Julie Hedlund – Will Write for Cookies

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WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

JULIE HEDLUND

I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor several years ago when I hesitantly wriggled my writing toes in the waters of kid lit. There was a strong community that was building around Julie’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge – write a picture book draft every month for a year – what a novel idea! I took a deep breath, pinched my nose, and jumped in – and the rest is history. Julie Hedlund is a trailblazer…from an app of her first picture book, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys to a Kickstarter Campaign for her latest one, My Love for You is the Sun. Her Renaissance Writer’s Retreat in Florence, Italy is an opportunity of a life time that I hope one day to attend. Best of all, she is a friend to all writers and illustrators. She speaks at SCBWI and other conferences and generously shares her knowledge and expertise. I finally got to meet her at a Peter Brown book event in Denver, right before I moved from Colorado. I’m thrilled she agreed to participate today – so, without further ado…here’s JULIE!

HEAD SHOT

 

Welcome, Julie! Thanks again for being here. I know you’ve got a lot to say, so I’ll start with the first question.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 

Julie: Well that’s an easy one – Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss. It’s funny because I don’t remember reading very many picture books as a child. I lived in a small town in Northern Michigan, and when I was little, we just had a tiny library with an even tinier children’s book session. But somehow I read (devoured more like) every Dr. Seuss book. 

 

The first illustrations I remember loving were Hilary Knight’s in ELOISE, which is also one of the first books I owned. Oh how I pored over them for hours and hours. And you know what? I still do! 

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ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

 

Julie: I don’t mean to sound discouraging, but I wish I had known that the writing never gets easier. Other things about the business get easier, but not the writing. Every book is its own being, comes about in a unique way, and uses pieces of your heart and brain that haven’t been used before. I spent a lot of time worrying that I just wasn’t “getting it” because I found each manuscript as challenging as the next. I hope by sharing this, others can be spared some frustration and self-doubt. 

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ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

 

Julie: I have a desk that faces out to my yard and the Rocky Mountains beyond, so I can’t complain. I do most of my physical writing on a computer, but the truth is I do the vast majority of my writing in my head. I know that sounds like a copout, but because I ruminate over stories for so long, many times by the time I sit down to write I’m usually able to knock out a complete draft or a full revision. Not that the first drafts (or revisions) are always good mind you, but they’re usually fully-formed.

 

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?

 

Julie: No official schedule here. I WISH I could be that type of writer, and believe me I’ve tried. What works for me is deadlines. Imposing deadlines on myself was the primary motivation for creating 12 x 12. It’s also why I attend as many workshops and courses as I can. For example, this winter I was preparing for Jane Yolen’s picture book boot camp. You can bet your booty I was writing up a storm to get ready for that one! 

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ME: Why do you write for children?

Julie: Because once I had children of my own, I fell 100% in love with picture books.  To end with the beginning, I think it’s because I don’t remember reading many of them as a child that I was so overjoyed to discover their beauty and sophistication. Also, I truly believe books change children’s lives for the better. The idea that one of my books might mean the world to a child is all the motivation I need. Plus, writing for children is just plain FUN! Right now I have a dragon, a talking stick, a cowgirl in medieval times, and dancing dogs as just a few of my main characters. Lucky me!

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ME: Please share any tips that will help aspiring writers/illustrators or anything else you feel would be of interest.

 

Julie: Advice for aspiring writers…it’s not very sexy – but my advice is to be patient. The most common trait I see in newer writers is a huge sense of urgency to be published, to “make it,” to grab the brass ring. Even worse is when that desire turns to entitlement — that they deserve to be published NOW and WHY is it taking so long? 

I think this mindset comes from a mistaken view that once they get that publishing contract, or the agent, or the first foot in the door, the world will open up to them and the struggle will be over. I understand that deep desire, I do. I’ve been there. But now that I’m on what other people perceive to be the “other side,” I can tell you there is no brass ring. The second book isn’t easier than the first. Your agent won’t like everything you write and his or her submissions on your behalf will still get rejected. There will be bad reviews. Days when the writing just won’t come. The only people who make it in this business are the ones who are in it for the long haul. You have to love the writing for itself and trust that the rest will come. I HIGHLY recommend all your readers go out and pick up a copy of TAKE JOY by Jane Yolen. She says this all far better than I ever could. :-)

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Now, after all that I think we deserve a treat. For me, digging up a recipe was the most challenging part of writing this post. While I love cooking, I’ve never been a baker, and especially not now that I have the added challenge of high altitude in Colorado. But I do love these Bourbon Balls. AND, they don’t require baking. :-)

 

Bourbon Balls – Makes about 25

6 oz vanilla wafers

1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts if you prefer)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 tbsp honey

1/2 cup bourbon

1. Put cookies in a plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin. Put the crumbs in a large bowl and add the nuts, cocoa powder and half the confectioner’s sugar. Add the honey and bourbon. Stir until mixture forms a stiff paste. Add a little more bourbon if needed.

2. Shape the mixture into small balls. Place on a platter and chill until firm.

3. Roll the balls in the remaining confectioner’s sugar, then chill for 15 minutes. Then roll again in the sugar.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, JULIE! I know everyone joins me in a rousing cheer for all the golden nuggets you shared. In fact, I’m on my way to see if I can grab of copy of Jane Yolen’s TAKE JOY. And the Bourbon Balls remind me so much of the rum balls I used to make – yum!

If you would like to find out more about Julie, her picture books and apps, 12×12, the Renaissance for Writers or any of the other fabulous things she is involved with, please click on the links below.

 

  1. juliehedlund.com
    Coming Fall, 2014! MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN
    Now in Print! A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS
    Available on iTunes: A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS(IBPA Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold Award Winner, 2014)
    Available on iTunes: A SHIVER OF SHARKS (Digital Book Award Winner, 2014)
    Founder, 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge
    Leader, Writer’s Renaissance Retreat in Florence, Italy

    Facebook Twitter

Jane Yolen – Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

JANEPhoto ©2014 Heidi E.Y. Stemple

JANE YOLEN

Anyone who is active in the kid lit community is familiar with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor. In fact, anyone who loves picture books has probably read several of the over 300 books she has written. Not only is she extremely talented and prolific, she is also one of the most generous and supportive mentors you will ever meet. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Jane agreed to share some of her thoughts here.

Thank you so much, Jane. You always have so much going on in your life, both personally and professionally, so we won’t waste any time. I know everyone is anxious to find out more about you.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

JANE:

  1. Andrew Lang, whom I thought wrote the Color Fairy Books, all twelve of them, only I have recently (as in the last couple of years) come to understand that his wife did all the work. But as he was the well-known folklorist and jack of many genres–this was Edwardian times in England–the publisher used his name.2. Louisa May Alcott–everything she wrote but especially Little Women and Under the Lilacs.3. James Thurber, a toss up between Thirteen Clocks and The White Deer. (And if you make me make a choice, I will have to slit you from your guggle to your zatch.) It didn’t hurt that he was a friend of my dad’s.4. Also I adored my parents’ copy of the illustrated Rubiyat of Omar Kayyham, probably more for the pictures than the poetry, to be honest.5. As many Wizard of Oz books as I could get my hands on.6. And every single dog and horse book every written for kids!!!

 

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ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

JANE: That editors may like my work but it was a mistake to become best friends with them since in the end, they work for a publisher and have to side with where their pay check comes from. When I saw the second (I think it is) Godfather movie and the good fellas are taking one of the Don’s men out to shoot him, in the car one turns to him and says, “I like you, but this is just business.” I think of that when an editor gets overruled on buying one of my books or keeping it in print.

 

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ME: Where do you like to write: inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

JANE: On my lap top wherever I am sitting at the time. Mostly either in bed first thing in the morning (5 a.m.-ish) or in the tv room since I can no longer (bad back) sit at a desk.
ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write when the muse speaks?

JANE: I work every day, usually about 4-6 hours. Though when things are going well, I may work for ten straight. But not all of that is fingers on the keys. A lot is thinking time, smelling the roses time, watching the birds, watching a tv show or movie. Or day dreaming.
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ME: Why do you write for children?

1. Why not?

2. Inside I am still a child. Outside I am an old woman. This split personality works well for me.

3. Children are the greatest audience, and the most honest. They don’t like a story, they start playing with a toy, throw the book across the room, walk away from the storyteller, fall asleep withouot apology. They like a book, it’s “Another chapter. . . please.”

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ME: Please feel free to share any tips that will help aspiring writers/illustrators.

My mantra is “Butt in the chair, heart on the page.” Also, “Stop talking about the book/story/poem/factual piece/lyrics/memoir you’re going to write when you find the time. There is no Time Fairy hiding bits of time for you to discover. The only way to write is. . .to sit down and do it. Everything else is a fantasy.” 

 

This has been fantastic, Jane! I love your down-to-earth, commonsense approach to writing. I especially appreciate your realistic take on time-management – yes, ‘there is no Time Fairy hiding bits of time for you to discover. The only way to write is…to sit down and do it’…that is the truth, Jane!

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And now Jane is sharing with us a VERY special recipe – it appears in How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies.

RECIPEPhoto ©2014 Heidi E.Y. Stemple

It looks like the bottom of the recipe photo got cut off – I believe the last lines are: Bake for 9-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove pan and cool a few minutes before taking the cookies off. Store in air-tight container.

Please join me in thanking Jane for taking the spotlight today! We are so fortunate to have generous mentors like her, who share their expertise and experience with us.

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To learn more about Jane and her incredible books, please visit her website: http://janeyolen.com/

Happy 4th of July – Are You Going to Summer School?

I hope you all have a super 4th of July and a safe and happy summer.

For me, the 4th of July is the ‘official’ start of the summer.

I plan to do a lot of picture book writing and also picture book reading. For the reading, if I need a  picture book title, I’ll head over to Susanna Hill’s awesome parent/teacher resource Perfect Picture Books;

But for inspiration and information about the craft of writing, I’ll be participating in Kami and Supdipta’s

Summer School 2014: Get it Write this Summer.

I hope you’ll join me there! Summer school was never so much fun!

If You Plant It, Will It Grow?

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I usually post a picture book review and craft on Friday. But, as I mentioned last week, I’m taking a short blog break. This month I’m enrolled in Kristen Fulton’s Non-Fiction Archaeology class AND participating in her WOW NonFicPic week of writing. I’m overwhelmed with all that I am learning and doing – but loving every minute of it. I took out a total of 144 non-fiction picture books from the library this month to help me with my research and writing.

Plus, I’m trying to establish my first vegetable and herb garden here in New Hampshire – I forgot how much bending is involved when you plant and weed.

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Getting back to gardening reminded me how similar it is to writing, revising and submitting.

With gardening, first you do your research: what plants will grow in your area and how will you care for them. Then you do the work: Plant, weed, fertilize. You give it time and perhaps a few prayers for sunny days and gentle rains. And then, if all goes well, you reap in the harvest.

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With writing, you also need to do your research. You think about your passions, find out if there are other books out there on the subject, read and study other books to use as mentor texts, check out various agents or editors who might be looking for your kind of writing. Then you work. You write and revise and write and revise and write and revise. You submit your story to critique groups. You revise again and again. You submit to Rate Your Story or get professional critiques. You send your story out. Next, you give it time and maybe pray a bit for an agent who is blown away by your story or an editor who is looking for just that title. And finally, you reap the harvest when an agent offers you representation and an editor offers you a book contract and children who read your book say, “Please, read it again!”

I stopped by here to post the link to an article on submissions – Alayne Kay Christian has a brilliant on-going series and she invited me to participate – what an honor!

I hope you will all visit her blog – and after you read what I wrote, I know you will want to check out the previous posts from other writers in this incredible kid lit community. The ‘All About Submissions’ series is a wealth of information and stellar resources.

http://alaynekaychristian.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/all-about-submissions-guest-blogger-vivian-kirkfield-trying-back-doors-a-few-thoughts-about-submitting-to-small-press-publishers/

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