WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
I met today’s Will Write for Cookies author because my grandson fell in love with her debut picture book, One Big Pair of Underpants. I read it to him…and I fell in love also. I knew I had to invite her to participate here – and was thrilled when she said YES!
The book is a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title and Booklist Best Book for Youth of 2014. She has written several other picture books, and her PEEP AND EGG series, hatching spring 2016 from FSG/Macmillan, will consist of four books. A former science and reading teacher, she also writes about science for children and adults. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and four children.
I’m so happy to have her here to share her thoughts with us.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
For picture books, Russell and Lillian Hoban, and Richard Scarry. When I got a little older, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Enid Blyton, L.M. Montgomery, Susan Cooper, and Gordon Korman.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
If you feel like you are not a “real writer” or a “real author,” you are not alone! I started as a children’s writer in the magazine world. I felt like I wasn’t a “real writer” because it was magazines, not books. Then I got my first book contract. I still didn’t feel like a “real writer.” I thought that feeling would come once the book actually hit the shelves…but no. Having just one book felt like being a one-hit wonder. So I waited for my second book to come out, thinking then I would feel like a “real author” for sure. Nope. I now have three books out and several more under contract. I’ve had writers ask me for advice. I’ve been asked to teach a writing workshop and to speak at a national conference. I still don’t feel like a “real author” most of the time. Maybe after the next book comes out….
ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?
I usually sit on my living room couch with my laptop. But when I am working on a book in rhyme, I use a physical notebook as I play around with different verses. I also keep post-it notes everywhere—in the kitchen, in my purse, on my bedside table, even next to the shower (so I can scribble down those great ideas that always occur to me while I am washing my hair!).
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?
I am most productive in the morning, definitely. Not early morning…but after my kids are all at school and the house is beautifully empty and perfectly quiet.
ME: Why do you write for children?
I love books, love kids, and love reading books to kids. Writing books for children seemed like a probably-unattainable goal but something worth shooting for. I still can’t quite believe the dream has turned into a reality.
Recently I chaperoned a field trip for my 4-year-old’s preschool class. While the kids ate their snack, I sat with my daughter and a few other kids. Nearby, another group of children had this conversation:
Child #1: I didn’t wear pants to the carnival.
Child #2: Did you wear underwear?
Child #1: Yes, I wore underwear and a skirt.
Child #3 (laughing): Did you wear ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR?*
Child #4 (chanting): One Big Pair of Underwear, two brown bears who hate to share!**
Child #5: One bear wears the underwear!***
Child #6: One bear says “That’s not fair!”****
Yes, four different kids—none of them related to me—referenced or quoted my book in a casual snack-time conversation, even though the time I read ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR at their school was several months earlier. How fun is that???
*The title of my first book **The first two lines of the book ***The third line of the book ****The fourth line of the book, slightly adapted
ME: Please feel free to share any tips that will help aspiring authors.
Find other writers or illustrators to talk to, in person or online. There are so many ups and downs in this business (way more downs than ups!), and you need friends who can truly understand what you are going through. Friends who will listen to you complain, who will remind you to be patient, who will give you honest critiques of your work, and who will make you laugh.
Thank you so very much, Laura! I loved everything you shared, but one thing really made a big impression on me. You mentioned that you didn’t think of yourself as an ‘author’…and that you thought you would after your first book was published…and now you have several and three more coming up and are asked to speak to at conferences and give advice to writers and STILL you don’t feel like an author.
I think that is very helpful for all of us to know – to realize that we are always a work in progress, no matter where we are in the book publishing food chain.
If you’d like to connect with Laura and find out more about her books, please visit her online at www.lauragehl.com and http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraGehl.
And now I know everyone is waiting for the treat that comes at the end of these Will Write for Cookies posts…so, without further ado, take it away, Laura.
Laura: When I was little, I used to make Rice Krispies treats with my grandmother. Her version was deliciously peanut-buttery, with a hard chocolate frosting that literally melted in your mouth.
My grandmother died before I got married. When I had my own kids and wanted to make her special Rice Krispies treats, I didn’t have a recipe. Since I remembered tasting peanut butter rather than marshmallow, I thought I would just mix Rice Krispies together with peanut butter. Logical, right? But it was a disaster.
After trial and error, I have discovered that I can recreate my grandmother’s Rice Krispies’ treats by combining two recipes I found online:
For the treats:
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1 package (10 oz., about 40) JET-PUFFED Marshmallows
- or 4 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 6 cups Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® cereal
- In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter until melted.2. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.
Laura’s note: It is important to use fresh marshmallows (I learned this the hard way).
For the frosting:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth. Spread on the treats while the frosting is still warm. Then refrigerate the treats until the frosting hardens before cutting.
Laura’s Note: I double the frosting recipe, since I like a very thick layer of frosting. I also like to snack on the frosting while I bake, so I need to have lots of extra.
Oh my goodness! Snacking on frosting! That sounds like such a wickedly delicious way to stoke up energy – and you all know how important it is to keep up your energy when you are writing, right?
Happy Reading and Writing, Everyone! Have a wonderful weekend!
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Lovely interview.One Big Pair of Underpants is such a fun book and I look forward to reading Laura’s other titles. In time, she will think of herself as an author, but it is good to remain humble. (I’ve met a few big-time authors who are insufferable! What egos!) Like you say, Vivian- we need to remember that we are a work in progress, always learning and improving.
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Thank you, Iza! You are always an inspiration AND a comfort to all of us. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. 🙂
What a wonderful interview! I felt like I was having a conversation with both of you. You asked questions that I wanted to ask, Vivian. And, Laura, I was impressed by your statement that you still don’t think of yourself as an author, even though you are quite prolific. I guess we are always pushing the giant boulder up the steep hill. But I think you ought to say to yourself: “And then another AUTHOR turned up, ME!” :). I love ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR and what a treat to hear those preschoolers repeat the first 4 lines like that :). Can’t wait to read your other books!
Thank you so much for your wonderful comments, Lori…it’s a good thing we have one another, because some of those boulders are pretty big!
And hearing how much children love what we write is what it is all about. 🙂
Great interview!! Ms Gehl sounds like a fun lady!!! Thanks!
You are so welcome, dear Rhythm. I agree…anyone who can write about underpants has to be lots of fun!
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Mmmm… chocolate! Loved the interview and the recipe. Will definitely be checking out Laura’s books.
Oh yes…anything covered in chocolate gets a smile from me as well! Hope you get to read some of Laura’s books, Sandy. 🙂
Wonderful interview! I can’t wait to get some of her books for my grandkids. Vivian, thank you for always keeping us updated, showing us the way, and hanging in there with all of us! XOXO
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So happy you enjoyed the interview…Laura had some really helpful insights for us all. Glad you feel I am there for you, Ellen…it inspires me to know that you are there for me. 😉 🙂
ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR is incredibly awesome!! Loved this interview, Vivian and Laura. The rice krispie recipe is making me hungry!
Go and make some, Penny…they are good for you…peanut butter is very nutritious, right? 🙂 😉 Glad you enjoyed the interview, Penny…we all love One Big Pair of Underwear!
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Thank you for the writing tips, advice, and recipe! I can’t believe you still don’t think of yourself as a real author… and I love that story about the preschool conversation. That is what every author dreams of.
Wasn’t that preschool conversation brilliant, Sylvia? And soon enough, little ones will be chatting about your book as well. 🙂
How fun, Laura, to hear those preschoolers quote your book! Congrats on all your successes, and yes you ARE an author! Vivian, I love that phrase–the book publishing food chain. Yum, I’d love to make the rice krispie treats. My grandma made something similar. Just have to find Rice Krispies….
I’m sure it’s a challenge, Tina, to find substitute ingredients when outside the U.S. Hope you can find the Rice Krispies. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview!
Thanks for the interview, Vivian! Enjoyed your book, Laura. It earned my 5 stars on Goodreads!
That’s great, Romelle…I know it’s so important for authors to get reviews of their books..sometimes, we read them and love them…but just don’t think about posting a review…I know that Laura appreciates every one of them. 🙂
It’s sooooo awesome that those kids would recall the lines to your book, and without prompting!! What a memorable moment.
I know, Jilanne…what a thrill to hear little ones chat about what they’ve read…it shows what a big impression it made on them and how much they loved it! Like going viral. 🙂
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Awesome interview! It made me smile! 😀
Wasn’t it so sweet that the kids were talking about Ms. Gehl’s book? Glad the interview made you happy, Erik. 😉
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Well, that took a while to get by to read this. Thank you Laura and Vivian. Now I want rice krispie treats!
Well…you are better than me, Stacy…I haven’t been able to visit blogs – just too overwhelmed with everything else I’m doing. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by…and I love Rice Krispie treats also!
Vivian, This is a wonderful, open, and friendly interview. I love interviews with authors, especially those of my favorite books, like Laura’s, One Big Pair Of Underwear.
I loved when Laura wrote… I am most productive in the morning, definitely. Not early morning…but after my kids are all at school and the house is beautifully empty and perfectly quiet.
That is exactly how I feel. It’s a magic time of day when the house is at its most peaceful and I am writing which is when I am most at peace. And the recipes were definitely an added ‘treat’!