WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
One of the things that always impresses me is how multi-talented my kidlit friends are. Many have had (or still have) careers as engineers, educators, and doctors. Others are, as Paul Simon wrote:
I’m sitting in the railway station.
Got a ticket to my destination.
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand.
And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.
I think, after you finish reading this post, you’ll agree that my guest today fits the bill of that last line.
Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the author of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?; Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?; First Day Jitters, featured in the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud; and 16 books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series, including one title that was selected as an Oregon Book Awards finalist. Dawn is a vocal advocate for school and public libraries and was honored as a 2015 Oregon Library Supporter of the Year by the Oregon Library Association. She is a frequent presenter at schools, libraries and educational conferences, and the founder of SmallTalk Learning, which provides American Sign Language and early literacy education. Dawn loves to travel and has visited thousands of potties across the Pacific Northwest and around the world. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, two kids, two cats, and a feisty dog. Learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.
ME: Welcome, Dawn! I’m thrilled that you’ve stopped by to chat with us. I want to let everyone know that you are offering a fabulous giveaway – the winner’s choice of either an ARC of one of your new books OR a Picture Book Manuscript Critique! And, since I know that everyone is excited to hear more about you, I’ll get right to the questions.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
DAWN: I’m so glad you didn’t limit me to choosing just one childhood favorite, because that would be really difficult! During the early reader phase of my childhood, my favorite books were in the “I Can Read All By Myself Beginner Books” series. Some of the books I especially loved during that age and stage included The Digging-est Dog and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (both by Al Perkins and Eric Gurney); One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Yertle the Turtle, Gertrude McFuzz, and The Eye Book–which I still have my childhood copy of (all by Dr. Seuss / Theo. LeSieg); The Best Nest (P.D. Eastman) and A Fly Went By (by Mike McClintock and Fritz Siebel) two books that were likely rattling around in my brain when I wrote my book, The Nest Where I Like to Rest.
By middle school, my favorite books were Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O’Brien and Zena Bernstein); Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls); and Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh). One summer, I actually became Harriet the Spy … I carried my spy notebook with me everywhere so I could jot down my many observations.
If I had to choose one all-time favorite childhood author, however, it would have to be Judy Blume. I read and re-read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret during junior high school, and did the same with Forever during high school. I loved both of those books so much; they made me feel heard and understood.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
DAWN: I wish I would have realized sooner that some of my most productive writing time would be when I had limited time to write and that some of my best “writing” would happen when I’m doing something non-writing-related, such as running errands or taking a shower or driving to a workshop I’m presenting. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to pull over to the side of the road to scribble down a story idea, or a solution to a plot problem, or a particular word that has thus far escaped me. There is something about being in motion–and likely also related to focusing my conscious brain on an important task such as driving, freeing up my subconscious brain to run wild and problem solve without me getting in the way!
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
DAWN: I do the majority of my writing and revising at my desk next to my kitchen. Most of my ideas are first scribbled onto scraps of paper, then typed into an Evernote document called “idea file.” I spend a fair amount of time writing at my computer, but that is mainly for blog posts, emails, and letters (to my kids, lawmakers, faraway friends…). My stories are generally first written haphazardly in notebooks, then transferred into a tidier format on my computer, then printed out so I can scribble revision notes every which way across the page. These revisions are tidied up and transferred to a fresh document on my computer and the process repeats itself again and again and again. Speaking of tidy, my desk is sadly lacking in that regard. Here it is with my office assistant, Pickle the Cat.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
DAWN: I’m not someone who keeps a strict writing schedule, and I don’t have a certain time of the day that I write. I do try to write daily, but that is more of a lofty goal than a reality. I do think about my works-in-progress nearly every day. Even if I’m not actively writing or revising, I’m noodling on something related to one or more stories that are in my “active” file.
I will say one of the most important things I do to help me stay on track is to set writing goals each week and share my goals (and my prior week’s report) with a writing partner. I’m not always on time with my goal reports, and I certainly don’t achieve each and every goal each week, but the practice of writing down specific goals and achievements each week does wonders for helping me stay on track and keep moving forward.
ME: Why do you write for children?
DAWN: I sincerely believe that literacy is the most important gift we can give to a child. I write for children because I am hopeful that one of my books will be the book that a child wants to read alongside their parent or other caregiver again, and again, and again. I want to create books that invite parents and children to spend joyful time together. I want to contribute to the collection of books that inspire children to fall in love with the experience of reading and that motivates children to learn to read independently. I have long said that reading is a way to say, “I love you,” and I want to write books that create space for that type of loving.
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.
DAWN: One additional thought I’d like to share is how valuable it is to interact with, listen to, and learn from folks outside your usual go-to professional community. If, for example, you most typically interact with other authors and illustrators, make an effort to add some teachers and/or librarians to your network. If the bulk of your professional development comes from attending SCBWI events, consider attending a professional development event geared for teachers and/or librarians (such as your state’s school or public library association conference or an early childhood educators’ conference). Likewise, reach out to a bookseller, librarian, and/or educator that you are friendly with, and invite them to attend a SCBWI conference. If you usually read books and articles on the craft of writing for children, consider reading a book about the craft of writing something different, such as screenplays (Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a good example). One of my favorite online professional communities is Storytime Underground, which is primarily geared for children’s librarians. Keeping abreast of the needs, interests and shared resources within the Storytime Underground community has been tremendously helpful to me in my dual roles of picture book author and early literacy consultant. Another personal example of reaching outside of my go-to network is my decision to intentionally cross paths with some musicians. This started when I decided to write a song for my husband for our 30th wedding anniversary (https://www.dawnprochovnic.com/2018/08/the-song-writing-part-of-writing-life.html). I enjoyed the song writing experience so much, I made a concerted effort to connect with more musicians. That decision led to some wonderful new friendships and the experience of collaborating with two wonderful singer/songwriters to produce the original songs that accompany the book trailers for my forthcoming books.
ME: And Dawn has a question of her own for all of you!!!!!!
DAWN: What are some of your favorite professional networks and resources (bonus points if they are outside of traditional kidlit)? Please share your comment below and indicate if you’d prefer to be entered into a drawing for an ARC of one of my forthcoming picture books (Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? or Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?) OR a professional critique of a picture book manuscript.
ME: Hurray for you, Dawn! Thank you for sharing all of this kidlit awesomeness with us. It’s been wonderful having you here!
DAWN: Thank you so much for including my voice on your wonderful blog, Vivian. (And for giving me an excuse to make a batch of cookies, today!)
ME: Aha! That’s right! There is more goodness coming. Dawn is sharing a fabulous recipe just in time for the fall season: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies! Take it away, Dawn!
DAWN: Based on a recipe originally discovered on Cooks.com many calories ago (https://cooks.com/w06916t4).
Recipe: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies
1 small (15 oz) can of pumpkin
2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2+ tsp cinnamon (I generally do more)
4 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp milk (or milk substitute)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate baking chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients, and mix well. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12+ minutes. Do not overcook. When bottoms are just brown, remove from oven and cool. Cookies are rich, cakey, and ridiculously delicious. I dare you to eat just one.
Yum and yum and yum! I won’t take that dare, Dawn…I know I would definitely lose!
Dear friends, I feel so blessed to be part of such a vibrant kidlit community! We all need to do our part. For those who have the money, please buy the books of your favorite authors. If you are all tapped out in the buying book department, never fear. There are three other ways you can support authors and illustrators: REVIEW THEIR BOOKS, ASK YOUR LIBRARY TO PURCHASE COPIES OF THEIR BOOKS, AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THEIR BOOKS!
Here is the book trailer for Dawn’s newest book, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?
And another way is to SHARE, SHARE, SHARE on social media – that widens the audience for your favorite books and authors and illustrators!
October is going to be jam-packed – here’s a bit of an October itinerary for you:
- October 1: Book Birthday post for Nadine Poper’s RANDALL AND RANDALL
- October 4: Perfect Picture Book Friday with Dawn Young’s The Night Baafore Christmas
- October 5: Picture Book Summit Conference (all-day, online, to be enjoyed in pjs)
- October 9: Twitter Chat with Matthew Winner and the Newin19 picture book group
- October 10: My grandson’s 11th birthday – he is so proud that he is now nose to nose in height with his grandma.
- October 12: Universal Music Day – I’ll be guest blogging on Angie Quantrell’s blog – all about Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, the real-life characters in my upcoming picture book: Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020)
- October 15: I fly to Chicago to visit my son and his family – I’m hoping I can meet up with some of you wonderful Chicago-area kidliters.
- October 18: Author visit to Lycee Francais in Chicago – presenting to grades 2-5.
I hope you all have a glorious weekend. The color of the leaves is really heating up with scarlets and golds. Today I am at Peter Reynold’s Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA -Peter’s newest book, I AM LOVE, is launching today!
And don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway – one lucky winner will get to choose either an ARC of one of Dawn’s new books OR a PB manuscript critique. Please share this post so the kidlit world hears about Dawn and her new books!