I’ve been writing for The Simpsons for 19 years now. Throughout its run, the show has had a pretty good reputation. Ministers mangle our jokes in their sermons each week. And several colleges teach courses about The Simpsons. I think this is a very good sign. Of the apocalypse. However, when the show premiered in 1989, it was considered the most scandalous thing on television. It was condemned by the National Council of Churches. Schools banned Simpsons T-shirts. Former first lady Barbara Bush said, “The Simpsons is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.” (Note to Barbara: look at your kid. [Note to reader: I didn’t say which kid. {Note to self: I meant George W.}]) It was in the face of all this controversy that I decided to start writing children’s books. I wanted to do something that had The Simpsons’ smart-alecky sense of humor, but was inoffensive and with positive moral values. This was not easy for me.

One thing that made it hard is that I have no children. But the writers of The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and Peter Rabbit also had no kids. The writer of Alice in Wonderland is someone you wouldn’t want anywhere near your kids. I’m in good company.

I’ve published eight children’s books, and I love it, partly because it’s so different from TV writing. The Simpsons is written by 15 people, all sitting around a big table, pitching lines and jokes. The script is rewritten top to bottom eight full times. Often, by the end of this process, there’s not a line of the original script left. By contrast, my children’s books are entirely written by me. If you like them, I take all the credit. If you don’t like them, I blame the illustrator.

Unlike The Simpsons, where we work very closely with our animators, I’ve never had any contact with my books’ illustrators. An amazing artist named David Catrow has done four of my books. I don’t know who he is or where he lives; we’ve never exchanged a phone call or an e-mail. But it seems to work.

The biggest difference between TV and kids’ books is time. We have to crank out 22 half-hours of The Simpsons every year. People will not sit at home and watch a blank screen. Although they will watch Paris Hilton, which is pretty close. In TV, my job is to fill time. In books, I try to see how many ideas, jokes and plot twists I can fit in 750 words. There’s never a deadline. It took me six years to write my first book. My last book took three hours. Which one is better? They’re about the same.

Writing children’s books has been more rewarding than TV writing in every way. Except financially. Kids’ books do not pay the bills. To earn what I make as a TV writer, I’d have to publish a children’s book every four hours. I can’t do that. R.L. Stine could, but I can’t.

There’s an ironic twist to all this. I started writing children’s books so I could promote clean, positive messages. However, one of my books shocked and scandalized some readers in a way The Simpsons never did. It was called The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln, and that’s what it was about: an eight-year-old who looked exactly like Abe. He had the hat, the beard, the wart—everything. And he had a baby brother named Dick, who looked exactly like Dick Nixon. A handful of school librarians thought he was named Dick because he looked like something else. I swear this is not what we had in mind. It just shows that some self-appointed censors have filthy minds.

I got a lot of hate mail over that book. A minister in Iowa even burned it in his church parking lot. This didn’t bother me. Because before you can burn a book, you’ve got to buy it.

So my two jobs have now switched places. The Simpsons is more outrageous than ever, and nobody complains. In fact, we just learned it’s the Archbishop of Canterbury’s favorite show. Take that, minister in Iowa!

Meanwhile, I’m petrified that prudes will find another one of my kids’ books pornographic. I don’t know how Pinocchio’s nose got past them.

HarperCollins will publish Mike Reiss’s latest picture book, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share, in May.