Category Archives: book giveaway

VIVIANE ELBEE: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway


Plate of Cookies




Viviane Headshot


Even though the first manuscript I sold has taken a long time to become a book, I’m a great believer in seeing the silver lining in every cloud. And this particular cloud had an incredibly valuable silver lining – I got to join the debut picture book groups of 2017 and 2018. And it was in the Epic Eighteen group that I met today’s lovely guest.

Viviane Elbee always keeps her eyes open for giraffes on the ski slopes because she’s sure she’ll spot one someday. When not looking for giraffes, Viviane has all kinds of adventures with her family, both at home in the Carolinas and abroad. TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI is Viviane’s first picture book. Visit her online at

I’ve had my eye on Viviane’s career for years…after all, we ALMOST share the same name…and it’s kind of fun to see your name in print, even when it’s not you! And when I heard the title of her debut picture book and read it, I knew I wanted to feature it on my blog and invite her to stop by to chat with us.

ME: Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Viviane! Thank you for stopping by to chat and for donating a copy of your wonderful new picture book as a giveaway!


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

VIVIANE: I have a fond memory of the librarian reading THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats to us during story time, and feeling the magic of finding your town blanketed in snow.

In elementary school I remember buying Judy Bloom and Beverly Cleary books at school book fairs (SUPERFUDGE, TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING  & RAMONA). I would read and re-read them and was always looking for more books by them at the library. I also loved Ann Martin’s BABY-SITTERS CLUB books, and classics like CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

In middle school I started reading the CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR series by Jean M. Auel. (These are YA books and I still love them.)  

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

VIVIANE: I wish I had known the importance of being a prolific writer. Quality matters, but since you never know what will sell, quantity matters too. When I decided to start writing picture books, I spent the first three years working on one picture book manuscript.  I strive to be more prolific now, and am so grateful for the encouragement & support I get from Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 community. To push myself to be more prolific, I aim to write 12 new rough drafts a year. However, I only polish a handful a year because revisions and edits still take me a long time. Hopefully one day I will be faster at this.

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

VIVIANE I love to write in a notebook with a pen – especially pretty pens with fun ink colors like turquoise and purple. I write both outdoors and indoors, but my favorite writing moments are when I meet up with a writing buddy at the nearby Barnes & Noble. We drink coffee, help each other find words & sentences, and feel inspired, surrounded by wonderful books. We meet once a month. I also make handwritten dummy books using sticky notes on the different pages because it’s easy to swap out pages if I decide to change something. Afterwards I transfer what I’ve written into the computer.

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

VIVIANE: I write well in the morning and during the day. After dinner my brain usually feels too frazzled to write, but it’s a great time to read. Once in a while a great story idea emerges in the middle of the night when I’m dreaming. I will try to shake myself awake and scribble the thought down in my bedside notebook. Sometimes this works. Other times my middle-of-the-night notes don’t make any sense!

ME: Why do you write for children?

VIVIANE: Children are so wonderfully curious, imaginative, inspirational and fun-loving. I love it when I’m reading books to the kids and they giggle the whole way through, or when their eyes light up during a certain scene. When we’re reading non-fiction books, they’ll ask great questions like “Why was this happening?” Kids also make the funniest and most random comments about books. Just recently I was reading a sweet picture book to a group of kids, and at the end of the book, one of the kids said, “I like it! But it is not a guns and glory book.” I laughed so hard. I have never read a guns and glory picture book for kids 8 and under. I wonder what funny comments kids will make about my debut book, TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI. Hopefully, they’ll smile and giggle!

ME: 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. 

VIVIANE: If TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI motivates your children to ski, and you want a ski instructor to teach them, I recommend researching the ski lessons at ski resorts in advance. Some resorts have “ski schools” for kids and include ski rentals, lift tickets, snacks/lunches & lessons in their prices. For some ski schools, it’s best to book in advance.

For aspiring writers: joining professional organizations like SCBWI and 12×12 was one of the most helpful things I did for my career. I’d recommend joining professional writing organizations specialized in your genre.

ME: Viviane…WOW…thank you so very much. I love your insights and tips…and I loved learning more about you…I, too, am a CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR fan. I read every book in that series…and then I fell in love with Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series. And, having seen your cookies recipe, I think I now have a third love! Can you tell us about this recipe?

VIVIANE: I love cookies, but I also try to teach the kids about healthy eating. When I read about how oatmeal and oat-bran can help lower bad cholesterol, I searched for a “healthy” oat-bran cookie recipe. The first time I made these Oat-Bran Raisin cookies, the kids and I thought they were so delicious we started recommending them to others. I also baked some to give to an uncle. He was convinced that oat-bran was only for horses and he was scared to try a cookie. However, after tasting them, he ended up going back for a second and third cookie – and the next day, they were all gone.

If your kids don’t like raisins, you can try chocolate chips and/or nuts.


Oat-bran raisin cookies

These cookies are crunchy and since we like them crispy, we tend to bake them a few minutes longer than what the recipe calls for.

Ingredients (Makes about 18 cookies):

  • 1 cup oat-bran
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (you can use gluten-free all-purpose flour, or regular flour)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup raisins


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the oat bran, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  3. Beat in the egg and oil until the mixture forms a sticky dough.
  4. Add the raisins and mix well.
  5. Use a tablespoon to measure one “cookie” of dough and plop it on a non-stick baking tray, leaving space between cookies because the dough will expand a bit.
  6. Bake for approx. 16 minutes until the edges turn golden. (If you like crispy cookies, bake it a few extra minutes.) Remove cookies from the oven and let them cool for 10-15 minutes before moving to prevent them from crumbling.
  7. Store at room temperature in a sealed container when not eating.

YUM! Definitely a recipe to try out!

I know we are all clapping for Viviane’s Q&A. I think she made a really great observation that it’s important to be  prolific…and challenges like 12×12 really work. I think I was very lucky because as soon as I made the decision to write picture books, Julie Hedlund was forming the first 12×12 challenge. I joined and have been aspiring to write 12 picture book drafts every year since then.

 If you’d like a chance to win a copy of TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI, please leave a comment. 

If you live where the foliage bursts into glory during the fall, please make sure you get out this weekend because the leaves are dropping quickly and all too soon, the trees will be wearing snowy crowns.

Stay safe, dear friends. And happy reading and writing!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, my friends. The mailbox has been a flurry of awesome activity this week…lots of new picture books! And since this one is launching in just a couple of days, I wanted to share it with you. PLUS, the author, Viviane Elbee, will be stopping by tomorrow to chat on Will Write for Cookies AND she is offering a copy of her debut picture book for a giveaway!



Written by Viviane Elbee

Illustrated by Danni Gowdy

Publlished by Albert Whitman (November 1, 2018)

Ages: 3-6

Themes: Facing fears, friendship

Opening lines: “Uh-oh. It’s snowing and your giraffe wants you to teach her to ski.”


What do you do when your giraffe wants to learn how to ski—but she wants to go down the big scary slope and you are NOT a fan of skiing even on the bunny slope? As the boy tries to control his giraffe and lead her to safer spots, he learns something about courage along the way and the reader learns about ski slope etiquette and the rudiments of skiing.

Why I like this book:

  • The illustrations are absolutely adorable as humans and animals strap on skis and share the slopes.
  • Kids will love the story…so over the top hilarious, but with important underlying messages of friendship and facing fears.
  • I enjoyed the larger typeface and I think beginning readers will be encouraged to try to read this themselves.


Paper Plate Giraffe

giraffe craftPhoto courtesy:

Paper plates are one of my favorite classic craft materials. For detailed instructions:

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. And come back tomorrow when we chat with Viviane Elbee about her writing journey.

I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be at a local apple orchard with my grandson. Whatever you are doing, stay safe, and remember that authors need our support. Leaving a review, on Amazon, Goodreads, or other review sites, can really give a boost to the potential success of your favorite book!




Beth Anderson: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway


Plate of Cookies




Beth Anderson head shot hi res


I first met today’s guest in June 2014 when I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books. I fell in love with writing nonfiction…and so did Beth Anderson. We enjoyed critiquing together then…and we still do.

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same.

Welcome, Beth! Thanks for stopping by. I’m so excited for your debut picture book, AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. And I know you have more books in the pipeline…but for today, let’s find out a little more about you and your writing journey.

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

BETH: I don’t have a recollection of favorite authors or illustrators. I know the first book I bought with my own money (as recorded in my baby book, I have no memory of this) was Children of the World – which is interesting when you consider I became an ESL teacher! I remember The Cat in the Hat Came Back, a book of poems, and a book of Bennett Cerf’s riddles. (What’s black and white and red all over?) I was always checking out biographies and Nancy Drew books from the library. My mom also read to us each night from thick classics like Pinocchio and Winnie the Pooh. 

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

BETH: I wish I knew (and still wish I knew) more about the process of creating picture books! But in general, things unfolded as I was ready, so I don’t know if I’d change a whole lot. Sometimes if you know the road is littered with potholes and bumps and detours and barriers, you’re afraid to step out on the journey. There is so much information available now online that it’s immensely easier than when I took my first crack at writing for kids years ago. The most valuable bit of info now is knowing that there are endless resources for learning available.

inconvenient alphabet

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

BETH: I’ve claimed the study as my writing room where I have easy access to shelves of books, drawers of files, and the current pile of research. Sticking with one spot helps my focus – except that I can look out the window and watch the world go by. Initially, I use pencil and spiral to organize and make lots of notes. (See my post on how I organize HERE. I’ve found it’s really beneficial to brainstorm by hand. When I start drafting, it all goes on the laptop. At various points in the process, I print out a one-sided copy and start marking it up by hand with highlighters and notes. I like to be able to lay out the entire story and see how sections balance, where different plot points fall, where repetitions hit, identify page breaks, the conflict points, the emotional arc, etc. I think it helps to see the story in different formats.

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

BETH: I’m my best creative self in the morning. So as soon as I exercise and eat breakfast, I’m at it. Once in a while an idea hits when I’m about to fall asleep, so I have pencil and paper on the night stand. But I’ve learned that I shouldn’t work on a manuscript in the evening, or it will torture me all night. Most days, at least Monday through Friday, I’m researching, drafting, or revising. But now that I have a book coming out, there are some days that I’m working on other related tasks.

ME: Why do you write for children?

BETH: I’ve had the “someday” of writing for children in the back of my mind for a very long time. Finally, as I prepared to retire from teaching, that idea came out of hiding. When my students asked me what I was going to do, I admitted I’d always wanted to write for kids. Seeing their excitement gave me the encouragement I needed to give it a try. Also, they made me feel accountable. How could I tell them to chase their “somedays” if I wasn’t willing to?

But as to why I’m drawn to narrative nonfiction…it all comes from my years as an ESL teacher using literature to teach content as well as language. I saw the lightbulbs go on and heard the reactions. I watched wonder creep over a child’s face and listened to questions that came forth. I got to see the power of story to connect kids to their world, open minds, and inspire learning. My goal is to be a part of that.

Interior BF letters public

Jumping off from there, I’d say a story can teach us all something different, something we need. Certainly as a writer, I get multiple lessons, about life as well as writing, with every manuscript as I connect to the characters and learn from their experiences. With An Inconvenient Alphabet, the lingering idea gleaned from Ben Franklin was to let your ideas “take their chance in the world.” Once that book is out in the world, others will largely determine its success. But I’ll continue to learn from the experience.

ME: How about some thoughts for aspiring authors?

BETH: One of the most difficult things for any of us is to put our ideas out there and risk reactions that are not positive. When I started this kid lit endeavor, I couldn’t use the word “writer” about myself. When I got over that hurdle, I struggled with “author.” There seemed to be “requirements” I wasn’t sure I met. Am I a writer if no one reads what I write? Am I an author if my story is in my drawer? But…if we keep it to ourselves, no one will ever read that story in the drawer. We’ll never make the connections we desperately need to move ourselves forward. My first public “confession” that I was diving into this came at a weavers’ guild meeting, and lo and behold, I met a local author who told me how to connect with the kid lit community in the area. So…you just never know…one thing leads to another…a chance.

Thank you so much, Beth. I loved this entire Q&A…but I know that for me, your organizational tips will be so very helpful…I can’t wait to visit the link you provided!

And, my friends, Beth has provided something else just as sweet…her favorite treat recipe! Take it away, Beth!


Peach Cobbler

I got this recipe from a dear friend when we lived in Georgia, land of peaches. It’s fabulous!

¾ C. flour

2 C sugar (I cut down to justify eating more. Usually put ¾ c. into batter and ¼ to ½ c. with fruit.)

2 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¾ stick butter/margarine

¾ C milk

2 C. sliced peaches (be generous)

Melt butter or margarine in 8×8 pan (I use microwave, glass pan).

Combine flour, 1 C (or less) sugar, baking powder, milk, salt.

Mix peaches and 1 cup (or less) sugar.

Pour batter into the melted butter in pan. DO NOT MIX.

Dump peaches into batter (distribute evenly). DO NOT MIX.

Bake ~1 hour @ 350’ – you want a golden crusty top.

Oh my goodness…that sounds amazing! Thanks so much, Beth. I wonder how many people are going to try this…looks like the perfect dessert for company.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.  Have a safe and happy weekend, my friends. 


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