by Ciro Festa
What makes a writer want to be a writer? What motivates and inspires them? When I sat down with author Alan Katz, a lifelong writer, I gained many answers and found out about a remarkable man. At a very young age he knew that he wanted to be a writer. In the third grade he wrote a parody of Jack and the Beanstalk and while inventing the story, he entertained the other kids with puppets.
In the early days of his writing, his parents were not so supportive. His father owned a shoe store and felt that this was a secure job – people will always need shoes. His brother became an art teacher – also more secure, people always need teachers for their kids. However, as Alan points out every job requires reading and writing even if you don’t think it does. As he pointed out to an elementary school child once during an appearance he made, even baseball players have to read and understand stats and instructions.
At 17 years old Alan got his first paid writing job when he sold jokes to Henny Youngman. Henry would circle the ones he wanted and send him $20 for each one. His mother would say to him “how do you know he isn’t stealing them?” Alan replied that why would he bother paying him for some then, he could just take them all. In college he wrote for comedienne Marilyn Sokol’s (best known as Ma Otter from Emmett Otter’s jugband Christmas) tonight show appearance. As he said to me he always enjoyed writing humor.
He is not the class clown, he writes for the class clown. He then moved on to advertising where he wrote a series of funny ads.
He had been writing for the Rosie O’Donnell show when he began playing around with funny songs and funny song parodies which led to his first children’s book, “Take me out of the Bathtub”, followed by 8 more similar books! This was in 2001 and he has been prolifically writing children’s literature since then, and has been quite successful. He is planning to make a musical out of all the funny songs he has written over the years.
Alan is bothered by the fact that currently there has been a trend to “edit” children’s books, like Dr. Suess or Roald Dahl, and now towards newer writers. He, like many other authors, feel that it is a writer’s heart and soul on the page, and changing it fundamentally changes what was written., or it’s intent. This has made it challenging for some authors to sell their work. Alan, however, does plan to continue to write books and other media for as long as he can.