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.
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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