WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
GRETCHEN BRANDENBURG MCLELLAN
Gretchen is another writer I met in the Picture the Books 2017 group. Hurray for all of these wonderful stories that wonderful authors like Gretchen are bringing to life. As a teacher and reading specialist, she delights in welcoming children into the magical world of reading. As a book fairy, she enjoys slipping books under the pillows of readers that remind them of where they have been and take them to places they didn’t know they needed to go. As a writer, she is excited about the coming publication of her picture books with Beach Lane and Peachtree.
Gretchen has lived on three continents and is an advocate for TCKs, Third Culture Kids, who grew up as global nomads, especially military brats like herself. Children yearning for a home will find they belong in her picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. Gretchen has settled in Washington State, where she lives with her husband, cat and dog and celebrates when her three children come home.
Dear friends…you are in for a treat with this Q&A! Please leave a comment at the end to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3.
Welcome, Gretchen! Thank you so much for stopping by to visit with us.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
I loved A.A. Milne in all the adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, and E.B.White’s Charlotte’s Web. I was a big-time Nancy Drew fan and had my own library with check out cards!
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
I wish I had known that there is a writing Cupid.
So many factors need to fall into place to ultimately publish—factors that are out of a writer’s control. Rejection doesn’t mean that a story is unpublishable. It means that fickle Cupid was busy doing other matchmaking when the submission was read. Cupid needs to pierce the heart of the right editor at the right time with the right space on her list in the right company that will be so smitten with the story that they’ll find it a worthwhile investment. It’s all about love. And money. The publisher must believe that Cupid will strike the heart of the reading public and that they will put up cash to possess the book.
Those are a lot of variables that a writer has no control over. All a writer can do is write, improve her craft, write, read, and write and read some more, and strive to get her work in Cupid’s quiver by going to conferences to make connections with agents and editors who are open to submissions. This involves a lot that is out of the comfort zone of most of us introverts. Cupid may strike during your open mike reading! All in all, the writer must persevere.
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 started writing for children when my own children were young and continued while I worked full time as a reading specialist during their school years. I learned to snatch writing time wherever I could–in the car, in barns, on sports fields, even in the bathtub! Now that I am not multitasking so much, I really enjoy working in coffee shops with the happy hum of people around me. I’m not a picky superstitious writer. I’ll write on anything, with any instrument, at any time. I’m messy and so is my process.
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 don’t follow a schedule. Maybe when I get organized….
ME: Why do you write for children?
Writing for kids is one pure, unquestionable YES in my life.
When I became a mother, one of the unexpected gifts was my reentry into the world of children’s literature. First, I fell totally in love with beauty and power and form of the picture book. As a young mother and as a teacher, I was overwhelmed by what I and my children discovered in the experience of sharing picture books together. We cherished our reading time. We bonded through laughter and tears and wonder. Reading was at the heart of how we lived and grew.
Frost wrote of poems that they begin in delight, but end in wisdom. So do most picture books. If the book is of any importance it will end in wisdom—often so profound that I am moved to tears. The delight of a picture book is not just in the reading, but in the writing as well. When a picture book idea arrives, it often comes with a shiver of excitement—a delight so surprising and vital that it carries me along on the magic carpet ride of creation from the beginning to the middle to the end—to story.
As my children grew, so did my love of easy readers and middle grade fiction and YA. Each genre gave me glimpses of myself and literary experiences I wish I had had as a child. Each genre gave me a bit of home I never had, and a sense of belonging I craved. In my own work, I hope I can give children and their adult readers opportunities to see themselves and their lives in my stories, to find a home too. I am particularly committed to making a room for children who have grown up as Third Culture Kids, especially military kids such as myself.
ME: Gretchen…this is fabulous. I love your focus on Third Culture Kids. And I love all that you shared with us, especially about how Cupid must pierce the heart of the editor who looks at our manuscript. I believe that is true!
And now for one of the sweetest parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!
The book birthday party for Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, I wanted the treats to be thematically related to my story—about the bittersweet. Mrs. McBee helps the kids in her classroom label their mixed emotions about the end of the school year. “Children, this is called a bittersweet moment. It’s like swirly ice cream with happy and sad twisted together. We’re sad about saying good-bye, but we’re happy about what’s ahead.” So my cookies are twisty ice cream cones, of course!\
Basic Sugar Cookies—you can use your favorite. This is mine:
Whisk or sift in a bowl and set aside:
2 and 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
In a mixer bowl beat:
¾ cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until fluffy, then add the flour mixture
Chill for at least 1 hour
Roll on floured board to desired thickness
Cut into your favorite shapes. I used a pastry cutter to make the diagonal lines on my cones before baking.
Bake on parchment paper for easy cleanup or on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven, until a pale brown.
Cool and frost with your favorite frosting.
I used Butter Cream Frosting for my swirls:
¼ cup butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons scalded cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until creamy. For a two-toned effect, divide frosting into two equal parts. Add 2 tablespoons cocoa for chocolate—or more. Add the same quantity of powdered sugar to the vanilla to have equal consistency for swirling. You could use food coloring and other flavors as well!
Use a split pastry bag designed for swirls to decorate your ice cream cones! Enjoy!
WOW! These would be perfect for any kid’s party! Thanks so much, Gretchen.
Thanks to all of you for stopping by today. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend…don’t sit on any of those eggs the Easter bunny has left.