LAURA LAVOIE: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Critique Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





Today’s Will Write for Cookies guest really helped me out – she asked if she could create a post about Writing Books with Holiday Hooks…and of course, I said YES! Thank you so much, Laura. We’re so happy to have you stop by. I have a board book edition of Pippa’s Passover Plate coming out next year – and I know that books with a holiday theme are always popular with editors! And guess what, folks? Laura is offering a VERY special giveaway…a Picture Book Critique! So, please make sure you leave a comment…maybe you can tell us what your favorite holiday is.
And now…take it away, Laura.

Writing Books with Holiday Hooks

When I started writing picture books, I never considered hooks or marketability. I was thinking solely about the story—not about how a publisher would get it on shelves. But as I’ve had manuscripts acquired and received feedback as to why the editor connected with the story, I realized that perhaps I should be thinking about hooks and marketability. Similarly, when I’ve had manuscripts rejected, some of those rejections have been along the lines of, “This story was fun, but I’m not sure how we would market it… so ultimately it’s a pass.”

In May of this year, Viking published my debut picture book, Vampire Vacation, illustrated by the fang-tastic Micah Player. The story follows Fang, a little vampire who isn’t super into vampire things and really wants to hang out at the beach.

What I learned along the way is that my publicist is pushing this book as a summer book and a Halloween book. (Which is awesome!) There are certainly some summer vibes in this story, like when the vampires enjoy building sandcastles, snorkeling, and surfing.

But there are also spreads that lend to a Spooky Season kind of mood, like creepy castles, pet bats, and Mama and Papa Bloodgood’s decidedly dark attire.

By pure coincidence, I’ll also be able to promote my second book, Monster Baker, as a Halloween story—even though that wasn’t my intention when I wrote it. Coming in summer 2023 from Roaring Brook Press and illustrated by the boo-rilliant Vanessa Morales, this story follows Tillie, a little monster and baking enthusiast who decides to bake a birthday cake for her grandmonster—all by herself. While there are plenty of creepy-crawlies in this story, it’s also a fun book about baking and a grandmother/granddaughter relationship. (Grandparents’ Day marketing, anyone?)

Now, when I’m vetting ideas, I consider the hooks. Is there an obvious seasonal tie-in? Could this story link up with a holiday somehow? For some ideas, the answer is ‘no’. (And that’s okay!) But I do think, generally speaking, the more hooks you can throw at an editor, the better.

Here are a few more examples of books with brilliant holiday marketing hooks…

Together We Ride, written by Valerie Bolling and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, is the perfect book for any kid who’s learning to ride a bike. It’s also a father/daughter story that’s great for Father’s Day gift giving.

No Bunnies Here!, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Ross Burach, is a story about a rabbit who desperately tries to convince a wolf that there are absolutely no bunnies in the area… despite there being dozens. While there isn’t a direct link to Easter in this story, a funny bunny book is the perfect basket stuffer for those who celebrate the holiday.

Caveboy Crush, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler, is a funny and endearing prehistoric love story… that’s also perfect for Valentine’s Day.

I hope this post sparks some story inspiration… maybe even one with a holiday hook! And since this is Will Write for Cookies, here’s my go-to sugar cookie recipe, perfect for any occasion.

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies


1 ½ cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanill
5 cups flour (plus more for rolling cookies)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large bag confectioners sugar
Food coloring
Sprinkles if desired

Secret ingredient: if serving to a group with no nut allergies, 1 teaspoon almond extract

To make:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth; beat in eggs, one at a time, before adding vanilla and, if desired, almond extract.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Blend butter/sugar mixture and flour mixture together well; form dough into a ball.
  4. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  5. While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 400 degrees F and make your icing.
  6. For icing, mix confectioners sugar (I start with 2 cups) with a small amount of cold water to desired thickness. If the icing is too thick or too thin, add more water or sugar as needed. (You can also use milk or almond mix instead of water if preferred.) Add food coloring to create desired color. You can make as many icing colors as you’d like!
  7. Once dough is chilled, lightly flour surface before rolling out your dough (make sure you have some thickness to the dough—cookies that are too thin will be crunchy around the edges).
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut dough into desired shapes, making sure shapes that are going into the oven together are approximately the same size (or, you can use the top of a glass to make circle cookies).
  9. Place on nonstick cookie sheet 1 inch apart. (Pro tip: stick your dough back in the fridge or give it a quick blast in the freezer in between batches).
  10. Bake standard-size cookies for 6-8 minutes, until bottoms are just starting to turn golden (tiny cookies, like the bats shown below, will require far less time—only a few minutes).
  11. Use a spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool completely before frosting.
  12. Use a butter knife and/or a piping bag (a plastic sandwich bag with a corner snipped off works fine) to decorate your cookies.
  13. Enjoy!

WOW! Huge thanks, Laura! Thank you for the great tips on writing books with holiday hooks…and thank you for generously sharing all of those titles. Plus, the cookies looks Monstrously Awesome!

Dear friends, to connect with Laura and learn more about her books:
Laura Lavoie can tap dance, tell terribly cheesy jokes, and bake a mean chocolate chip cookie. She also writes picture books. Laura’s titles include Vampire Vacation (Viking, 2022) and the forthcoming titles Monster Baker (Roaring Brook Press, 2023) and Duck, Duck, Taco Truck (Doubleday, 2024). She resides in upstate New York with her husband and daughters, along with two cats, one dog, and dozens of backyard squirrels.

Please make sure you leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE from this talented author. And after you’ve read her book, please hop over and leave a review. Plus you can ask your local library to purchase a copy for their collection – and tell all your friends about it on social media – you get extra tickets in the giveaway hat for sharing.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. And please spread joy and kindness.

31 thoughts on “LAURA LAVOIE: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Critique Giveaway

  1. Thanks for the great post Laura and Vivian! You’ve got my gears turning regarding hooks! We adore Vampire Vacation and look forward to seeing your new books on shelves.
    My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, but my kids enthusiasm for Halloween is moving it up the list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t wait to explore some holiday hooks within my writing. And OH my goodness, those are the cutest cookies… so perfect for Vampire Vacation! Thank you Vivian and Laura for sharing this fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the wonderful interview Vivian and Laura! Love the humor in Vampire Vacation-such a joy to read! Thank you for these tips, Laura … really fabulous. (I’ve left a review on Goodreads and Canadian side of Amazon.) Thanks for the opportunity!! Congratulations! Rosanna Montanaro

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LAURA: I’m a HUGE Halloween FAN (it’s my FAV holiday!), so I’m LOVIN’ your book! I TRULY APPRECIATE this post in helping us to think about our stories from different angles, specifically in finding more HOOKS to not only HOOK our readers, but the agents and editors, TOO! THANK YOU for the INSPIRATION!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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