WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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
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:
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:
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.