WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
SUE LOWELL GALLION
I hadn’t taken a picture book writing class since 2014, but last year I noticed that Marcie Colleen was going to be teaching an online Writing Barn course entitled: The Heart and Humor of Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Little did I know that the April/May 2020 class would come at the perfect time – right when the world had stopped due to the health crisis – and many of us felt we needed to connect, but couldn’t because of the ban on travel and the new social distancing rules. It was a wonderful class…and our guest today was one of my fellow students.
Sue Lowell Gallion was destined to write books! As the daughter of a third-generation printer, Sue grew up immersed in the smells of paper and ink and the sound of printing presses at Lowell Press in Kansas City.
She is the author of eight children’s books including two series: the PIG & PUG picture books and the TUCKER AND TIP early readers.
ME: I’m really so thrilled you agreed to stop by to chat with us, Sue! I know everyone is excited to hear about your writing journey and your newest book – a board book – that launches this month: OUR WORLD: A First Book of Geography.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
SUE: THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD and THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY — that chance to get out in the wide world was appealing to me from way back! As far as illustrators, Garth Williams and Clare Turlay Newberry (MITTENS and MARSHMALLOW) were favorites of mine. I still love UNDERSTOOD BETSY by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, a young middle grade novel published in 1917. Fisher was an educational reformer and early proponent of the Montessori method. I was lucky to have a grandmother who taught 4th grade and loved to read, so birthdays and holidays always meant new and wonderful books.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
SUE: When I began writing picture books, I worked on two or three manuscripts for years. I was so determined that those books would be published – and none of them were (or ever will be!) I wish I had paid more attention to writers who encouraged me to write new stories instead of focusing on those. I love the way Lin Oliver, executive director of SCBWI, talks about considering your whole body of work. Some work will be published, some won’t. But as you keep learning about craft and trying different things, your experiences and relationships and growth all combine to feed your creativity and enhance your work.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
SUE: I love a freshly sharpened pencil, and I collect pencils. Choosing which pencil to use, then sharpening it, are yet another way for me to procrastinate on the actual writing! I also write on my laptop, but I still like to look at a printed manuscript and revise with pencil.
I write most often at my kitchen table, or outside on my deck in good weather.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
SUE: I’m not one of those people who write every day, although I do author work every day. I think about stories and ideas all the time, but I’m more likely to figure something out while I’m walking my dog or weeding than sitting at my desk. I’m at my best in the morning after a cup of coffee and a walk. I read picture books and middle grade at night.
ME: Why do you write for children?
SUE: Children’s books have been part of my adult life since my first niece arrived, and I became the “book aunt.” Reading with my own kids was one of the best parts of every day as a parent. I feel that way about reading with my two preschool grandsons now. It’s a shared experience, adventure, and conversation.
I’ve been a volunteer reader with a literacy organization here in Kansas City called Lead to Read KC, https://www.leadtoreadkc.org/
I read with the same first or second grader at a school every week during the school year. I always bring a big bag of books for them to choose from, it gives me a chance to share my library books! I love doing school visits as well.
I started seriously writing for kids about 15 years ago. My first picture book, PUG MEETS PIG, was released in 2016. I’ve been incredibly lucky. I have three books coming out this summer and fall (a picture book, ALL EXCEPT AXLE, and the third in an early reader series co-authored with Ann Ingalls, TIP AND TUCKER PAW PAINTERS.) It’s not ideal timing with covid-19, but I’m grateful just the same!
ME: And we are grateful for the beautiful books you are writing, Sue. And for answering our questions. But I know you have a few more thoughts to share with us.
SUE: Thank you so much for this opportunity to share OUR WORLD, Vivian. You asked me to talk a bit about this book’s journey. I love the physical format and interactive options of board books, and the way they travel with kids in diaper bags or car seats. I got the idea for a board book shaped like a globe at a workshop on novelty board books at a regional SCBWI conference.
After I came up with the concept, I did some market research and didn’t find anything similar. The text of OUR WORLD started as a short rhyming poem about geography and the connectedness of our world. I made a paper dummy with scissors and tape, and my agent submitted the dummy with the manuscript. When Phaidon Press became interested, I did two major revisions with the editor over many months before the manuscript was purchased. We added another layer of nonfiction text and narrowed the focus. I did a lot of research and revisions throughout the whole process of making this book, as did the marvelous illustrator, Lisk Feng. It’s been a very collaborative and wonderful experience.
My first critique group, through Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens, had a tasty tradition of bringing treats when you had good news to share. I brought these cookies when I sold my first piece to Highlights about 15 years ago! My grandmother called them Ranger Cookies, but one of my long-time critique partners, Ann Ingalls, came up with the new name. I’ve made them for friends’ book launch parties and other occasions. Even people who don’t think they like coconut tend to like these cookies. You can make them when you have good news, are hoping for good news, or just need a cookie.
Good News Cookies
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar + ¼ cup
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
3 ½ cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup Rice Krispies
Cream butter, 1 cup sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, oil, and vanilla. Add salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Add flour 1 cup at a time until batter is smooth. Add oats, coconut, and Rice Krispies, stir with spoon. Dough will be soft. Cover and chill for several hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each dough ball with the bottom of a glass greased with butter and dipped into ¼ cup sugar. Bake 12 minutes or until light brown.
Oh my gosh! Thank you so much, Sue! You’ve shared so much with us today! And this is like the post that keeps on giving…because someone is going to win a brand-new copy of OUR WORLD: A FIRST BOOK OF GEOGRAPHY…all they have to do is leave a comment (why not tell us where in the world you’d like to go) and then shout out by sharing on social media, writing a review on Amazon, and/or asking their library to purchase a copy for their shelves.
If you like to connect with Sue and find out more about her: click here.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend – please stay safe and well! My house is on the market and today is the Open House!