ALICE FAYE DUNCAN: Will Write for Cookies


Plate of Cookies





Hold onto your hats, folks! Today’s Will Write for Cookies guest is going to WOW-WOW-WOW you. But it’s what I’d expect from someone as brilliant and dedicated as Alice Faye Duncan. I’ve never met Alice in person, but hope to someday. We’ve paneled together and I’m a huge admirer of her books – and you’ve got a treat in store because she’s answering all of the questions – in POETRY! How’s that for impressive!!! But first, here’s a little bit about this talented writer.

Alice Faye Duncan is the author of two new books—Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote (Calkins Creek—Astra Books for Young Readers) and Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free—The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth (HarperCollins). She is a National Board Educator from the city of Memphis and her website is  

ME: Welcome, Alice. Thank you so much for stopping by. We featured OPAL LEE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE for Perfect Picture Book Friday last month and I was so happy when you said you’d be willing to do a Q&A. I know everyone is excited to learn more about you – but first, I’d like to learn why you chose to use poetry to answer the interview questions.

ALICE: Poetry is lyrical, spare, and filled with emotion. I used three types of poems in this interview. Haiku is a poetry form that includes three lines with a total of 17 syllables (5-7-5). Tanka poems include five lines with 31 syllables (5-7-5-7-7). A Golden Shovel takes one line from a famous work and makes each word the “last word” in a new poem. I chose to respond with poems to make my interview fun, engaging, and accessible to all ages. Enjoy!

ME: I’m sure we all will enjoy this, Alice. We are all on the edge of our seats to read the answers. So, here’s the first question. Who were your favorite authors when you were a child?



Gwendolyn Brooks and

the great Paul Laurence Dunbar

wielded pens like wings.

They wrote poetry

and made words quiver and soar

like black birds—singing.

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


(Tanka Poem)

The first draft is trash.

It contains crumbs of greatness.

Writers get words right

after several revisions.

Rewriting yields the magic.

ME: Where do you like to write?



I own a small house

with plants and large bay windows.

Home is where I write.

ME: When do you write?



Daybreak is my muse.

Brand new suns yield sparkling words.

Poems warm the soul.

ME: Why do you write for children?



No matter the years,

the heart remembers trees,

birthday cake, and tears.

I write for that kid.

I write for little me-me

and little you-you.

ME: If you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share.

ALICE: Non-fiction is a boon to my soul because research for each book starts me on a journey to places unknown.  I am sure of one thing. During the writing process, I will meet people (dead and alive) who have something urgent to say for now and later.  The message is for me, first. Then I pass it on to the reader. Here is a Golden Shovel poem. I wrote it to inspire writers, everywhere. The reference source is a poem from Gwendolyn Brooks that is titled, “Paul Robeson.”

LEARN TO LISTEN                                                                                                                                          (A Golden Shovel)

When writing books of any kind, WE
must learn how to hear from the dead who ARE
not dead. The past, present, and future EACH
abide in this very moment. OTHERS
will disagree. They will say that the MAGNITUDE                                  
of my words hold no weight AND
they are right. I am talking ‘bout a spirit BOND.

Here are added ways to make my two books—INTERACTIVE AND FUN:


The book is divided into twelve (12) vignettes. Assign one vignette per student.
Require students to search the web and locate an audio, video, or printed interview of one character from their vignette. Then require students to compose a Haiku or Tanka poem that makes meaning of the character’s life.
For this activity, teachers and parents can use the poetry examples posted here. 

(The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth)

As a class project—organize a Juneteenth Jubilee that includes red foods, fruits, vegetables, and desserts from the past and present. 
A Juneteenth jubilee or picnic can happen during any month in the year because every day is a good time to celebrate liberation and democracy.

ME: And wouldn’t it be lovely to bring along some of these delicious Juneteenth cookies~~~thank you so much, Alice, for sharing this recipe!

Juneteenth Butter Cookies:

Juneteenth honors the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Dating back to the first Juneteenth on June 19, 1866, it is a joyful time of reflection, where participants celebrate with a feast of red foods, red punch, and red desserts. Here is my recipe for red Juneteenth Cookies. Because they are red and packed with chocolate chips, Juneteenth Cookies can also be served on Valentine’s Day, during Black History Month, Mother’s Day’s, Juneteenth, and CHRISTMAS. Enjoy!


  • 2 sticks of salted butter (room temperature)
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • ½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup of pecan pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • 8-10 drops of red food coloring
  • 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour (Gold Medal is best)
  • 2 additional tablespoons of flour (if needed)
  • Red sprinkles (optional) Try a dozen w/them and one w/o


  • Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  • Mix in chocolate chips and pecan pieces
  • Mix in vanilla extract.
  • Mix in flour, baking soda & food coloring
  • Using a spoon or cookie scoop, roll dough into balls and refrigerate for 2 to 5 hours
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Place on baking sheet covered in foil
  • Bake (18-20 minutes) until cookie is brown on the bottom.
  • Makes about 2 dozen.

Dear friends…are you still standing? Or have you been blown away by Alice’s writing talent and generous sharing? I know there is a lot of applause and cheering going on – please remember the best way to thank an author is to buy her books, review her books, tell friends about her books, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection. I know that there is at least one copy of OPAL LEE in the #50PreciousWords literacy initiative pile at The Bookery, waiting to be donated to local schools.

Speaking of #50PreciousWords, I and my judges are happily wading through the sea of amazing stories – 749 of them! Right now, we are on target for announcing the 56 winners in a special post on March 20th, the first day of Spring. Until then, be safe, enjoy your weekend, and pop back over on March 18 for our Perfect Picture Book Friday feature: JACKIE AND THE MONA LISA by Debbie Rovin Murphy and Jen Bricking.

18 thoughts on “ALICE FAYE DUNCAN: Will Write for Cookies

  1. So much wisdom here, so beautifully expressed! Thank you so much, Alice Faye Duncan, I am so inspired by your answers to Vivian’s wonderful questions and also really appreciate your classroom activities for your books, which I can’t wait to read.


  2. I enjoyed this interview, answered with poems! How fun!! I recently read OPAL LEE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE with my kids! It’s one of my favorite stories-what an incredible woman! How wonderful that someone donated it to the 50 Precious Words Literacy Initiative! Thank you Alice and Vivian for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sucha a beautiful post! “Words like wings”–thank you for sharing your poetry and amazing writing talents with the world. I can’t wait to read your books Alice Faye Duncan!! And many thanks for sharing that cookie recipe!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations, Alice! My eyes danced with your lyricism throughout this interview. LOVE! I’m looking forward to reading your books. And the cookie recipe–YUM!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful interview, chock full of inspiration. Thank you for sharing with us, Alice! Side note: I had never heard of a Golden Shovel poem but love the idea (and your example) so much! I know what next week’s poetry challenge to myself will be!

    Liked by 1 person

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