Category Archives: Dessert recipe

Lori Alexander: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INFORMATION, INSPIRATION, INSIGHT

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Author Photo_Lori Alexander

LORI ALEXANDER

2017 is bursting with super picture books and I’ve been thrilled to feature their authors on my blog. I’m especially happy to welcome Lori…she’s a fabulous writer and a super lovely lady.

 Lori Alexander is the author of BACKHOE JOE (Harper Children’s), FAMOUSLY PHOEBE (Sterling Children’s) and the upcoming ALL IN A DROP, a biography of scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She lives with her husband and two children under the star-filled skies of Tucson, AZ. 

Welcome, Lori! Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us today. We’ll get right to the Q&A.

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

LORI: I remember reading lots of Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman books. My brother and I loved Virginia Lee Burton’s MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL and KATY AND THE BIG SNOW. Arnold Lobel’s FROG AND TOAD books were favorites, too. But above all, it was CHRISTINA KATERINA AND THE BOX by Patricia Lee Gauch. Oh, how I loved the wonderful things Christina Katerina crafted with that refrigerator box: a castle, a clubhouse, a race car, a dance floor. Time and again, she rescued her creations from her tidy mother (and the garbage bin!). And when the poor box got wet and disintegrated on the front lawn, there was still a happy ending—two new boxes!

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

LORI: Things get easier…and more difficult. The various aspects of writing get easier as you hone your craft. I’m much more comfortable with character development, plot structure, pacing, page turns, word choice, etc. But at the same time, writing is more difficult than when I first began. I tend to self-edit too early in the process. I don’t always give my ideas a chance because right from the get-go, I’m trying to judge their marketability. When I first started out, I wrote with more freedom because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I suppose the learning never ends, no matter where you are in the process.

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

LORI: I usually write inside at the shared family computer in our great room. Needless to say, I get more done when my kids are at school.

workspace

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

LORI: As the muse strikes, but mostly mid-day when the kid count is zero. I haven’t had much luck sticking with a strict writing schedule.

desert view

ME: Why do you write for children?

LORI: The challenge! Holding the attention of a classroom of kindergartners is the very best kind of tricky. And making kids laugh is addicting.

reading with kids

 

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.

LORI: Advice to aspiring writers! When I read interviews, this is my favorite part. I always hope a seasoned writer will spill the beans and dole out some first-rate advice that will make my next story flow from my fingertips, sell to the first editor who reads it, and rocket to the top of the bestseller list. As soon as I find that seasoned writer with the stellar advice, I’ll be sure to pass it on! J

For now: read lots of current books in your genre, hone your craft, seek out critique partners, and don’t give up no matter how many rejections you collect.

As for educators and librarians, I’ve spent a ton of time volunteering at my kids’ public elementary school, in both the classrooms and the library. The energy, care, and grace you put into your work never ceases to amaze me. Thank you! Thank you!    

ME: WOW! This is fabulous, Lori! I especially love your advice to READ, JOIN CRITIQUE GROUPS, HONE YOUR CRAFT, and NEVER GIVE UP!!!!

And I’m sure part of the advice you didn’t add is to keep your energy up with yummy treats, right Lori? I’m a fan of the recipe you are sharing…it’s perfect to prepare with kids!

LORI: Although this is not a cookie recipe, it’s our go-to when we want a quick, sweet treat (and it’s been a hit at school bake sales). We call them something different each time we make a batch. In this case…

Famously Phoebe’s Star Bars

recipe photo

6 cups crisp rice cereal

1 bag mini marshmallows

3 bags white chocolate chips

1 bag mini chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter (almond butter would work, too, if allergies are a concern)

Melt the white chocolate chips over low heat. Stir in peanut butter. Remove from heat and add rice cereal. Stir gently. Then stir in mini marshmallows (they don’t need to melt) and half bag of mini chocolate chips. Line rimmed cookie sheet with parchment. Pour mixture onto cookie sheet and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle top with remaining mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate for about an hour. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Dear friends, you can find out more about Lori on her website at lorialexanderbooks.com or follow her on Twitter at @LoriJAlexander

And don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of FAMOUSLY PHOEBE.

Phoebe cover JPEG

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m behind on awarding our giveaways, so next Friday, I’ll be announcing the ones from the last three posts.

Katey Howes: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT, INFORMATION, INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

KathrynHeadshots-40 (2)

KATEY HOWES

Author Katey Howes is actually a very special person in my life. Facebook friends and fellow kidliters, we met online in writing challenges. Then, in March 2015, I noticed on Twitter that she had just signed with Storm Literary Agency. I had never heard of Storm, nor of the agent, Essie White. So, I hopped over to their website…and fell in love. And the rest is history!

Katey Howes is a fierce advocate of not just literacy, but of raising kids who love to read. She treasures those moments when books allow children to relate their experience to the greater world, or when their curiosity skyrockets from interest to obsession. Katey tries to weave her passion for nature, travel, science, and creativity, as well as her sense of wonder, into stories that make children think more deeply, explore more broadly, and laugh a little bit louder.

Katey is the author of GRANDMOTHER THORN (Ripple Grove Press, Aug. 2017) and MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE (Sterling, Jan. 2, 2018.) Katey is a team member at All the Wonders and founding member of Picture the Books.  You can get to know Katey better at www.kateyhowes.com or by following her on Twitter @kateywrites or on Instagram @kidlitlove. 

ME: Welcome, Katey! I’m so very excited to have you here today. I could chat with you forever, but first let’s get to the Q&A.

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

KATEY: I’ve always loved rabbits, so many of my favorite books as a child were bunny books. I still have my battered and much-loved copy of A Home For a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, as well as I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom. I think those two books shaped my illustration preferences for a long time – I still get a warm, fond feeling over illustrations that remind me of Garth Williams’ or Richard Scarry’s signature styles.

 

As an older child, I gravitated toward epic adventures, from The Chronicles of Narnia to The Dark is Rising. I also loved nature stories, science fiction, and historical fiction. Prolific authors were big favorites, too – I always wanted more of the characters and voices I loved. I had shelves dedicated to L.M. Montgomery, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and Cynthia Voight.  My fondness for bunnies continued – I’ve read my copy of Watership Down (given to me by my middle school librarian) so many times that the cover completely fell off.

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

KATEY: I wish I had known how much a manuscript changes from inception to publication!  I must have wasted hours agonizing over illustration notes that wouldn’t matter to the illustrator, word choices that would change ten times after acquisition, word counts that would expand and shrink over rounds of revision. It’s important to realize that, while every detail is important, none is immutable, and that other voices and opinions and viewpoints will influence the manuscript many times before it sits on a bookshelf. I could have spared myself a lot of heartache and headaches if I knew that sooner.

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

KATEY: I prefer peace and quiet to write. For a long time, the only place I could really find that was in my little office in the basement. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural location, I can sit on my screened porch without interruption from anyone but the birds. It’s perfect.  I jot ideas in notebooks and on sticky notes, and I sketch out rough dummies by hand, but I prefer to do the real drafting of a manuscript on my laptop. There’s an option to turn the keystroke sound off – but I like it on. Loud. That tappity typing sound makes me feel very productive.  

61ZmxqpNLaL._SY497_BO1,204,203,200_

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

KATEY: In the summer, my family keeps me busy, and while I have time to write, it has to be flex-time. Once the kids are back in school, I try to focus on writing, revising, studying, reading, promoting, and all that jazz from 8:30am until 3pm. I’m not much good at writing in the early morning hours (by which I mean all hours before my third cup of coffee) but I find I can use that time to read and critique my CP’s manuscripts while I load up on caffeine – and their work usually inspires me to buckle down and create my own. If the day goes according to plan, I take what I call “a writer’s nap” around two in the afternoon. With no plans to actually sleep, I curl up on the couch with a cozy blanket, set a timer for 20 minutes, and give my brain permission to drift and dream. I find a lot of solutions to writing problems that way, and always feel reenergized afterwards.

ME: Why do you write for children?

KATEY: I don’t think I have a choice. I’ve done a lot of other things with my life –  things I’ve enjoyed, things that came easily, things that made more sense or more money – but my path keeps bringing me inexorably back to children and to books.

ME: WOW…Katey…you struck several chords with me in this Q&A. Everything you said about spending time on the illustrator notes and worrying about word choices and word counts (which are, of course, important…but not the way we agonize over them since they ARE going to change) is true. And you’ve given me a wonderful plan of action…that 20 minute afternoon siesta sounds like a great idea! But now i know you have another Great Idea…the recipe you are sharing!

KATEY: My daughters and I love to cook together. We decided to try out a new recipe to go with GRANDMOTHER THORN. In the story, Ojisaan brings Grandmother sweets from the village each time he visits. On one occasion, he brings “a parcel of sweet dorayaki.”

Dorayaki are a traditional, casual Japanese treat made of two small, sweet pancakes sandwiched around a filing of anko – a sweet red bean paste. We watched several videos (I recommend Japanese Cooking 101 for a great instructional video) and read a few recipes, tried a package of pre-made dorayaki, and then tried our hand at making our own – with a twist. This is a very easy recipe for kids to participate in – they especially loved squeezing the “sandwiches” together at the end. We hope you enjoy!

Dorayaki-New-IVPhoto courtesy: https://www.justonecookbook.com/dorayaki-japanese-red-bean-pancake/

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T honey
  • 3/4 c milk
  • Fillings: Traditional: Anko (red bean paste – can be found at an Asian grocery or ordered online. We bought ours through Amazon.)

Twist: Nutella, Peanut Butter, or Jam (we used our homemade blackberry jam)

 

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and honey together.
  3. Add milk to liquid ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add dry ingredients to liquid mixture. Stir or whisk until smooth.
  5. Spray a nonstick pan or griddle with a generous amount of cooking spray like Pam.
  6. Pour batter onto hot griddle or pan to make round, pancake-like cakes. About 1/8 cup of batter makes a nice-sized cake.
  7. Cook about 2 minutes – until the bubbles pop, leaving little holes. Flip over and cook 1-2 more minutes. Don’t let it dry out – moist cakes work best!
  8. Transfer to a plate. Cover with a wet paper towel to keep them moist until you cook all the batter.
  9. When you have all your cakes cooked, it’s time to sandwich them! Place one cake on a square of plastic wrap. Top it with a big spoonful of your favorite filling. Put another cake on top.
  10. Wrap the sandwich tightly in the plastic wrap and squeeze together. Pinch the edges to seal.
  11. Keep wrapped until ready to eat!

This is awesome, Katey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope everyone will leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of an authographed copy of GRANDMOTHER THORN, compliments of Katey!

Have a safe and happy weekend, dear readers!

Sara O’Leary: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT, INSPIRATION, INFORMATION

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

SARA O’LEARY

One of the most fun things about this kidlit community is that it is composed of people from all of the world. I have critique partners in New Zealand, France, and South Korea.  Some of my fellow Storm Literary Agency authors and illustrators live in Switzerland, Australia, and Stockholm.  I hope to one day travel around the world, stopping in to meet all of these amazing friends. And perhaps, if I stop in the Canada, I will get to meet today’s guest, Sara O’Leary.

Sara O’Leary writes for both children and adults. Her most recent picture books are A Family Is A Family Is a Family with Qin Leng and You Are Three with Karen Klassen. She has a degree in screenwriting from University of British Columbia and has taught children’s writing at Concordia University in Montreal. Her first novel, The Ghost in the House, will be published next year.

And here is the cover of her next picture which will launch next year

blue moon

I’m so thrilled to welcome her to Picture Books Help Kids Soar!

ME: Hello, Sara! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. Let’s start!

  1. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

SARA: I loved Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban’s Frances books. I remember being somewhat surprised as an adult to realize that Frances was a badger so complete was my identification with the character. Arnold Loebel’s Frog and Toad stories appealed to me for their gentle humour as did Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear with those sweet Sendak illos. I loved Joan Walsh Anglund’s Look Out My Window and spent a good few years drawing trees because of that book. Alice was also very important to me and I still have my battered green cloth edition of Through The Looking Glass. I also loved fairy tales and nursery rhymes and verse by writers like R.L. Stevenson and A.A. Milne. I think the echoes of all that early immersion in literature run deep in my writing. And if I could ever write something I love half as much as I love Ogden Nash’s “Adventures of Isabel” I would consider myself a success. Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library books are such a perfect marriage of form and content and I love them as much now as I did when I was small.

     2. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

SARA: When I first started writing children’s books I didn’t really think of it as being who I was but more as something I did. Now I consider myself a children’s writer and very lucky to be one.

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

SARA: Anywhere really. I write on a laptop for first draft and then somewhere along the line I write the whole thing out by hand. I also make a very, very rough dummy to get a sense of page turns and the amount of text on the page. At this stage I find I am able to eliminate a lot of text by imagining what the illustrator can do.

this is sadie

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

SARA: Anytime. And most of it is done in my head as I walk or do mundane chores. One of the reasons I like picture books so is that you really can carry the whole text around in your head for a spell and let it tumble around like a bit of dull, rough stone in a rock tumbler.

  1. Why do you write for children?

SARA: Because they are the very best readers. Because I know what it is to carry a line or two somebody wrote a hundred years ago around in your head throughout childhood and into adulthood. Because they laugh at my jokes.

Cy2_cNIUkAE8TGA

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.

SARA: Reading is key. I was a child who was read to often and I often think of the line from the poem by Strickland Gillian: “Richer than I you can never be–I had a Mother who read to me.”

ME: Oh my gosh…that is one of my favorite quotes!!!

To find out more about Sara and her books:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/saraoleary

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sara-OLeary-246685492054006/

Blog: https://123oleary.blogspot.ca/

And now for the sweet treat…take it away, Sara!

SARA: My good friend, Marina Endicott, is a novelist and also writes the most beautiful recipes. Once she had a good laugh over one of my overly minimalist recipes. It might have been this one for my mother’s variation on her mother’s shortbread.

Ginger Shortbread

3 cups flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups butter

salt

ginger

2 x 9 inch round pan

60 mins at 300

SARA: Looking at this recipe I now realize that I do sometimes let the reductive impulse go too far!  I fail to mention that the ginger referred to is the crystallized variety and that you’ll want to finely mince it. I also fail to mention the quantity required. But really that all depends on how much you like ginger.

ME: That’s okay, Sara…I think most of us would use our own tastes when it comes to adding the ginger.

Thank you so much, Sara, for sharing your insights with us. And thank you, dear readers, for spending some of your precious time here. Please leave a comment here or on yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post in order to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY. Big thanks to Groundwood Books for offering the giveaway. (U.S. and Canadian addresses only)

Groundwood Logos Spine

But wait! One more thing! We need to give away a copy of Melissa Stoller’s THE ENCHANTED SNOWGLOBE COLLECTION: Return to Coney Island.

And the winner is:

TRACY POTASH

Congratulations, Tracy…I’ll be in touch and connect you with Melissa.

Enjoy this next to the last weekend in August, dear friends. And please do come back next week for more book reviews and author/illustrator interviews…and of course, more giveaways!

 

 

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