WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
I discovered nonfiction picture books when I took Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archaeology class in June of 2014. From that moment on, I wanted to write my own…and I read every single one I could get my hands on. When I saw the cover of Laurie’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, it was love at first sight.
Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can’t imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison.
I was thrilled when Laurie and I connected. Back in November, I did a Perfect Picture Book Friday post and she made a guest appearance with about fascinating information about women in history.
Welcome, Laurie! It is a pleasure having you here.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
As a child, I didn’t actually read a lot of children’s books. Instead, my shelves were filled mostly with science fiction. My favorite authors were the big three from the Golden Age of Science Fiction—Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. I read and reread their novels and short stories over and over again. Much of my early scientific knowledge came from the factual underpinnings of their work.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
I wish I had known how long each step along the road to publication would take. The first step is of course improving your craft to a publishable level. That takes years. Then you have to learn about the children’s publishing industry as a whole, as well as the interests of specific agents, editors, and publishing houses. Finding the right agent for you can take a while. Finally, after an editor makes an offer, it takes time to receive a contract, do several rounds of revisions, and wait for your publishing house to finish the many tasks necessary before publication. All in all, you need to be patient to be a published author.
ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?
I usually write in my office at my desk. I have two monitors, which is convenient for many writing-related tasks. I keep my manuscript open on the main screen. The other usually displays one of the following, depending upon where I am in the brainstorming/writing/revision process: an editorial letter, a previous version of the manuscript, a thesaurus, a rhyming dictionary, or a search engine to check my facts. Using two screens makes it easy to switch back and forth.
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?
Since I teach, my schedule and workload vary from day to day. I work around these to make time for my writing. An especially fruitful time for me is lying in bed at night, eyes closed, on my way to sleep. Troubles of the day drift away, leaving my mind open for creative thoughts to enter. I keep a pad and pen by my bedside to jot down any ideas that come to me as I’m winding down from the day.
ME: Why do you write for children?
I tend to write with a clear and straightforward voice. This doesn’t tend to match the style of most books for adults. These are often filled with flowery descriptions and long, narrative paragraphs—just the opposite of how I write. Also, and just as importantly, I like read children’s books. Therefore, writing for them seems a natural choice.
ME: Laurie, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?
I have three pieces of advice for writers, whether they are just beginning or have been on this journey for years.
- Work and study to improve your craft. Never stop learning.
- Keep on keeping on. See my answer above about what I wish I had known.
WOW! Great advice, Laurie…and I know everyone wants to thank you so much for the inside look at your writing process. I hope fellow writers who leave a comment will let us know what tip helped them or resonated with them the most. For me it was keeping a second monitor open so you don’t have to switch back and forth when writing a story. I actually have a second computer (on its last legs and needs to be kept plugged in) that I could try using in this way.
And parents, teachers, and librarians…which people in history would you like to see a picture book about? Why not tell us in the comments.
Dear Readers…if you would like to find out more about Laurie and her book:
Now I know you’ve all been waiting for the sweet treat ending to the Will Write for Cookies post…and you won’t be disappointed because Laurie cooked up something really special for you.
GEAR-SHAPED COOKIES RECIPE
Butter, softened: 1 and 1/2 cups
White sugar: 2 cups
Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon
All-purpose flour: 5 cups
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 or class party?
Thank you all for stopping by. Have a wonderful and safe weekend! I’ll see you next week for Perfect Picture Book Friday.