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Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

with crayon

GRETCHEN BRANDENBURG MCLELLAN

Gretchen is another writer I met in the Picture the Books 2017 group. Hurray for all of these wonderful stories that wonderful authors like Gretchen are bringing to life.  As a teacher and reading specialist, she delights in welcoming children into the magical world of reading.  As a book fairy, she enjoys slipping books under the pillows of readers that remind them of where they have been and take them to places they didn’t know they needed to go.   As a writer, she is excited about the coming publication of her picture books with Beach Lane and Peachtree. 

 Gretchen has lived on three continents and is an advocate for TCKs, Third Culture Kids, who grew up as global nomads, especially military brats like herself.  Children yearning for a home will find they belong in her picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. Gretchen has settled in Washington State, where she lives with her husband, cat and dog and celebrates when her three children come home.

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Dear friends…you are in for a treat with this Q&A! Please leave a comment at the end to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3.

 Welcome, Gretchen! Thank you so much for stopping by to visit with us.

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

 GRETCHEN:

I loved A.A. Milne in all the adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, and E.B.White’s Charlotte’s Web. I was a big-time Nancy Drew fan and had my own library with check out cards!

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

GRETCHEN:

I wish I had known that there is a writing Cupid.

So many factors need to fall into place to ultimately publish—factors that are out of a writer’s control. Rejection doesn’t mean that a story is unpublishable. It means that fickle Cupid was busy doing other matchmaking when the submission was read. Cupid needs to pierce the heart of the right editor at the right time with the right space on her list in the right company that will be so smitten with the story that they’ll find it a worthwhile investment. It’s all about love. And money. The publisher must believe that Cupid will strike the heart of the reading public and that they will put up cash to possess the book. 

Those are a lot of variables that a writer has no control over. All a writer can do is write, improve her craft, write, read, and write and read some more, and strive to get her work in Cupid’s quiver by going to conferences to make connections with agents and editors who are open to submissions. This involves a lot that is out of the comfort zone of most of us introverts. Cupid may strike during your open mike reading! All in all, the writer must persevere.

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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?

GRETCHEN:

I started writing for children when my own children were young  and continued while I worked full time as a reading specialist during their school years. I learned to snatch writing time wherever I could–in the car, in barns, on sports fields, even in the bathtub! Now that I am not multitasking so much, I really enjoy working in coffee shops with the happy hum of people around me. I’m not a picky superstitious  writer. I’ll write on anything, with any instrument, at any time. I’m messy and so is my process.   

kids in hard hats

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?

GRETCHEN:

I don’t follow a schedule. Maybe when I get organized….

ME: Why do you write for children?

GRETCHEN:

Writing for kids is one pure, unquestionable YES in my life. 

When I became a mother, one of the unexpected gifts was my reentry into the world of children’s literature. First, I fell totally in love with beauty and power and form of the picture book.  As a young mother and as a teacher, I was overwhelmed by what I and my children discovered in the experience of sharing picture books together.  We cherished our reading time. We bonded through laughter and tears and wonder. Reading was at the heart of how we lived and grew.

Frost wrote of poems that they begin in delight, but end in wisdom. So do most picture books. If the book is of any importance it will end in wisdom—often so profound that I am moved to tears.  The delight of a picture book is not just in the reading, but in the writing as well.  When a picture book idea arrives, it often comes with a shiver of excitement—a delight so surprising and vital that it carries me along on the magic carpet ride of creation from the beginning to the middle to the end—to story.

As my children grew, so did my love of easy readers and middle grade fiction and YA. Each genre gave me glimpses of myself and literary experiences I wish I had had as a child. Each genre gave me a bit of home I never had, and a sense of belonging I craved. In my own work, I hope I can give children and their adult readers opportunities to see themselves and their lives in my stories, to find a home too. I am particularly committed to making a room for children who have grown up as Third Culture Kids, especially military kids such as myself.

with kids

ME: Gretchen…this is fabulous. I love your focus on Third Culture Kids. And I love all that you shared with us, especially about how Cupid must pierce the heart of the editor who looks at our manuscript. I believe that is true!

And now for one of the sweetest parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

GRETCHEN:

The book birthday party for Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, I wanted the treats to be thematically related to my story—about the bittersweet. Mrs. McBee helps the kids in her classroom label their mixed emotions about the end of the school year. “Children, this is called a bittersweet moment. It’s like swirly ice cream with happy and sad twisted together. We’re sad about saying good-bye, but we’re happy about what’s ahead.” So my cookies are twisty ice cream cones, of course!\

cookie pic1

Basic Sugar Cookies—you can use your favorite. This is mine:

Whisk or sift in a bowl and set aside:

         2 and 3/4 cups unbleached flour

         1 teaspoon baking powder

         ½ teaspoon salt

In a mixer bowl beat:

         ¾ cup soft butter

And add:

         1 cup sugar

         2 eggs

         1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat until fluffy, then add the flour mixture

Chill for at least 1 hour

Roll on floured board to desired thickness

Cut into your favorite shapes. I used a pastry cutter to make the diagonal lines on my cones before baking.

Bake on parchment paper for easy cleanup or on a greased cookie sheet  for 8-10 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven, until a pale brown.

Cool and frost with your favorite frosting.

I used Butter Cream Frosting for my swirls:

¼ cup butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

4-6 tablespoons scalded cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Powdered sugar

Beat until creamy. For a two-toned effect, divide frosting into two equal parts. Add 2 tablespoons cocoa for chocolate—or more.  Add the same quantity of powdered sugar to the vanilla to have equal consistency for swirling. You could use food coloring and other flavors as well!

Use a split pastry bag designed for swirls to decorate your ice cream cones! Enjoy!

cookie pic 2

WOW! These would be perfect for any kid’s party! Thanks so much, Gretchen.

Thanks to all of you for stopping by today. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend…don’t sit on any of those eggs the Easter bunny has left.

Linda Whalen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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LINDA WHALEN

 

I first met Linda in the Picture the Books 2017 group…what an awesome array of authors and illustrators! I’m thrilled with the quality of books that are debuting this year!

Linda Whalen lives with her husband on a plot of land in Northern California. Born a city kid, she married a farm boy from the mid-west and fell in love with country life.  Surrounded by family, pets and bunches of wild creatures, life is never dull. After working in, and then owning her own child-care facility, Linda is now pursing her passion of writing for children. She also enjoys time spent with her art supplies.

Maybe Linda will one day illustrate her own stories…we’ll have to ask if that is a goal of hers.

Just a reminder that Linda is giving away give a copy of LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY. If you want to see my review of it, click here. Make sure you leave a comment below. And if you haven’t already joined my email list, please click on the sidebar logo. I promise not to send you any junk…just good stuff.

 And now, let’s give a big Will Write for Cookies welcome to Linda!

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

 LINDA:

There were no funds for books in our household when I was growing up. But I did get an understanding that books were important because my mother had a set of The Book of Knowledge that were very dear to her and I wasn’t allowed to touch them. She also had a book that was a collection of children’s stories which she read to me occasionally. I still have that book and read it to my children often. When I was eleven she bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia and I loved flipping the pages and reading about all sorts of things outside of my little world. I still have the set and every yearbook that goes with it. The fact that someone actually wrote what I was reading didn’t sink in until I was a teenager.

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Once I started reading books I couldn’t get enough of them. To quote my husband in our early years of marriage, “you always have your nose stuck in a book.” He’s used to it now.

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

LINDA:

Gag the internal editor! I was like so many new authors who think that the words you put on that blank piece of paper had to be perfect in every way until at a conference, I heard a speaker say “write crap, then edit.” It took a while for it to sink in but it really does release the creative side of writing to just let go and write what comes to mind. Believe me there is a lot of editing going on when I’m done.  Then there’s editing after critique and editing after the sale. So just let go and go with the flow on the first draft.

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?

LINDA:

I resisted writing on anything electronic. I love the feel of a pencil in my hand however, I’m much faster on the computer and can get the words down in a hurry. When writing by hand I sometimes have a hard time reading my own writing when I’ve rushed to get an idea down. Now I do both. I print out what I write electronically, grab a pencil and cuddle up somewhere to read and tear apart what I’ve written. I never clean my car or purse out completely, I need those scraps of paper to scribble down ideas when I get them.  Of course, I do pull over and stop if I’m in driving. On retreat or vacation when life isn’t whizzing by I like to write outside if my allergies will let me. I’ve found the balcony of a cruise ship is wonderful place to let your mind go where it wants. However, that doesn’t happen often so wherever I can find the time and space, I write.

workspace

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?

LINDA:

I’m working on setting aside a specific time to write (like a job…eek!) My life is way too crazy for that but I’m trying. If I haven’t taken the time to write for a while I get a little itchy to do so, it’s the same way with art. My daughter has said to me, “Mom, I think you need to go write something.” Maybe I get a little grumpy when I ignore my creative me. So, I guess I prefer letting the muse strike.

art space

ME: Why do you write for children?

LINDA:

Children have always been a big part of my life both personally and professionally.  I love reading stories to children and seeing their emotions dance through their eyes as they listen. What better way to connect with that dance than to write the words.

 Words written to bring joy, warmth, spark the imagination, sooth, and teach while entertaining young minds, cross all boundaries of color, gender, or wealth.

My husband while not an avid reader read bedtime stories to our children and often the words would spark his imagination and he would go off script and weave other elements into the story. While the author might not appreciate this, I think getting a reluctant reader to read stories to children is a great way to spark their imagination and interest to read more.

WOW! Linda…I love your reasons! And I know everyone joins me in thanking you for sharing those insights.

And now for one of my favorite parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

cookies

Coconut –Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. butter

1 C. brown sugar

3 eggs (well beaten)

2 C. Flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 C. shredded coconut

2 C. oats

1 C. chopped nuts (optional)

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
  2. Add eggs. Mix well
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamons.
  4. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture blending well.
  5. Add coconut, oats and nuts.
  6. Drop rounded tablespoons on greased cookie sheet.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Now, that’s what I call an oatmeal cookies that begs to be eaten! Dear friends, to find out more about Linda:

Website: http://www.lindawhalenauthor.com

Twitter:  @lindacwhalen

FB: Linda Whalen

LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY on Amazon

book cover

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY.

And a BIG thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word about the #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenge. Don’t know about it yet? Click on the link in the sidebar to get all the details…or email me at viviankirkfield@gmail.com…it’s going to be AWESOME!

 

Have a beautiful weekend, dear friends. Anything special planned? Our son is flying in from Chicago on Sunday to spend the night because he has a business meeting in Boston on Monday. Yippee! We love spending time with him!

Will Write for Cookies: Duncan Tonatiuh PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

DUNCAN TONATIUH

This summer I attended the WOW Retreat in Georgia. One of the most compelling presentations was from the incredible Duncan Tonatiuh. Lucky me…he was also one of my Round Table mentors. You can imagine how thrilled I was when he said he’d been willing to participate in Will Write for Cookies.

 Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is an award-winning author-illustrator. He is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, especially children, nowadays.

p-and-w

I want to remind everyone that there will be a giveaway of a copy of Duncan’s newest book, The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanos (click here to read my Perfect Picture Book Friday review). Please stick with us throughout the post and then leave a comment at the end.

Welcome, Duncan! We are so very happy to have you here.

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

 DUNCAN:

 I remember reading and really liking Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I also remember liking a book in Spanish called Macario by B. Traven. When I was about eight years old, I really enjoyed the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I read all the ones they had in my school library.

In terms of illustration I was really into comic books and anime. That is what got me interested in drawing. I collected Spider-Man and X-Men comics and I would watch a cartoon about warriors called Knights of the Zodiac and another one about soccer called Captain Tsubasa.

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

DUNCAN:       

It takes time to build a career. When I was first getting started as an author-illustrator, I also taught, tutored, painted houses, walked dogs, baby sat and did other odd jobs to make ends meet. It was frustrating at times to take on certain jobs because I had to, not because I was passionate about them. As I published more books though, more people became familiar with my work. I started to receive more recognition for it. Nowadays I dedicate myself to writing and illustrating full time and I am able to support my family doing so. I feel very lucky that I get to do something I love for a living.

 funny-bones

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?

DUNCAN:

I like to write with a pen on a notebook before I type on the computer. My favorite place to write is the library, but often times I find myself writing on a bus or a plane.

pancho-rabbit

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?

DUNCAN:

I am definitely a night person and I get most of my writing and drawing done at that time. When I am able to, I like riding my bike to the library in the morning. I like to write and draw there for a few hours. In the afternoon, I type out what I wrote and I scan my drawings so I can start revising my work.

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ME: Why do you write for children?

DUNCAN:

I want children of color, especially Latinx children, to see themselves in books. There is a very small number of books where they can do that. I want them to feel proud of who they are. I hope my books help them know that their culture and their voices are important.

 dear-primo

I also want non-Latinx children to engage with my books. I think that when kids learn about people different than themselves they realize that we are all more alike than different regardless of our skin color, religion, physical abilities or sexual preference. If children learn about and care about people different than themselves through books, they are less likely to be afraid of others or have prejudices towards them when they are adults.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Duncan! And books like yours DO help! Thank you so very much for participating in Will Write for Cookies…this was so much fun!

 To find out more about Duncan and his amazing books or get in touch with him:

Website: http://www.duncantonatiuh.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DuncanTonatiuharte

Twitter: https://twitter.com/duncantonatiuh

And now for the sweet treat that ends all of our Will Write for Cookies posts. Duncan wanted to share his favorite Ria cookie made with walnuts, sunflower seeds, and chocolate…plus other deliciousness…the cookie is made by his cousins who own the fabulous Sweet Poppy in Hudson, NY…but unfortunately, the recipe cannot be shared…HOWEVER, I urge you to check out their Facebook page and if you live in the area, please give them a call and order some. https://www.facebook.com/sweetpoppyhudson/

sweet-poppy

But we knew that everyone wanted something special for the holidays. I found a traditional Mexican wedding cookie recipe to share…and believe me, you won’t want to wait for a wedding to make and eat these…they are PERFECT for the holidays! Many thanks to Bernie at AllRecipes.

mexican-wedding-cookiesPhoto courtesy: http://allrecipes.com/recipe

They are as easy as 1, 2, 3. You will need: 1 cup butter, ½ cup white sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 tsp water, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup chopped almonds, ½ cup confectioner’s sugar.

  1. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and water. Add the flour and almonds, mix until blended. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Shape dough into balls or crescents. Place on an unprepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from pan to cool on wire racks. When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Find complete details on ingredients and instructions here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15542/mexican-wedding-cookies/

 

And now, dear friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Duncan’s book. Why not share the title of your favorite folktale?  

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…please don’t forget…Susanna Hill has posted the FINALISTS FOR THE HOLIDAY WRITING CONTEST…hop on over and read the 12 stories and VOTE for your favorite.

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