WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION
We are so very fortunate to have generous mentors like today’s Will Write for Cookies guest. I’ve been a fan of Laura Sassi for years. Her website is a treasure trove of information and resources for parents, teachers, and writers. So, I was thrilled when she agreed to stop by and chat with us today.
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018), and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.
Laura: I loved reading as a child and my all-time favorite author was Madeleine L’Engle. I loved her writing so much that as a twelve year-old— in quick succession – I read every book she’d written up to that point. And now, with the recent release of the A Wrinkle In Time movie, I’m enjoying rereading that book – which was the first book of hers I ever read – with my daughter. We just finished it last week and it’s as marvelous as I remember.
Later, as a writer, and because I admired her so much, I got interested in reading some her more autobiographical books and something she said in her memoir A Circle of Quiet has, for a long time, resonated with me. In that book, she writes, “Those of us who write are responsible for the effect of our books… Like it or not, we either add to the darkness… or we light a candle to see by.” Wow! What a responsibility and what a privilege it is to write… and I hope that like Madeleine L’Engle’s books did for me, my books – fun and light-hearted as they are – will also light the way for kids towards good.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
LAURA: When I first started writing, I expected immediate results. What the writer in me now wishes I could tell the fledging version of me is – Don’t rush the process! Good, multi-layered, rich writing takes time and more rounds of revision than my younger self ever imagined. I spent TWO years revisiting and revising my first book Goodnight, Ark before it was fit to float. And Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse took me FIVE years from the time I got the idea until it was finally ready to submit to publishers. Those time frames might surprise readers, but I believe that the time and effort spent revising each of my books has been key to capturing the editors’ attention (and hopefully readers’ as well).
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
LAURA: I have a laptop, so my work station is 100% portable and my favorite strategy to keep from getting stiff and to keep things fresh is to move around as a write. During the winter months, I often set up shop at the dining room table. As soon as the weather gets warmer, I’ll start taking my laptop or notebook and a cup of tea and sit on the front porch with just the morning breeze and those early-rising song birds for company. And if I’m really engrossed in a story and the thoughts are spilling out, I’ve been known to write at the kitchen counter while cooking. I also like taking my laptop “on the road” so I can write outside in a local park or my favorite local coffee shop.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
LAURA: This question has me giggling right now because I’ve had the darndest time finding quiet stretches of time to thoughtfully answer your questions. In fact, right now, I’ve made a little escape from home while my husband supervises homework, so I can write this while sipping a cappuccino! What a treat! Thank you, Vivian, for giving me the excuse!
But, seriously, like many writers, writing is not my only job. I currently homeschool my daughter, which is my primary focus from 8am – 2pm weekdays, and after a day of teaching I’m often tired. I’m also the Director of Children’s Ministry at our small church, which requires several hours of planning time during the week. So, I have to be disciplined.
What I’ve discovered works best for me is to wake up between 5 and 5:30 am and write for an hour before the day begins and then for another hour in the evening. But the truth is that when I’m fully immersed in a new story, it’s hard to turn that side of me off, so I always keep a note book handy (or even just a scrap of paper in a pinch) to capture new plot ideas, “perfect” wording, inspirational rhyming pairs or metrical phrasing – both of which are important for someone who writes in rhyme, as I often do.
ME: Why do you write for children?
LAURA: I write for children for several reasons. First, I love the way children see the world – where everything is so fresh and new and ready to be explored. I also appreciate their honesty- a kid really tells it like it is. Writing allows me to explore that joie de vivre of childhood and hopefully capture its essence and magic through my stories.
I also write for kids because I am a long time fan of children’s literature. I loved books as child and even before I could read myself, I have fond memories of being cozily read to by my parents. My favorite read-togethers from those youngest years, included the gently humorous rhyming poems of A. A. Milne. I loved the rhythmic rhyming sound of Milne’s poems – especially the one from When We Were Very Young entitled “Disobedience” about a mother who had the nerve to go downtown for tea without consulting her son, though he was only three. As I’ve said interviews before, that was first poem I ever memorized, quite by accident mind you, and I’ve carried its wonderful rhyming beat with me ever since.
This leads me to the third reason I write for kids. I have a special passion for rhyme and telling humorous stories in rhyme.! At first I was hesitant to pursue this playful love of words because I’d heard the selling rhyming picture books was extra difficult. Thankfully, my sister, who has always been a champion of following one’s passion, encouraged me to just go for it. So I did. And I’ve been rhyming ever since. DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE is the third of my humorous rhyming picture books to reach publication stage and I’m excited that it is finally out and available for children to read and enjoy!
ME: Oh my goodness, Laura! I’m such a fan of rhyming picture books…as you say, it’s the genre that everyone says editors won’t buy. But you are proving ‘everyone’ wrong…of course, I know why your rhyming books go under contract, Laura. They are awesome stories with heart, humor, and spot on rhyme. And you work on them for YEARS!
LAURA: Thank you for having me, Vivian, and now my cookie recipe – which isn’t really a recipe, but a a cookie decorating activity!
I’m not much of a baker, but my daughter LOVES to decorate cookies and has created wonderfully colorful cookies to celebrate each of my books.
To create your own book-themed cookie creations, pick a favorite book and grab your favorite sugar cookie recipe (or buy pre-mixed sugar cookie dough from the market). You will also need cookie cutters, a bag of confectioner’s sugar, a few splashes of milk, food coloring, a few bowls to mix your“paint”, and a spoon and a toothpick for each color.
- Roll out the dough and cut out cookies in desired shape. Then bake according to recipe or package directions. Let cool.
- Using the picture book of your choice, decide how you will decorate the cookies and what colors you will need.
- For each color, add a generous half cup of confectioners sugar and a splash of milk to a small bowl. Add a drop or two of food coloring, or mix two colors to create a new color. Stir gently using a spoon. (The amount of sugar, milk, and color drops you use will depend on how much “paint” you need. Also, you will have to play with consistency until you get it just right – not too watery and not too thick. My daughter apologizes for being so vague, but really mixing it up is part of the fun. Your kids will LOVE it!)
- To paint your cookies, use one color at a time, letting it get a little crusty before switching to the next color. This way the colors won’t bleed. You can even “paint” on top of crusted glaze once it’s dry. (See tigers for this effect.) Have FUN!
YAY…I know I will, Laura…these are AMAZING. Again, thank you so much for stopping by to visit with us.