WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
I met today’s Will Write for Cookies guest in a nonfiction picture book writing challenge over five years ago. At the time, I think she had one book deal signed. The book wasn’t coming out till the next year, but when we started critiquing together, I KNEW there would be many more to come. I’m going to share Nancy’s ‘official’ bio, but her unofficial bio goes something like this: Incredible writer. True friend. Compassionate human. Generous soul. Spot on critique partner. Top notch marketing guru. And one of the smartest people I know!
Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of ten picture books about people who persevered to achieve their dreams and make the world a better place. Among her awards: a Junior Library Guild selection, starred reviews, multiple National Council for the Social Studies Notables, multiple Silver Eureka Awards, multiple inclusions on A Mighty Girl list, Sydney Taylor Notable, Towner Award nominee, Sakura Medal finalist, Notable Book for a Global Society, Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award and the South Asia Book Award. DEAR MR. DICKENS and A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE, THE STORY OF Henrietta Szold, FOUNDER OF HADASSAH, came out in October 2021. A native New Yorker, Nancy lives in North Texas with her husband, a dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats.
ME: Welcome, Nancy! What a thrill it is to have you stop by Picture Books Help Kids Soar! Your picture books definitely help kids soar!!! Thank you so much for the generous giveaway of a copy of one of your new books – and the winner can choose which one. And now I know everyone is excited to find out a little bit more about you and your writing journey, so let’s get started.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
NANCY: My answers to this questions change every day and could go on endlessly as I read everything I could and loved it all! But one thing that’s a constant is my love for L. Frank Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was the first book my mother read to me, one chapter a night, when I was a kid, with the original illustrations by W.W. Denslow. It was in a sense, the template for what I was later to understand a story to be – a quest journey, but with a little girl instead of a warrior, torn away from home by a natural disaster. She has adventures and she must find the bravery within herself, to make it home safely, while protecting her dog and the friends she makes along the way. Much later, as a writer of children’s books, I’ve grown to cherish this quote from Baum: “I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp, which when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.” Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion still cracks me up (especially now that I have a dog that hates taking baths). The illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham made you see it all from Harry’s mud-loving point of view. I read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson over and over. What a wonderful ode to the power and wonder of creativity. Mr. Pine’s Mixed-Up Signs by Leonard Kessler was another favorite. It makes me laugh, but when you think about it, that’s another story of the power of words. Of all the Dr. Seuss books, The Sneetches and Other Stories was my favorite because of how simply and profoundly it showed the foolishness of prejudice and how easy it is for someone to take advantage of that prejudice to make you act against your own interests as well as what’s right for your community. I was also a great fan of Louisa May Alcott and read every book by her I could find. Funny thing is that her Little Women led me to Charles Dickens, the subject of my Dear Mr. Dickens, as Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy were so obsessed with Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers!
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
NANCY: To trust the journey. Before your first book comes out, there is so much anxiety that you will never have a book out. Now I know that each book takes as long as it takes. Some of mine have flown with as little as two months from manuscript to acceptance. Others have taken years. Two have taken more than a decade apiece. All stories, being new to the world, require a lot of work and revision, but if you commit and put your whole heart into it, you will get where you need to go. Always keep your eye on the goal, which is not to hold on to particular words or phrases or preconceived notions about what you may have thought your book was about when you started, but to have the best book possible, one that will make a difference in children’s lives and stand the test of time. If you believe in it – and remember you have to be the first and best advocate for your story – keep going until you will find the right home for it.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
NANCY: Inside – but everywhere! Laptop, iPad, pen and paper. Wherever and whenever the inspiration strikes in addition to my regular writing schedule.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
NANCY: I am a morning person, but I will just keep going as long as I can. Sometimes ideas strike late at night, which is why I always keep a pen and paper and iPad near my bed.
ME: Why do you write for children?
NANCY: I write for children for the same reason that C.S. Lewis said he did: “because a children’s story is the best art-form for something you have to say.” It just feels as if the stories I want to tell – stories about kindness, stories about ordinary people who have a dream and through persistence succeed in making those dreams come true and making the world a better place, all flow most naturally in children’s book form. I also have to say that as readers, children are absolutely wonderful. They are honest. They are open. They will let you know right away what works and what doesn’t. I learn from them all the time – and I love learning! Most important, if your story succeeds in touching their heart or making them think, it will become part of them and what they become and pass on to others forever.
ME: Oh my, Nancy! What a lot of the very best of reasons! Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. And do you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, as well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear?
NANCY: Don’t waste time wishing you had written someone else’s books or had someone else’s ideas. Dig deep to find the ideas and the voice that are uniquely yours, that we have been waiting to hear. No one thinks exactly like you. No one expresses themselves exactly like you. These differences are your strengths. You can learn from others, but you don’t want to be like others. You want to take the bits that work for you, meld them with the bits that are all yours, and create something new. You can do that and the world will be a better place for you having done that.
For parents, educators and librarians, I want to say that I love this opportunity to partner with you on helping our kids blossom and grow. My mother is a retired teacher and I always make sure to have free teacher guides, resources, and projects for each book with dedicated project pages on my website, nancychurnin.com, where I share, with permission, the great things kids do. The advice I give other writers is actually the same that I give kids – and everybody. Not one of us is exactly like anyone else, nor should we try to be. Your differences can be your gifts. Find your own unique perspective and insights about the world and find a way to share them. My highest goal for my books is that the experience doesn’t end on the last page, but it leaves kids inspired to be the heroes and heroines of their own lives. My greatest pleasure is when I hear from you about the kind and compassionate things your children have been inspired to do.
Wow! Wow! Wow! What a fabulous goal for any writer! Thank you so much, Nancy!
To connect with Nancy and find out more about her books:
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nancy.churnin
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyChurninBooks
On Twitter: @nchurnin
On Instagram: @nchurnin
And on her website, https://www.nancychurnin.com, you’ll find links for teacher guides and information about the various challenges that children can participate in for each of her books.
But, dear friends, Nancy isn’t finished sharing her sweet awesomeness with us! Take it away, Nancy!
NANCY: Sufganiyot –jelly doughnuts –are a favorite treat for Hanukkah. And when I want to make this treat, I go to one of the best cooks I know, my niece Carolyn Nash, who borrowed this from Jamie Geller’s Quick & Kosher cookbook.
• 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour• 2 (8-ounce) cartons vanilla low-fat yogurt• 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar• 2 eggs• 6 cups canola oil• 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar• 1 cup seedless strawberry jelly
1. In a large bowl, place flour, yogurt, vanilla sugar and eggs.
2. Knead until all ingredients are combined and a sticky, doughy batter is formed. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Heat 6 cups canola oil in a 6-quart stockpot, covered, over medium heat.
4. When dough is ready, uncover oil and raise heat to high.
5. Scoop out a tablespoonful of batter and drop in oil. Don’t make the doughnuts too big, so they can cook through.
6. You should be able to fry about 7 doughnuts at a time. Using a slotted spoon, turn doughnuts when halfway browned, about 30 seconds to 1minute. Fry for another 2 to 3 minutes or until entire doughnut is deep golden brown and cooked through.
7. Remove doughnuts and let cool on paper towel-lined plates. Repeat previous two steps with remaining batter.
8. Fill a squeeze bottle with jelly and inject a little into each doughnut.
9. Roll each doughnut in confectioners’ sugar. Or shake 3 doughnuts at a time in a paper bag filled with confectioners’ sugar.
YIELD: 14 doughnuts
YUMMY! Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe and for all of your insights, Nancy. I wonder who is going to give these a try for the holidays? And before you check out your pantry to see what ingredients you need to get, make sure you leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of either DEAR MR. DICKENS or QUEEN TO THE RESCUE.
And remember, the best way to thank an author for writing the books that you love is to buy a copy if you can, review the book, tell friends about it, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Please stay safe and well.