JOANA PASTRO: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Critique Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





What a joy it is to be part of this incredible kidlit community! I love attending conferences and taking classes because I get to meet so many wonderful people. Another way I connect with authors and illustrators is by doing critiques – and the win-win of that scenario is that I get to read fabulous stories…like the one that today’s Will Write for Cookies author wrote and asked me for feedback. And how cool…that manuscript is now a real book!!!!!

Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream is coming true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Boyds Mills Press, an imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane, on October 20, 2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in Fall/2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. You can find her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram on @joanapastro, on her website at

ME: Welcome, Joana! What a thrill to have you here today! Thank you so much for stopping by and for offering such a generous giveaway…a nonrhyming pb manuscript critique! I know everyone is excited to hear a bit about who you are and how your path to publication progressed – it’s a fascinating story and I thank you for sharing it with us.

JOANA: I’m so happy to be here, Vivian. Thank you so much for having me! I’m ready whenever you are.

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

JOANA: As you know, I was born in Brazil and spent most of my childhood there, so my favorite Brazilian authors were (I guess still are!) Ziraldo, Ruth Rocha, and especially Mauricio de Souza. He’s the creator of the most popular comic book series in Brazil, A Turma da Mônica (Monica’s Gang). Me and my sisters had a subscription for it and a huge drawer full of them. It was our favorite bedtime reading. I also lived here in the US as a toddler, at that time my favorite books were the ones by Dr. Seuss. Those traveled back with us to Brazil. Later, when we lived in England, my absolute favorite was Beverly Cleary. I only found out she was American a few years ago!

Turma da Mônica Figurines I keep in my office.

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

JOANA: When I decided to pursue writing circa 2011, I bought the book WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES. I devoured it and that’s when I first heard of SCBWI (Society of Children’Book Writers and Illustrators). The book highly recommended becoming a member. I wish I had followed that advice right away, but because I was an absolute beginner, I thought I wasn’t ready. Instead I used only the tools I had at hand. Progress is slow for those who go it alone. Three years later, I finished my middle grade novel, and finally joined SCBWI. I won’t underestimate the experience of writing on my own—it was valid and I did learn a lot. However, I was only able to feel that my writing was truly improving once I became part of a critique group and found the camaraderie of people who share the same passion and goals.

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

JOANA: The first thing I do when I have an idea is try to solidify the beginning and the end. I write a rough pitch—I’m awful at pitches—to help keep my goal, and the takeaway focused. Then I roughly plot the middle, which inevitably changes as I get to know my character. This part of the process is usually done on a clipboard that I carry everywhere around the house, in the car, wherever I go.

Once I’m ready to start writing the manuscript, I move to my laptop in my office. I have a balcony facing the lake behind my house and I love staring at it. I might spend too much time doing it while I try to solve plot problems, but all that daydreaming seems to help the process. Having my books at hands reach is another advantage of working in the office.

For the record, I still carry that clipboard with my work in progress everywhere, so no matter where I am, if an idea strikes, I’m able to jot it down really fast. Especially when my kids were younger and I needed to carve small periods of writing time. I’ve written while waiting for swim, karate and ballet lessons. But life is different in 2020, and these days my clipboard only moves around the house.

The view from my desk

My workspace: desk and clipboard!

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

JOANA: I feel a lot more creative and productive in the morning, but not too early! I usually get started around 8 am, after I’ve sent the kids to school and gone for a walk. If I’m in the zone, I’ll write any time. The clipboard really helps me stay on a writing mood all day.

5.ME: Why do you write for children?

JOANA: Because picture books make me happy! I love diving into that world. It’s fun! I love the lightness of writing for children, even when we tackle deep, difficult subjects.  

Picture books are targeted for children but, in reality, they’re for everyone. A picture book can help deal with emotions and problems, understand our place in the world, and reminds us of our worth. Seeing ourselves in a book, by relating to a main character or a situation lived, can be truly empowering. I think we all need that reminder and that feeling in our lives, don’t we?

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.

JOANA: For aspiring authors, don’t underestimate the power of picture books and their complexity. A good picture book looks easy to write, but it isn’t. Learn the craft and seek feedback from other writers and professionals in your genre. Read extensively and as part of your learning process, read recently published picture books.

For all readers, don’t discard picture books once you’ve turned 8. Picture books are for everyone!

ME: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I know everyone is thrilled to read your insights, Joana…such valuable advice! And you’ve got something else that is very valuable – you are sharing a fabulous GLUTEN-FREE Brazilian cookie recipe…woo-hoo!

JOANA: Casadinho” Cookies – A traditional Brazilian cookie that’s a hit at my house! (And since one of my kids has celiac disease, I added the modifications I make  for a gluten free version.)

My cookies aren’t the prettiest, but they sure taste good!


  • 3/4 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour (I used 2 cups of multipurpose gluten-free flour and added an extra 1/3 tsp of xantham gum)
  • 1 cup guava jam for the filling (or any jam you have at hand, it’s great with dulce de leche too!)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy.
  3. Add the egg and the flour (or gf flour + xantham gum) and mix by hand until well combined.
  4. Divide the dough in smaller pieces and make rolls (about ½” diameter) and place them on a cookie sheet.
  5. Cover with plastic and place in fridge for about one hour.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Cut the rolls in 1/2″ pieces and place them on the new cookie sheet.
  8. Place in preheated oven until golden. About 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow it to cool on a cooling rack.
  10. Using a spoon spread the filling on one side of the cookie and top with another piece of cookie, like a sandwich.
  11. Let them dry for about one hour.
  12. Enjoy!

This looks amazing, Joana…I can’t wait to try them. Raspberry jam is my favorite, with apricot coming in as a close second – so, I think I will do some with raspberry and some with apricot!

I want to remind everyone to leave a comment to be entered in the fabulous giveaway of a nonrhyming picture book critique from the lovely Joana! For extra tickets in the giveaway hat, you can share of your social media platforms and follow Joana on Twitter @jopastro. And don’t forget that our favorite authors need our support, especially these days. Please buy their books, review their books, tell friends about their books, and ask your local library to purchase their books.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be moving next week, but I’ll be back bright and early on October 1st with a Book Birthday post for Vicky Fang’s new board book series, I CAN CODE and then a double header with Julie Abery’s newest nonfiction pb THE MAN AND THE PENGUIN for Perfect Picture Book Friday and a Q&A with Julie on Will Write for Cookies. Stay well, dear friends, and be safe.

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