Category Archives: Cookie recipe

SHERRY HOWARD: Will Write for Cookies PLUS PB Critique Giveaway


Plate of Cookies






I met today’s guest in and around the online kid lit community several years ago. We belonged to many of the same Facebook groups and participated in many of the same writing challenges. She was thoughtful and helpful and knew what she was talking about. And now I’m thrilled she is here today!

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. During her career in education, she served as a middle school principal in one of the largest metro school districts in the US; she and cat-herders share many common skills. Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. She credits her ability to write a complete sentence in English to her training in classical Latin. Now her picture books and chapter books are arriving through Clear Fork Publishing. She also writes for the educational market.

ME: Welcome, Sherry! Thank you for stopping by to chat with us. I know you have a lot to share!

SHERRY: Thanks for having me, Vivian! It’s so fun to go down memory lane to try to answer these!

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

SHERRY: My childhood was so long ago that I’m not sure I remember my favorite books! Every Saturday, or so it seems, Mom or Dad piled seven (guessing it was never really all of us) kids into the car and went to the library. We were allowed five books each, and had to keep them stacked up on the high piano so they weren’t lost in the house.

I don’t remember owning a lot of picture books when we were children. But, I remember loving them, and still search collectible book stores trying to find copies of the few I remember. I remember a book I loved: Snip, Snapp, Snurr and the Red Shoes. And the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka books were all favorites. These series are older than I am, so I’m guessing our library wasn’t well-stocked. I have no idea why I was obsessed with these triplets books—maybe because my siblings and I were so close in age, and I felt like a triplet for a while. I wonder why these stick in my memory, but they do. I never felt deprived by not having a lot of books to own when I was little because both Mom and Dad were storytellers and entertainers. Besides, I had six siblings! There was never a dull moment.

The newspaper was also golden in my home! On Sunday mornings, before church, nine people piled into the bed and shared stories and comics from the paper.

I don’t think any of us in my family stayed with picture books long. We all read super early, and moved on to longer things, often entertaining ourselves with old sets of encyclopedias. I read novels that were way too adult for me at super early ages, but no one ever censored my reading. I always considered Little Women my one true story, but that, of course was after picture books!

When I was a kid, you’d find me curled up with a book sometimes, but there was always too much activity to read for long.

book cover

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

SHERRY: I wish I’d kept better records from the start—I understand now that it’s fun to remember the origin of a story idea once its published. I wish I’d understood how hard the picture book is to do well—I still don’t know all there is to know there. Just when I think I’m pretty solid, I learn something new!

I wish I’d known more about what a supportive, welcoming community the kidlit world is.

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

SHERRY: Because I’m disabled, I do a lot of writing lying down. I use my iPad and special pens that write when you’re lying down. I’ve said more than once that the iPad changed my writing life. I can’t sit at a computer for long periods, but the iPad goes anywhere—I always have two of them charged and rotating.

I love to be on my big front porch. I’ve decided next summer to make a “bed” out there for writing. I’ve saved a picture of what I want it to look like.

I have a wonderful desk, but use it for storing works-in-progress. I’m more likely to sit in an open area, like the kitchen table. I enjoy being in the middle of chaos when I work. I think it’s that big family thing—not fond of quiet. The exception to all of this is novel revision. That takes a completely intense mindset for me, and I’ll schedule that around quiet in the house.

inner spread

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

SHERRY: All of the above. I do a lot of writing in the middle of the night. I don’t sleep through the night, so I’ll write instead of tossing and turning. I have the luxury of not having too much rigidity in schedule, and that helps. I find it easy to chat with friends all around the world because I sleep so little. As I think about my answers I sound pretty eccentric, but I’m really not!

ME: Why do you write for children?

SHERRY: I LOVE children! It’s that simple. I had to retire as a school principal really young after an injury that sidelined me. I have to stay connected to children. Writing for them is a wonderful way to do that. I know how much reading meant in my life, that thirst for seeing other families, other cities, other worlds. Remember, I read encyclopedias for fun!

sherry presentation

I’m also thrilled to be working on a work-for-hire project that’s really special to me: high interest/low reading level. When I started teaching middle school, there were NO BOOKS of interest for my kids, especially the boys! They thirsted to read something they’d enjoy, but there wasn’t much out there. So, it’s such a privilege to be able to work on that project!

I’d write even if nothing of mine ever got published. Everything I write pushes from inside my heart to get out for one reason or another—something I’ve learned about life that I can share through a story. My family has roots in the Appalachian mountains, where storytellers abound. I think I have a storyteller gene!

ME: That’s fabulous, Sherry! And do you have any words of wisdom for other writers?

SHERRY: Here’s my advice, and it’s to everybody in the writing community. Reach down—give a hand up! Don’t be so focused on your own goals that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Find a writer or illustrator who could learn from you. Adopt them. Do whatever you can to support their upward movement. Do it even if you don’t have time. Don’t ever be too busy to be kind, and offer help. I’ve had some fabulous mentors along the way, and they mean the world to me! I hope to always pay it forward. In this breath, I have to mention Mira Reisberg as my vision of that helping hand. Mira, my own fabulous art director and editor at Clear Fork Publishing as well as the founding instructor at Children’s Book Academy, does so much of this. Behind the scenes of her classes, she is always at work helping others rise!

ME: Oh my goodness! That is such wonderful advice, Sherry. And I agree about how helpful Mira is…I took one of her classes and have enjoyed seeing many of her webinar presentations…and I’m so excited that I’m going to get to meet her in person at the Australia/NZ SCBWI conference in Sydney next February.

I know we are all applauding for Sherry’s stellar insights. She says she loves to connect with other readers and writers, so here is her social media contact info:

Sherry Howard | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Meet Kuda and Rock and Roll Woods here.

 And our sweet guest is not leaving without sharing a sweet treat with us! Take it away, Sherry!

SHERRY: This is one of the easiest recipes ever, but is a family favorite. It’s best served warm with whipped cream or ice cream. I’ve made it for my family for more years than I want to count.


Here’s the news on the pie crust—with this particular pie, a frozen pie crust works well. Since it’s like a giant chocolate chip cookie, the crust is more of a vessel, than a culinary delight. So, use your favorite crust recipe, or purchase a nice quality frozen shell. Mix the listed ingredients together, pour into a frozen shell, and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour.

recipe photo

Derby Pie

Ingredients to mix together:

1 cup sugar

½ cup flour

Stir together, and add to flour/sugar mixture:

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ lb margarine (I use butter) melted and cooled

Stir in these last ingredients:

6unces semi-sweet chocolate pieces

1 cup nuts (I use pecans because I like that taste.)

1teaspoon vanilla or whiskey (This is bourbon country.)

WHOA NELLIE! THIS is the recipe I’ve been waiting for to make for the holidays…I’m a sucker for pecan pie…so I will definitely use pecans for the nuts.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway of a picture book critique from the fabulous Sherry!

It’s November, my friends…the year will be gone before we know it and we’ll be in 2019…how did that happen? Wishing you all a safe and happy weekend.


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!

AMBER HENDRICKS: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Critique Giveaway


Plate of Cookies




updated author


Hello everyone! You are in for a treat today! It’s always such fun to chat with authors who are friends and critique partners – even I learn more about them during the Q&A.

Amber grew up reading everything she could get her hands on, including the morning cereal boxes. That passion melded into writing, and by the age of 11 she was writing and binding her own “books.” Over the years, Amber has worn many hats. Those include army wife, mother, visual merchandiser, certified pharmacy technician, and childcare professional. But she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories. SOPHIE AND LITTLE STAR is her first book for children.

To learn more about Amber and her writing:

Facebook, Twitter, Publisher website

Okay…so there you go! I just learned that Amber also read cereal boxes! I wonder how many other people do that? I’m so thrilled you stopped by today, my friend. Thank you for offering a pb critique as a giveaway…I can attest to the fact that your feedback is fabulous!

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

AMBER: I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, outside of Dr. Seuss. What I do remember is the feeling I would get when I held a book. A magical feeling that I was about to go on an incredible adventure and discover amazing new people and places I could only visit in my imagination. I still get that feeling every time I hold a book!


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

AMBER: So many things! But one of the important lessons I learned was that publishing takes a very long time. Patience in publishing is a must! There will always be something you’re waiting for: responses to submissions, that new shiny idea, your book to release….  Once I learned to accept and embrace the waiting, I was able to enjoy the process even more and turn my focus onto writing something new.

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

AMBER: My laptop sits atop my fireplace mantle, so I write standing up! Standing gives me the freedom to pace around if I’m working through a particularly tough scene or if I want to grab another book for reference. After so many years of standing, I couldn’t imagine writing at a desk.

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

AMBER: I have two young children and work a full time job, so it is almost impossible to find time during the day to write. Often, you’ll find me typing away in the late evenings after the kids have gone to bed and all the chores have been done. Though sometimes an idea or perfect line will pop into my mind in the middle of the night!

Writing area

ME: Why do you write for children?

 AMBER: I think there is a certain magic in introducing a child to the love of reading. When I first got the idea to pursue publishing, I thought I’d write Young Adult novels. But I was running a preschool/daycare at the time and picture books were a huge part of our day. I began to see the complexity in those seemingly simple stories and challenged myself to give picture books a try. I fell head-over-heels in love. Four years later, I’m still honing that craft!

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

AMBER: To aspiring writers…… Publishing is full of ups and downs. There is no magic formula. Writing will always be hard, and will most likely get harder as you push yourself to learn more and hone your craft. The good news?  We belong to an amazing community of like-minded people who will lift you up and encourage you along the way. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep learning. You CAN do this!

ME: WOW! Thank you so much, Amber. I love your advice…yes, definitely, there is no magic formula…although you’ve laid out the steps that must be taken: Keep Reading! Keep Writing! Keep Learning! 

I wonder if anyone else is amazed that Amber writes standing up…that is probably a great idea for the back…no bending over and rounding of the spine!  I just may have to try it! And something else I may have to try…Amber’s Mom’s No Bake Cookie! Take it away, Amber.

AMBER: I’m not the best baker, but my mom is and she makes a mean No Bake Cookie!

No Bake Cookies



2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

½ cup butter

¼ cup cocoa

3 cups quick oats

½ cup peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt


Melt ½ cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Add sugar, milk, and cocoa and mix well.

Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until peanut butter is melted.

Combine oats and salt and add to the pot stirring until well mixed.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto wax paper.

Allow to cool thoroughly and enjoy!

This sounds like pure comfort food to me…I’m going to make them with my grandson the next time he comes over. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to meeting a kidlit friend on Wednesday, one of my inperson critique groups on Thursday, and my local SCBWI group on Friday – so I’d better get busy revising an old nonfition pb bio I want to send to my agent and also get writing on the tentative follow up Pippa story.

And please stay tuned because one day early next week I’m going to have a SURPRISE COVER REVEAL for my FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN:An Animal Counting Book story with a special giveaway in honor of that.

What’s happening in your writing world, my friends? I hope you have a wonderful weekend – the New England foliage is probably coming into its peak…at least here in southern New Hampshire. Don’t forget to leave a commnet to be entered into the giveaway for the FABULOUS PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE from Amber!


Polilla Writes

reading, writing, celebrating the written word

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Michelle Eastman Books

Kid Lit Author and Advocate


about reading, writing & thinking children's books

Laura Boffa: Write of Way

Giving the way of writing the right of way


A Gallery of New Picture Book Talent

EMU's Debuts

From Deal to Debut: the Path to Publication

Wander, Ponder, Write

A KidLit Journey...

Picture Book House

reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

Pernille Ripp

Teacher. Author. Creator. Speaker. Mom.

Norah Colvin

Live Love Laugh Learn . . . Create the possibilities

Gathering Books

Singapore | United States of America | Philippines

Beth Anderson, Children's Writer

Reader, Writer, Miner of Moments

Susanna Leonard Hill

Children's Author

The Stinky Backpack

Traveling the Everyday World

The Runaway Palate

Food. Travel. Cooking. Random musings. Maybe some historical stuff.

The Reader and the Book

"O Day of days when we can read! The reader and the book, either without the other is naught." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Authors & Illustrators Wild About Kidlit!

Teresa Robeson

thoughts on kidlit nonfiction, diversity, and food

Tracy Campbell

Heart for Ewe Publishing

kidsbook friends

Check out this blog featuring kids' books with correlating questions & activities!

Mary Jo Beswick

Artist - Author & Illustrator - Teacher

Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

Children's Writer


READING: like dancing in your brain

Friendly Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales and Poetry Celebrating Magic and Nature for Kids of all Ages

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Sharing and Celebrating Picture Books Since 2009

Stacy S. Jensen

Reader | Writer | List Maker

Reading With Rhythm

book reviews from Rhythm the Library Dog

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

Nerdy Chicks Write

Get it Write this Summer!

Laura Sassi Tales

Celebrating writing, reading, and life.

Erika Wassall here... The Jersey Farm Scribe

Author, Freelance Writer, Entreprenur... LIVER of life

Angie Karcher

Writing Children's Books

Chapter Book Chat

A Writer Reviews Chapter Books, by Marty Mokler Banks

The Blabbermouth Blog

Literary Agent Linda Epstein's Yakkety Yakking

The Waiting

Turns out, it's not the hardest part.

%d bloggers like this: