WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
It’s been quite a while since our last Will Write for Cookies post. And there’s no better way to jump back into this author interview series than with someone like today’s guest.
LAURA RENAULD is the author of Porcupine’s Pie, illustrated by Jennie Poh (Beaming Books, 2018) and Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020). She is also the creator of the Debut Review Challenge which encourages readers to write online reviews for debut authors and illustrators. Laura lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and their two story-telling sons. Read her blog, sign up for her quarterly newsletter, and learn about the Debut Review Challenge at www.laurarenauld.com. You can also find her on Twitter (@laura_renauld; #DebutReviewChallenge), Instagram (@laurarenauld), and Facebook (@kidlitLaura).
I am so very thrilled Laura was able to stop by today to answer a few question about her writing journey…and of course, we are excited to see what delicious treat recipe she will share with us, plus she’s offering a giveaway of a Mr. Rogers First Day of Issue Stamp to celebrate the launch of her brand new picture book: FRED’S BIG FEELINGS: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, illustrated by Brigette Barrager). Please remember to leave a comment on this blog to be entered to win.
ME: Welcome, Laura!
LAURA: Thank you for having me, Vivian!
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
LAURA: I loved Lois Lowry, Roald Dahl, Eleanor Cameron, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Madeleine L’Engle. I realize I’m listing authors of chapter books. I can’t remember too many specific picture books from when I was a young child. I know Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd was on repeat at my house and my brother and I would listen to Mercer Mayer books. I still have a copy of one of my favorite picture books as a child: Christina Katerina & the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch and Doris Burn. Going to the library to find new books was my favorite part of the week!
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
LAURA: I wish someone had told me to make friends with WAITING because publishing is a slow business. At first, I waited for ideas to come and time to write. Then I waited for monthly critique group meetings and SCBWI conferences. When I started sbmitting, I waited to hear back from agents, editors, and magazines. Once I got my first book contract, I waited for editorial notes, illustrator sketches, and the seemingly never-ending stretch of time that is your debut year(s). Last year, my agent sent one story we both adore on three rounds of submission. After one Revise & Resubmit request, it didn’t sell so that story is still waiting to find the right home. Don’t let waiting immobilize you. At every stage of waiting, make a conscious decision to keep writing – that’s what you can control. Work on your craft, your query skills, and your Kidlit connections because what you don’t have to wait for on the path to publication is the intrinsic value of the creative process.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
LAURA: I usually write inside at my desk, which is thankfully in a room with door so I can shut out household noise. (I’m not the kind of writer who can be productive in a coffee shop.) There is a window to my right where I can turn and daydream when I get stuck.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
LAURA: I am so impressed by the 5 AM Writing Club folks, but that is just not for me. And I have tried to give myself a schedule time and again. Usually, though, I sit down sometime during the school day when the house is quiet. Is that specific enough for you? 😉
ME: Why do you write for children?
LAURA: I believe that children’s books give kids an opportunity to empathize, imagine, experience, and question. They encounter circumstances and character traits that may be new to them. Books expand the world for kids, introduce new perspectives, and allow kids to say, “Me, too. I’m not the only one.” If I can contribute in some small way to the healthy social and emotional development of a child, I will have succeeded. Bonus points if I can make them smile.
ME What a wonderful mission, Laura…your new picture book, FRED’S BIG FEELINGS: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers is certainly going to contribute to that! And I know you are not finished sharing…I’m excited to see what your sweet treat will be!
LAURA: I look forward to cookie exchanges during the holiday season. They give me a chance to try out new recipes, do a lot of taste-testing, and find new favorites… Like this one! Enjoy!
Blackberry Swirl Almond Cookies
(recipe credit: Driscoll’s)
- 1Package (6 ounce) Driscoll’s Blackberries
- 3Tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2Tablespoons water
- 1 3/4Cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2Teaspoons granulated sugar or sanding sugar (optional)
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1large egg
- TEAR a sheet of parchment paper about 14 inches long. Set aside.
PLACE blackberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and water into a medium saucepan.
HEAT blackberry mixture over medium-high heat just until it begins to boil WHILE STIRRING occasionally.
REDUCE HEAT to medium-low.
SIMMER blackberry mixture until thickened, about 10 minutes WHILE STIRRING and mashing berries occasionally with a potato masher. You should have about 1/2 cup blackberry filling.
SET ASIDE blackberry filling to cool completely.
BEAT butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
ADD egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract.
BEAT butter mixture again until ingredients are incorporated.
SET ASIDE butter mixture.
WHISK TOGETHER flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
ADD flour mixture to butter mixture gradually WHILE BEATING on low speed until ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.
POUR OUT dough onto parchment paper.
ROLL OUT dough to a rectangle about 12 inches by 8 inches and ¼ inch thick.
SPREAD blackberry filling over dough leaving 2 inches of boarder around edges.
ROLL UP dough into a tight log starting from the long side using parchment paper to help lift and roll.
TIGHTLY WRAP dough log in plastic wrap.
REFRIGERATE dough log at least 4 hours.
PREHEAT oven to 350ºF.
LINE 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
SLICE dough log into cookies about 1/4 inch thick.
ARRANGE 12 cookies on each baking sheet leaving one inch between cookies.
BAKE 13 to 15 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown.
REMOVE cookies from oven and immediately SPRINKLE with granulated sugar or sanding sugar (if using).
COOL cookies on baking sheets for 2 minutes.
TRANSFER COOKIES to wire racks to cool completely.
WOW…I’m sure you all want to run right out to get all of those ingredients so you can get baking! But before you forget, please leave a comment below so we can enter you in the giveaway of a Mister Rogers First Day Issue Stamp. Share the post on your social media for extra chances in the giveaway hat. And remember that the best way we can support our favorite authors and their books is to buy the books, review them on Amazon/Goodreads, tell friends, and ask your local library to purchase them for the collection.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I had a super time at Author Night at my granddaughter’s school in Chicago…and tomorrow morning, I’ll go to watch her in ballet class…life doesn’t get much better than that. Tomorrow is the Grammy Award ceremony…I just might have to do a special post in honor of the great Ella Fitzgerald, who won TWO Grammys in 1959…the very first year the Grammys were given.
Loved learning more about Laura! Her new book has been on my radar, and this post may just be the impetus I need to go find it at the bookstore. Thanks, Vivian!
Congrats on your success, Laura. Learning to wait is hard but necessary as you point out.
So true, Laura, waiting is such an intrisic part of this vocation, but we can continue writing as we wait. And speaking of waiting, can’t wait to read Fred’s Big Feelings!
Thanks Laura for your writing tips. I too have requested Fred’s Big Feelings from my library, and I’m number 8 on the wait list. But I’ll be looking forward to reading it when I get it.
Great interview! Laura, I used to have an invisible door and had to tell my family when the door was closed. I wrote in the dining room. True, they traipsed back and forth to get to other parts of the house, but they realized they couldn’t interrupt my though stream. LOL. My granddaughter loves Porcupine Pie. Yay!
Thank you Laura for sharing your patience! I’ll try to remember that waiting is necessary.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your journey to creating this amazing and needed story. I cannot wait to read it.