WILL WRITE AND ILLUSTRATE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
FOR WRITERS, ILLUSTRATORS, PARENTS, TEACHERS, LIBRARIANS,
AND BOOK LOVERS EVERYWHERE
I’ve never met today’s Will Write for Cookies guest in person – but I’m looking forward to the day that I do. She’s an amazing woman, a fabulous writer, and I’m honored to call her friend. Back in 2019, she featured me for the very first InHERview Q&A on her blog.
Shannon Stocker is a writer, singer/songwriter, and fierce advocate for those who are differently-abled and/or chronically ill. She is the author of upcoming picture books LISTEN: HOW EVELYN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION (coming from Dial/Penguin UK in April, 2022), WARRIOR (Sleeping Bear Press, 2023), and her 2019 debut CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press). She’s also a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The proud word nerd lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, two children (including one cancer warrior and one with ADHD), and stash of hidden dark chocolate. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville and is a 12×12 ninja. Cool facts: Shannon survived medical school, a coma, and once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. She’s also proud to announce that LISTEN was selected by the JLG as a book club pick. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.
To connect with Shannon and find out more about her wonderful books:
- ME: Welcome, Shannon! It’s so lovely to have you here! You interviewed me back in 2019…and now I’m getting a chance to interview you! And I know everyone is anxious to find out more about you, so let’s get started.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
SHANNON: Hi Vivian! It’s so great to reconnect with you. And thank you for having me on your blog I am one of those strange authors who didn’t actually read much until I was a little older. Anything by Judy Blume, Pride and Prejudice, and To Kill a Mockingbird were favorites as I got a little older, but I don’t remember loving picture books until I had children of my own. Now, of course, I have too many favorites to name! I will say that Devon Holzwarth will forever be at the top of my list of illustrators. The work she did on LISTEN is jaw-dropping.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
SHANNON: The importance of critique partners! Critique partners not only help you improve your craft, but they are there to lift you up when your confidence falters…which, I think, happens weekly for most of us. The sloth-like pace of the publishing world will test even the most patient of writers. But it can be hard to find “your people.” You don’t just want people who give good constructive feedback – you want people who give feedback that resonates with you. You also want to be part of a group where you feel like everyone has similar expectations or understands when your needs change. Because of my daughter’s cancer diagnosis in 2020 (during the pandemic), my picture book writing slowed. I also was much less available to critique stories for other people. Despite that, some of my critique partners reached out to see how they could help, and a few of them even ended up critiquing the middle grade novel I wrote during this time. They have grown to be so much more than critique partners to me. They are family. Without them, I would’ve crumbled by now.
I also wish I would’ve tried to be a “plotter” earlier. I still tend to be a “pantser” with picture books, but now that I’ve plotted two novel-length books, I absolutely see the benefit. Plotting takes so much stress out of the writing process.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
SHANNON: Two years ago, I wrote in my office most of the time. Once Cassidy was diagnosed, though, I barely had time to step foot into my office. My husband actually gave me his laptop at that point, and I now use that almost exclusively when writing picture books. I’ve written in waiting rooms, in my car, at my daughter’s bedside in the hospital, out by the lake at the farm where we stayed before every chemo…right now I’m at my kitchen island, eating carrots and hummus while I type. I rarely ever have a moment where I get a chunk of time to myself.
While planning, I prefer to use a pen and a notebook. I flip back and forth to do character sketches (with words—I can’t even draw a stick figure), bullet points, or less detailed outlines. Once I’d written all my chapters, I put a short description of each one with color-coded dots for characters and location on notecards, then I lined them all up on the fold-out bed next to my daughter in the hospital. That allowed me a visual point of reference—how long has it been since the reader touched X character? Do we have multiple chapters in a row in the same location? Etc. I’m a very visual person, so for me, organizing is difficult on a computer.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
SHANNON: LOL…lately? I write when I can sneak away for any length of time at all! I try to take at least thirty minutes to myself each morning, because I know that if I don’t, I’ll get sucked into the vortex of everything else. Marketing, critiques, reviews, our businesses at home, etc. And once my kids are home, forget it! Unless I’m on a roll, in which case they know to leave me alone. When I REALLY don’t want to be bugged, I’ll retreat to my bedroom or write in a lawn chair on the deck. My kids see those places as more sacred grounds to my writing heart.
ME: Why do you write for children?
SHANNON: More than anything, I used to think I wanted to be a singer. I loved the stage, the music, the rhythms…all of it. I used to sing barefoot (seriously—I brought my own rug to nightclubs) because I could close my eyes, roll up onto my toes, and the music felt like it just poured through me. As I grew into my own as a songwriter, though, I realized it wasn’t the singing that I loved (though I do!) as much as it was the lyrics. I was never a strong melody writer. I loved harmonies, and words. I loved the storytelling aspect of music.
Then, when I had kids and first dove into the world of picture books, something clicked. There is something so beautiful about writing with big, bold words that have big, bold meanings that tell a big, bold story on only thirty-two colorful pages. Children are incredibly perceptive. They pick up on so much, if only we give them the chance. And I believe we, as human beings, are born compassionate. I want to be a part of making this world a more empathetic place. I want children to read my books and think, “YES! That’s ME! Someone understands!” I have been through so much in my life. I have a chronic disease that almost killed me, and my daughter just finished chemo for brain cancer. I cannot write from the perspective of someone who has been diminished because of the color of their skin or their religion. But I know what it feels like to be told I cannot do something because of my body. I know what it feels like to be told my daughter will suffer a similar fate. But I refuse to accept that anyone has the right—or the ability—to place limitations on me or my children. Or any child, really.
I am a wordsmith. And as long as I’m alive, I want to use my craft to mold visions of possibilities. I want to be the one to tell children, “Yes. You CAN.” I want to fill holes on shelves that also fill holes in hearts. That is why I write for children.
ME: Oh wow! I love that, Shannon. “I want to fill holes on shelves that also fill holes in hearts.” What a grand mission that is! And now I know you have another mission, my friend…a mission to share a yummy cookie recipe with us!
Best M&M Cookies
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 10 min Servings: 24 Source: iheartnaptime.net
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup M&M’s plus more for tops if desired.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugars for 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
- Add the flour, baking soda and salt and stir mix just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and M&M’s. Refrigerate dough for 15 to 30 minutes if time allows
- Using a large cookie scoop (about 3 Tablespoons), scoop the cookie dough onto the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Place extra M&M’s on the top of the cookies if desired.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops are barely golden brown. Allow cookies to set on pan for 2 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
CALORIES: 271KCAL | CARBOHYDRATES: 38G | PROTEIN: 2G | FAT: 11G | SATURATED FAT: 7G | CHOLESTEROL: 36MG | SODIUM: 162MG | POTASSIUM: 36MG | SUGAR: 25G | VITAMIN A: 5.8% | VITAMIN C: 0.1% | CALCIUM: 3.3% | IRON: 5.9%
This sounds like a really yummy cookie recipe – and one that kids would enjoy helping to prepare! Something else kids will enjoy doing is participating in the #50PreciousWordsforKids International Writing Challenge! Children are natural storytellers – would your child like to write a story in 50 words or less? I’d love to read it! And post it on my blog on Mother’s Day, May 8th. See the flyer below for the guidelines.
And don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Shannon Stocker’s newest book: LISTEN: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth, published by Dial Books and available for review and for purchase at bookstores everywhere.