Julie Hedlund – Will Write for Cookies







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!



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! 


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. 



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! 


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!



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. 🙂


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
    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

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37 thoughts on “Julie Hedlund – Will Write for Cookies

    • Wasn’t it great that Julie didn’t gloss over the hard parts of writing, Tina? Lots of people think the same way about folks who write children’s books as they do about early childhood ed teachers – that it is so so so easy. Little do they realize that it is so so so hard. 🙂


  1. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom, Julie, and thanks Vivian for the post. I write it my head a lot too. Glad to know I’m not alone. It doesn’t relate 100%, but I recently read a quote, “Five minutes in the making, five years in the thinking.” Your advice on patience is the best advice for new writers – I soooooo agree with you, Julie.


  2. I have a cooking blog for desserts, and just like my kids, I am a totally crazy for sweet delights, never heard about that cookie recipe though. Will definitely try it!


    • Thanks for stopping by, Vanessa! I hope you have a chance to take a look at my book – it’s got 100 kid-friendly recipes in it – and several are yummy desserts. 🙂 Julie’s recipe is super! I’ll come by and check out your blog.


  3. Vivian, going to the writer’s retreat in Florence is also a dream of mine. The bank account says NO for 2015 but I hope to save up and go in 2016. It would be really cool to get the rest of the Moonies together there.


    • I agree, Linda! Wouldn’t that be too cool. 🙂 I’ve never been to Europe, but hope to go next year with my son and his family (his wife is from Slovakia and they go to visit her family) – maybe we can connect somehow then. 🙂


  4. I have saved this in my Inbox for a long time because I didn’t want to miss it. You and Julie both are a part of my writing journey and I think of you as valued writer friends. So here I am today to tell you I’m so happy I saved it and that it was a wonderful interview packed with wisdom!
    Thanks, Vivian and Julie!


    • Oh Penny…your hilarious contest entries in Susanna’s Holiday Contests were my first introduction to this amazing kid lit community…I was blown away by your rhyming expertise. I couldn’t believe you were not a multi-published author already. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed Julie’s interview…she definitely knows what she is talking about and has worked her butt off and taken leaps of faith at every crossroads…I feel blessed to have all of you as my writing buddies. 🙂


  5. Pingback: Katharine Holabird – Will Write for Cookies | Picture Books Help Kids Soar

  6. Pingback: Happy New Year: Looking Back and Moving Forward | Picture Books Help Kids Soar

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