Category Archives: Author/illustrator interviews

Ana Crespo: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

AnaCrespoPic

ANA CRESPO

 

It seems like as soon as I moved from Colorado, I discovered it was a state FILLED with awesome authors. Today’s Will Write for Cookies guest is one of those. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet her while I lived there, but I am ultra-excited that she is going to be one of the faculty members at the WOW Retreat next July. And I’ll be there also!

Ana Crespo creates stories for kids.  She is the author of THE SOCK THIEF and the recently released JP AND THE GIANT OCTOPUS and JP AND THE POLKA-DOTTED ALIENS.  Ana loves road trips almost as much as she loves writing and reading.  She and her family have traveled over 25,000 miles by car throughout the United States, visiting a total of 35 states (more to come). Ana is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but lives by the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her family.

I’m excited to welcome Ana. She’s got a lot to share with us so let’s get started.

 

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

 

Ana:


They were Brazilian authors and illustrators.  My favorite of all is Ziraldo.  He’s probably the most successful cartoonist in Brazil and wrote over 100 children’s books, including ‘O Menino Maluquinho’ (The Little Crazy Boy) and ‘Flicts’.  Flicts is the book I loved the most as a child.

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

 

Ana:

I think it would be everything I know now.  When I first started I knew absolutely nothing.  I knew nothing about the market or even about simple things such as word count.  In fact, I have some embarrassing stories from my very first SCBWI conference, but I don’t think I am ready to share them yet, so I will leave you wondering.  If I had to pick something specific, I would say I wish I were more aware of the relationship between illustrations and words when I first started.  I find adding illustrator notes is a fine art on its own. (One I’m a long way from mastering.)

JP_GO_COVER

 

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

 

Ana:

I write everything on a computer and hardly ever use paper.  When I have a sudden inspiration, I look for paper and pen, but who can ever find a pen? So, I started using my phone.  Some of my best ideas were first written down on the ‘Memo’ app.  It works well.  At home, I usually work sitting on the couch with the TV on, not exactly watching it, but enjoying the background noise of Scandal, the TV series.

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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?

Ana:

I like to write during the day, when the kids are away and the house is quiet (except for Scandal, of course).  However, I will write at any time the muse speaks and that means writing in the middle of the night sometimes.

JP_PDA_COVER.

 

ME: Why do you write for children?

 

Ana:

My initial motivation to start writing for children was a lack of Brazilian or Brazilian-American characters in the American children’s literature.  At least, I always had a hard time finding picture books featuring Brazil/Brazilians, except for a few books on Pelé.  That’s why I wrote The Sock Thief and a few other manuscripts portraying Brazilian characters.  Now, I write for children because I simply can’t stop.  I love it.  Of course, seeing a few more Brazilians in American books is always a plus.


ME: Ana, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?

Ana:

The best advice I have is to keep writing, keep reading, and keep LISTENING.  That’s right.  Listening is essential in a couple of ways.  It’s essential when you read your story aloud and try to figure out if the rhythm is there.  And it’s essential when it comes to critiques.  Certainly, you don’t have to follow every single suggestion your critique partners give you, but it’s crucial that you LISTEN to them and actually consider them.  When I was an Academic Advisor I used to tell my students that it’s easier to spot the careers you don’t like than the ones you do.  The fact is that knowing what you don’t want (and why) is just as important as knowing what you want (and why).  The suggestions you choose NOT to follow, will help you shape your story and understand what your goal is.  Of course, to be able to really LISTEN, you also need to be OPEN-MINDED, which happens to be great practice for when your manuscript is sold.

 

WOW…this has been fantastic…please join me in thanking Ana for sharing her heart and soul with us.

If you’d like to connect with her and learn more about her books: www.anacrespobooks.com.  You may also like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AnaCrespoBooks or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AnaCrespoBooks.

And now, for a very sweet ending…a very sweet recipe from Ana.

recipe pic

Brigadeiros are very common in Brazil.  You won’t find a birthday party or a wedding that doesn’t have brigadeiro.  When my daughter was about eight, we started a recipe book as a way to connect more.  One of the things we made together was brigadeiro.  Here is the recipe out of my daughter’s own recipe book (with a few tiny modifications):

 

Ingredients:

 

3 tablespoons of butter

 

2 cans of condensed milk

 

8 tablespoons of chocolate powder

 

Chocolate sprinkles (or sugar)

 

 

 

How to Make It:

 

Put the butter, the condensed milk, and the chocolate powder in a pan.  Use low heat.  Steer continuously until the mixture is thick enough that when you steer it, you can see the bottom of the pan (this may take around 20min).  Remove the pan from the heat.

 

Now, you have a few options.

 

  1. The most time-consuming option is to let the mixture cool down in the fridge and roll the brigadeiros, In this case, you should spread some butter on your hand (to avoid having the brigadeiro stick to it) and make 0.75-inch brigadeiro balls.  Then, you should roll the brigadeiro ball on the sprinkles and place it in a small cupcake-like paper-baking cup.  The brigadeiro is ready.  (I’m not sure where you can find those little paper cups.  Mine came from Brazil.)

 

 

 

  1. The other option would be to place the hot mixture in a small cup (expresso cups or shot glasses, for example).  Place the sprinkles on top of the mixture in each cup to make it look beautiful.  Put the cups in the fridge and let it cool down.  The brigadeiro is ready.

 

I’m definitely going to give this dessert a try!

Do you like to have your kids help prepare meals? Even little ones can do something, right? Bringing kids into the kitchen is a way to connect, as Ana said. And it’s also a way to help kids learn about the food they eat. More importantly, helping kids develop a skill like cooking also helps develop their self-esteem. Kids need to feel useful and capable…and cooking is an important life skill.

That’s why I used cooking activities in my Show Me How program. Which reminds me, I promised to give away a copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking to one of the newest subscribers of my email mail list.

AND THE WINNER IS:

Rita Antoinette

Thank you so much, Rita! I’ll be contacting you by email.

And thank you to all of my subscribers. Your loyalty is much appreciated.

I hope everyone has a beautiful weekend – stay safe and read lots of books! I’m on a mission to read some of the middle grade and young adult books I missed. Just finished The Miraculous Journey of Eduard Tulane (oh my gosh…the most wonderful book ever) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (so well written…I couldn’t put it down). And now I’m reading Howl’s Moving Castle.

What’s on your reading shelf this week?

Rebecca Gomez – Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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REBECCA GOMEZ

 

When I dove into the kid lit community a couple of years ago, one of first my role models, especially since I loved to write in rhyme, was Corey Rosen Schwartz. And she still is! Recently, I found out Corey and her co-author, Becky Gomez, have a new book that just came out in June. So when Becky agreed to participate in Will Write for Cookies, I did a happy dance.

 

Rebecca J. Gomez is the coauthor of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? , a picture book published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. She lives in Nebraska with her hubby, three kids, two poodles, and one parrotlet.

Parrotlet? I had to look that one up. It is a mini-parrot with a lot of personality. Sounds like a picture book mc to me.

I’m excited to welcome Becky. She’s got a lot to share with us so let’s get started.

 

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

 

Becky:


Oh gosh. This is hard to answer. We had a lot of Little Golden Books when I was a kid, probably because they were so affordable. I adored The Poky Little Puppy and The Monster at the End of this Book. But the name that jumped out at me when I saw this question was Shel Silverstein. His poems and drawings have been a part of my life since before I can remember. I’m sure he had something to do with my desire to write my own rhymes when as young as five! Dr. Seuss was a big one too, of course.

 

 

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

 

Becky:

You know, I almost answered this question, “How long and hard this journey was going to be!” But then I realized that not knowing how long and hard something is going to be is part of the adventure. I tell my kids often that if something is worth accomplishing, then it is worth the struggle it takes to get it done. And that is definitely true of this process, at least for me. Looking back, I don’t know if there is anything I would change to make it easier.

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But, something that I didn’t know right away, and that probably would have been a big encouragement to me when I first set out, is that so many of my favorite authors were rejected dozens of times before selling their first book. Rejections are just bumps in the road, but when you have enough of them together, they can make for pretty rough travel! That is part of every author’s journey though. And that thought is very encouraging!

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

 

Becky:

All of the above! Well, actually, I don’t own a laptop. But I do have a tablet and I use it in a pinch, like when I want to access a document on Google drive when I’m sitting in bed. 

 

I do love to draft by hand, though. With a mechanical pencil. In a composition notebook. Writing by hand in the early stages of a manuscript seems to help the words flow better for me than when I’m staring at a glowing screen. Plus, when I get stuck, I doodle in the margins. It’s very freeing! I can take a pencil and notebook anywhere–out on the deck, in the car on a road trip, to church (just in case!)–and it never has to be charged up. 

 

That said, I do have an official space in the corner of my family room where most of the “work” is done. I’d like to have a real office in the attic of an old house someday. I can dream, right?

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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?

Becky:

I am most productive in the morning, though that is primarily out of necessity. Because I work from home, I do most of my writing during the day. The kids are off to school most days by 7:30, which gives me time for my morning routine–prayer time, breakfast, tending the pets, a walk on the treadmill–and by 9:30 I am usually writing (between loads of laundry some days). Sometimes I stop around lunchtime. Other times I write until I have to leave to pick my son up from school. I think I do my best writing in my pajamas, which sometimes leads to me frantically pulling on jeans and a sweatshirt before I run out of the door! When summer vacation comes along, I try keeping a similar schedule, but it is much more “fluid.”

Of course there are exceptions. The muse is notorious for not sticking to a schedule. But that is what my handy dandy notebook is for!

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ME: Why do you write for children?

 

Becky:

Because I have to. Honestly. I’ve been a writer all my life. When I was a kid I wrote about childish things, and that hasn’t changed. Though I’ve written a few little things for adults, my writer brain doesn’t seem to want to grow up. As a reader, I prefer reading stories that are written for kids–picture books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, even poetry collections–so I guess it makes sense that those are the things I want to write.

 

I love words, and ever since I was very young I’ve loved stringing those words together to create poems and stories. And stories that are written for children just seem to be the purest and truest stories (and poems!) in the world. 

 

Plus, I love kids. I love the way they react to stories. The giggles and gasps, the oohs and ahs, the exclamations of “read it again!” That is pure magic.

ME: Becky, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?

Becky:

An important thing to remember as a writer is that it is okay to write crap. When I get a new story or poem idea, the most important thing for me is to get the story down on paper. I do my best work and have the most fun (usually) during the revision process. Even when I’m writing with my coauthor, Corey Rosen Schwartz, we try to get the bones of a story down before really giving it any meat or worrying about word choice and meter. It’s better to have something a little wonky to polish up than to try to make a story perfect from line one.

 

For writers of rhyme, my advice is to read lots and lots of rhyming picture books by lots of different authors. Read them aloud, to yourself and to kids. Note what works and what doesn’t. Read your own rhyming manuscripts aloud to yourself and to kids and to other adults, and ask some other adults to do the same. One of the things that helps Corey and me write fabulous rhyme together is that we live in different parts of the country, so we talk differently. Rhyme doesn’t always work the same for me as it does for her. So we are forced to make it work for both of us, which helps ensure that it will work for a wider range of readers. The truth is, there will almost always be some reader who stumbles on some part of a rhyming story no matter how perfect it is. But if you are willing to do the hard work, that will be less of an issue for you.

 

The most important thing is to have fun!

 

That is so important, Becky! I’m glad you mentioned that because, without the aspect of fun, we might as well do something else.

I know all of you want to join me in thanking Becky for sharing all of this writer-love!

If you’d like to connect with Becky or find out more about her book and her writing: www.rebeccajgomez.com

If you’d like to read the Perfect Picture Book Friday review I did yesterday: viviankirkfield.com/2015/08/14/perfect-picture-book-friday-what-about-moose

 

And there’s MORE! Becky is also sharing a yummy Gingersnap Cookie recipe.

Becky:

Here’s a recipe I like to bake when I want something different than the usual homemade chocolate chip.

Photo courtesy: http://www.jamesbeard.org/recipes/gingersnaps

beard-ginger-snaps-istock

Gingersnaps (from the Better Homes and Gardens (old) New Cookbook

These spicy-sweet treats are quick and easy.

 

2 1/4 cups flour

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup shortening or cooking oil

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 cup sugar

 

In a mixing bowl combine about half of the flour, the brown sugar, shortening, molasses, egg, baking soda and spices. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed till thoroughly combined. Beat in remaining flour.

 

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until set and tops are crackled. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen.

A million thanks, Becky! I’m a gingersnap fan—I will definitely try these.

I hope you all have a great weekend. Summer is winding down and school is starting in many places. Please be safe if you are traveling, have fun whether you are at home or away, and read lots of books!

Miranda Paul: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Miranda_Paul_Headshot_2015

MIRANDA PAUL

 

I met today’s Will Write for Cookies author a couple of years ago when I first discovered this incredible kid lit community. Friends told me about a website called RateYourStory that was run by a writer named Miranda Paul, where you could get a manuscript looked at by professionals – for free! I went, I saw, I fell in love…with the site, the service and Miranda herself. A passionate advocate for literacy and leader in the movement to encourage diversity in books, Miranda is a doer, not just a dreamer. She’s published more than 50 short stories for magazines and digital markets, and is the author of One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, and Water is Water. Both were named Junior Library Guild selections. She is kind and generous and loving and a super smart mentor!

I’m so happy to have her here to share her thoughts with us.

Welcome, Miranda!

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

 

Miranda:

Shel Silverstein, Lois Lowry, and Roald Dahl. But seeing as how I never grew up, I think my current favorites also apply to this question. There are too many to name, but Jacqueline Woodson, Kevin Henkes, Kat Yeh, and Kadir Nelson come to mind. Or maybe those are just the ones that have “k” sounds in their names…

One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul 

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