WILL WRITE AND ILLUSTRATE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
FOR WRITERS, ILLUSTRATORS, PARENTS, TEACHERS, LIBRARIANS,
AND BOOK LOVERS EVERYWHERE
Picture Book Junction is one of those amazing kidlit groups where authors and illustrators get together to support and encourage and help each other. Earlier this year, we were honored to feature three of their members – and today we are blessed to welcome FIVE more! And what is really special is that they are each sharing a favorite treat recipe…AND each is offering a Giveaway!!!!
Because there are so many, to make it easier for me and for anyone who is scrolling through the blog post, I’m going to separate each Q&A and keep their recipe and book cover and answers all together!
To remind everyone of the questions I asked:
1. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
2. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
3. Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
4. When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
5. Why do you write for children?
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.
ME: WELCOME to all of you! Some of you I’ve known a long time, like Vicky Fang and A.J. Irving. And others are new to me, like Jack Wong, Gabriela Orozco Belt, and Sarah Hovorka. Thank you for stopping by Picture Books Help Kids Soar. We are excited to learn more about you and your wonderful new books!
GABRIELA OROZCO BELT:
- I loved reading The Babysitter’s Club series by Ann M. Martin. I remember going to K-Mart with my mom, where she would buy me a new book. I would get home and devour it! I’d come out of my room a few hours later and she would say, “you finished already! We just got it!”
- There’s no rush. No need to be in a hurry to query, edit, or resubmit. Take your time returning to a story; rested eyes can see better.
- I like to write in notebooks in my office or on my couch but I always carry one around just in case the opportunity presents itself.
- I’m trying to discipline myself a little more and write a little each day but those muses strike when they want and when they do, I listen.
- I write for children because their experiences should be validated. To see yourself in a story is a powerful experience. It fosters empathy, understanding, connections, so many big emotions can be explored through picture books, it’s amazing!
For aspiring writers: keep going! Find yourself a cheerleader who won’t let you give up.
For parents, educators, writers, librarians: Please don’t shy away from diverse books because you think they can’t/won’t apply to your readers. You’ll be surprised to find the universal connection these books can have.
Gabriela Orozco Belt is a children’s book author who lives in a small town in the Mojave Desert. Inspired by her experiences of growing up bilingual and bicultural, she writes stories for children so they can see themselves in books. Gaby’s debut picture book, Only For a Little While serves to soften and process the feeling of being uprooted and see change as a temporary difficulty that families can overcome with mutual support. When not teaching, writing, or reading, she can be found spending time with her husband, three children, and extended family.
Website: https://gabrielabelt.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/thegreatgabsie Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/thegreatgabsie
Buying links: https://gabrielabelt.com/books/por-un-ratito/
THE RECIPE: Gaby’s Mami’s Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding)
2 cups rice (uncooked)
4 cups water
2 cans evaporated milk
3 cans condensed milk
Put the rice, water, and cinnamon sticks in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking the rice until it is soft. Check it often, adding warm water to the rice if it is drying up before it gets soft. Add the evaporated and condensed milk and raisins and stir.
THE GIVEAWAY: Gabriela is offering a 30-minute AMA zoom meeting.
1. Judy Blume! R.L. Stine! Ann M. Martin! Basically anything I could get my hands on. There’s even a book whose title or author I can’t recall but I still remember the story fondly.
2. A community is so important, especially in kidlit. Your voice as the writer is needed but when writing for children it’s useful to understand how other writers, parents, editors, and, of course, children may interpret your voice in a way that isn’t as critical as an adult reader.
3. I write in any way that works for me at that time. I have a chronic illness that can be chaotic so I’m constantly shifting how I write from laying down with pen and paper to using voice reminders on Alexa.
4. I almost exclusively write when the muse strikes, especially for a first draft. This typically happens at odd times throughout the day, especially when I’m doing something routine like washing dishes.
5. I’ve found my voice suits children’s literature best and my ideas appeal to kids. That fits me because I do much better interacting with kids than I do with adults. I feel like I still have that child’s sense of curiosity and wonder about the world and I love experiencing that with others.
Like many people, Sarah Hovorka wasn’t sure what to do with her life. After obtaining a degree in Anthropology and starting a career in the public sector, Sarah became a mom and homeschooler full-time. When a major health crisis hit and left her disabled, Sarah resolved to pursue a closely guarded dream… writing.
Now Sarah is the published author of Hattie Hates Hugs (2022) and the upcoming Same Love, Different Hug (2023) as well as short stories. In addition to writing, Sarah works in the public sector and spends her free time reading, homeschooling, and playing video and board games with her husband and three sons in California. You can find out more about her, her books, and follow her blog at www.SarahHovorka.com.
Facebook: Sarah Hovorka, author | Facebook
Goodreads: Sarah Hovorka (Author of Hattie Hates Hugs) | Goodreads
Buying Links: Same Love, Different Hug – Sarah Hovorka
HarperCollins: Same Love, Different Hug – HarperCollins
Amazon: Same Love, Different Hug: Hovorka, Sarah, Bryant, Abbey: 9780358712817: Books – Amazon.ca
Barnes & Noble: Same Love, Different Hug by Sarah Hovorka, Abbey Bryant, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)
IndieBound: Same Love, Different Hug a book by Sarah Hovorka and Abbey Bryant (bookshop.org)
THE RECIPE: Three Ingredient Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
Cream together peanut butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well. Spoon and gently press on to cookie sheet. Use a fork to create lines on top, if desired. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
GIVEAWAY: Sarah is offering a copy of Same Love, Different Hug (United States only).
1. I adored the IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE series by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond and the LITTLE CRITTER series by Mercer Mayer when I was a kiddo.
2. Everything in publishing takes forever. I used to say that you must have passion, persistence, and patience to work in this industry. The truth is that I am not a patient person. I have accepted that all the waiting is going to drive me bananas, but I try my best to focus on what I can control.
3. I love to write on my back porch. I start every project with pen and paper. I feel more connected to my words this way. I love the feeling when I’m in the zone. When my words are flowing so quickly that my hand cramps and heart flutters with excitement.
4. I 100 percent follow my muse. I’ve never been a “butt in chair” author. I’ve learned to trust myself over the years. It often feels like wordstrings are floating around me and I catch them when the time is right.
5. I am very passionate about all children seeing themselves in books. I hope that my work inspires meaningful conversations. My deepest wish is for my readers to feel seen, safe, and loved.
For aspiring writers: Dream BIG! Don’t give up!
A.J. Irving grew up in Boise, Idaho, writing stories and daydreaming about becoming an author. Now, she writes picture books and poetry beneath an old elm tree in Salt Lake City. A.J. reads kidlit every day and dances every chance she gets. She is the author of Dance Like a Leaf (Barefoot Books, 2020) and The Wishing Flower (Knopf BFYR, May 30, 2023).
As a children’s author and former bookmobile librarian, A.J. is passionate about inspiring kids to love books. When she’s not reading, writing, or dancing, she enjoys exploring Utah with her husband, two children, and their English bulldog.
Learn more at www.ajirving.com.
Purchase link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/678286/the-wishing-flower-by-a-j-irving-illustrated-by-kip-alizadeh/
THE RECIPE: Peanut Butter Cheerio Treats:
3 tablespoons of butter
1 10 oz. package of JET-PUFFED marshmallows
6 cups of honey nut cheerios
½ cup of peanut butter
1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
2. Add honey nut cheerios and peanut butter. Stir until well coated.
3. Evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares.
THE GIVEAWAY: A.J. is offering a signed copy of THE WISHING FLOWER. (U.S. only, please)
1. Different series come to mind—I loved R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, and also recall reading some Cam Jansen (by David A. Adler) and Wayside School (by Louis Sachar). Other than that, though, my own experience as a voracious child reader is a good reminder that kids will sometimes read anything. I randomly owned an autobiography booklet by former Seattle Mariners player Edgar Martinez, which I remember re-reading over and over again, for the simple fact that it was on hand—I didn’t even like baseball!
2. This might be a hot take, but I think editing is the editor’s job (at which they are better than I’ll ever be). Someone gave me the best advice when they said, “you’re ready to submit not when it’s perfect, but when there’s as little as possible distracting the recipient from seeing the potential for greatness.”
3. I’ll make notes with whatever I have on hand when inspiration strikes—in my sketchbook, a text message or email to myself on my phone… when I feel like I have enough material and momentum, I’ll sit down in front of my computer to try to figure out how the collected pieces fit together.
4. I don’t have a schedule—most times I’ve written lately were on some kind of deadline to have some writing ready to show! Having said that, and related to #3, I think I’m always writing in my head or in fragmentary form, and that is more likely to happen in the shower or in the car or while I’m busy illustrating than during a dedicated writing session.
5. There’s often that joke about how everybody is “thinking of writing a children’s book.” It’s easy enough to assume that it’s because people think it’s easy… but I think the desire sometimes also comes from a good place: if you have a heartfelt point of view you hope will change the world for the better, it’s daunting to imagine you’ll win over other adults, and perhaps enticing to hope and dream you can reach younger minds. We are all subject to that enticement—otherwise we wouldn’t be here—so I take what I’m putting forth for children’s consideration very seriously.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, Jack Wong (黃雋喬) now calls Halifax (Canada) home, where he works as a children’s author/illustrator. A self-declared actual Jack-of-all-trades, he’s also tried his hand at bridge engineering, psychology research, bookkeeping, and running his own bicycle repair shop—a real education for creating children’s books, if you ask him! Through a diverse range of stories, he seeks to share his hodgepodge journey with young readers, so that they may embrace the unique amalgams of experiences that make up their own lives.
When You Can Swim is Jack’s debut picture book; his next written-and-illustrated books include The Words We Share (Annick Press, September 2023) and All That Grows (Groundwood, Spring 2024). He is also set to illustrate an upcoming picture book biography of Yo-Yo Ma written by James Howe (Abrams Books, 2025). www.jackwong.ca
Purchase link: https://jackwong.ca/when-you-can-swim
THE RECIPE: Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so the closest I’ll come is a pizza with sweet things on it—balsamic vinegar (reduced to a syrupy consistency), smoked provolone/cheddar cheese, apple slices, chorizo, roasted walnuts, drizzle of honey, fresh arugula. Using any crust of your choice (fresh-made, store-bought, or a stand-in like naan), lace the crust with balsamic vinegar reduction, then layer all toppings except arugula. Bake until almost ready to your liking, then add arugula and heat for another 30 seconds. Enjoy!
THE GIVEAWAY: Jack is offering a manuscript critique (fiction PB, less than 1,000 words).
- I loved adventures of all kinds! My favorite author was Enid Blyton, and I think I had the entire Famous Five set.
- I wish I had known that the writing is a long journey with ups and downs! When I first started, I was so intent on finding an agent and getting a book published that it never occurred to me to think beyond that. Now, I think very differently about what I want out of each project and out of a longer career.
- I love writing in coffee shops. That’s my butt-in-chair time with no distractions (like laundry, cleaning the house, napping, etc.) I am usually on my laptop for writing, though I’ll move to pen and paper if I need to brainstorm on something. I am usually on my iPad for illustration.
- First thing in the morning after I drop off my kids! Unfortunately, this is also my favorite time to work out, so it is usually one or the other.
- I write for children because I used to work in product design for kids and I learned how important and valuable character and story are for connecting with kids and for helping them learn. I also fell in love with the experience of reading with my kids and wanted to be a part of creating those experiences.
For aspiring writers: Find your people! The kidlit community is amazing.
Vicky Fang is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. She started writing to support the growing need for early coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. She is the author, and sometimes illustrator, of nineteen new and upcoming books for kids, including the Layla and the Bots series, Invent-a-Pet, I Can Code board books, Friendbots series, and the forthcoming Ava Lin series, Best Buddies series, AlphaBot, and The Boo Crew Needs You!. You can visit Vicky at vickyfang.com
Preferred buying links
For aspiring writers: Find your people! The kidlit community is amazing.
THE RECIPE: I usually just follow other people’s recipes, but I do like to make up my own smoothies! Here’s a recipe for a peanut butter berry smoothie:
In a blender, add
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup frozen berries
- ½ a frozen banana, cut into pieces
- ¼ cup ice (just a couple cubes)
- ¼ cup milk
Blend and enjoy
THE GIVEAWAY: A signed copy of THE BOO CREW NEEDS YOU! (U.S. only)
WOWOWOWOW! THIS IS SERIOUS AWESOMENESS OVERLOAD! Thank you so very much to Gaby, Sarah, A.J., Jack and Vicky!
I hope, dear readers, that you return many times to this post – so many fabulous insights from these five very talented creators.
Please remember to leave a comment for a chance to win one of these amazing prizes! Make sure you tell us the prize you would prefer if you are a lucky winner…and please share your number two choice. Also, please follow these wonderful people on social media, buy their books, review their books, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection.
Enjoy the weekend!
What a fantastic post about so amazing new books! I look forward to reading them all. I would love to win a copy of The Boo Crew Needs You.
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This post is so encouraging and inspiring and is hitting at just the right moment for me. So happy to have read it today. If the stars are aligned, I’d be interested in Jack or Vicky’s prizes. Thanks!
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What a great group! Thanks for these inspiring interviews! I’m happy to win any of the giveaways. Thank you to the book creators for their generosity in sharing their writing journeys and their giveaways too.
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Wow! What an amazing crew of folks and books! Such talent! If chosen, I’d be happy to receive any of the giveaways. Thanks to all for your generosity!
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