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Ellen Leventhal: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

ellen me linda

ELLEN LEVENTHAL

Most of you know I am a great fan of critique groups. They help us in so many ways…not just with their suggestions and feedback on manuscripts, but also with support and encouragement regarding all aspects of our lives. I’m blessed to be a member of several amazing critique groups and I’m always thrilled to meet my critique partners at conferences and retreats. Last July, at the WOW Retreat in Georgia, I got to hug two of my favorite writing buddies, Linda Hofke (on the right) and Ellen Leventhal (in the middle). And you guessed it…Ellen is our guest today!

 While growing up in New Jersey. Ellen Leventhal didn’t dream of bluebonnet fields, but she did dream of writing books. Ellen has a master’s degree in education and has been writing for and with her students for many years. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and is the proud mother of two grown sons, and three grandchildren who love bluebonnets, Longhorns, and just about anything Texan.

I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Ellen!

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

 ELLEN:

 I can’t remember all the authors’ names, but I sure do remember the stories. A few of the many picture books that stick in my mind are all the Curious George books (especially the hospital one, for some reason), Babar, Madeline, and Caps for Sale. I can remember trying to balance a bunch of hats on my head like the man in Caps for Sale. As I got a little older, I read all the Nancy Drew books as well as the Cherry Ames series. Some people may not be familiar with Cherry Ames, but she was a nursing student and then a nurse. I lived close to a hospital, and I really wanted to be a nurse, just like Cherry Ames. Hmm…as I re-read this, I see I had kind of a “hospital thing” going on when I was a kid. That couldn’t be farther from who I am now.

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

ELLEN:

I wish I knew how difficult it is to write a good picture book! Or maybe I’m glad I didn’t know. If I had known, I wonder if I would have forged ahead. I had been writing poetry and even wrote an MG story with Ellen Rothberg (who is my coauthor on a few books), but when our first picture book was accepted, the revision process was crazy!! A very nice editor told me that I was a good writer, but didn’t know how to write picture books. Many years, classes, tears, and chocolate later, I still struggle, but I love it.

The other thing I wish I knew is the value of critique groups. My next picture book, Lola Can’t Leap, will be out in March 2018, and if it were not for all my critique buddies (including the wonderful Vivian Kirkfield), it would be sitting in a drawer. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but having good critique buddies is absolutely the best thing about this business.

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

ELLEN:

My initial brainstorm is usually scribbled in a spiral, legal pad, or whatever scrap of paper I have handy. That can happen anywhere, including the dark lobby of a Chinese restaurant waiting for my take-out order. (Yes, that just happened.) When I get to the actual writing part, I usually write in my home office on my desk top computer. But sometimes I need a change of scenery, and I bring my lap top to a coffee shop. That only works if I’m totally “in the zone.”  If I’m not, I tend to get distracted. Sometimes that’s a good thing because I’ve gotten story ideas from watching people.

 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?

ELLEN:

My goal is to set a real schedule to write, but I am not there yet. I am trying very hard to make writing time a priority. I try to write every day, but it’s not always for as long as I’d like. I can’t say if I’m more productive during the day or in the evening because it depends on so many different factors. To be honest, I’m more of a muse seeker, and when that muse visits, I immediately stop when I’m doing and indulge her.

cover1

 ME: Why do you write for children?

ELLEN:

The first answer that pops into my head is “Why not?” But of course, it’s more complicated than that. I’ve always loved literacy and being with children. So, writing for kids felt right.

Children need to feel like they belong. They need to feel that they are not alone in their fears, dreams, and idiosyncrasies. If I can at least try to add to a child’s sense of self while making them smile, it’s something I need to do.

And of course, the bonus of writing for children is getting to share my stories with them. I never get tired of that.

 ME: Ellen, if you have any special tips or thoughts for writers, teachers, parents…please share.

ELLEN:

Here’s something funny about stories. One day I was teaching a creative writing class, and a book that Ellen Rothberg and I wrote was on the shelf. A child said, “I love that book! I read it almost every night. The lady who wrote it came to my school.” It took a while for the child to realize that I was that lady, but I thought it was great. I don’t need to be remembered, but I hope my stories are.

As I said, a new book is coming out in March, but I’m also very excited about a “re-boot” of an older one that is out now. Several years ago, Ellen Rothberg and I wrote the book, Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, but unfortunately, it went out of print. However, we loved the book and didn’t want it to die a slow death. We wanted a new generation of children to read it, but we knew the picture book market had changed. We took a leap of faith and embraced an opportunity most people don’t get. Instead of giving up, we updated. We cut down the word count, illustrator, Joel Cook, took the art in a new direction, and I am happy to say, Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, Ten Year Anniversary Edition hit bookstores this past spring.

ME: Hurray!!! I’m so thrilled that BLUEBONNETS is back, bigger and better than ever. If any of you missed the Perfect Picture Book Review I did yesterday, please go here. https://viviankirkfield.com/2017/06/09/perfect-picture-book-friday-dont-eat-the-bluebonnets-plus-critique-giveaway/

 For information on Ellen’s other books and her availability for school visits, please check out her website at www.EllenLeventhal.com

Amazon

Clear Fork Publishing

Barnes and Noble

Now, before we say goodbye, Ellen has a fabulous recipe to share with us. It’s something with chocolate so I am smiling already. Take it away, Ellen!!!

ELLLEN:

I must admit that I did not come up with this on my own, but I make it whenever dessert is called for. It’s from www.allrecipes.com, and it’s yummy!

Chocolate Trifle Recipe

 cake

Ingredients:

I package brownie mix

I package instant chocolate pudding

½ C water

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (8oz)  container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (12 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

 

Directions:

Prepare brownie mix according to package and cool. Cut into 1 inch squares.

In a large bowl combine pudding mix, water, and condensed milk. Mix until smooth.

Fold in 8 ounces whipped topping until no streaks remain.

In a trifle bowl or glass serving dish, place half of the brownies, half of the pudding mix, and half of the 12 ounce container of whipped topping. Repeat layers.

Garnish any way you’d like.

Refrigerate 8 hours before serving.

WOW…this looks amazing, Ellen! If I make it, I will eat it. And if I eat it, I will have to hide the scale. 😉

I know everyone is clapping, Ellen. Thank you for participating.

Dear friends, if you’d like to be entered in the giveaway for a picture book manuscript critique from Ellen (and I can tell you from experience that she give wonderful feedback), please make sure you leave a comment.

And if you’d like to thank Ellen for her insights, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Book reviews are so very important in this business.

Thank you all for stopping by…I love visiting with friends!

Will Write for Cookies: KRISTEN FULTON plus Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

KRISTEN FULTON

What impresses me most about this kid-lit community is the generosity of its members—especially those who have achieved success and graciously share their knowledge. I met our Will Write for Cookies guest back in 2014. I’d heard she was taking the world of nonfiction picture books by storm. And 2014 was the year I had earmarked to take classes. So, I dipped my toes into the nonfiction pool and participated in her WOW Nonficpic Week Challenge – and fell in love…with her spirit, her wealth of expertise, and writing nonfiction pbs. I registered for her June Nonfiction Archaeology class. In July, I wrote Sweet Dreams, Sarah. And received LOTS of feedback and help from Kristen and our critique group. And LOTS of agent interest (and signed with my agent) because of it. Yup, that girl knows what she is talking about.

 Nonfiction picture book author Kristen Fulton is happiest wearing her favorite set of pearls and carrying a notebook into any museum or history center where she could spend hours researching. Wafting through old books or around dusty artifacts, Kristen believes that is where she will find her next story hiding. As a lifelong student, Kristen is always on an adventure to learn something new, from a foreign language to veterinary science, her love for education has given her the discipline to do the research and bring pure nonfiction stories to children with the ability to entertain.

 book cover

Dear readers…this Q&A is going to knock your socks off! Please leave a comment at the end to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of LONG MAY SHE WAVE which has just launched and has already been selected as a Fall 2017 Junior Library Guild selection.

 Let’s give her a big Picture Books Help Kids Soar welcome!

 Kristen, thank you so much for stopping by to visit with us.

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

 KRISTEN:

Believe it or not, I don’t remember any picture books from my childhood. The first book I remember my parents reading to me was The Boxcar Children. My dad had this bizarre talent, he could draw anything on an Etch a sketch. I remember him reading and then stopping to sketch out the image, such as the dog or loaf of bread. We moved up to Anne of Green Gables with etch a sketch images of carrots, slates, and lakes of shining waters. Read the rest of this entry

Lori Richmond: Will Write for Cookies plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

LORI RICHMOND

 Lori Richmond is a corporate creative director turned picture book maker. She is the author-illustrator of PAX AND BLUE (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books) and BUNNY’S STAYCATION (Scholastic), which debuts in 2018. Lori is also the illustrator of A HOP IS UP (Bloomsbury) and two more picture books coming in 2018. As a former contributing editor and spokesperson for leading pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump, Lori has appeared as an expert on TODAY, Good Morning America, CNN, and more. She lives and creates with her family in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Lori at www.LoriDraws.com

 I met up with Lori here and there around kid-lit-land…but really got to know her when we both joined up with the 2017 debut picture book author group, Picture the Books

And even though my debut picture book, Sweet Dreams, Sarah, has been pushed to next year, they are still letting me hang out with them.

 Which is a really good thing, because I like them all so much!

 book cover

Just a reminder that Lori has graciously agreed to do a giveaway of a copy of PAX AND BLUE. I reviewed it yesterday. 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 welcome our guest, author/illustrator Lori Richmond!

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

 LORI:

I have early memories of staring for hours at the work of Steven Kellogg — especially his book TALLYHO, PINKERTON! I was so amazed by all the detail in his line work. I also loved Shel Silverstein’s books, which I would always read while visiting my aunt’s house. As I got older, I was really into the Nancy Drew mysteries and, of course, Sweet Valley High!

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

LORI:

I’m new to writing, so I feel like I haven’t earned enough stripes yet to confidently answer this question. Writing is hard! You have to give it time. Your first drafts will be truly awful, and you have to push through it to get to the good stuff. Find people that you trust to give you feedback, and don’t take anything personally.

reading to kids

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?

LORI:

I’m still looking for the best spot! I’ve done all of the above, with mixed results.

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?

LORI:

This is another one I am still figuring out. I am in a shared studio space called Friends Work Here that has a ton of beautiful natural light. I think my best creative time tends to be in the morning, so I try to plan my day so that drawing and writing is done in the first half of the day, and I save other tasks for later on. But I do have the Evernote app on both my laptop and my phone, so whenever an idea strikes I can quickly jot it down and save it.

workspace

ME: Why do you write for children?

LORI:

Young readers are introduced to different kinds of writing and art for the first time through picture books, and reading picture books can start a lifelong love of literature and art for a child. How incredibly special to be a part of that. I feel extremely fortunate to be creating books, and I hope that my work inspires even just one child.

reading with kids 2

ME: Lori, 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.

LORI:

For aspiring writers doing this as a second, third, or even fourth career, it is never too late! I started writing and illustrating picture books when I was 20+ years into my career as a corporate Creative Director. With kids and life and everything else, you really have to make an effort to put in the time — and it’s not always easy. Just do what you can, and be consistent in your practice. It will pay off!

To educators and librarians, thank you for all that you do. You are heroes!

THANK YOU SO MUCH, LORI! I AGREE WITH YOU 100% about educators and librarians being heroes! And also about it never being too late…look at me!!!! I didn’t really get serious about writing picture books until 5 years ago.

You can visit Lori at www.LoriDraws.com

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

Lori says,

As for the cookie — I am NOT a cook so I can’t provide a recipe. 🙂  But my favorites are homemade Rice Krispie Treats and Girl Scout Thin Mints (in the refrigerator.)

I thought about what recipe we could give you all, dear readers. And guess what? I found a Rice Krispie Treat recipe on the Kellogg’s website that is PERFECT for next month!

HIDDEN SURPRISES RICE KRISPIE TREAT EASTER EGGS

kicfileasset-100904_rk_hiddensurpriseeastereggtreats_3

https://www.ricekrispies.com/en_US/recipes/hidden-surprise-easter-egg-treats-recipe.htmlHidden Surprise Easter Egg Treats™

Give these Easter egg-shaped goodies a shake to hear the tasty surprise inside – M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies!

Prep Time: 20 min

Total Time: 40 min

Servings: 12

NUTRITION INFO

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoonsbutter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40)JET-PUFFED Marshmallows
  • OR
  • 4 cupsJET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
  • 6 cupsKellogg’s® Rice Krispies® cereal
  • 1/2 cupM&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies
  • Canned frosting or decorating gel (optional)
  • 12Plastic snap-apart 3 x 2-in Easter eggs

Directions

  1. Clean, then coat inside of plastic eggs with cooking spray. Set aside.2. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add JET-PUFFED Marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

    3. Add KELLOGG’S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.

    4. Using greased hands, firmly press 1/4 cup of the cereal mixture into each plastic egg half. Use fingers to make hollow center in each half. Remove from molds. Place on wax paper. Cool slightly.

    5. Place about 6 M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies in one half of each egg. Gently press two halves of each egg together until they stick. Cool completely.

    6. Decorate with frosting and additional M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies (if desired). Best if served the same day.

    MICROWAVE DIRECTIONS:Follow step 1 above. In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 3 through 6 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.

    Notes:
    For best results, use fresh marshmallows.

    1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème can be substituted for marshmallows.

    Diet, reduced calorie or tub margarine is not recommended.

    Store no more than two days at room temperature in airtight container.

WOW! Aren’t these perfect?

Let’s all give Lori a big round of applause! As a writer, I also love getting the inside peek into the perspective of someone who also illustrates!

And please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of PAX AND BLUE.

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Have a beautiful weekend…and Happy April Fool’s Day, dear friends.

Michelle Eastman Books

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