WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
Was Rageddy Ann one of your favorite book characters? She definitely was one of mine! So, when I discovered that a relative of Johnny Gruelle was also an author, I knew she was someone we all needed to meet.
Deb has children’s writing in her blood because she’s related to Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy. She loved growing up on “Uncle Johnny’s” whimsical stories. She now feels honored to share her own stories to help children feel secure and encourage giggling. Though both Deb’s parents and kids are quite artistic, this skill seems to have skipped her generation entirely, so she’s especially grateful for Gabi Murphy, the wonderful illustrator for Ten Little Night Stars and Sleepy Time Colors
ME: Welcome, Deb! Thank you for stopping by to chat. I’m thrilled to have you here and I know everyone is eager to find out more about you.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
DEB: I’m excited to be here, Vivian.
First, I admire all illustrators (as the artistic gene, although that gene is super-strong in my mom’s and my kid’s generations, well, it seems to have skipped my generation totally).
I did love the Raggedy Ann stories of Johnny Gruelle for the way they entered into the simple world of children, their theme of kindness, and the sense of wonder woven throughout. I fell in love with the idea that just beyond what we can see, toys might be having another life full of their own interactions (like in the movie Toy Story) when we’re out of sight.
I also remember loving Hans Christian Anderson tales, like Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling, and how he shared how different characters felt within the same story. Later, I was enthralled by Nancy Drew Mysteries and wanted to be a spy. And I still remember with wonder how Madeline L’Engle introduced the idea of a tesseract (wormhole in space) and string theory in A Wrinkle in Time in a way I could grasp as a child. Such gifts!
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
DEB: I wish I’d known how so much of what gets published depends on the publishing house’s needs and timing. When I wrote my first children’s book, it was rejected by a handful of agents and publishers. Though I worked as a technical writer and had a nonfiction book for women published, my response to the rejection was that I must be a terrible children’s writer, an imposter pretending to be a children’s writer. I put the manuscript away in my file drawer for sixteen years.
I pulled Ten Little Night Stars out of the drawer, that same story, to submit at a writers conference sixteen years later. I changed one line. A publisher liked it, purchased it, released it, and it became a bestseller. So I always keep studying story, craft, and structure, but I recognize now that the publisher’s needs and timing are the deciding factor.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
DEB: I love to write on my porch swing or patio table early in the morning or in the evening in the summer (afternoons are too hot). Otherwise, I usually write with my laptop on my couch.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
DEB: 5:00 am is my best time. I know, that was a terrible time for most of my life too because my brain never functioned well in the morning. Then something shifted, and now I enjoy early mornings. I drink tea, write, and watch the sun come up. Somehow my mind can shut out distractions because I think everyone else is asleep.
ME: Why do you write for children?
DEB: I loved reading as a child. I had three brothers who loved to roughhouse, but I was a voracious reader. I remember the feeling of being rich with books as I walked out of the library, when my mom allowed me to check out the maximum number of books. I loved the characters who felt like friends, information, wild adventures (though utterly safe), and smiles books offered.
Because my relative, Johnny Gruelle, created the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls and wrote those books, I caught a glimpse of how an author could give the gift of wonder to children through a book. So, I write children’s books for the child in me, to entertain, help children feel secure, and open their eyes to wonder.
ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear. 🙂
DEB: In this time of uncertainty, the act of sitting down with a child to read, to venture into a book together, that simple act helps build a feeling of security in a child.
So many studies have shown that reading to children offers enormous benefits. Reading with children helps them bond with adults, enlarges their vocabularies, and expands their empathy toward others. Reading opens worlds to children. It’s never too early to begin reading to a child.
ME: WOW! Thank you so much, Deb! I totally agree…it’s never too early to begin reading to a child…for all of those reasons you mentioned! Bonding with children can happen in other ways also…including encouraging them to help bake cookies – and I know you have a special recipe for us! Take it away, Deb!
DEB: I created this recipe using ingredients from several of the Raggedy Ann cookie recipes floating around, including the one that used to be printed on the back of C&H sugar bags. (The cookies come out a lightercolor than the pic shows.) Enjoy them as you write!
RAGGEDY ANN COOKIES
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups rice cereal (Rice Krispies ©
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Beat together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy.
Mix in flour, salt, baking powder. Mix in uncooked oatmeal (and any optional ingredients).
On slow speed (so it doesn’t crush), mix in rice cereal.
Scoop 1” balls onto cookie sheets. Bake 10 min.
I know we are all cheering for the insights Deb shared with us – as well as for the yummy cookie recipe. And I’m cheering for her generosity in offering a copy of this adorable lift-the-flap book as a giveaway! I’ll bet most of you have a little one somewhere in your life who would love this book! Make sure to leave a comment to be entered – maybe you can share a favorite bedtime book from your own past…or one that you read to any of the wee ones in your life.
For more information about Deb and her books:
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend – the summer is flying by. Please stay safe and well, dear friends.