KATY FARBER: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





I mentioned in yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post that Katy was one of the first bloggers I connected with. Her Non-Toxic Kids blog really appealed to me and I immediately signed up to follow it – and I’m still subscribed!

Katy Farber is a writer, researcher, educator and former sixth grade teacher from Vermont. She has loved and defended salamanders since standing in a Pennsylvania creek at the age of ten. Salamander Sky is her first picture book. Her other book for children is a middle grade novel called The Order of the Trees, which won Green Earth Honor book award in 2015. She also writes about education, the environment, parenting and sustainability for various websites and publications. Find out more about her other books and work at katyfarber.com.


I’m so pleased to welcome Katy here today. Katy, I know you have a lot to share with us, so let’s begin.

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

KATY: As a child, I loved the classics so much. I loved the Monster at the End of This Book because as a small child I believed that my turning the pages was actually causing the mayhem on the pages, and that felt magical, powerful and funny. I loved the Giving Tree and Shel Silverstein and Lorax. These books taught me to notice, to appreciate, to wonder, and to laugh.

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

KATY: I wish I knew that it was a long process. That my worth as a writer is not dependent on whether or not an editor, agent or publisher accepts my work. I wish I knew that mostly, this is about working hard, learning, sending work out, and trying again and silencing the inner critic.

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

KATY: I do a lot of my observations about the world, my big thinking, writing in journals by hand with gel pens. I create lists, sketchnotes, poems, and random thoughts in these books. Then, they guide me to move to the computer to follow up and create something.

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

KATY: I write anytime I can. I love writing pre-sunrise while drinking coffee in a quiet house most of all. If I can find my groove, I like writing late a night as well. I used to do this alot. But really, I’ve written in line at the grocery store, in the car between meetings, on the couch with a sick kid. I’m an opportunistic writer with little time, like most of us.

the order of trees

ME: Why do you write for children?

KATY: I honor the ideas– whether they come for adults, kids, teens, or any audience. If I think the world needs it, and the idea persists over time, I try to grab that elusive idea butterfly right out of the air. Sometimes it just works. I also write about what I love, what bothers me and what I want to see in the world. With Salamander Sky, it was a love of spotted salamanders (all amphibians, actually!), engaging in citizen science, and wanting to share this experience with as many kids as possible. For The Order of the Trees, I wanted middle grade kids to feel the power, beauty and magic of the forest. 

salamander sky

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.

KATY: Parents! Let your kids lead you with their interests. All reading is great–magazines, graphic novels, how-to manuals, lego directions, all of it. Also, please don’t forget about unstructured time for creative play, especially in nature. Kids are losing their connection to nature and need some encouragement in our digital world to explore, wonder, ask questions, and look for patterns.

Educators and Librarians! You do the most important work- connecting kids to books and expanding their worlds. Please know that there are many resources for you on my website: a guide for using both of my books as a springboard for project based learning, and lots of other ideas for curricular connections (katyfarber.com). I think pairing reading with social action is incredibly powerful. How can we take what we read and do something to make the world a better place? This is what project based and service learning is all about and is so powerful to students.

Aspirating Writers! You words matter. You matter. Keep at it. Keep telling your stories. That is the most important thing. Be open to feedback. Revise. Try again. This world is made for those who persist despite the many NOs that are thrown in your face. And tell that imposter syndrome voice to be quiet (or say it more meanly, if you prefer). It doesn’t serve you. You are a writer.

real and relevant

ME: Oh my goodness! This is fabulous, Katy. Exactly what parents, teachers, and aspiring authors need to hear. I know everyone is grateful for your inspiring words. And I think you’ve got a recipe to share that will inspire even those of us who aren’t star bakers to give it a try for the holidays.

KATY: On my Non-Toxic Kids blog, I had a series called Holiday Recipes. One year, I posted the recipe for my mom’s pumpkin bread – the perfect, afforable present for teachers, friends, and colleagues.

Notice I didn’t saw low fat. Or low sugar. Or healthy. I’m talking sweet, delicious pumpkin bread with a buttery, pretty glaze on top. The following excerpt is from the post I wrote back in 2009.

pumpkin bread


I don’t really bake. But this recipe is handed down to me by my mom, who also doesn’t really bake. And if she can do it, so can I. My mom bakes dozens of these loaves of pumpkin bread and freezes them. Then she hands them out to friends and colleagues in the days before Christmas. She is famous for this, and folks look forward to her pumpkin bread with great anticipation. And I get to imagine her as domestic for a mere moment, but then the image is gone.

So I am trying it this year. It is a nice affordable present for people, one they are bound to enjoy. It’s not from Wal-Mart. Not imported from China, at the Christmas Tree Shop for 2.99. It’s straight from my family (minus the shortening) to your kitchen, friends and family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. And your kids can help you make it.

(It is much better to double this recipe. You’ll want two loaves anyway, and then you don’t have to worry about using up the rest of a can of pumpkin.)

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1 1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 2/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup warm water


*Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and oil

*mix well

*add vanilla, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg

*mix baking soda, and warm water in a separate bowl

*add this to the other mixture (a little at a time)

*greased loaf

*bake at 350 degrees for one hour


3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon water

*Boil until thickened

*Spread on bread with brush

*pour the rest over and cool completely

PS- One way to make this healthier is to use fresh pumpkin instead of canned (no BPA), whole wheat flour, and applesauce for the oil. If you make these modifications, please post them here (and how they worked out!).

HURRAY! Thank you so much, Katy! Not only did we get fabulous insights about writing…we also got this stellar family recipe! And I love the idea of substituting applesauce for the oil…I’ve done that for years in my baking.

Dear friends, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Today is the final day of Susanna Hill’s Holiday Contest. If you are planning on entering, skedaddle over and post your story. But even if you are not participating with an entry, don’t miss reading these stellar stories – many of them will bring a tear to your eye and/or a smile to your face. And please don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered into the giveaway of a book from Katy!

16 thoughts on “KATY FARBER: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

  1. Katy, I am a former educator, librarian, now kid lit writer. I love your reasons for why you write and your advice to parents/adults to let kids lead with their passions when they read. Salamander Sky looks great. Congrats.


  2. What a great post! I’m off to the library to look up Katy’s blog and her books. And, sadly for my waistline, will also try out the delicious recipe too! 😊


  3. An inspiring post. “Silencing the inner critic” is so difficult, but necessary, and I agree, let kids read and read and read – whatever suits their interests. Thank you Katy for your thoughts & Vivian for another terrific interview!


  4. Thank you for this inspiring interview! I love stories that connect both kids and adults to life on our planet, We are all connected. Our health depends on their health


  5. I can’t wait to read “Order of the Trees,” Katy. The front cover & title alone speak to my soul! Thanks for the detailed post & the shout out to educators. Having hands-on activities to books really brings home the magic. And Vivian, thanks for the recipe–I’ve a leftover can of pumpkin just crying out to be used. Will let you know how it turns out 🙂 Blessings to you both!


  6. I remember as a kid when a creek in front of our cabin dried up and tadpoles were living in a pool there. Every day I ran buckets of water from the lake across the street to keep them hydrated until the rains came. I love the idea of this book and can’t wait to read it. I always make my breads with applesauce, so I’d make this delicious bread with that instead of the oil.


  7. Katy, I can relate to a lot of what you say. I am a former full-time educator and still work in schools part-time. Your words resonate with me, and your books look wonderful. Thanks for the inspiration!


  8. I love your nature connections! I love giving children nature time. So important! Thanks for sharing with us. Congratulations on your books and your pumpkin recipe! Mmmm


  9. Thank you so much for your encouragement to writers! I really needed to hear your wise words today. I had a rejection right before Christmas, and I had been so hopeful. I agree- persistence is the key to unlocking the next level. Thanks!


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