Kerri Kokias: Will Write for Cookies Plus Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Kerri Kokias Headshot

 

KERRI KOKIAS

I met today’s guest in Picture the Books 2017. Debut picture book authors together, we really had no clue as to how the process of publication worked. As Robert Burns said in To a Mouse: The best laid schemes o’mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” Which in plain English means, sometimes your plans don’t work out exactly as you thought they would. There can be all kinds of hold-ups in the publishing industry…that’s just how it is. So here it is 2018, and Kerri and I are part of Epic Eighteens, the group formed to give support and encouragement to debut picture book authors and illustrators with books coming out this year.

Now it looks like there is a chance Sweet Dreams, Sarah may be pushed back even further to 2019, but I’m thrilled to welcome Kerri and congratulate her on her exceedingly beautiful 2018 picture book debut!!! 

Kerri’s writing features unique structures, playful language, humor, tension, tenderness, simple text, and complicated characters. She has a good vision for how text and art can work together to tell a complete story. Kerri credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper.  Kerri lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two children, and three dogs.

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Hello, Kerri! Thanks so much for stopping by! We enjoyed finding out about SNOW SISTERS yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday and everyone is excited to hear a little bit more about you.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

KERRI: In my youngest reading memories I was a big fan of anything written by Shel Silverstein, James Marshall, Arnold Lobel, Judith Viorst, and William Steig. As I got a little older I liked books by Beverly Clearly, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Ann Martin. I still treasure these author’s books and expect that I’ll never outgrow them.

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

KERRI: Hmm, I started to say that I wish I knew how long it was going to take me to get published, but then I realized that it was probably a good thing that I didn’t.  (12 years!) I guess I would reframe that a little and say that I wish I knew that a career as an author doesn’t really come easy for anyone, even if it may look like it from the outside. I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of author friends through the years and everyone’s path to publication is different, but every one includes a lot of hard work, determination, grit, a little luck and some disappointment along the way.  And as best as I call tell, this doesn’t change post publication either.

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ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

KERRI: I can tell you the most unusual place I have even written- at the swimming pool while swimming laps. There was one particular manuscript I was working on that I kept getting ideas for while I was swimming. So I kept a waterproof notebook at the end of the pool and would jot down notes between laps. But more ordinarily, I have a nice space with my picture book collection set up in my basement but I usually prefer to just sit on my living room couch or at my kitchen table and write on my laptop. Occasionally, if I’m having a hard time staying focused I’ll go to the library or a coffee shop to work. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I often come up with my best ideas when I’m driving or falling asleep. So a surprising amount of my writing originates as notes taken on my phone or whatever scrap of paper happens to be nearby. I have learned the hard way that these pieces of inspiration are lost if I don’t record them immediately, so I know to pull the car over when I need to jot something down and that it’s worth it to turn on that bedside lamp at record my idea even if it’s tempting to just roll-pver and fall asleep.

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

KERRI: I’m not very structured with my writing time (gasp!) and have never had much luck with the old butt in the chair technique. I’m more prone to just go about my day and write as the muse strikes. However, projects are ALWAYS stewing in my brain, even if I don’t have anything on paper to show for it. I take notes throughout the day and typically when enough of them build up I feel motivated to sit down and pull them together.

ME: Why do you write for children?

KERRI: Kids are my favorite kind of people!

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

KERRI:  I often hear beginning aspiring authors say that they can write better stories than what’s already out there. My advice here is that people’s tastes vary, and there is an audience for just about anything. So don’t compare your writing to books that are outside of your taste; compare it to the books that you most admire.  Take your time striving to get your work the best that it can be.

ME: What awesome advice, Kerri. TAKE YOUR TIME STRIVING TO GET YOUR WORK THE BEST THAT IT CAN BE!!! That’s a great mantra for all of us!

I know we are want to thank Kerri for her insights, her generous picture book manuscript critique giveaway, and for spending this precious time with us. But we’re not done yet!

I guess Kerri is part seer…she must have known that here on the East Coast, we have been hit by a blizzard and record cold temperatures and we are in need of some warm beverages. So pull out some of those previous cookie recipes and bake up a hatch and then…

KERRI: How about some hot cocoa to go with all of those cookies?

Homemade Hot Cocoa

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Cup milk

Dash of salt

Multiply by desired number of servings. Heat until warm. Snuggle up and enjoy!

YUM! And while you are sipping your hot chocolate, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of A PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE from the lovely and talented Kerri Kokias! And after you do that, choose one or more of the following to help your favorite author:

1. One of the best ways is to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book review sites. 

2. Ask your local library to order the book…many libraries honor patron requests and some even have online request forms.

3. Buy a copy of the book.

4. And most importantly…TALK ABOUT THE BOOK…to friends, family, and anyone who will listen!

Amazingly, it is almost time to start talking about the #50PreciousWords writing challenge. The challenge opens March 2 – it celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss – last year we had 253 incredibly wonderful entries and 40 prizes! I’ve already got two kidlit powerhouses to help me. So, if you have a prize you’d like to donate (book, critique, original art, or anything a writer would love to have), please contact me at viviankirkfield@gmail.com or via FB or Twitter PM. This challenge brought out amazing talent…the 1st place winner in 2016 already has a contract for that story and a sequel to it! Many people who participated said it was the FIRST time they had ever submitted anything. That is a huge accomplishment for them right there! And the camaraderie and positivity that wove through the thread of over 2000 comments was a testament to what a beautiful kidlit world we are creating! The informational post will go up in mid February, but I just wanted to get the ball rolling.

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#50 Precious Words Writing Challenge is Almost Here

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Are you ready for a whole lot of fun?

As many of you know, I’m a BIG fan of writing contests and challenges.  I love them because

  1. they encourage writers to write
  2. they push us to submit our work
  3. they engage us in the kid lit community and provide us with positive feedback and inspiration.

 

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March 2nd is the birthday of the incredible Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Last year I put together a little contest based on Random House founder Bennet Cerf’s 1960 challenge to Seuss to write a children’s book using only 50 words. And the classic Green Eggs and Ham was born. It’s true that the story has over 700 words…but only 50 unique words.

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My challenge is a bit different…yout MAX WORD COUNT for the entire story is 50.

If you are currently writing picture books…or just reading them, you’ll notice that the average word length for many is getting shorter and shorter. So I thought, wouldn’t that be a great challenge…to write a story for kids with only 50 words? With a beginning, a middle, and an end. I wondered if I could do it. I opened the challenge to everyone. Much to my surprise and amazement, there were 128 entries! And now it’s time to DO IT AGAIN.

Please put on your thinking caps and get busy writing. You have a couple of weeks until you need to post your story. Here are the guidelines:

#50 PRECIOUS WORDS WRITING CONTEST

  1. Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, using only 50 words…they can all be different words, or you can use some of them over and over…just as long as the total word count for the story is 50 or less.
  2. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious…whatever works for you.
  3. Title is not included in the word count.
  4. No illustration notes please.
  5. The contest officially opens on Thursday, March 2nd, in a special post on my blog.
  6. Between March 2nd and March 6th, post your story on your blog if you have one and put the link in the comments of my #50 Precious Words Challenge blog post OR post the entire story in the comments of my #50 Precious Words Challenge blog post. Last year, because the stories were so short, eventually, we had all of them in the comment thread. Please make sure you put your name in the post.
  7. Deadline for posting the story or the link in the comments is Monday, March 6, at 11:59pm.
  8. Winners will be announced Thursday, March 9.
  9. Winners? Of course, there will be winners…and prizes, too! The book prizes are limited to USA addresses, please.
    1. A critique from my beloved agent, Essie White (some of you may remember that the winner of last year’s contest chose Essie’s critique as her prize…and she subsequently signed with Storm Literary Agency!) essie

2. A seat in author Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing Making Picture Book Magic online writing class (the first writing class I ever took and it set me on the path of writing wonderful picture book manuscripts).

mpbm3. A seat in author Kristen Fulton’s incredible Nonfiction Archaeology online writing class (that was the class that opened the door for me to discover the joy of writing nonfiction picture books).

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4. This next prize can be chosen by two people…there are TWO 50% off coupons for Alayne Kay Christian’s ART OF THE ARC online writing class (this is the next class I would love to take).

art_of_arc_v35. OR…if you have already taken Alayne’s awesome class, you can choose 50% off an in-depth critique from her (when Alayne says it is an in-depth critique, she isn’t kidding. I had one of those…it is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious).

6. A seat in one of the KidLitCollege webinars (I’ve attended a few and they are FABULOUS!) OR $19.99 off a critique, donated by Jodell Sadler, JCLA Editorial Agent and Founder of KidLitCollege. Winner choses one and will get a special code.

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7. A manuscript or query letter critique from author Rebecca Colby.

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8. A picture book critique from author Lori Degman

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9. A picture book critique from author Anna Forrester.

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10. A fiction picture book critique from author Ariel Bernstein

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11. A picture book critique from author Rosie Pova

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12. A book on the craft of writing from author Rosie Pova

13. A copy of Bunny’s Book Club from author Annie Silvestro:

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14. A book on the craft of writing from author Maria Marshall

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15. A copy of Hello, My Name is Tiger from author/illustrator Jennifer P. Goldfinger.

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16. A copy of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL plus an adorable SEAL NECKLACE from author/illustrator Patricia Keeler.

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17. A copy of CLAMS ALL YEAR by Maryann Cocca-Leffler.

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18. A SUPER HAPPY book prize package from author Marcie Colleen with copies of Super Happy Party Bears Gnawing Around and Super Happy Party Bears Knock Knock on Wood.

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19. A copy of Mutt’s Promise,  a middle grade dog adventure written by Julie Salomen…donated by illustrator Jill Weber.

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20. A picture book critique from me and a copy of my parent-teacher book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.

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I am exceedingly grateful to all of these kid lit pros who generously donated prizes…to find out more about these wonderful people, please click on each link above to visit their websites…follow them on social media..and buy their books!!!!

Please help spread the word and share this around your social media…the more the merrier… #50PreciousWords.

Are you excited?

I am!

And I just can’t wait to read all of your precious words.

P.S. Don’t forget…this is NOT the post you will be using for the contest entries…that post will go live on March 2nd.

 

 

The Winning Stories – 750 Precious Words

The 50 Precious Words Contest is over. The level of participation was bested only by the level of quality of the stories. I thank everyone who posted a story or shared about the contest. So many people commented that writing the stories and reading the entries were a great exercise in honing their writing skills…I was so happy to hear that because I know we are all on a quest to write books of precious words for children..

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Some of you suggested that it might be nice to have the fifteen winning stories in one place so they could be easily read. GREAT IDEA! I hope you all enjoy reading these as much as I did. If you find any of the entries have been deleted…those lucky stories are out on submission and I have removed them as per the author’s request.

And if you want an inside peek into the process I used to select the winners, please visit the GROG blog, where Janie Reinart asked me some probing questions: groggorg.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-peek-behind-curtain.html

  1. LITTLE TIGER by Julie Abery

Continue reading

Nancy Churnin Will Write for Cookies PLUS CONTEST WINNERS

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

signingtommy

NANCY CHURNIN

Most of you know how much I love critique groups. For me, they are one of the most important elements in a writer’s life. They support, encourage, inspire. They keep you sane…they keep you company…they keep you on track. I’m thrilled to spotlight one of my favorite critique buddies as today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor. Nancy’s got a lot of inspiring words for us today…and when the post is finished…we will announce the WINNERS of the #50PreciousWords Contest. By the way, I was overwhelmed by the amazing level of participation and enthusiasm for this little writing challenge. Thank you all!

Nancy is a native New Yorker (me, too!) and a lover of baseball who is happy to call Dallas her home. Go Rangers! She’s the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and a graduate of Harvard University, with a masters from Columbia University School of Journalism. (and now when I have a question, I know who to go to for the answer) She lives in North Texas with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry. Between shows and story deadlines, they’re raising four sweet boys and two crazy cats.

I was thrilled when Nancy’s book debuted and a couple of weeks ago, I did a Perfect Picture Book Friday post: https://viviankirkfield.com/2016/02/26/ppbf-the-william-hoy-story-plus-winners/

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Welcome, Nancy! Thank you for joining us today.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 

Nancy:

There are so many! I was enthralled with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and remember going on a hunt to track down hard to find titles like The Silver Chair. I read everything by Louisa May Alcott, I reread Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz numerous times. I also loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, all things Dickens (but especially A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist) and Mark Twain (particularly The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn). Also, I could never get enough mythology; I loved reading about Greek, Roman, Norse mythology, the King Arthur legends and any and all fairy tales.

 

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

Nancy:

I wish I knew at the start what a wonderful, supportive writing community there is for children’s book writers if you will only reach out and make contact. In the early years I enjoyed my writing as my private escape. I had no idea that I could have both that wonderful escape into another world and friends with whom I could share the wonder of that work and get help in making it better and, ultimately, publishable!

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?

Nancy:

I like to write inside and with my trusty laptop any room will do. Sometimes I sit at my desk in my bedroom. Other times I will lie down in bed and write. Sometimes when I am stuck, pen and paper will help get me going. I can’t go on too long writing things longhand, however, because my penmanship can be too challenging for me to decipher, particularly if I’ve been thinking faster than my scribbles.

 

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?

Nancy:

I will write whenever I have time or inspiration, but my best time is usually the morning when my mind is fresh and free of distractions and deadlines that rain down during the day.

 

ME: Why do you write for children?

Nancy:

I love children. They are the purest form of humanity, the essence of what it is to be human. Children are honest and open to ideas. They are like the rich soil of Narnia at the beginning of its existence in The Magician’s Nephew, where a metal rod takes root and grows into a streetlamp. If you gift them with a book that introduces a fresh idea or way of looking at themselves and the world, you can feel, hear and see seeds taking root and flower in unexpected, beautiful ways.

 

 ME: Nancy, do you have any other tips you’d like to share with aspiring writers? And thoughts for parents, educators, and librarians?

Nancy:

 Dear Writers, always write the story you must tell, the story that you believe with all your being must be told, the story that fills a void or emptiness in the world. Books can be written to sell, but they probably won’t last or stir anyone’s soul. If you write what truly matters to you, it will matter to others.

Dear Parents, Educators, Teachers and Librarians, I will never forget that the only reason I even heard of Narnia was because once upon a time, a librarian recommended The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to me and I overcame my skepticism and turned the first page of a story with a long, odd title. That book was my wardrobe into a magical world.  Yes, books can take us on incredible journeys of the heart and the mind, but without you wonderful guides, who knows if new generations of children will find their way to the wardrobe or have the courage to push open the door.

THANK YOU A MILLION! Nancy, this was terrific!

Dear Readers…if you would like to find out more about Nancy and her book:

Twitter: @nchurnin

Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books

Website: nancychurnin.com

Now I know you’ve all been waiting for the sweet treat ending to the Will Write for Cookies post…and you won’t be disappointed because Nancy’s brownies are to die for.

brownies

Melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) and cream with 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup whole wheat flour with 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix dry and wet ingredients together. Grease the bottom of a rectangular baking pan with oil. Pour in brownie mixture. Add 14 dark chocolate chips if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife in the brownies comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!

50 PRECIOUS WORDS CONTEST RESULTS

So now that you have your brownie and maybe a cup of hot chocolate, it’s time to announce…the winners of the #50 Precious Words Contest. I just want to say how amazing all of your stories were. I was honored to read and enjoy each one. I met so many new writers…and was happy to see entries from many old friends as well. Congratulations to all who participated…there were a total of 128 beautiful stories. You were on fire…some of you wrote several, just for the challenge and the fun of it. And that, my dear friends, is what this whole crazy journey is about!

I’m using some of the parameters I learned from all of the fabulous writing contests the lovely Susanna Hill has held. I take my hat off to her…and to every editor and agent who has to turn away a really good manuscript. Believe me, you guys did a FABULOUS job. Each story had something that made me want to keep it in the running, but in the end, I did have to make some decisions that I admit, are entirely subjective. So if you don’t see one of your favorites among the finalists, I apologize. THIS WAS TOUGH! I wanted to give out 128 prizes! These were the rules:

  1. Kept to the Word Count: For this contest – 50 words or less.
  2. Kid-friendly for kids 12 years old or younger.
  3. A story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  4. A well-written story that engages the reader.
  5. I added another requirement: a story that I enjoyed reading out loud over and over again.

The prizes will be awarded as follows…first place winner gets to choose first. It’s possible the first place winner already has an agent and has already taken Kristen’s class and might pick one of the books…you never know. Then second place picks next from the prizes that are left. And so on. Please email me at viviankirkfield@gmail.com or PM me on Facebook if we are connected. I will then get in touch with each of the winners in turn to tell you what prizes remain.

Here are the prizes:

  1. A seat in Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archaeology Class…many thanks to Kristen for this generous prize!
  2. A critique of a manuscript by my fabulous agent, Essie White…many thanks to Essie…someone is going to be thrilled!
  3. A mini-critique from yours truly…picture book manuscript preferred, either rhyming or prose, fiction or nonfiction.
  4. A copy of Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough.
  5. A copy of The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin.
  6. A copy of Kissed by an Angel Anthology (11 middle grade stories edited by Robyn Campbell – one of my stories is in there).
  7. A copy of Lucky Draw Anthology (50 middle grade stories edited by Sally Odgers – one of my stories is in there).
  8. A copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking by Vivian Kirkfield.
  9. The Book Lover’s Journal – A Personal Reading Record to keep track of the books you read.
  10. Copy of Llama Llama Wakey-Wake by Anna Dewdney (board book).
  11. Copy of Get Crafty: Special Occasions by Vivienne Bolton (full color hardback – great crafts for various holidays).
  12. Mini book: Qi Gong – The Energy of Harmony and Healing.
  13. Mini book: The Embrace – A Treasury of Romance in Word and Image.
  14. Mini book: Love One Another – words and illustrations by Joan Walsh Anglund.
  15. Mini book: Silver Palate Desserts.

And now…DRUM ROLL PLEASE:

In FIRST PLACE: Little Tiger by Julie Abery

In SECOND PLACE: Stay or Go by Shari Schwarz

In THIRD PLACE: Catch a Bird by Maria Marshall

In FOURTH PLACE: I Did It! by Cathy Stenquist

In FIFTH PLACE: Anything But Broccoli by Jodi McKay

In SIXTH PLACE: Toes by Janet Smart

In SEVENTH PLACE: Kitchen Drawer Drama by Katelyn Aronson

In EIGHTH PLACE: Cat’s Revenge by Jean James

In NINTH PLACE: Rainbow Treasure by Sara Gentry

In TENTH PLACE: Honu Waits by Stephanie Shaw

In ELEVENTH PLACE: The Masterpiece by Shelley Kinder

In TWELFTH PLACE: Run Chippie Run by Debbie Vidovich

In THIRTEENTH PLACE: Doggie Delight by Janie Reinart

In FOURTEENTH PLACE: Bear’s First Spring by Jess Townes

In FIFTEENTH PLACE: A Ride in the Car by Lauri Fortino

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!!!

I hope this contest was as much fun for all of you as it was for me. I am absolutely positively without a doubt going to make this an annual event here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar. You all made my first real contest a BIG success…I couldn’t have done it without all of you, blogging about it, tweeting about it, posting it on Facebook…and entering your wonderful stories. THANK YOU!

Here is the link to the post with all of the contest entries: https://viviankirkfield.com/2016/03/04/ppbf-brave-girl-plus-50-precious-words-contest/

Have a wonderful weekend!