Susanna Hill: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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SUSANNA LEONARD HILL

When I started blogging back in 2011, a friend steered me to Susanna’s website. “She loves picture books, too,” my friend told me. I hopped over and discovered one of the kindest, smartest, sweetest, most generous kid lit mentors in the world!

Her picture book writing class was the first one I ever took…what an amazing foundation she gave to me! Her writing contests are legendary. Her Monday Fun-day writing prompts and Would You Read it Wednesday pitch picks encourage us to exercise our writing muscles.

I met her for the first time at the NESCBWI conference in April…what a thrill to be able to give her a hug in person.

me maria and susanna

For those of you who may not know Susanna, I grabbed a bit from her website about page.

Susanna began writing as soon as she could hold a pencil. She used to lie on the kitchen floor and ask her mom how to spell things. She wrote her first book in 2nd Grade. It is called The Girl and The Witch and she will read it to you if she comes to visit your school!

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Her first published book was The House That Mack Built, released by Little Simon in 2002

And the rest is history. She has published almost a dozen more books…including the wildly popular Punxsutawney Phyllis series and has many more coming down the pike. I know you are all going to be thrilled with this post because Susanna wanted to share a bit about how she gets her ideas.

I’m excited to welcome her…take it away, Susanna!

Hi Everybody!

Thanks so much for stopping by Vivian’s blog today!

As many of you know, I have the privilege of visiting a number of blogs this month as I introduce some new books to the world.  Vivian kindly invited me to join her for cookies… an invitation I will never turn down  … and we decided that it might be fun to talk about where ideas come from.

So, let’s!

A much-tossed-about tidbit of writerly wisdom is to “write what you know.”

This is all well and good if you’re a world traveler, if you’ve lived a life of high adventure, or if you’re a dedicated researcher with a mind like a steel trap.

But what if you’re a normal person?

A person like me who had a pretty average, fairly sheltered childhood, and who lives a quiet, content life of work and family?  Who has never been chased through the forest by a gang of dastardly villains, or scaled Mount Everest in a blizzard, or saved the world with my MacGyver-like ingenuity?

What does a person like that know?

What is a person like that supposed to write about?

Where do ideas come from when you’ve never done anything spectacular?

Well, I’ll tell you. 

The spectacular is all in how you look at things.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a friend.

Ah!

So, you know about friendship!

And if you ever had a fight with that friend you know about hurt.

Do you have siblings?

Then you know about rivalry, negotiation, sharing, and compromise.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a beloved pet.

Yes?  Then you know about responsibility, unconditional love and, very likely, losing someone dear to you.

Have you ever moved to a new place? Started at a new school?

Then you probably know how it feels to miss a place where you felt like you belonged, and wonder if you’ll ever find a way to fit in somewhere new.

Did you make every team you ever tried out for? Get every part you wanted in every school play? Win the science fair?  Get into every single college you applied to? Get every internship or job you ever wanted?

I’m guessing probably not – so you know about disappointment.

If you ever got something you really, really longed for, or looked down into the face of your newborn, then you know about joy.

And if you’ve ever watched your child wobble away from you on a two-wheeler for the very first time, then you know what it is to worry, and you know what it is to pray.

Look at that!  In two minutes, we found ALL THESE THINGS you’re an expert on!

Now.

What do all these things have in common?

They’re all emotions.

And what’s at the core of every really successful picture book?

You got it – emotional resonance.

So, you see?  You know everything you need to know!

It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been chased through the forest by dastardly villains!  You know what it feels like to lose your mama (or your child) in a crowded Walmart – you know FEAR!  So, transfer the fear you know into the situation you don’t and it will feel believable.

Or, choose an emotion you feel in the mood to write about, and weave a story around it to evoke that emotion.

Beyond this, picture books are about moments.  Moments that feel critically important to young people.  I’m always quoting this quote that I can’t remember who said it! But, “picture books are big emotion for little people.”

Think back to something that really mattered to you as a child.  A moment you still remember like it happened this morning – it’s that vivid.

Or, if your own childhood has faded in the haze , think about your kids – what important moments did they have?

I’ve got a small horde at my house, so we’ve collected many moments.

My kids have wept over the heart-breaking moment when the scoop of highly-prized ice cream fell off their cone and rolled in the sand.

They have climbed into the bathroom sink to get away from a spider.

They have tucked a stuffed bear into their backpack – not to take out at school, but just for the comfort of knowing he’s there.

They have been known not to share.  They have, on occasion, resorted to physical violence with each other.  They have refused to eat lima beans.  They have been afraid of the dark.  They have clung to me like barnacles so as not to be left at preschool.  They have worn their new construction boots to bed.  Although they might quarrel between themselves, they have stood up for each other when threatened by someone else.  They have begged for extra dessert, puppies, and rooms of their own.  And, when it comes to the books we’re introducing in this blog tour, they have objected to baths, and haircuts, and bedtime, and been miserable with sniffles.

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Oh, wait!  Look at that!  Simple life experience gave rise to these books!

It looks as though we found the spectacular after all.

The well of ideas is bottomless!

And I have no doubt you have a well of your own!

 Thank you so much for stopping by to read today!  I hope this will give you a little inspiration on where to find ideas and how you might use them!

And thank you, Vivian, for having me here today and helping to share my new books with the world!

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WOW! Susanna…this was like having a private writing workshop with you! Thank you so very much!!! I know everyone will be bookmarking this post and sharing it…these tips and techniques on how to get ideas are going to result in a harvest of new picture books, I’m sure!

And we are not done yet!!!

 Susanna says: And now… to the cookies!

(We’re basically reinventing a thumb print sugar/butter cookie recipe)

 Lion Paw Cookies

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 pinches salt

2 to 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

raisins or mini chocolate chips optional

 

Instructions:

Cream butter.

Add sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt and mix until well-blended.

Stir in flour until well-combined.  (Mixture will be thick)

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough at least 30 minutes.

Now comes the fun part 

Roll dough into balls and place on greased cookie sheets.

Flatten slightly into semi-circle/half moon shape for the paw pad.

Take 4 smaller bits of dough and roll them, placing around the dome of the semi-circle to make toes and attaching enough to hold together into a cookie.

Here’s the basic shape we’re aiming for, except more pushed together so it makes a single piece that will hold together as a cookie:

                                                                         paw print

If you want, you can make toenails out of raisins or mini chocolate chips 

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.

Rotate pans halfway through cooking time.

To find out more about Susanna and her books:

www.susannahill.com

And you can join in the fun of her book blog tours this month…don’t forget…there are prizes:

And wait! Later this month we’ll be celebrating another book blog tour for Susanna’s next picture book, THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT.

For more information and coloring pages and other fun activities, visit: https://susannahill.com/blog/

I’m so thrilled were able to spend time with Susanna…she’s been my picture book hero for a very long time. If she’s your picture book hero also, head on over to Amazon and/or Goodreads and leave a great review for her books…reviews are so very important!

Have a safe and happy weekend, dear friends.

106 thoughts on “Susanna Hill: Will Write for Cookies

  1. And I’m off and running with new ideas! Thanks, Susanna and Vivian! Oh, and thanks for the cookies, too. Guess I’ll be making some tracks and reading these fine books in the near future! Make sure you get enough sleep (along with eating enough cookies) during your tour! Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Maria! And I hope you make some cookies! 🙂 I haven’t had two minutes together, but I want to make a batch and take pictures so people can see how they’re supposed to look! Thanks for following along on the tour! 🙂

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  2. Easy Peasy!!! That’s how you make this writing craft sound, Susanna! I love how you turn every day events into magical books for kids. Thank you. And thank you, Vivian for inviting all of us for cookies and chat!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Vivian and Susanna! My life flashed before my eyes, and that of my boys. LOTS of moments to write about. Hope to get some of them down on paper before heading out on my lion hunt…they sure are tricky critters. Happy Saturday 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is funny stuff! I laughed out loud about the kids hanging on like barnacles! And you don’t need to leave home to discover it! I love the way you think!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for a great post, ladies! Vivian, I bet many of the kind things you said about Susanna are repeated by others about you! Though I don’t know you personally, I do see how encouraging and kind you are in the KidLit world. Susanna, I’ve been in a bit of an idea slump so this is just the type of post I needed to read today. Thanks again!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Becky, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you get a great idea and go to sleep tonight with a new draft tucked under your pillow! 🙂 And everyone everywhere says nice things about Vivian because she is an absolutely wonderful lovely person who always goes out of her way to help and be kind to others, and deserves all the complimentary things said about her 🙂

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    • You made my evening, Becky! And Susanna’s also, I’m sure…we love to hear that we are helping other writers to follow their dream. I’m thilled you stopped by…please come again. 😉

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  6. Vivian, I bookmarked this post BEFORE I got to your sentence about bookmarking this post! It’s great eye-opening advice, and Susanna, congrats on these very kid-appealing books. It was fun to hear where they came from. Readers? What emotion are you going to try out today?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Jane, you’re very kind! What emotion are YOU going to try out today? I’m up to my ears in trying to make a book trailer for ELEPHANT… but if I get 5 seconds to write, I’m thinking about trying for guilt in a humorous way!

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    • That’s so funny, Jane! I’m glad you stopped by and got to read all of Susanna’s words of wisdom…I know they will help all of us on our writing journey. 😉 My emotion is probably joy at the wonderful comments here. 😉

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  7. Vivian, I so agree with you. Susanna is so generous with her writerly wisdom and help for fellow kidlit authors! Thanks Susanna, for the great advice to dig into our own well of “emotions and experiences” for story ideas!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great blog post – I agree with Vivian that I feel like I just taken an online writing course! The paw print cookies look adorable – must include the chocolate toenails, though. It wouldn’t be a Susanna recipe without chocolate!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I often feel so blessed to be traveling this path while my kids are so young. They provide endless inspiration and are a perfect audience for my manuscripts. Thanks for reminding all of us to look for inspiration hidden in plain view.

    PS- Three more days!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know, Jennifer! Mine are grown, but I have lots of memories. I wasn’t making any of those things up 🙂 And yes! THREE MORE DAYS! I can’t wait! I literally just finished the ELEPHANT book trailer and sent it to my minions for approval (or more likely constructive feedback 🙂 )

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    • Those who have young ones at home have a built in audience and beta group…good for you, Jennifer! Honestly, I don’t know how writers with kids can find the time to write. Hats off to all of you!

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  10. This post was, indeed, like a mini workshop! Thanks for the reminder about the importance of emotion, and about all the kid stuff I “know.” Love this post, Susanna!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Sherry…I think you hit the nail on the head. Not only are we all living in a moment of wonderful books being published, but we are surrounded by such a beautiful positive energy in this kid lit cmmunity. Scroll through the comments…they are filled with enthusiasm and good will. I feel blessed to be part of this with all of you. 😉

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  11. Pingback: When Your Books Go On A Blog Tour – Fun With ELEPHANT! – Susanna Leonard Hill

  12. I love to bake and try new recipes. These will be fun and delicious. Once I made no-bake peppermint cream cheese patties that had to rest on the countertop overnight. I put them between two pieces of wax paper. In the morning, i found evidence that my cat got onto the counter while we slept–he left paw prints on the cookies. It actually made them more fun to eat 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh my goodness, Danielle! You had paw print cookies, too. 😉 And peppermint patties used to be my favorite candy when I was a kid. Every week we have a favorite cookie or other treat recipe from a picture book author/illustrator…I hope you’ll keep coming back here and try them out. 🙂

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    • Okay, first of all? those no-bake peppermint cream cheese patties sound DELICIOUS and you are making me drool on my keyboard, Danielle 🙂 Second, I love your approach to pawprint cookies. My temporary foster cat has gotten brave about jumping onto the kitchen counter… maybe I can talk her into helping me in the same way 🙂

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  13. Yummy this post is full of delicious ideas which I’m gonna copy out for myself and if you don’t mind will share with a writing group down here. I agree with you Vivian she is a PB Hero. Thanks ladies for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Congratulations, Susanna! I love reading your posts, they’re always positive, uplifting, humorous and full of insight. Thanks for sharing your ideas and thank you, Vivian for this interview.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Susanna is very loved by so many. She is loved by the ones who read her books. She is loved by writers like you, Vivian, and me and other I see commenting because she is so encouraging and generous to those of us writing for children. She provides opportunites for us to grow and does it with such charm and humor!
    And now not just ONE…not just TWO…but THREE new Susanna books are out for us to enjoy and add to our pile of books we LOVE!
    Thanks for a great post, Susanna! And thanks for featuring Susanna on your wonderful blog, Vivian!

    Liked by 2 people

    • We all have so much to thank Susanna for, Penny…if not for her, I think we might not hae met. In fact, If not for her, I might not be writing picture books! Thank you for your lovely comments…and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so sweet, Penny! What lovely things to say. You made me all teary – in a good way 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement and support, for recommending my class and my books, and for being so wonderful in every way. ❤

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  16. Pingback: Would You Read It Wednesday #259 – If Only I Could Be A Cat (PB) – Susanna Leonard Hill

  17. Pingback: TRUCKS On Tour – Fun With TRUCKS! – Susanna Leonard Hill

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