Pat Miller: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Reading today

PAT MILLER

I’m often going on and on about what an incredible community we have here. And for good reason! After all, we’ve got authors like Pat Miller, who give back so much in their presentations and critiques, who reach out with amazing programs and conferences like NF4NF, and who are ready, willing, and able mentors for all of us.

I was honored when Pat agreed to connect with us for this month’s Will Write for Cookies. Pat Miller is the author of Substitute Groundhog (a Junior Library Guild selection), Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, and We’re Going on a Book Hunt. Her newest book is a nonfiction PB, The Hole Story of the Doughnut, (May 2016, HMH), also a Junior Library Guild selection. I featured it yesterday on my Perfect Picture Book Friday post. And guess what? If you leave a comment on that post or on this one, telling what nonfiction topic YOU”D like to see a picture book written about, you’ll be entered into the drawing to win a brand new copy of this awesome book!

Cover of Hole Story

 She and her husband live near Houston. Pat’s three children have given them six grandkids, ages 5 and under.

 As I mentioned earlier, Pat is the organizer of NF 4 NF, a writing conference for children’s nonfiction writers. The third annual conference will be September 22-25, 2016. She is a master gardener, enjoys traveling, and counts dark chocolate as a vegetable.

Hold on to your hats, dear readers, she’s going to take us on a rollicking ride!

Welcome, Pat! Thank you so much for joining us. I’m excited to get started.

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

 PAT:  We had few books in our house when I was young. My father was in the Air Force and we moved often, so my mother kept a trim household. Instead, Dad would stop by the library every week to bring home books.

 Cow book

I remember the first book he chose for me. It was The Cow Who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky. Hendrika was a cow in Holland who was bored with farm life. She accidentally fell in a canal, but cleverly figured out how to climb aboard a handy raft and had quite the adventure floating the length of town.

 I was a school librarian when I unpacked the book fair and found a stack of my beloved Hendrikas! Yearling re-released the book in 1993 and I promptly bought one for each of my children. There she was, as cunning and sweet as I remembered her.

 My parents gave books for birthdays. One I loved was a picture book of Heidi. In one illustration, Grandfather had a little cabinet where he kept his two plates, two cups, and two bowls. I loved that cabinet and its snug inclusiveness. Today I have a similar cabinet in my kitchen, and I revel in that memory each time I put the plates away.

 disney

Two other gift books were a Disney Treasury of 21 stories and my first nonfiction book. It was filled with questions and answers. One of my favorites was “How many bubbles will a pound of soap make?” Answer: 25,500,000. I imagined how hard it must have been to count them all.

 Another beloved book was lost in a move. It was about Pandora and her tempting box. It had a thick front cover with a treasure box cut into it. You could lift the lid and a large, gross bug popped out on a tiny spring. I was as weak as Pandora about opening the box!

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

PAT: It would have made my writing life less lonely if I had known about SCBWI. I began writing before there was social media and the Internet. None of my friends were writers. Now I may look like I’m alone in my office, but I’m surrounded by virtual colleagues and fellow writers—lots of company who commiserate, inspire, listen, and critique.

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?

PAT: When our children moved out, I inherited one of the boys’ bedrooms for my office, complete with Chris’ model planes still hanging from the ceiling. We have since moved, and I have a wonderful room of my own with a bay window and French doors—so much light and a wonderful view of my gardens and the forested hill beyond.

 My desk

I have a laptop that I use on flights. Writing when you are suspended thousands of feet above the earth feels both daring and cozy. There’s the private view from my window seat, my airline hot chocolate snug in its tray table corral, and a snack bag of miniature cookies. It’s thrilling how my keyboard can take me far outside the plane without a parachute!

 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?

PAT: I’m a morning person who likes to get up with the sun when the day itself is like a fresh new page. My brain is usually well-rested, my subconscious has done its work, and I’m filled with hope and possibility. I work until it’s time to head to the gym. I take classes in line dancing and water aerobics, which I LOVE!

 By afternoon, my writer’s brain is tired, so I try to get out—into the garden, into the community, or about my errands. My dog is great about taking me for daily walks.

 ME: Why do you write for children?

PAT: I started writing as a kid because I was so enchanted that ideas could be put between covers and would always be available.

 Reading to the kids

I loved being read to (still do). It was such a calm and cuddly time reading to my three kids. Storytime at school was as much my favorite as my students’. And now I get to read to six little grandkids. Books and reading are so important!

 I began writing for professional library magazines. An editor who’d read one of my articles asked if I could expand it into a book. I could and I did. In fact, my passion as a library teacher eventually filled more than 20 books.

 A kindergartner’s unlikely response to “What animal pops up on February 2?” inspired my first book, Substitute Groundhog. He had guessed an armadillo—sweet Texas boy that he was—and that’s exactly who pops up on Groundhog Day in this book. I wrote fun books about library procedures (We’re Going on a Book Hunt) and book care (Library Monkeys) because I needed them. Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution came about because there were no books about making a resolution—and my first grade teachers asked for one each year. I wrote two others, A Pet for Every Person and B-FARM: Exploring Animal Groups, because I needed books that included all the text features in one big book. Luckily, others needed these books as well!

 
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 ME: Pat, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?

PAT:

  1.  Read! Write! Repeat! Get a library card and wear it out. Befriend the librarian in the children’s section and strive to read every new book that appeals to you. Analyze how the ones you love are written, and imitate!
  2.  Store chocolate bribes in your desk drawer. I’m big on setting ridiculously small goals that I usually surpass. I use chocolate for motivation (writing two paragraphs is worth a mini-Dove bar).
  3. Carry a notebook with you so you always have paper. Cell phones have note features, but they also have a battery that dies on you at the worst times.

 wallet book

I carry one literally in my wallet—it’s as important as my credit card. It was here that I wrote the tour guide’s sentence that inspired my Hole Story of the Doughnut. Without it, I would have long forgotten those words.

4. Be aware that writers are expected to promote their work. I highly recommend Chris Syme’s blog and book SMART Social Media for Authors. It comes with incredibly helpful videos

5. Remember, being a writer is hard for EVERYONE! Persevere and create something so good you feel fizzy inside.

 WOW! Just so you all know, I’ve already signed up on Chris’ email subscriber list and immediately received a free tip sheet that I know will be uber helpful as I prepare for my debut picture book launch next spring. Pat…we are all wildly applauding and throwing confetti…thank you so very much!!!

If you’d like to connect with Pat or find out more about her books and conference:

 Website: Pat Miller Books

Blog: Pat Miller’s Write Mind

FB Author Page: Writing Nonfiction for Kids

NF 4 NF (Nonfiction for New Folks) Conference Page

NF 4 NF Facebook Group: Join the conversation

 And just when you thought this sweet goodness was over, Pat has a special treat recipe for all of us.

Ginger Snaps

Cookbook

(from a 1959 recipe submitted by M. Mills)

 12 Tbsp. shortening (Substitute 1 ½ stick butter)

1 c sugar

4 Tbsp. molasses

4 Tbsp. beaten egg

2 c sifted flour

2 tsp soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp ginger (I use freshly grated ginger)

 Cream shortening (butter) and sugar. Add molasses and egg. Beat well. Sift dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Roll into small balls. Dip into sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 15 minutes.

You know, gingersnaps are one of my favorite cookies. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Recently I’ve been adding lots of raw ginger to salads because I heard it is really good for you…I’m thrilled to find a sweet treat that uses it as well.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend – the air smells like spring…and my soul is smiling. My grandson and I planted a couple of seeds…and they are sprouting already. But I am waiting for Memorial Day to get my veggies in the ground. Are any of you putting in a kitchen garden this year?

Logo final BB2 1 inch 300dpi

 

Miranda Paul: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Miranda_Paul_Headshot_2015

MIRANDA PAUL

 

I met today’s Will Write for Cookies author a couple of years ago when I first discovered this incredible kid lit community. Friends told me about a website called RateYourStory that was run by a writer named Miranda Paul, where you could get a manuscript looked at by professionals – for free! I went, I saw, I fell in love…with the site, the service and Miranda herself. A passionate advocate for literacy and leader in the movement to encourage diversity in books, Miranda is a doer, not just a dreamer. She’s published more than 50 short stories for magazines and digital markets, and is the author of One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, and Water is Water. Both were named Junior Library Guild selections. She is kind and generous and loving and a super smart mentor!

I’m so happy to have her here to share her thoughts with us.

Welcome, Miranda!

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

 

Miranda:

Shel Silverstein, Lois Lowry, and Roald Dahl. But seeing as how I never grew up, I think my current favorites also apply to this question. There are too many to name, but Jacqueline Woodson, Kevin Henkes, Kat Yeh, and Kadir Nelson come to mind. Or maybe those are just the ones that have “k” sounds in their names…

One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul 

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

Katharine Holabird – Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

KATHARINE HOLABIRD

 Katharine Holabird headshot

I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor back in 2010. I had contacted Katharine to ask if she would be willing to read my soon-to-be-published book, since one of the picture book stories I recommended in it was Angelina Ballerina. Her answer was an immediate, YES! I was THRILLED when I received her endorsement…what an honor to have the author of over thirty-five children’s books say nice things about my work. And when I invited Katharine to participate in Will Write for Cookies, again she said YES! Hurray!

With experience as an editor, freelance journalist and nursery school teacher, Katharine definitely knew what she was doing when she created the much beloved character of Angelina Ballerina. Angelina recently ‘celebrated’ her 30th birthday – and the books have been translated into over fifteen languages!

I’m so happy to have her here to share her thoughts with us.

Welcome, Katharine! I know that so many writers were avid readers when they were young. From what I read on your website, you were a lover of books also.

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

 

Katharine: My grandmother had a beautiful collection of fairy tales illustrated by Arthur Rackman and Kay Nielson, and I still remember the romance and power of those fantastic stories and illustrations. Later on I read everything by E.B.White and Frank Baum, and adored Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House On The Prairie’ series. Not surprisingly, most of the books I loved had strong female heroines!

 board book

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

 

Katharine: I wish I’d known more about how the publishing world works and been a little cannier about my choices. When you first get published it’s such a thrill, and it’s easy to be naïve about contracts and fine print. A good agent should advise and encourage, and also keep an eye on all the contract details.

 index

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

 

Katharine: Recently my husband and I moved back to the USA after thirty-five years in London, and that’s changed my writing habits in many ways. I used to write in a quiet upstairs room in London, but we travel a lot more now, and luckily laptops have made writing on the go very easy. I sometimes write ideas and thoughts in notebooks, but most of my writing is now on my laptop computer. I do a lot of revisions, and for each story I keep a file with dated changes and rewrites in the computer – it really helps keep me organized! I find all I need is a quiet space where I can sit down and concentrate with the laptop. The location doesn’t matter so much now – if you’re engrossed in a story an airplane can be surprisingly good place to write.

 

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?

 

Katharine: I love the idea of a muse, because there’s always a touch of magic about writing, as with all creative work (Elizabeth Gilbert has a wonderful TED Talk about working with her muse). So yes, I write when the muse inspires me, though deadlines are also inspiring! When I have a story due I become a binge writer and go at it for a entire days at a time, but then there are periods when I’m just humming along, waiting for the next spark of an idea to arise. I’m now writing a new series about ‘TWINKLE, a little fairy who lives in a magical fairy world and goes to the Fairy School of Music and Magic – it’s a big change from Mouseland, and I’m enjoying the challenge. (TWINKLE is a Barnes & Noble exclusive, available from B&N and Amazon)

Meet TWINKLEroll

ME: Why do you write for children?

 

Katharine: I started writing for children when I was in my thirties, at home with two young daughters (and then a son). My daughters loved to dress up and dance, just the way I’d danced with my sisters growing up in Chicago. My oldest daughter was a very determined character, and all she wanted for her fourth birthday was a pink tutu. As soon as Tara put on her pink tutu she magically became a great ballerina, and wore it everywhere. I was doing free lance writing for my husband’s publishing company, Aurum Press, and worked on Helen Craig’s first mouse counting and ABC books. When Aurum proposed doing a storybook with Helen I knew it was my chance to write something special for my daughters. I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a first draft about a little dancing character I called Primrose, and this became Angelina Ballerina. It’s now been 35 years since Angelina Ballerina was published, and recently Helen Craig and I donated all our Angelina archive to the Seven Stories Children’s Museum in Newcastle, England. I was there in September to see ”Twists and Tails – the story of Angelina Ballerina,” a show created from our archive materials, and it was amazing to discover my first hand written draft proudly displayed in a glass case in the center of the room!

There’s more information regarding the Seven Stories Children’s Museum on my Facebook page.Family portrait Sept 14

 

 

 

 

Thank you so very much, Katharine! I’m excited about your new Twinkle series. My little granddaughter will be two years old in April…and she and her parents love fairies.

I know you have grandchildren and we are so happy to have this special smoothy recipe that you make for them.

 

Katharine: I have two adorable grandsons (still waiting for a little girl who loves pink!)

I’m not much of a baker, but the boys and I like to make smoothies together – they’re so delicious, and I add some Green Superfood flavoured with chocolate!

 NANA’S SMOOTHIE:

2 Cups milk or almond milk

1 banana

1 cup cleaned strawberries, blueberries or raspberries (or combination)

1 peeled Kiwi

1 tablespoon Green Superfood – Chocolate flavour

Blend until smooth and yummy!

Wow! Thank you for your candid and helpful answers, Katharine. And I can’t wait to try your smoothy recipe.

With the holiday just around the corner, I know that parents and grandparents are looking for great gifts for kids – I can’t think of a better one than a BOOK. I noticed there are two different Christmas titles for Angelina Ballerina books, and of course, board books, paper backs, Kindle versions, audio tapes and many other ways people can share the beloved Angelina Ballerina. These are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, indie bookshops and from the Penguin Website, Angelinaballerina.com, Hitshopusa.com and HITEntertainment.com.

If you want to connect with Katharine, you can visit her amazing website: http://katharineholabird.com/

And if you are interested in viewing the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talks she mentioned, here they are:

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_success_failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating

What a way to end Will Write for Cookies for the year. I started this series in January. Have you read all twelve posts? Here is a list with links so you can catch up on any you might have missed:

Iza Trapani

Susanna Leonard Hill

Susanne Gervay

David Seow

Emily Lim

Emma Walton Hamilton

Christopher Cheng

Dianne de las Casas

Anne Marie Pace

Jane Yolen

Julie Hedlund

Tara Lazar

Sandra Beckwith

Laura Purdie Salas

Katharine Holabird

And 2015 will be another exciting year – Katie Davis, Laura Gehl, Julie Rowan-Zoch, Donna McDine, Marty Banks, Suzanne Williams, Artie Bennett, Miranda Paul, Becky Gomez, and more authors and illustrators will be stepping into the Will Write for Cookies spotlight…I hope you won’t miss a post.

And, if you still have any vision left after this ultra-long post, head over to Susanna Hill’s blog and read some of the incredible stories that have been entered in her 4th Annual Holiday Contest: http://www.susannahill.blogspot.com

 

Christopher Cheng – Will Write for Cookies Goes to Australia

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

TODAY’S GUEST

CHRISTOPHER CHENG

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Going to writing conferences rocks! You attend great workshops. You listen to amazing presentations. You learn so much. One of the best perks, though, is that you meet incredible people.

I connected with award-winning author/illustrator Christopher Cheng at the AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore last May. His presentations sing…his books sparkle. When I asked him if he would participate in Will Write for Cookies…and he said YES…I’m sure he was able to hear my happy hip hip hooray – all the way on the other side of the world!

Chris is a sought-after speaker for SCBWI and other groups…and travels all over the world – he just returned from the Bologna and London book fairs. If you check out his website, you’ll find his blog where he shares what he sees and hears at these conferences.

Chris Cheng and bini in LondonWith wife, Bini, in London.

 

Chris…I’m so happy you could do this. I know that everyone is anxious to hear more about you.

 

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

 

CS Lewis, CS Lewis, CS Lewis (I still have my very first copies) – oh and very early on … A.A Milne
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

 

That it is so much fun … and lots of work too!

 

 

Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

 

I have notebooks that go everywhere with me and then when each is filled – on one side only, the opposite side *might* be needed for Continue reading