DEB GRUELLE: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway



Plate of Cookies



head shot




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.

little night stars cover

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!   

rageddy ann cookies



1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups rice cereal (Rice Krispies ©

or generic)


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:

Website: Deb GruelleFacebook: DebGruelleAuthor
Instagram: DebGruelleAuthor
Twitter: DebGruelleAuth
Pinterest: DebGruelleAuthor

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend – the summer is flying by. Please stay safe and well, dear friends.

Happy Book Birthday: THE OCEAN CALLS: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story Plus Giveaway

Early in June, you joined me to sing Happy Book Birthday for one of my awesome critique buddies, Tina Cho. And now, just two months later, we are ready to celebrate with her again…for yet another picture book! Tina…you are on fire, girl!



THE OCEAN CALLS Continue reading

ANNETTE WHIPPLE: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway



Plate of Cookies






Can we have a show of hands for people who enjoyed watching Little House on the Prairie over the past almost 50 years? I would have watched it no matter who the actors and actresses were…but ever since Bonanza, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Michael Landon – and as Charles Ingalls, he was at his best. Many of the episodes were written and directed by him…and as the seasons unfolded, I often wished he had been my dad. So, when I heard that author Annette Whipple had a new book coming out entitled: THE LAURA INGALLS WILDER COMPANION…I knew I’d want to ask her to stop by to talk with us about it.

Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. She’s the author of eight fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press), Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls (Reycraft Books), and The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press). Annette is a fact-loving, chocolate chip cookie-baking children’s nonfiction author from Pennsylvania. Get to know her and learn about her presentations at or connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

companion cover

ME: Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Annette. Thanks so much for visiting and for agreeing to do a Q&A with us. Why don’t we get started because I know you have a lot to share.

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

ANNETTE: As a young child, we didn’t have a lot of books at home (or a library in town) so I don’t have many memories of being read to at home, but I know we had The Monster at the End of This Book. It cracked me up! In school, Mrs. Schoonover introduced me to Anne of Green Gables and Old Yeller. By 4th grade or so I began reading Ann M. Martin’s the Baby-sitters Club series and even owned some of them. I appreciated Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine’s creepy mysteries a bit later. I wasn’t a strong reader, but I loved my school’s library. It was there that I first met Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, I wondered if she exaggerated The Long Winter. It wasn’t until I was an adult researching for my own book that I learned the answer. (And readers of The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion will know the answer, too!)

ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

ANNETTE: I’m pretty sure this question wasn’t supposed to make me laugh, but it did. And you know what? That’s appropriate because I think one of the most important things to remember when writing for children is to make it fun—especially nonfiction if it’s an appropriate topic! It took me a while to figure this out, but now I try to add more humor to my writing.

cover wright brothers

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

ANNETTE: I need quiet to write, and I prefer to write inside. Though I don’t have an office, I do have a desk. I use a laptop connected to a larger monitor for most of my writing. When I really need to focus—such as on just the first lines of a book or revisions—I prefer to use pen and paper. (Pentel’s EnerGel Needle Tip pens are my favorite. And they’re refillable!)

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

ANNETTE: Um…is it fair to say when my family doesn’t need me? It really depends on the time of year. If my children are in school (and at school), I don’t get started until mid-morning. But during the summer my mornings tend to start early. If I’m well rested, I might be at my desk by 5:30. Other days I might get up close to 7 and exercise, eat, and shower before starting. It just depends on the day. Exercise may cut into my writing time, but if I’m going to sit at my desk for hours each day, I need to get my muscles moving.

ME: Why do you write for children?

ANNETTE: I love to inspire and encourage children through my words. Facts are fun, and I want kids to celebrate their curiosity. I love that my words can teach kids though a bit differently now than when I was a classroom teacher.

author assembly

ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. 

 ANNETTE: Aspiring writers must be persistent. Take the time to study the publishing world. Consider yourself a life-long learner of the craft of writing. Learn how to use mentor texts and spend a lot of time reading recently-published books in your genre. And find a critique partner (or two) or a critique group for writers in your genre. You will learn so much as you study their manuscripts, and they’ll help you improve your own.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide was inspired by another book. I had the idea for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion in 2014 when I was reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my own children and going through a companion guide which they loved! I knew I could write a book like Roar! A Christian Family’s Guide to Narnia. I didn’t even know what a mentor text was, but I studied the book and used it as a model. The next summer I attended my first writing conference (though I’d already taken online classes and been published in magazines). Though this was my first book idea, it will be my 7th book published. Writing takes a lot of persistence and patience! BUT if you have a dream, keep at it.

I know The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion is a better book because of my wait. The publisher and I waited two years from their offer to the contract (because of rights and permissions). During that time I spent lots more time reading children’s books and learned the wonder of sidebars. My sample manuscript didn’t include sidebars, but the final version of ‘The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion is full of them along with lots of history, thoughtful questions, pioneer terms, and 75 activities for fans of the Little House books.

ME: And I absolutely LOVE the sidebars, Annette…and so will parents and teachers…and kids! But we’re not done yet because I know you have a double-header sweet treat for us. Take it away, Annette!

Annette: I love chocolate chip cookies! It took me years and years to find a recipe that I LOVED that didn’t require a special ingredient. But when my friend made me her cookies, I asked for the recipe…and it actually worked for me! The key is to add more flour for some extra fluff and goodness. Here’s my chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can I share a second favorite cookie-related recipe, too? Chocolate chip cookie pie is my favorite pie to make. It’s quick and delicious. Other than the pie crust, it only takes a few minutes to get it in the oven. (Sometimes I cheat and make my pat-in-the-pan pie crust so it’s still in the oven in a matter of minutes.) And here’s the chocolate chip cookie pie recipe!

ME and every single one of my readers: Can you share a second favorite cookie-related recipe? You bet! And I love the idea of a chocolate chip cookie PIE! Last week, Carrie Finison shared a doughnut cookie recipe to celebrate her new book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS…and now you are sharing a chocolate chip cookie PIE recipe to celebrate the launch of your new book, THE LAURA INGALLS WILDER COMPANION

Annette at Almanzo

I know everyone joins me in thanking Annette for sharing some of her writing journey and insights with us. And please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway of a copy of her wonderful new book, THE LAURA INGALLS WILDER COMPANION…why not tell us your favorite TV series when you were growing up.

I’m wishing everyone a safe and happy weekend. My days are a whirlwind of sorting/purging/packing…my house is sold and the closing is August 31. And one of the perks of all of this is that I am finding scraps of paper and old PiBoIdMo (Storystorm) notebooks filled with story ideas.