WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
Over the years, I’ve featured many writers on Will Write for Cookies. And a few of them have come back for a return visit. But today I’m turning the spotlight on a very special author…this is her THIRD time here! Why is that you ask? It’s simple! She is a very prolific writer and I absolutely LOVE her books. I read them and share them and use them as mentor texts for my own nonfiction picture book manuscripts.
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark writes picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as well as fiction. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Best STEM Book, Crystal Kite Award, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Her titles include ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE, NUMBERS IN MOTION, and CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER. Her debut fiction picture book, DINO PAJAMA PARTY, comes out in October. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA and frequently presents at schools as well as national professional conferences (NSTA, NCTE, ALA, TLA, etc.). She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. You can find Laurie on the Web at http://www.lauriewallmark.com and @lauriewallmark.
ME: And today, you can find Laurie right here, on Will Write for Cookies! She’s going to share some writing-nonfiction tips and techniques. Welcome, Laurie! Thanks so much for stopping by. You seem to have found a wonderful niche in writing nonfiction picture books about strong women? Did you enjoy reading women’s biographies when you were a kid? If so, who were your favorites?
LAURIE: When I was a child, you would have thought that Marie Curie was the only woman scientist who had ever lived. There were no biographies of any other women scientists or mathematicians. I did enjoy reading books about mathematicians like Euclid, Newton, and Fermat. In fact, I was convinced I would be the one to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. (Spoiler alert. I wasn’t.)
ME: In your opinion, what are the most important steps in writing a great nonfiction picture book?
LAURIE: The most important part of writing a nonfiction picture book is research, research, research. Not only does that help ensure that your writing is accurate, but it’s through research that you find those fun little nuggets that really bring a person to life. For example, I discovered that Elizebeth Friedman and her boyfriend, later husband, used to write each other notes in code. Also, when they gave progressive dinner parties, they gave clues to the locations in code. Both these actions showed that Elizebeth loved code making and breaking, and it was more than a just a job.
ME: Is there a particular era in history that you prefer to write about? When it that? Or is it more important that your subject is a strong STEM woman?
LAURIE: I’m more interested in the person than when she lived. So far, the women I’ve written about and/or researched for future books have lived in the 1800s and 1900s. By choice, I’m not writing about people who are still alive. Because of the limited word count of picture books, I’d rather be able to view someone’s entire lifetime of accomplishments before deciding which ones to include.
ME: Why do you write nonfiction picture books for children?
LAURIE: Children absorb stereotypes about who should be a scientist or mathematician at a very early age. If all the people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) biographies look the same, then children who are of a different sex, race, religion, etc. will assume that this is not a possible career path for them. By writing picture books, I can vaccinate children before they’ve been infected by these negative stereotypes.
ME: If you have any special tips or thoughts for writers, teachers, parents…please share.
LAURIE: My best advice for anyone interested in encouraging children to enter STEM is to show the fun side of these fields. Whether it’s through writing or engaging in activities with children, we can show counteract the idea that STEM is hard or boring or, most importantly, for someone else.
ME: What’s up next for you?
LAURIE: My debut fiction picture book, Dino Pajama Party, comes out in October. After throwing virtual launch parties for my last two titles (where I couldn’t share my cookies), I hope the one for this book can be in person.
ME: I hope so, too, dear Laurie! But in the meantime, I’m going to share the awesome cookie recipe you shared with us back in 2016.
Butter, softened: 1 and 1/2 cups
White sugar: 2 cups
Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon
All-purpose flour: 5 cup
Baking powder: 2 teaspoons
Salt: 1 teaspoon
- Make dough
- Cream together butter and sugar until smooth
- Beat in eggs and vanilla
- Stir in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Prepare dough for baking
- Separate dough into four or more batches
- Mix food coloring into each batch
- Roll out each batches (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) on a floured surface.
- Stack batches, separated by wax paper, on a cookie sheet
- Cover and chill for at least one hour (or overnight)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
- Make cookies
- Cut dough into shapes using gear-shaped cookie cutters
- Place cookies one-inch apart on ungreased (or parchment covered) cookie sheets
- Bake 6-8 minutes in preheated oven.
Wouldn’t these make a great cookie for a birthday party or school science-fair function?
Thank you so much for stopping by, Laurie…for the tips and techniques about writing nonfiction picture books – and for the tips and techniques for creating these amazing-looking cookies! I’m excited to get a copy of CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER…and I can’t wait to read your upcoming release, DINO PAJAMA PARTY: A Bedtime Story.
Code Breaker, Spy Hunter (Abrams, March 2021)
Numbers in Motion (Creston, 2020)
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life (Sterling, 2019)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017)
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015)
Remember, dear friends, you can show your favorite authors how much you love their books by: buying them, reviewing them, telling friends about them, and asking libraries to purchase copies for their collection.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…thank you for spending your precious time with us…and please stay safe and well. I’m happy to have my eye surgery behind me – it was Wednesday and the post op check up was Thursday and the doc says everything is healing well. Of course, I can’t see much yet from that eye…everything is still pretty blurry – but the doc says the vision will improve over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I hope you will forgive any typos.