Category Archives: Cookie recipes

BRIAN LIES: Will Write for Cookies Plus Double Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS (AND ILLUSTRATORS, OF COURSE!)

TODAY’S GUEST

Brian Lies photo

 

BRIAN LIES

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve only recently connected with today’s guest. Of course, I’ve been a long time admirer of the work of this talented author/illustrator and I’m thrilled to welcome him to Will Write for Cookies.

Brian Lies is the NY Times-bestselling author and/or illustrator of nearly 30 children’s books, including his latest, THE ROUGH PATCH (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Aug. 2018) and GOT TO GET TO BEAR’S! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 2018), and his bat series (including BATS AT THE BEACH, BATS AT THE LIBRARY, etc.).  When he’s not working on his stories or visiting schools around the country, he can be found in his vegetable garden, reading, or preparing unusual foods such as kimchi, pickles, switchel or limoncello.  He and his wife have a grown daughter and live 30 miles south of Boston, MA.

To connect with Brian and learn more about his books: 

website:  www.brianlies.com

Twitter:  @BrianLiesbooks

Blog:  GETTING INTO CHARACTER,  brianlies.blogspot.com

Instagram:  brianlies

ME: Hi Brian! So glad you could stop by to chat with us today. I know everyone is excited to hear more about you and your writing/illustrating life. 

rough patch

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

BRIAN: I grew up with a lot of books, so creating a shortlist is tough!  Early on, I loved Richard Scarry’s “Best Word Book Ever”—it was the book that taught me the connection between objects and the words that described them.  Another favorite was “Miss Suzy,” by Miriam Young and Arnold Lobel.   There was “Put Me in the Zoo” by Robert Lopshire, with the creature (polar bear?) with its moveable and changeable spots, and a very obscure one called “Why I Built the Boogle House,” by Helen Palmer (photo illustrations by Lynn Fayman).  That one’s about a boy who keeps remodeling a small pet house to accommodate larger and larger animals.  Also Bennett Cerf’s “Book of Laughs,” with its really corny, 1960-era illustrated jokes.

When I entered the world of chapter books, I loved things like the Edward Eager “Magic” book series, “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” by Lloyd Alexander, and anything by Jane Langton (“The Diamond in the Window,” “The Swing in the Summerhouse,” etc.).  I was also very into the “Childhood of Famous Americans” series, though I’d probably be really dismayed now to know how much of those books was fabricated or idealized.

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

BRIAN: I think the biggest thing would be that, for the vast majority of writers, you never “make it” in a blockbuster-so-big-you-never-have-to-worry-again way.  You’ve got to keep paddling, because there’s always a current, even if slight, against you.  It’s so much easier to NOT write than it is to write.  So focusing on the joy that comes when you’re on a new idea and madly scribbling away, or revising a really tricky bit, and it suddenly falls into place—is more important than focusing on the ultimate success of any particular book.

GOT TO GET TO BEAR'S 300dpi

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

BRIAN: Like many authors or illustrators, I’m a creature of habit.  I write with a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil on yellow Ampad legal pads (they feel sturdier than other brands).  I write by hand because it almost always comes out better than drafting on the computer.  I type really fast, so my first ideas splat onto the screen without a lot of consideration.  But when I write by hand, it’s slower, and I pre-edit or reconsider each sentence as I’m writing.  So a first draft is invariably better when it’s put down on paper.

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

BRIAN: For me, the best writing comes in the first thing in the morning, when I’m not thinking about “have-tos” or people I should email, etc.  There’s something about that quiet time before the world is in gear that feels the clearest.  Unfortunately, that time has become polluted by the iPhone—news or emails may have come in overnight, and as soon as you’ve looked at them, that quiet time is gone.  So the idea of a social media vacation sounds pretty good right now.

writing desk

ME: Why do you write for children?

BRIAN: It’s a cliché to say “I really write for myself,” but there it is.  Books meant so much to me as a boy:  entertainment, knowledge, imagination.  And as a boy, I worried about whether I’d ever be good enough at anything to do something “real,” something that nobody would question in the adult world.  So I try to write stories that I enjoy now, but also ones that I think I’d have liked as a kid.  I do love the idea that real people, people I’ve never met and haven’t shoved a homemade copy of a story at, might read one of these books out there in the world and then write to me about how it affected them.  That’s pretty amazing.

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. 

BRIAN: There’s little I can say that hasn’t already been said, but repetition drums things into our brains.  So:  focus on craft.  Try writing the story from different perspectives.  I have a 300-page novel which I first wrote in third person, then tried again in first person, and the action became more immediate (I still have to go back and whittle perhaps 1/3 of it away).  Make sure every character’s voice is distinct enough that you can guess who’s speaking, after a few lines, without dialogue tags.  Nancy Werlin has a fantastic revising process in which she makes sure every chapter serves the story, every paragraph serves the chapter, and every sentence serves the paragraph (she may have something about that on her web /social media platforms).  Very important:  read everything aloud.  What looks good on paper or screen doesn’t always sound good aloud.

And for educators and librarians:  Please let kids read what they want.  I believe that becoming a good reader springs out of enjoying reading, rather than out of a drilled mastery of skills.  Kids are going to read at different levels—that’s just life.  I think kids should read what they want, whether it’s “above” or “below” their level.  Not letting them take out an advanced book stifles learning—how do we learn unless we reach beyond our grasp?  What’s so bad about having a book at home for a week that’s too hard to read? Shaming them because they’re “behind” or pressuring them into reading above their level makes reading a chore, and something to be avoided.  I used to despair at the idea of boys wanting to read what some would consider “garbage,” but I’ve come around—at least they’re reading!  And if they love it, they can be coaxed to try other, more “literary” materials.  In any case, wouldn’t it be better to have a grownup who loves reading comic books than a grownup who wouldn’t touch a book?  I know our culture is all about achievement and scores, but the real end goal here is someone who picks up a book because she or he WANTS to.

ME: PLEASE LET KIDS READ WHAT THEY WANT…you put it in italics, Brian, but I’m going to put it in it in caps as well. Not that I’m shouting it, but for emphasis. I am so much a fan of that, Brian. Because, as you say, they are reading. I remember reading plenty of comic books and Trixie Belden and folktales…even these days I’ll reread books like Pollyanna or Little Women…bringing back memories of when summer days meant nothing but bringing home piles of books from the library and sitting all day long, devouring those sweet stories.

And mentioning sweet reminds me that Brian has a very special recipe for us. Take it away, Brian!

BRIAN: My Will Write for Cookies recipe is Angel Flakes.  There’s a chance that the recipe is on the side of shredded coconut bags all over the world, but this is one of our favorite Christmas cookies—to the point where I double the batch and we’ve left off making some of our other favorites to make more room for these.  The photo below is a Xerox of the typed card that’s been in the family for many decades—the recipe was originally baked by my grandmother, Bertha Sherwood Bonham, and it’s now gone three generations down.

Brian Lies recipe

ANGEL FLAKES

1/2 C butter

1/2 C shortening

1 tsp vanilla

1 C sugar

1 1/2 C. sifted flour

1/2 tsp soda (baking soda)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 C flake coconut

Cream butter, shortening and sugar.  Sift dry ingredients together and add to butter-sugar mixture with coconut and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.  Roll into small balls, dip in powdered sugar and place on cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly. (Not too much).  Bake at 350 for about 15 min.  Makes about 48.

Thank you so very much, Brian…for all of your insights and for sharing some of your process with us. And of course, we are grateful for a family recipe that just might become someone else’s holiday tradition. We are all wishing you much success with your newest additions to your bookshelf…and for your very generous giveaway.

Dear friends, please leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway…and find ways to thank your favorite authors: buy their books, ask your local library to purchase for their collection, post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, tell all of your friends how much you enjoyed a particular book. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool we have – and it doesn’t cost a penny.

I hope you all have a safe and happy weekend. See you on Monday for another extra special blog post…a COVER REVEAL for Laura Gehl’s newest picture book: DIBS!

 

 

HANNAH HOLT: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Manuscript Critique AND Book Giveaways

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

HannahHolt_small

 

HANNAH HOLT

‘HOLT’ on to your hats, my friends. One of my dearest critique partners, Hannah Holt, is in the house.

Hannah is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer & Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

ME: What a thrill to have you here, Hannah. And it has nothing to do with those chocolate chip cookies. I’ve read your stories since 2012…and watched your stories get better and better as you grew in your craft…actually, your manuscripts were really good from the very start…in 2016, you won the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award for picture books. But I know right now everyone wants to find out a little bit more about you.

Who were your favorite authors and/or illustrators when you were a child?

HANNAH: As a child, my favorite illustrator was Maurice Sendak. His characters were as beautiful as angles, but those angels seemed to wink at me. It made it easy to connect with them.

fathers love

My favorite author was Judith Viorst. I was a quiet child, who felt things strongly and her work spoke straight to me. I still remember sitting in kindergarten while the librarian read us Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I remember feeling relieved that someone else felt the same way I did sometimes. Then I realized that meant other people felt things. Sitting in the library that day, I experienced a new type of feeling—empathy.

 

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

HANNAH: I had a lot of doubts in the beginning. For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be good enough. Somewhere along the line, I changed my thinking from “if” to “when” and just settled in for however long and wherever the ride took me.

I’d say, don’t waste your energy wondering whether or not you will make it. Instead, pour yourself into creating the best work you can. The rest will follow…eventually!

book cover

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

HANNAH: I mostly write in my home office but once a week or so I take my laptop over to a friend’s house for a writing date. A lot of these are at Evelyn Shoop’s house. She’s a killer content developer and copy editor, who used to work full time for Sesame Street. She doesn’t write children’s books, but we both live the writing life. Sometimes it’s nice to work separately but together.

 

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

HANNAH: I write mostly while my kids are at school and late at night when they are in bed. However, when I’m on deadline, it’s every moment I can steal. Summers are the hardest time for me to write. Last summer I flew my mom in town, so I could finish a big project on time. I worked long days for a week straight, but I finished the project.

headshot

ME: Why do you write for children?

HANNAH: I’m a kid at heart. I’m constantly asking, Why, How, and What? Writing for children, is an outlet for me to explore my curiosity and connect with readers.

ME: Thank you so much for all of this insignt, Hannah. I especially love your answer to #2:

I’d say, don’t waste your energy wondering whether or not you will make it. Instead, pour yourself into creating the best work you can. The rest will follow…eventually!”

YES! That is so true…I believe that success will come to everyone who keeps writing, keeps revising, hones their craft, and NEVER gives up. And I also believe that chocolate chip cookies helps…so luckily, Hannah is providing us with one of her favorite recipes.

Hannah: Like any kid at heart, I love cookies! My husband’s favorite type of cookie is chocolate chip. For his birthday, I make him a giant chocolate chip cookie-cake!

treat

Every cookie cake, should be served warm, needs a giant scoop of ice cream on top, and several forks for sharing!

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 ¼ sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 10 oz chocolate chips

 

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside for later.

Cream together the butter and sugars.

Step 2: Mix in the eggs one at a time until well combined.

Step 3: Add the vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda one at a time. Mix well. Scraping the sides and mixing again. (I can’t be bothered messing two bowls while baking, and have never had trouble getting cookies to rise. However, if you want the “proper” way to do it, you are welcome to combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add them that way.)

Step 4: Gradually add the flour until just combined.

Step 5: Mix in the chocolate chips.

Step 6: Pat the cookie dough into the prepared cake pan.

Cook in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the sides look golden and the middle is no longer raw/shiny.

Step 7: Serve warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Our family of six eats it off one plate with several forks, but you may dish into individual portions to avoid the elbow-pushing rush to get the most. 🙂

Step 8: Nap. You’ll need one after eating this rich dessert.

THAT LOOKS AMAZING! Thank you so much Hannah. And thank you for sharing so much of your journey in this Q&A and thank you also for the generous giveaway of a picture book critique! 

Dear readers, please leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway of a picture book critique from Hannah Holt…I know from personal experience that her critiques are fabulous! She’s been a critique ninja for the 12×12 forum and she totally knows her stuff! And, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve added a copy of the book as an additional giveaway. We will have two winners, one for the critique and one for the book!

And here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar, we’ve got exciting weeks ahead…lots of Perfect Picture Book Fridays and Will Write for Cookies with old friends and new ones. Safe travels if you plan to go anywhere…I’ll be home on Saturday, glued to my computer screen for the Picture Book Summit conference. And Sunday, my local indie bookstore has a book signing with a couple of local writers. Next year it will be my turn times three, so I’d better take notes. 

I’m wishing you all a wonderful weekend. 

Tina Cho: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

 

authorphoto1

TINA CHO

In this business, we need a core of critique partners who not only help us polish our manuscripts, but also encourage and support us, commiserating when we get rejections and cheering when success comes knocking at our door. I am truly fortunate to have today’s Will Write for Cookies guest as one of mine. Tina Cho is part of the very first critique group I joined back in 2012 and I credit her with helping me revise and polish many of my manuscripts.

Tina Cho is the author of three picture books– Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books/Bonnier Publishing August 2018), Korean Celebrations (forthcoming Tuttle 2019) and Breakfast with Jesus (forthcoming Harvest House 2020). Although she grew up and taught in the United States, she currently lives in South Korea with her husband and two children while teaching at an international school. To learn more about her, you can go to her Website, or connect with her on Twitter or Instagram: tinamcho.

I love doing Q&A’s with every author and illustrator who stops by here, but there is a special joy when it is someone whose work I’ve seen from early draft to polished picture book story. I hope you will all join me in welcoming Tina!

ME: Hello, Tina. After all these years, I feel like I really know you. And I hope that after this interview, many more people will, too. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

TINA: Richard Scarry: My mom used to read to us from Richard Scarry’s Animal Nursery Tales (fairy tales).

Beverly Cleary’s Ramona & Beezus

Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy & Eddie series

Judy Blume–everything

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

TINA: I wish I had understood that it takes many, many drafts and real revision to make a story superb. When I first began, I thought my first and second drafts were pretty good. Not!

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

TINA: I like to write in my little office off my bedroom. It’s really a connecting room to the bathroom with a vanity, but it’s big enough for a small table, my laptop, and small shelf. I usually outline my stories in a notebook with pen or pencil. Then, I type out the story on my laptop in my office.

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

TINA: During the school year, I write in the evenings after school, especially when I’m doing a work-for-hire assignment. Otherwise, I have dedicated Saturdays as my writing day.

ME: Why do you write for children?

TINA: I fell in love with picture books, especially, from being an elementary teacher and reading them every day to my students. I want to create stories for children because children are our future. Children deserve to learn, to be loved, and to hear about all the stories in the world. I also write for children because I have a passion for different topics, and I just have to share it!

ME: Do you have any special thoughts for aspiring writers

TINA: Never give up. If you want to write, then you have to learn the craft, just like any other career. Take writing classes, read writing craft books, join critique groups, and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Find writing groups in Facebook and stay active 😊

ME: WOW…thank you so much for sharing all of this with us, Tina. I love your action plan for aspiring writers. You’ve laid out all the right steps that lead to success! And I know you are also going to lay out the right steps to creating one of your favorite sweet treats…so, take it away, Tina!

TINA: My grandma used to make Scotcheroos, and I’d take some with me to college. They were so addicting. Here’s a Scotcheroo recipe from a friend in Iowa.

Scotcheroos

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 cup white corn syrup

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

 

  1. Cook sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until it boils in the saucepan. Let boil 1 minute. Take off heat.
  2. Add peanut butter. Stir. Add Rice Krispies.
  3. Press into a 9×13 pan.
  4. Melt butterscotch chips and chocolate chips in a pan on the stove. You can add a tiny bit of water or milk if needed. Pour over the bars. Cut into squares right away.

Enjoy!

We will definitely enjoy these, Tina! And I am enjoying RICE FROM HEAVEN. I know many people are buying it because it is the #1 New Releases in Children’s Asia Books on Amazon..and I hope that many people will be reviewing it as well. Reviews are so important because they help other potential buyers to make good choices when it comes to selecting books for their children.

RicefromHeaven cover

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend. Thank you for spending your precious time here.

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