Jen Betton: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Jen-photo

JEN BETTON

 

I’ve always been a person who sees the silver lining in the storm cloud. My Sweet Dreams, Sarah may have been pushed from 2017 to 2018 and now to 2019, but I’m overjoyed to have connected with the debut picture book authors and illustrators of each of those years. Talented Jen Betton is one of the Epic Eighteens and I’m thrilled to know her and welcome her to Will Write for Cookies.

Jen Betton loves to draw and make up stories with her pictures. In Kindergarten she got into trouble for drawing presents on a picture of Santa, and she s been illustrating ever since. Her picture books include her debut as an author-illustrator, HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, published with Putnam, and TWILIGHT CHANT, written by Holly Thompson, published with Clarion.

She has a BA in English, and a BFA and MFA in Illustration. She lives in Dallas with her husband and two children. You can see more of her work at www.jenbetton.com.

hedgehog needs a hug cover
ME: Jen, I’m so happy you stopped by today. I know everyone is excited to find out more about you.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 

JEN: Favorite authors were C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Madeline L’Engle; illustrators were Pauline Baynes (you can tell I love the Narnia Chronicles), Trina Schart Hyman, and N.C. Wyeth. I still love all these people and their work.

hedgehog-p10-11-v5-900px.jpg

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

JEN: How helpful it can be to pay attention to different book structures. Certain ideas fit better into different structures, and being aware of them makes it possible to play with the plot.

Also, when a certain bit of critique resonates with you, or even more when it doesn’t, think about the heart of your story. What is the underlying theme, the core of your story, and how does this suggested change align with that heart? This helps me a lot when figuring out what changes to make.

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

JEN: I usually write on my computer, but I’ll also print out a copy of what I’m working on and make edits on the print out. That way I can work on little thumbnail drawings while I’m editing the text.

Hedgehog-p18-19-fox1-v2-bigger-eye-900ppi.jpg

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

JEN: Definitely not morning! Midday is my sweet spot (because it’s nap time and the kids are asleep!), but really any time of day (other than morning) when I get the time and an idea.

ME: Why do you write for children?

JEN: In part because those are the kind of stories that I love the most, and the kinds of stories I want to write. C.S. Lewis said he told stories for children because that was the best medium for the stories he had to tell, and Neil Gaiman and Maurice Sendak have made similar comments.  

I also write children’s books because I’m an illustrator, and picture books allow me to tell stories visually, which I love to do. I tend to think of the story as separate from the medium in which it is told – it exists on its own and then takes form in either words or pictures, or both. The picture book is this wonderful alchemy where you share the story between two different languages – the verbal and the visual.

 And finally I write picture books because I enjoy sharing them with kids!

hedgehog-sad5-9000px

ME: EXACTLY! I totally agree, Jen! Thank you so very much for sharing all of this. And I know you have a fabulous cookie recipe to share as well.

JEN: I do, I do! This one is perfect for kids, but for a more “grown up” cookie, you can soak the dried cranberries or cherries in bourbon for one hour ahead of time. 
Recipe: 
……………..
Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup (aka 2 sticks) of butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups oatmeal (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts 
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries*
Heat oven to 350 F
Beat together butter and sugars until creamy
Add eggs and vanilla; beat well
Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, mix well
stir in oats and raisins, mix well
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet 
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.
WOW…Oatmeal raisin cookies are one of my favorites!!! This Q&A has been lots of fun…and I can’t wait to try the recipe. Big thanks to Jen for stopping by and to all of you for spending your precious time here. Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway of a copy of HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG.
Have a safe and happy weekend, dear friends. I am still in Chicago, but will be flying home early Monday morning. It was great to be visiting with famiy and I was fortunate to connect with librarian Betsy Bird. I’d met her at an SCBWI conference, listened to her on one of the 12×12 webinars recently, and yesterday I enjoyed chatting with her at the Evanston Public Library where she is the Collection Development Manager in addition to being a blogger for School Library Journal.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Hedgehog Needs a Hug PLUS Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday! I’m so happy to bring you one of the new 2018 debuts! This one is such a perfect marriage of text and illustrations – and one of the reasons for that is because it was created by the very talented author/illustrator Jen Betton. I fell in love with her heartfelt drawings of all of the animal characters and I think you will also. And guess what? Jen will be stopping by Will Write for Cookies tomorrow with an inside peek at her writing/illustrating life.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post and on tomorrow’s for a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book!

 

hedgehog needs a hug coverHEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG

Written and illustrated by Jen Betton

Published by G.P.Putnam’s Sons (June 2018)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Friendship

Synopsis: From Amazon: 

Everyone needs hugs, even if they’re prickly.

When Hedgehog wakes up feeling down in the snout and droopy in the prickles, he knows a hug will make him feel much better. But none of his animal friends are eager to wrap their arms around Hedgehog’s prickles, and he’s too smart to fall for Fox’s sly offer.

Then Hedgehog gets a surprise: Another animal in the forest is feeling exactly the same way.

Luckily, both are kind and brave enough for the perfect hug

Why I like this book:

  • Text filled with heart and humor is paired with gorgeous heartfelt illustrations
  • I LOVE friendship stories – and so do children
  • Kids will really relate to how Hedgehog is feeling

RELATED ACTIVITIES

25-cute-hedgehog-craftsPhoto courtesy: https://totallythebomb.com/25-totally-cute-hedgehog-crafts

Can you believe all of these awesome hedgehog crafts? For detailed instructions, please go to: https://totallythebomb.com/25-totally-cute-hedgehog-crafts

Matthew Winner gave a shout out to Jen’s new trailer for HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG:  http://www.matthewcwinner.com/single-post/2018/06/05/HEDGEHOG-NEEDS-A-HUG-Book-Trailer-Premiere

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the book giveaway…and please support your favorite authors and illustrators by buying their books, telling friends about their books, and writing reviews for their books.

And definitely don’t miss coming tomorrow when author/illustrator Jen Betton stops by to chat on Will Write for Cookies.

Happy Summer to all…and have a safe weekend!

 

 

Happy Book Birthday to FINN’S FEATHER

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to Finn’s Feather, Happy Birthday to you!

I’ve really been looking forward to the launch of this book! The author, Rachel Nobel, is one of my fellow Storm teammates. When my husband passed away last month, Rachel sent me a copy of her book because she hoped it would comfort me. And it did.

finns feather

FINN’S FEATHER

Written by Rachel Nobel

Illustrated by Zoey Abbot

Published by Enchanted Lion Books (June 12, 2018)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Coping with loss

Synopsis: From Amazon: 

Finn knows his brother is gone. But he also knows that Hamish sent the beautiful white feather on his doorstep.
Finn runs to show his mother the feather from Hamish, but she only gives him a big hug. In school, Finn’s teacher responds similarly. Why isn’t anyone as excited as he is? Finn sits quietly, cradling the beautiful, amazing feather. “Why did Hamish give it to you?” asks his friend, Lucas. “Maybe he wanted to say hi?” wonders Finn. “Maybe,” Lucas says, “Hamish wanted you to have fun with it.” Finn’s Feather is a story about resilience and memory―about a child, his brother, and a friend who meets him where he is.

Why I like this book:

  • Fabulous illustrations
  • Kid-friendly scenes at school, playground, home with Finn and his friends doing and saying exactly what kids do and say…children will be able to identify with Finn
  • This is a story filled with hope and heart
  • Powerful example of how we can be the most help to someone who is grieving…often by just being there. 

Coping with loss is something we all have to do…and it can be especially difficult for young children who usually don’t have a lot of experience with it. Rachel used her own family’s personal loss to craft a story that would help others…and we are all so grateful to her. It takes a great deal of courage to do something like this. And now we have this perfectly  lovely story that is heading out into the world!

I’m also heading out into the world…flying to Chicago tomorrow to visit with family and hopefully hook up with some writer friends in the Chicago area.

 

 

Leah Henderson: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

hnderson

LEAH HENDERSON

As many of you know, I’ve stepped back a bit from the number of blogs I post. Last year I had three or four Fridays and Saturdays filled each month. This year, I’m only doing one or at most, two, Will Write for Cookies post each month and a few Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Which makes each one all the more special.

Special…now that is a perfect word to describe today’s guest. I met Leah at a writing retreat in Georgia and I fell in love immediately with her passion for writing and her sincere, honest, and compassionate approach to life. So when I found out her award-winning middle grade novel, ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, was coming out in paperback on June 12th, I knew I had to ask her if she would stop by for a Q&A. And she said YES!

Leah’s novel One Shadow on the Wall, is an Africana Children’s Book Award notable book and a Bank Street “Best Book of 2017” starred for outstanding merit. Her short story “Warning: Color May Fade” is part of the YA anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America and her debut picture book is entitled Mamie on the Mound. Leah mentors at-risk teens, is an avid traveler, and her volunteer work has roots in Mali, West Africa. She attended Callaloo Writing Workshop at Oxford University, is on Highlights Foundation faculty, and volunteers with Kweli Journal and We Need Diverse Books. She received her MFA from Spalding University and lives in Washington, D.C.

You can find her on Twitter @LeahsMark or at her website: leahhendersonbooks.com.

But today, fortunately, you can find her right here!!!!

And if you leave a comment, thanks to our generous guest, you’ll be entered into the giveaway of a brand new paperback copy of ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL.

ME: Hello Leah. Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. I know everyone is excited to find out more about you.

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

LEAH: Hi all! I’m excited to be here!

One of the books I always passed on my family’s sunroom coffee table was THE PEOPLE COULD FLY by Virginia Hamilton with illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon. And from time to time one of my parents and I would open it just to read a few pages. That was a definite comfort book, and still is a reminder of home. I also loved Corduroy by Don Freeman because it was the first time I saw a black girl like me with her mom as part of an everyday adventure. The Bernstein Bear books were also big in my house because they showed a family doing so much together, just like mine always did.

people could fly

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

LEAH: I am still working on this, but I wish I had known to be kinder to myself and my writing, and to trust that even if I don’t figure something out right away that I will not give up until I do. Over the years, I’ve added a lot more stress to my writing hours than I needed to. I’m not saying I don’t still stress about every little thing, but now when I tell myself to take a couple breaths I actually try to.

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

LEAH: So, I write all over the place, inside, outside—on rooftops, in gardens, on planes, and in Bedouin tents, wherever inspiration strikes (or wherever I am when I have to get something done). Though my ideal place is anywhere my dog is curled nearby. I usually start a story in one of my favorite notebooks with one of my favorite pens. Then I move to my laptop or desktop depending where I am.

real laptop

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

LEAH: Again, I’ve learned I need to be flexible if I’m ever going to get anything done. But years ago when I started to take my writing more seriously I was shocked to find that the early morning hours were a magical time for me (basically I worked in a nightclub and all my friends were asleep then.

I have always been a night owl and get a lot done under the cover of night, but purely by accident I found that the early morning hours were the best time for me to write new scenes. I’ve never been too fond of morning unless I’ve already been up half the night. But one morning I popped up during the early stages of a new story and realized my characters were buzzing to get on the page when the sun had still barely pushed its way into the sky. Now, when writing a new draft I get excited to see how the ideas have been playing in my head all night.

working outside

ME: Why do you write for children?

LEAH: Because children have the most open hearts and the most expansive minds!

ME: Leah, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share.

LEAH: My advice to aspiring writers is the same advice I give to myself now: Be kind to yourself and your writing. Don’t cringe at your mistakes. Sometimes the most magical things come from these stumbles—these true moments of learning. But we have to be open to seeing them. So keep your eyes open to everything! And write for you . . .

one shadow cover

Thank you so much for having me, Vivian!

ME: The pleasure is mine, Leah…and I know that you aren’t done yet. I took a peek at the treat recipe and it looks amazing!

LEAH: Not exactly cookies, but this is a common treat you’ll see at outdoor street vendors and it’s also a wonderful snack during Ramadan and other occasions.

                                                                                       donuts         Photo: Eat Your World

Senegalese Donuts (Beignets)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 cups of flour

1 cup of sugar

½ cup of milk

4 eggs

2 oranges

1 tbsp of baking powder

½ tbsp of butter (melted)

Optional:

Powdered sugar

Coconut flakes

Raisins

Nutmeg

Instructions:

  1. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, and melted butter into a bowl
  2. Add squeezed orange juice and milk
  3. Mix together
  4. Add zest of orange for flavor
  5. Add vegetable oil
  6. Continue to mix until soft, not too sticky
  7. Add raisins (optional) and mix
  8. Add a bit more orange zest and mix
  9. Sprinkle a little more vegetable oil on top
  10. Add a bit of coconut (optional)
  11. Then let rest for 2-3 hours. Best results: let sit overnight
  12. Sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on top (optional)
  13. Mix a little more
  14. Create little balls and drop them into a pan of hot vegetable oil

*put a little vegetable oil on your hands for stickiness.

  1. Flip the donuts as they cook
  2. Let them fry for 10 mins or until golden brown
  3. Remove from pan and place on paper towel to absorb extra oil
  4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar

And enjoy!!!

Oh my goodness…thank you, Leah. You brought me right back on a Saturday morning with my grandmother who used to bake a lot. I’d sneak downstairs while everyone slept in, and help her. Fried doughnuts were one of her specialties. I will definitely have to try these!

Dear readers, thank you so much for spending your precious time here with us. Please don’t forget the the greatest gifts you can give your favorite authors is to buy their books, review their books, and tell others about their books. Make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

Have a safe and happy weekend! I’ll be leaving for a 10-day trip to Chicago on Wednesday to visit family…but I hope to be able to connect with some Chicago area writer friends as well.

12-Step Plan to Stockpile Stories: A Guest Post for Rate Your Story

Hello dear friends!

Just popped in to give you a link to a guest post I just did for Rate Your Story.

number 1

They asked me to talk about how I was able to stockpile so many stories that resulted in my four debut picture books that will be launching in 2019.

I hope you will come and take a look:

https://www.rateyourstory.org/single-post/STOCKPILING-STORIES-THAT-GRAB-AN-EDITOR

And I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: IRVING BERLIN: THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING

I’m sure nobody will be surprised that one of my favorite activities is reading picture books. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s even more fun when the book is written by someone I know…someone I’ve met in person. Today’s Perfect Picture Book is one of those! Author Nancy Churnin has DONE IT AGAIN! She is on a roll with her fabulous nonfiction picture book biographies!

irving berlin

Written by Nancy Churnin

Illustrated by James Rey Sanchez

Published by Creston Books (May 2018)

Ages: 6-9

Themes: Music, The American Dream, Believe in yourself

Synopsis: From Amazon:

Irving Berlin came to the United States as a refugee from Tsarist Russia, escaping a pogrom that destroyed his village. Growing up on the streets of the lower East Side, the rhythms of jazz and blues inspired his own song-writing career. Starting with his first big hit, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Berlin created the soundtrack for American life with his catchy tunes and irresistible lyrics. With “God Bless America,” he sang his thanks to the country which had given him a home and a chance to express his creative vision.

Why I like this book:

  • Inspiring story of overcoming the odds
  • The text sings, just like the songs Irving Berlin wrote
  • Amazing illustrations have rhythm and movement

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

12-flag-crafts-for-kids-fbPhoto courtesy: https://iheartcraftythings.com/12-fabulous-american-flag-crafts-kids.html

With Flag Day and the 4th of July just around the corner, here is a wonderful selection of crafts for kids! Irving Berlin was so proud to be an American…you can help your kids create something to help celebrate these important holidays.

For detailed instructions: https://iheartcraftythings.com/12-fabulous-american-flag-crafts-kids.html

And for a very detailed review of Nancy’s book, there’s a wonderful blog post at Books My Kids Read: https://booksmykidsread.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/irving-berlin-the-immigrant-boy-who-made-america-sing/

For more picture book reviews, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s resource list of over 1000 picture book reviews. And for today’s rainbow array of picture book reviews from some of our favorite kitliters, click here.

Thank you, dear friends, for stopping by. If you are traveling this weekend, please be safe. But wherever you are, if you have children, take time to read them a picture book. And if you don’t have kids, read one anyway!