Jen Goldfinger: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT, INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

head shot

JEN GOLDFINGER

Earlier this year, I went to lunch with one of my local critique buddies. We drove to a lovely restuarant in Massachusetts and met with two other author/illustrators. I really connected with Jen and, when I found out she wrote and illustrated picture books, I knew I’d want to have her on Will Write for Cookies.

Jen is a sweetheart and this past May, when I held the 2nd Annual #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge, she offered to donate a copy of her newest picture book, HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER.

Jen lives in a town a quick drive away from Boston and Cambridge, with her husband and two daughters. She has a studio in an old Mill that’s on a bike path. It takes her 5 minutes to bike there, but it’s downhill from her house, so it takes twice as long to get home. She usually drives to the studio so she can bring her dog Lila. Sometimes they take breaks to go rollerblading.

I’m so glad Jen took a break to visit with us.
ME: Welcome, Jen! It’s so good to have you here. I know everyone is anxious to hear about you.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

JEN: I lived on a farm as a young girl and it was a big outing to go to the library to get books. We’d come home with stacks and stacks to hold us over until the next long drive to the library. I have such a strong memory of reading THE PLANT SITTER and HARRY THE DIRTY DOG by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham. In the PLANT SITTER, I was so taken by the visuals of plants taking over a whole house that the walls fell down revealing a house shaped plant. I also loved HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON, THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, WINNIE THE POOH and CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

JEN: I know how to break down a story now to see if it has the elements that makes it have tension and resolve, how flaws in the protagonist and their failed attempts can make the story progress. Before I would write and cross my fingers that it worked.

I’m also getting better at showing not telling in my longer books. The use of words can make a sentence much more dynamic if you don’t describe too much. I don’t have as much trouble with this in picture books since I’m an illustrator. I tend to picture what I’m going to illustrate at the same time I’m writing it, so the illustrations pull a lot of weight.

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

JEN: When I’m stuck on an issue an a book, I “write” when I first wake up in the morning and my eyes are still shut, I also “write” when I’m scrubbing my hair in the shower and even when I’m walking my dog. This is when ideas pop into my head, or problems are worked out.

workspace for art

The physical part of writing, I do in a couple of places. Inside, I write on a laptop, on a big brown fuzzy couch in my living room next to a giant window looking out a the treetops. Because I’m also an illustrator and fine artist, I also have a studio in an old mill where I do my artwork and sometimes write, although I do many first sketches on that couch too.

meditation chair

I also have what I call a “meditation chair” hanging on my porch. I go out there to think, solve problems and pound on my keyboard.

with tea

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

JEN: It varies… I write when I have any free moment.  As I said earlier, I’m also an illustrator and a fine artist, so I toggle between writing, illustrating and painting.  I can work from 2 to 16 hours a day depending on other commitments and deadlines. If I have the time I can work for hours on end, I’m so immersed, it still feels like only a few hours. As a fine artist I sell my paintings in a gallery in Provincetown, MA called the Rice Polak Gallery.

DROPPING DAISIESDropping Daisies, 36″x 48″ Wax, oil stick, pastel

ME: Why do you write for children?

JEN: I’ve noticed when casually talking to other author friends that we tend to write for an age that we had strong memories and emotions. I lived on the farm from ages 6-12. I remember so many stories, feelings and hardships from those ages. I think my super power is seeing the world like a 6 year old.

bored 2Bored, gouache, colored pencil, watercolor.

bear bird 3BEAR BIRD, antique and colored paper, colored pencil, gouche

ME: Also, 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. 🙂

 

JEN: Many people want to be children’s book authors and/or illustrators. One of the most important things to do is keep pushing yourself by writing and rewriting, go to conferences, show your work around, write it again, get knocked down, cry a little and take a deep breath and do it all over again. The people I know who are successful in this field did what I mentioned above, again, again and again.

ME: Thank you so much, Jen! This has been fabulous. I love hearing about how others have taken journey…and it’s especially helpful to hear it from the double perspective of an author/illustrator.

Dear friends, if you’d like to find out more about Jen, her artwork, and her wonderful books:

Children’s book website

Fine art

And I know you are waiting anxiously (just like the little boy in HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER) for the sweet treat at the end of the post. So please take it away, Jen!

JEN: My favorite cookie is a fresh baked variation on the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. It’s one of the only things I bake and I’ve memorized the recipe when I was a child. I tend to put in less flour, and bake a little less than the recipe because I like gooey cookies. Recently I’ve changed up the recipe even more because my daughter is vegan.

I’ve discovered that replacing the butter with coconut oil, I like the cookies even better than before. It has a slight coconut taste and it lasts longer than the butter version. I don’t think substituting the egg makes a difference in the quality of the cookie, so choose your preference.

In the picture below I also substituted 2 cups of almond flour for one of the cups of flour (because I ran out of flour and I was curious how it would come out, delicious and extra nutty, btw).

cookies

INGREDIENTS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 cup coconut oil

¾ cup of brown sugar

¾ cup of white sugar

2 eggs or egg substitute for vegan cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour

1 cup vegan chocolate chips (trader joes’ chocolate chips happen to be vegan)

1 cup broken walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

I only like to use one bowl, so I mix the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients and mix well. Put tablespoons worth of batter on a cookie sheet with room around the blobs and cook for around 8-9 minutes. Watch carefully so the base is slightly brown and the rest is slightly soft.

ME: Oh dear…this sounds just too tempting. I may have to try these when my grandson comes for Grammy Camp next week.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway of a copy of HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER.

And for those of you in the path of the Texas storm, we are praying for you.

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Hello, My Name is Tiger PLUS Giveaway

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection is coming just at the right time!

But before we get to the review, we have TWO giveaway winners to announce!

I feel blessed that our author guests and their publishers have been so generous this year.

The winner of a copy of CHICKEN WANTS A NAP by Tracy Marchini is….

INGRID BOYDSTON

And the winner of a copy of A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY by Sara O’Leary is…

LILY ERLIC

CONGRATULATIONS, dear ladies. I will contact you ASAP.

And now for our Perfect Picture Book!

School is just around the corner for many kids…and it may have already started for some. Whether it’s the first ever day of school, the first day at a new school, or the first day in a new class, kids often have a lot of anxiety. Will they make new friends? Will other kids laugh at them? Will they find their way around? Will they like their new teacher?

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HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER

Written and illustrated by Jen Goldfinger

Published by HarperCollins (2016)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: first day of school, anxiety, be yourself

Synopsis:

From Amazon

A reassuring picture book for back-to-school jitters!

Toby likes being a cat more than he likes being a boy. So when it’s time to go to school, he becomes a timid kitten. But when Toby finally gathers the courage to join in with the other kids, he finds out that everything is more fun with friends.

Why I like this book:

  • Wonderful text
  • Bold bright colorful illustrations
  • Super message for kids

Related Activities

ttigerPhoto courtesy: http://www.dltk-kids.com

Paper Plate Tiger

If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably know I LOVE paper plate crafts for kids. They are quick, easy, and inexpensive…plus kids really enjoy making them and they can be hung up and displayed proudly or used for role playing or children’s theater.

You will need: Paper plate, markers or crayons, scissors, glue, construction paper.

For detailed instructions: http://www.dltk-kids.com/animals/metiger.html

And one of the best things we can do for our children when they are anxious about something is to LISTEN, really listen.

Thank you so much for stopping by today…I hope you’ll be back tomorrow when author/illustrator Jen Goldfinger is in the Will Write for Cookies house with an eye-opening Q&A and a yummy original take on the classic Toll House Cookie recipe.

Dont forget to leave a comment to qualify for Jen’s giveaway of a copy of HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER.

For more wonderful picture book reviews you will find hundreds on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book site.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends!

Sara O’Leary: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT, INSPIRATION, INFORMATION

TODAY’S GUEST

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SARA O’LEARY

One of the most fun things about this kidlit community is that it is composed of people from all of the world. I have critique partners in New Zealand, France, and South Korea.  Some of my fellow Storm Literary Agency authors and illustrators live in Switzerland, Australia, and Stockholm.  I hope to one day travel around the world, stopping in to meet all of these amazing friends. And perhaps, if I stop in the Canada, I will get to meet today’s guest, Sara O’Leary.

Sara O’Leary writes for both children and adults. Her most recent picture books are A Family Is A Family Is a Family with Qin Leng and You Are Three with Karen Klassen. She has a degree in screenwriting from University of British Columbia and has taught children’s writing at Concordia University in Montreal. Her first novel, The Ghost in the House, will be published next year.

And here is the cover of her next picture which will launch next year

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I’m so thrilled to welcome her to Picture Books Help Kids Soar!

ME: Hello, Sara! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. Let’s start!

  1. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

SARA: I loved Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban’s Frances books. I remember being somewhat surprised as an adult to realize that Frances was a badger so complete was my identification with the character. Arnold Loebel’s Frog and Toad stories appealed to me for their gentle humour as did Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear with those sweet Sendak illos. I loved Joan Walsh Anglund’s Look Out My Window and spent a good few years drawing trees because of that book. Alice was also very important to me and I still have my battered green cloth edition of Through The Looking Glass. I also loved fairy tales and nursery rhymes and verse by writers like R.L. Stevenson and A.A. Milne. I think the echoes of all that early immersion in literature run deep in my writing. And if I could ever write something I love half as much as I love Ogden Nash’s “Adventures of Isabel” I would consider myself a success. Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library books are such a perfect marriage of form and content and I love them as much now as I did when I was small.

     2. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

SARA: When I first started writing children’s books I didn’t really think of it as being who I was but more as something I did. Now I consider myself a children’s writer and very lucky to be one.

      3. Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

SARA: Anywhere really. I write on a laptop for first draft and then somewhere along the line I write the whole thing out by hand. I also make a very, very rough dummy to get a sense of page turns and the amount of text on the page. At this stage I find I am able to eliminate a lot of text by imagining what the illustrator can do.

this is sadie

  1. When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

SARA: Anytime. And most of it is done in my head as I walk or do mundane chores. One of the reasons I like picture books so is that you really can carry the whole text around in your head for a spell and let it tumble around like a bit of dull, rough stone in a rock tumbler.

  1. Why do you write for children?

SARA: Because they are the very best readers. Because I know what it is to carry a line or two somebody wrote a hundred years ago around in your head throughout childhood and into adulthood. Because they laugh at my jokes.

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Also, 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.

SARA: Reading is key. I was a child who was read to often and I often think of the line from the poem by Strickland Gillian: “Richer than I you can never be–I had a Mother who read to me.”

ME: Oh my gosh…that is one of my favorite quotes!!!

To find out more about Sara and her books:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/saraoleary

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sara-OLeary-246685492054006/

Blog: https://123oleary.blogspot.ca/

And now for the sweet treat…take it away, Sara!

SARA: My good friend, Marina Endicott, is a novelist and also writes the most beautiful recipes. Once she had a good laugh over one of my overly minimalist recipes. It might have been this one for my mother’s variation on her mother’s shortbread.

Ginger Shortbread

3 cups flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups butter

salt

ginger

2 x 9 inch round pan

60 mins at 300

SARA: Looking at this recipe I now realize that I do sometimes let the reductive impulse go too far!  I fail to mention that the ginger referred to is the crystallized variety and that you’ll want to finely mince it. I also fail to mention the quantity required. But really that all depends on how much you like ginger.

ME: That’s okay, Sara…I think most of us would use our own tastes when it comes to adding the ginger.

Thank you so much, Sara, for sharing your insights with us. And thank you, dear readers, for spending some of your precious time here. Please leave a comment here or on yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post in order to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY. Big thanks to Groundwood Books for offering the giveaway. (U.S. and Canadian addresses only)

Groundwood Logos Spine

But wait! One more thing! We need to give away a copy of Melissa Stoller’s THE ENCHANTED SNOWGLOBE COLLECTION: Return to Coney Island.

And the winner is:

TRACY POTASH

Congratulations, Tracy…I’ll be in touch and connect you with Melissa.

Enjoy this next to the last weekend in August, dear friends. And please do come back next week for more book reviews and author/illustrator interviews…and of course, more giveaways!

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: A Family is a Family is a Family PLUS Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends!

The summer is winding down. School has already started for some kids. And I’m thrilled to feature a picture book today that belongs in every preschool and early elementary classroom.

When I grew up, most kids I knew came from two parent families…a mom and a dad…and often, it was the dad who went out to earn money while the mom stayed home and took care of the children. But these days, there has been a tremendous shift in that cookie-cutter type family. We desperately need more books that portray the various family units that exist. Thanks to author Sara O’Leary and illustrator Qin Leng, we have the perfect one!

Groundwood Logos Spine

A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY

Written by Sara O’Leary

Illustrated by Qin Leng

Published by Groundwood Books (2016)

Themes: families, diversity

Opening Lines: 

“We were talking about families at school. The teacher asked us what we thought made our family special. I went last because I wasn’t sure what to say. My family is not like everybody else’s.”

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways — but the same in the one way that matters most of all.

One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of stepsiblings, and another has a new baby.

As one by one, her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them — family of every shape, size and every kind of relation — the child realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, her family is special.

Why I like this book:

  • Talk about diversity. Not only do we find a varied array of family units…we also find characters of all sizes, shapes, and colors!
  • Very simple text will appeal to young listeners and early readers!
  • The illustrations are fabulous!

Related Activities:

Popsicle Stick Puppets

30-popsicle-stick-crafts-KAB

Photo courtesy: http://kidsactivitiesblog.com

What a super bunch of Popsicle crafts for kids here! Take your pick of several that highlight the family. Why not help your child make a puppet for each member of the family and role play various situations. Let the fun begin!

You will need: Popsicle sticks, markets, scissors,  glue, photos of family members or construction paper to draw your own pictures.

For detailed instructions: http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/58976/childrens-crafts-with-popsicle-sticks

Dear readers, thanks to author Sara and her publisher, Groundwood Books, we will have a giveaway of a copy of A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY. (U.S. or Canadian addresses only). Please make sure you leave a comment to be entered. If you get to read the book, remember that reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads are the best gift you can give to an author. I just posted my review of the book on Amazon.

And hurry back tomorrow for a super Will Write for Cookies Q&A with author Sara O’Leary who is sharing awesome insights and an AMAZING Ginger Shortbread recipe with us…and oh, how I LOVE ginger!

Have a safe and happy weekend!

 

 

 

An Interview with SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY Plus Giveaway

Well, bless my boots! We are back again with another special interview!

This time, we’ve got Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy in the house…or should I say barn!

My thanks to author Alayne Kay Christian for lassoing the main character in her brand-new chapter book, SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY: TRYING TO MAKE IT RAIN (Clear Fork, 2017), and convincing her to set a spell and answer some questions. And, when the interview is over,  you can mix up a mess of yummy chocolate bark wth the recipe Alayne shared.

sienna cover (1)

ME: Howdy, Sienna! Many thanks for riding over. We are a curious sort of folk, so we’re going to shoot some questions at you.

  1. What is your favorite Cowboy saying?

SIENNA: Pa wins the belt buckle for wise ol’ cowboy sayings. I reckon they each strike me when the time is right for it to make sense. One that makes sense to me a lot of the time is “It’s better to ride and fall than never to ride at all.” One that he is always pounding into my noggin is “Always ride toward what is right, even if it means riding alone.”  I think I like ridin’ towards what’s right . . . most of the time.

 

  1. What’s the one thing you can’t leave the house without?

SIENNA: One thing? That just ain’t fair to ask. I feel naked without my hat, so I reckon I’d say my hat. My ma always says a proper fairy never leaves home without her fairy dust. And I say a proper cowgirl never leaves home without her lasso. If a cowgirl fairy has her lasso and dust, she can do just about anything.

 

  1. If you gave yourself a nickname, what would it be?

SIENNA: My pa calls me Sunshine and I like that just fine. If I had to pick another, it might be Spunky Sal.

 

  1. How would you describe yourself in three words?

SIENNA: Ma says I’m precocious. That means I’m smart, talented and talk good, too. She also says I’m stubborn. She and Pa taught me to know my own mind, so I don’t know why she acts like my stubborn ways is a bad thing. Puttin’ Ma aside, the three words I would choose are determined, outspoken, and delicate on the inside. Continue reading

Melissa Stoller: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT, INSPIRATION, INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

head shot

MELISSA STOLLER

What a joy it is to connect with those in the kidlit community! I’d seen Melissa’s name as a participant in many of the challenges. I’d read her comments on blog posts. And when I discovered she had a new chapter book series launching, I knew I’d want to invite her to be my guest.

Melissa Stoller is the author of the debut chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (Clear Fork Publishing, July 2017); the debut picture book OLIVE’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork, March, 2018); and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE (Clear Fork, April 2018).  She is also the co-author of THE PARENT-CHILD BOOK CLUB: CONNECTING WITH YOUR KIDS THROUGH READING (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and an Assistant for Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy. Melissa writes parenting articles, and has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, travelling, and adding treasures to her collections.

ME: I’m so thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Melissa!

MELISSA: First, I’m so honored to be chatting with you on your Will Write for Cookies Blog, Vivian! I’m a huge fan! You are the sweetest cheerleader for the KidLit World and I love your #50 Precious Words Writing Challenge. Also, I have benefited from your excellent critiques. I hope to meet you in person one day soon!

ME: I really appreciate your kind words, Melissa…and I’m sure we will meet…maybe at a conference one day soon!

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

MELISSA: I had so many favorite authors and books when I was a child! I loved the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories by Carolyn Keene, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (I still love a good mystery). I also enjoyed The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor (I still enjoy inter-generational family stories) and Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hillary Knight (Eloise is the classic precocious imp! My children and I loved the Eloise Tea at The Plaza in New York City). And of course anything and everything by Judy Blume! All these stories and more informed my own writing style. Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Enchanted Snowglobe Collection – Return to Coney Island PLUS Giveaway

Oh my goodness….we are taking a slight detour from our usual picture book review because, when I heard that there was a chapter book about Coney Island, I knew I had to share it with all of you.  I grew up in New York City…and Coney Island was a favorite desitination during the summer months for my family.

img048Yup, that’s me, at about 18-months old, not a fan of the sand.

These days, even younger kids are enjoying chapter books, either reading them or listening to them. If you are a fan of The Magic Tree House series, I think you will be head over heels in love with THE SNOWGLOBE COLLECTION.

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THE SNOWGLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND

Written by Melissa Stoller

Illustrated by Callie MetlerSmith

Published by Clear Fork/Spork (August 2017)

Opening Lines:

“Ha! I won again,” said Emma. She reached her grandmother’s door just before her twin brother, Simon.”

Themes: 

Family, time-travel

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

They thought it was an
 ordinary sleepover . . . 

When nine-year-old twins Emma and Simon shake a snow globe from their grandmother’s enchanted collection, they are transported back to Coney Island on June 24, 1928. According to family legend, that’s the day their great-grandparents meet on the Coney Island trolley. But if events don’t work exactly as they’re supposed to, the meeting won’t take place and the twins might never be born. After a day of adventures – from the Cyclone roller coaster to the boardwalk arcade, and finally to the all-important trolley ride – will the twins help make it happen? Continue reading