WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
One of the best things about this writing journey is that I get to meet so many incredible travelers. But no matter what genres they write, they want to share their words with the world.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since her own childhood. She is a journalist, playwright, short story writer, poet, and author of several mysteries and romances. She has seven books in print at the present time. Simply a Smile is a book of short stories, each inspired by an object. She often uses this book to teach short story writing to middle and high school students.
WHOOSH! and Summer in a Bowl are her picture books. Both cover the adventures of Rosa, a city girl, and her family. The third book in the series, Rosa’s Red Apron, will be out in December. In that one, Rosa bakes cookies with her Mom. (Spoiler Alert: We are going to get Rosa’s Pumpkin Cookie recipe at the end of this post!) Joan does writing workshops with elementary school students using these books as an example.
The four books in Legacy of Honor series, deal with the resilience and acumen of four young women, members of an Italian-American family during four periods of wartime—WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm (the latter with a flashback to US Civil War).
Joan has also published non-fiction and articles for children and adults in many newspapers and magazine, including the Washington Post, and Cobblestone, and has been a story performer for children for many years. Joan also performs one-woman shows on historic figures. She lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach, collecting seashells and pressed pennies and taking countless pictures of sunrises, sunsets and the full moon.
Joan…I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar! I want to remind everyone that there will be a giveaway of a copy of Joan’s picture book, Summer in a Bowl (I did a Perfect Picture Book review of it yesterday). To be entered into the giveaway, please leave a comment at the end and share your favorite salad ingredients.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
Without a doubt, one of my favorite childhood books was an old copy of Katherine Pyle’s Counterpane Fairy. I had a copy from the 1920s and read it over and over. I gave my copy to my daughter but recently found a facsimile (without the wonderful illustrations, though) online and bought it. The stories of the Fairy leading Teddy into the various squares of the quilt—sometimes they appear in my dreams, even now. Several little golden books, all of Grimm’s Fairy tales—and various collections of stories about Native Americans and a child’s biography of Narcissa Prentiss Whitman—these all had an impact on my thinking. I read them over and over again.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
The importance of marketing and how to do it—don’t know if that qualifies as an answer since I am still in the very early learning stages when it comes to marketing!
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?
Of course, I keep a notebook to write down “muse” brought ideas. However, as a professional writer, I cannot afford to wait for the muse to make her way over to my house. I sit down and work. Yep, work. I keep flexible and keep ideas flowing by keeping several projects going at once—usually something for the local newspaper, a short story, an essay and several poems (for children and adults) are open on my computer at all times. I switch among them.
I also break up the work of writing with research on various topics for assigned articles and for possible future ones. I try to have one contracted piece going all the time and at least three items that I am developing on speculation. I used to devote one day a week to writing query letters, but I’ve slowed down now. I am also using some of my time now to do marketing—writing blogs, looking for blog ops, writing press releases for books and more. Sometimes I use the game words with friends to loosen up my brain. I start my day with a devotional reading and time with God, Then, it’s off to work I go, switching to email, Facebook (to check possible submission ops). I also set aside time to read—for fun and of course, to read books in the areas I am pursuing—picture books, board books, chapter books for middle graders and YA.
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 will write anywhere any time. Pen, paper, pencil, crayon—whatever is handy. I write on my laptop all the time—except when traveling. Then, everything goes in a journal to be put onto the laptop later. Am considering a mini computer for travel.
My biggest problem is organizing all the scraps of paper that are dotted with ideas, poetry starts, notes on something for further research. That’s where the laptop comes in handy. When I’m home, I try to put it all in the laptop—easier to find again. But since I can’t seem to give up wanting to make a note, even when I am away from the lap top, I just started a system of notes in an 8 by 11 notebook, larger than what I use for a trip journal, then I have one place to go back to for the ideas that I used to lose. If I take hand notes during an interview, they go in there too.
My office is so messy that at this moment I am in the family room, sitting on the couch with my laptop, writing.
ME: Why do you write for children?
Simple. What’s done for children, lasts. I want to reach their hearts and encourage them to find the best in themselves and to develop their own talents. I love to write about creativity and family love.
I remember the joy of new ideas, new adventures and I want to create that excitement for others.
ME: Joan, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear.
Aspiring writers—all writers, write something every day. If you want to write for children, join SCBWI, read children’s books, interact with children.
(as a volunteer, any way you can)
Parents: Read to your children. Start early and continue past the age when they are reading for themselves. I usually read things a grade level or two or three above their level. We read every night for many years past the time when they could read themselves. Often we read the classics together. By the time they were in middle school they knew all the Greek and Roman myths, the stories of Shakespeare and more.
Educators. Bring in writers—not just authors—of all sorts to encourage your students to show them the value of writing about everyday life and in whatever career they choose. I worked for the government for ten years. My good writing helped push me ahead. Then, when I left my office job I turned to freelance journalism and went back to my poetry. Now I write more fiction than non-fiction but I still write all the time.
Librarians. Make the library a fun place for kids. Help them find books they will love. Bring in authors, bring in puppets, plays, help your young patrons learn to construct plays and develop their own writing.
Joan…this has been fabulous! Thank you for giving us all so much food for thought.
Food for thought…does that remind you all that it’s time for the sweet treat recipe? Joan has provided us with a really special one…we’ll be able to use it for the upcoming holidays.
ROSA’S PUMPKIN COOKIES—Makes 24
Ingredients for Cookies
½ cup butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons dark molasses
1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon,
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 pitted dates cut into pieces (Medjool dates are best)
(five walnuts, ground fine—optional)
Ingredients for Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons milk
1-2 drops of vanilla
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat (non-stick silicone baking mat);
- In a large bowl combine butter, pumpkin, sugars, spices, molasses and blend.
- Put the other dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix and then blend with the wet ingredients and spices.
- Drop cookies onto Silpat by rounded tablespoons, two inches apart.
- Bake until lightly browned, 13-16 minutes.
- Cool on sheet 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer to rack to finish cooling.
- When all cookies are done and fully cool, mix the icing ingredients together and drizzle over the cooled cookies.
This recipe is adapted from/inspired by a recipe by Eliza Cross in her amazing cookbook, Pumpkin it Up!
If you’d like to learn more about Joan, her books, and her mission to help kids write their own stories, please contact her at the links below.
You can reach her to arrange for her to visit your school in person or by SKYPE at: email@example.com
Purchase links for all of the books released to date are available on Joan’s Amazon author page.
And now, dear friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Joan’s newest picture book. I just packed up a copy of Jill Esbaum’s If a T-Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party to mail to Angela Turner who was the lucky winner of last month’s giveaway. And at the end of the month, we’ll announce the winner of a copy of my own parent/teacher picture book activity book, Show Me How!
I hope you all have a beautiful weekend…here in New England, it’s apple picking time!