it all sits in my brain compost and gradually informs how I write.
And if you could pick one passage from your fabulous works as your funniest ever piece of writing, which
passage would it be?
Um, ooh, tricky. I always enjoy writing the scenes where Fred is causing chaos, but I also enjoy coming up
with the charts. Some of them take ages to get right, even though they might look quite simple, so I’m going
to go for the You Should Know Better Pie Chart.
We are in awe of your books, and the Fox family are HILARIOUS. Are they in any way like your own
Oh that’s nice, here have a knighthood and damehood. Thankfully I don’t have a Fred in my household,
but the little sayings and million questions that come out of Fred’s mouth all came out of the mouths of
my sons. And the warm moments between Stan and Fred are inspired by them too.
Including graphs and charts was a mighty stroke of right royal genius, and lo’, verily original to boot,
prithree. How did that idea come about?
Why thankee. I started off trying to write a manual for siblings, and realised I needed some diagrams.
I can remember the first pie chart I ever drew (rubbishly in Word), and thought ‘ooh I might be on
to something here’, and it grew from there. The charts are also a great distraction from actual
writing. I could spend hours coming up with different infographics instead of doing plot and that.
Are there any state secrets of which your council should be aware? What are your majesty’s plans
for the future? Will there be more Stan books are you planning a new era in the Writings of
Super Stan is, alas, the last Stan book, although I’d happily write at least loads more. But Never Say Never
Tomorrow Again. I’m currently working on something TOP SECRET and trying hard not to fill it with pie charts.
The heralds will soon be working on your royal crest. What would your Maj like to see on her coat-of-arms?
Books, obvs. Plus cups of tea, a crisp sandwich, a telescope, and Hugh Jackman.
And also, we will be needing a new National Anthem. What shall it be?
I’m going for a song from my 70s childhood that’s right uplifting, because that’s what I feel funny books are. Also I reckon my subjects could all do with some sunshine right now, so my National Anthem is Mr Blue Sky by ELO.
We are sure that the reign of Queen Elaine the First will be seen as a Golden Age by future historians. Do you have a message for your snivelling subjects as you begin your lovely rule?
Yes I do as it happens… (cue stirring orchestral music by John Williams) Laughter is
nourishment for your soul. Laughter marks moments in time, like music, smells, tears, and
crisp sandwiches. If you pick up a book and it makes you laugh, tell at least 16 people about it,
wear it on a t-shirt, and especially tell the author. But most of all, laugh heartily and go well
Click to hear the new Snort National Anthem
I am a fool I know, but I’d happily live in Harry
Potter world without all the murdery Voldermort
“Author” - Just look at my face. Says it all.
Hullo, hullo, hullo and welcome to The-Great-British-Wheel-of-Blankety-Blank-Family-
Fortune, with me – your host – Mart Smarmypants and my lovely assistant, the
glamorous Rachel Del Leotard. Before we play, let’s meet tonight’s contestant. What’s your
name and where do you come from?
My name’s Matty and I’m from SURREY!!!
It says here, you wanted to be a game-show host when you were young, but didn’t have the right teeth so you were forced to become a children’s illustrator and author instead. Rotten luck. Tell us about your journey, Matty.
It’s all true, Martin. “You’ll never be a gameshow host” were the last words my orthodontist
uttered as he tightened the wires on my brand-new braces. So, I turned my back on the glitz
and the glamour and embarked on a life as an illustrator and then, an author. My journey
involved a lot of drawing and colouring with felt tips while watching Saturday morning
cartoons, and then a few different art schools. And now I get to work on books with only
slightly crooked teeth so it was all worth it.
That’s enough about you. Ready to play? OK then, your first challenge – and this is worth fifty
points Matty – describe the Super Happy Magic Forest in fifty words or less without hesitation or
repetition. Good luck, aaaand go …
The SUPER HAPPY MAGIC FOREST is an amazing place full of folk who spend their days frolicking
and fishing and eating candy floss and it’s all because of the mystical crystals of life which make
everything wonderful but sometimes bad things happen and some heroes need to overcome
Didn’t he do well!? Matty, you’re on your way to winning tonight’s star prize. The next round is a fill
the blank round, so, “I came up with the idea for Super Happy Magic Forest when … blank.”
...I was on the toilet. WAIT! NO! When I was drawing gnomes and pixies in my sketchbook and then
I wondered if there was a cool place they could all live!
And that matches EXACTLY what I have on this card! Another fifty points! That’s yours. You can
take that away with you. Now, would you like to double those points by answering a general
knowledge question? You would? Great, so here goes. Can you, Matty, name the character most
like yourself in your Super Happy Magic Forest, and tell us why.
I would have to have to say Hoofius the faun because he likes worrying about things, eating
grapes, and has questionable facial hair.
Great answer. Well done, Matty, that’s two hundred points in the bank. For ANOTHER two
hundred points, what is the best way to make readers laugh, Matty? Buzz in when you’re ready.
Ummm...by being brave and writing things that I find funny first and foremost? And if all else
fails...just add a poop joke?
A poop joke is the right answer! Almost there. Start the clock Rachel, it’s time for the Quickfire
Round. Answer these quickfire questions, Matty, in three days or less.
Illustration or writing?
Biscuits: author cliché or an essential part of the creative process?
Favourite part of writing?
The funny bits!
Best book or passage you’ve ever written?
A passage about unicorn poop that scholars will be debating for centuries to come!
Funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I went to a circus and they made me dance around in a pink tutu...it was funny for everyone
Didn’t he do well, everyone? Matty, you’ve reached the final round. Silence in the studio
please. Rachel, dim the lights. Now, Matty, for this week’s Star Prize can you name your
favourite five funny books?
Oh...I know this....
Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs...
Stick Dog by Tom Watson...
The Where’s Wally books by Martin Handford...
Corpse Talk by Adam Murphy...
THE DOUGHNUT OF DOOM BY ELYS DOLAN!!!
YESSSSSS! You’ve done it Matty. Stand here in this shower of glitter. You’ve won tonight’s
Staaaaar PRIZE. Let’s see what’s behind the curtains. Wow, it’s an all-expenses paid review of
your new book, Super Happy Magic Forest and the Humongous Fungus, with me, Mart
Smarmypants. The neighbours are going to be jealous when they see that parked in your
driveway, Matty. Congratulations, thanks for playing and best of Snort luck with your new book.
Thanks Martin, wow. Can I say hi to my Mum who’s watching at home? HI MUM.
Jennifer Killick: The Making of a Snort Queen
Although a Snort Queen is raised alongside regular members of society, it isn’t long before she manifests signs of being different to her peers. Or indifferent to her peers. In our first exhibit, we see the youthful haughtiness of a young queen displeased that those toddling around her do not meet her standards of comedy. This particular photo – entitled "Not Amused" –- was taken just moments after one of Jennifer’s prize "chicken" gags left those around her non-plussed. The Queen’s expression is one of confusion (it’s obvious why the chicken crossed the road) mixed with a touch of disgust (these kids are imbeciles if they don’t understand why the chicken crossed the road. Verily, 'tis the moment a future Snort Queen was born.
Older, wiser and pig-tailed, our Snort Princess knows she’s differen. She understands that she’s a gift for the funny stuff, and to hell with it – she’s going to tell jokes whether people like it or not. The fact that this shot isn’t blurred suggests that the joke she told the photographer did not hit its mark. But never mind. The future is just around the corner, and it can’t be long before our comedy queen finds her people.
Just not yet. We’ve reached the "Hermione" years of sensible hair. The smile says, "I may look like the school swot but if you don't laugh at my jokes I will remember, and when you least expect it I will have you executed."
The iron fist in the velvet glove. Queen Jennifer's early book review may appear glowing on the surface, but has anyone heard of Elizabeth Gouge and her "Little White Horse" since? No. Frankly, she had it coming. It's not even a horse, it's a flippin' unicorn.
Now our Queen has entered tertiary education and like any normal student there are bands
and boys on the wall. Don't be fooled.
While other students were jigging about to
the smashing sounds of pop combo The Charlatans down the student union bar our queen was planning world domination
by way of humorous children's literature.
The finished article: one of the bestest, funniest kids' writers working today. All hail her glorious, majestic fabulousness, Queen Jennifer the First.
Your majesty, welcome to our humble abode. How would you prefer us to grovel?
Thank you, Snort, I’m delighted to be here. Some tea and cake would be lovely, along with
a selection of baby animals to cuddle.
Consider it done. Now, how do you feel about being our first ever Queen of Snort?
I am honoured to be your first Queen, and hoping to set the bar very high. Nobody wants to be remembered for being a rubbish Queen.
You’ve obviously done a lot to make people laugh to get to this elevated position. Could you run us
through your Royal catalogue?
My first book was called ‘Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink’ – a comedy adventure about two kids
with embarrassing, not-so-super powers. This was followed by ‘Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury’, and then
‘Mo, Lottie and the Junkers’, a sci-fi comedy. My most recent book was a third Alex instalment – ‘Alex
Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse’, and my next book, a horror-comedy, is coming out on
19th March. It’s called ‘Crater Lake.’
Apart from royal decrees and diva demands, what’s the best thing you have written?
I’m asked this in every school I visit, and always find it hard to answer, as it feels like a terrible
betrayal of the books I don’t choose. Some of my favourite scenes that I’ve written appear in
‘Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse’ – particularly the poo scene at the doctor’s
surgery, and the big climax at the end of the story. I am also incredibly excited for Crater Lake
because it turned out so close to the original idea I had in my head, and that hardly ever happens.
A Snort Queen does not spring from nowhere. Where did your hilarious journey begin?
My journey to Snort Queen began as many of the best things in life do: by accident. About
twelve years ago when I really started to focus on my writing, I had my heart set on creating
women’s literary fiction full of heartache and despair. During my MA in Creative Writing, we
were made to write a short children’s story one week, as we were trying out different genres. I
came up with a couple of thousand words about a boy who gets a lie-detector power that makes
his ear fart. Everything just clicked into place from there, and I haven’t returned to my tragic
grown-up stories since.
None of us are worthy, your Royal Highness, but if you could recommend one hella funny book,
what would it be?
I’ve talked about lots of brilliant funny books in the past, so I’m going to recommend something new
here: ‘Anisha, Accidental Detective’ by Serena Patel. It has just been published, but I was lucky enough
to have an early read last year. It’s so smart and funny, and exactly the kind of story I’d love to see more
of in bookshops and libraries.
If you had a wax seal (that’s a stamp, not a model of a sea mammal), what would be the motif?
I have to go with a hedgehog. I am OBSESSED with the prickly little fellas.
And if your majesty did have a sea mammal in her menagerie, what would she call it?
I have spent more time thinking about the answer to this question than any of the others. I feel
like I need to see it before I can make an informed decision, as there are so many different
types. But if it was one of those lovely giant blubbery ones, I’d call him Neil.
State secrets aside, please tell us what you hope to achieve during your reign as Queen
I would love to make a few people chuckle, perhaps even snigger, and the ultimate goal is
always to make people surprise laugh so that some kind of beverage comes out of their nose
or mouth. That’s the dream.
The royal tush needs a place to rest and to write (unless her majesty has one of those
groovy standing desks). If you could have a throne made out of anything what would it be?
The softest midnight sky velvet, surrounded by the rosy glow of twinkling fairy lights. I would
like it to have a couple of pink fluffy cushions, and a soft blanket to put over my royal lap.
And as Snort Queen in residence, you have the power to select a National Anthem. Any
‘Long Live’ by Taylor Swift, as it’s my personal anthem. It makes me think about the people I love
who fight dragons with me every day, and how the things we do in life, no matter how small,
have the potential to change the world.
Are you open to being amused, your majesty? And if so, how best shall we ensure it?
Oh gosh, yes. Laughing so hard that I cry is my favourite thing. Children are often the source of this,
because they are the best at saying things that are weird and funny, and at the same time full of truth.
It also amuses me when people take ages to fall over, so they’re stuck in the ‘will they/won’t they’
slip and stumble that carries on for minutes before they finally succumb. ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine’
ALWAYS makes me laugh, as does ‘Gogglebox.’ Sometimes the funniest things are just normal
people going about their lives.
A Queen must have knights. Whose shoulder will you cross with the balloon-modelled
sword of Snorty Knighthood?
There are so many people who would make excellent Snort knights, but I’m going to go for
Maz Evans, Chris Callaghan and Ross Montgomery, because they’re always out there,
flying the snorty flag in schools and libraries.
As you know, your majesty, you are in the position of imposing any rules you like on the
land of Snort. What system will we live under?
That all humour must be rooted in kindness – it isn’t funny if it’s hurting someone’s feelings. And that all subjects of Snort must devote time every day to reading funny books and watching funny TV/movies, and talking about them to their friends. Things are so much funnier when you’re sharing them with other people. In fact, there will be an hour every weekend during which people must read or watch something funny as a group. With snacks.
Does the Queen have plans for future snort-lit she cares to share?
The Queen has no flipping idea. The world is her oyster.
Queen of Snort – Top 5
The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle
Dave Pigeon by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey
Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak
With a face like that, Detective Howard and Inspector Delahaye
knew Ben Davis was guilty of something - even if it was
just guilty of writing some of the funniest books you'll find. So
they dragged him down to the station for a thorough
interrogation. He got them bruises falling down the stairs.
We never laid a finger on him.
Alright sonny, where were you on the night of November
None of your beeswax.
Don’t come the strutting Betty with us. We know you done it. You strangled Big Dave in the
toilets of the Dog & Duck with your bare feet, didn’t you?
I ain't tellin’ you nuffin’, you toilet.
Alright then. Now we’ve got that out the way, about these books what you “allegedly” wrote. How many
are there now? When did you start writing? What made you do it?
I have eight books out, soon to be nine, as it happens. Four of them are Joe Cowley books and the rest are
standalones. I started writing at a very early age. I remember My dad used to “borrow” paper from work and I'd
use that to make my own little books. But you didn't hear that from me, understand?
You’ve got a favourite, haven’t you? We know you have. Which one is it? Why? Tell the truth and
Inspector Delahaye will bring you a cup of tea.
My favourite is What's That in Dog Years? And I'm not just saying that cos it's my latest. I think it's because
it's got the best mix of sad bits and funny bits. Plus, it has made many, many children cry and that makes
me very happy indeed. Milk. Eight sugars.
Hmm, we’re starting to build a picture now. There must have been a turning point in your young
life, eh? A book what made you laugh. A favourite writer? Who turned you into this monster?
So you want my origin story, do you? Well, here it is: on a school visit to a science facility, I was bitten by
a radioactive Jacqueline Wilson. Alright, alright, stop slamming my head on the desk, I'll tell the truth. As well
as the ubiquitous Mr Dahl, I liked a bit of Dick King-Smith, Anne Fine, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Lots of
football stories about plucky, underdog teams overcoming the odds. I used to read books like
George’s Marvellous Medicine and think, ‘I want to do that.’ Write books, I mean. Not poison my granny.
A writer like you can never walk away. You’ve got a taste for it now, haven’t you? We know you’ll strike
again. You’d better come clean about what you’re planning next.
My next book is called the Soup Movement. It's about a kid who accidentally starts a guerilla soup kitchen for
homeless people. No, not a gorilla soup kitchen. Now THERE’S an idea for a book. I'll scratch a synopsis
into the wall of my cell.
You’ll do time for this. A long stretch in chokey. Which writer would you like to share a cell with?
David Walliams. I have my reasons.
The judge might go easy on you if you recommend one book you think will make kids will laugh
their socks off.
Aside from the fine titles written by you two esteemed detectives, I'd have to go with the entire Adrian Mole series.
That counts as one book, yeah?
That'll do. I think we have everything we need. Inspector Delahaye, get this low-life out of my sight.
From The Evidence Files ...
Watch Ben hilariously
bucket list from What's
That in Dog Years?
with his own dog, Tommy.