Category Archives: Giveaway

Julie Segal Walters : Will Write for Cookies PLUS Picture Book Manuscript Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INFORMATION – INSPIRATION – INSIGHT

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Julie Segal Walters headshot (1)

JULIE SEGAL WALTERS

This kidlit community is teeming with incredible people and it’s been my honor to get to know many of them. Today’s guest is one of the founders of PicturetheBooks2017, a group of authors and illustrators whose debut picture books are launching this year. 

Julie Segal Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. In those days, she was a frequent writer, public speaker, and commentator on NPR, Court TV, and C-Span on civic engagement and religious liberty. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. This Is Not A Normal Animal Book (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) . 

Welcome, Julie! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat!

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

JULIE: My favorite author as a child was Judy Blume. Like many kids my age, I read and re-read every book she wrote, and grew up along side her characters and their increasingly complex problems. From Sheila to Sally to Margaret to Deenie to Katherine, in my mind, Judy Blume was more friend than admired author. Through her books, she was always there for me. In her writing, she seemed to truly understand me. I’ve carried the appreciation for Judy Blume’s “friendship” with me FOREVER (Ha, ha! See what I did there?). In fact, a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to slip her a little thank you note during a book signing event in D.C. Sometimes you just need tell complete strangers how much their work has meant to your life.

ME: Where do you like to write?

JULIE: My absolute most favorite place to write is on an airplane. I don’t know what it is but I have written more — both quantity and quality — on airplanes than in any other single location. I love it! I don’t know whether it’s the white noise, or the lack of internet, or the butt in chair that makes airplanes such a perfect place for me to write. If I could fly somewhere every day (or even every week), I would have many more polished manuscripts indeed! The same is not true for trains, however. Who knows why these things are the way they are.

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

JULIE: The “when” of writing for me remains frustratingly unroutinized. For the most part, though, I write during the middle of the day when my son is in school. Although I do love my productivity when I write early in the morning!

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

JULIE: Among the many things I know now that I wish I had known when I first started writing is, when starting out, don’t write with an eye toward publication.

Like so many picture book writers I know, I first began writing picture book texts when my son was young and I yearned to create and memorialize stories for him. The problem was, before I wrote all the stories for my son — the playful food experiences we shared, the book about always loving himself, and all the other “lesson-forward” tales, — I began researching everything I needed to know about writing and publishing for children. I joined SCBWI and attended a conference. I read blogs about page turns and querying agents and editors and leaving room for the illustrator. I got my writing critiqued.

The result? I took the business of writing for children seriously and learned a ton about both the craft of writing and the picture book market. I understood that writing picture books is not a hobby, that first drafts of 2,000 word stories about my young son will not sell, and that writing really means revising — over and over and over. I wrote a marketable story, and sold it relatively quickly. (Note: an experience I have not been able to repeat for subsequent books!) I was extremely fortunate to write and sell my first book, and am thrilled about my upcoming debut.

The other result, though, is that it’s five years later I still haven’t written those important-to-me lesson-forward stories for my son. I still haven’t figured out how to memorialize the playful food experiences we shared that remain an important-to-me memory of our time together, but that he doesn’t remember at all. I haven’t brought myself to take the time to write fiction stories that are not for publication (hopefully). I focused on my publishing pipeline and not on my reason for writing in the first place.

I wish I had known that would happen when I first started writing for children. I wish I had first just written for my child.

ME: Why do you write for children?

JULIE: The books that were important to me as a child remain the most important books in my life, and I’ve rarely if ever had a relationship with a book the same way as an adult. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to create something with the goal that it will find a special place in a child’s life. Whether it’s sharing fun facts, or making kids laugh, or helping them feel connected or seen in the world, everything I write is with an eye toward whether the story will be important to a child. It’s an honor to write for children, and I take my responsibility very serioiusly.

ME: Oh my goodness, Julie. I would love to take your answers and send them to every newbie/wannabe writer…it would save them so much meandering and going around in circles…you’ve laid out a perfect plan of action steps to becoming a serious kidlit writer! And I know you have some thoughts about your book that you’d like to share as well.

JULIE: Thank you, Vivian! It’s a privilege to share my book with you and your readers.

Animal Book cover

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK begins as a stroll through different types of animals, but quickly evolves into a disagreement between the author and illustrator over how to draw them, — in particular, the blobfish. Based on a Yiddish proverb, the book is a behind the scenes look at the picture book creation process, the importance of collaboration and compromise in the face of different opinions, and the beauty of both words and art. With a sprinkle of snark. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a commercial story that breaks the fourth wall, while remaining appropriate for classroom use. (It even includes nonfiction back matter!). You can read a review of Julie’s book from PW, and you can pre-order SIGNED books from Politics and Prose, buy it on Amazon, or request it from your favorite bookseller!

(Special note for educators: Visit my website on or after October 31st for a fun and informational teacher’s guide to the book!)

ME: And I’ll add another note for everyone…please please please…go to Amazon or Goodreads or other book sites and let the world know how much you love your favorite books by leaving a review.

And guess what…we are not done yet. Even though Julie says she is not a baker, she is sharing a super recipe for…well, I’ll let her tell you. Take it away, Julie!

Julie’s favorite cookie recipe:

The “Signature Cookie”

signature cookie 2

About 20 years ago, I was invited to a “bring a special dessert” party. I decided to tackle lemon squares, because I love the combination of sweet and tangy — in food and in life. I spent an entire day cutting butter into flour for the shortbread crust, zesting and squeezing lemons, slowly heating a lemon juice and egg mixture until it was curd but not curdled, and generally becoming irritated by the number rules to follow that caused too many dirty measuring implements and bowls in my apartment kitchen.

About 15 minutes before leaving for the party, I looked at my plate of elegant and delicious lemon squares and felt completely underwhelmed. How could something so high maintenance to bake be so paltry to look at? I decided that I couldn’t show up at the party without something more.

Luckily, I happened to always have a roll of chocolate chip slice-and-bake cookies in the fridge. I quickly grabbed a mini muffin tin, dropped a quartered slice-and-bake cookie into each cup, and popped the tray in the oven. During the 10 minutes it took for the cookies to bake, I peeled the wrappers off 12 mini Reese’s peanut butter cups. When the cookies were done, I pressed a peanut butter cup into each cookie, forming a crust around the candy. Five minutes later, a dozen chocolate glazed peanut butter cookies in a chocolate chip cookie crust sat alongside my divine lemon bars on my lap on the metro.

 

Do I need to tell what happened next?

My friends flipped for the peanut butter cup cookies! The precious lemon bars sat untouched and alone like me in my lemon chiffon dress at homecoming, while 15 people pleaded for the recipe for the chocolate peanut butter cookies.

I vowed that day that I would never bake anything other than those cookies for the rest of my life, and the signature cookie was born.

The Signature Cookie

Ingredients:

Mini muffin tin

Slice-and-Bake chocolate chip cookie (any brand)

Mini peanut butter cups

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the cookie dough loaf into rounds (about 1/2 inch thick), and quarter each round.

Place one quartered dough chunk into each mini muffin tin cup, and put the tin in the oven for 8-12 minutes (checking for cookies to puff up, fill the cup, and brown slightly).

While the cookies bake, unwrap the peanut butter cups.

When the cookies are lightly browned on top, remove from oven.

Immediately insert one peanut butter cup into each cookie, pressing down gently so that cookie forms a crust around the candy.

signature cookie

Allow to cool slightly. Lift cookies out with a knife and cool completely on cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Total active time: 15 minutes.

WOW! I can’t wait to try this recipe, Julie! Thank you so very much…for the recipe, for your insights into the writing life, and also, for your VERY generous giveaway of a PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE. Dear readers, we ALL love getting feedback from a pro…so please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…the leaves are coming into their glory in our little corner of New England…and the weather has been quite mild. Indian Summer is one of my favorite times of the year! I’m actually at a Picture Book Writing Intensive led by Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss at the Writer’s Loft in Sherbourne, Massachusetts. Next week, I’ll share a bit of what I learned!

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK Plus CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends!

We’ve got another super picture book review PLUS an awesome craft for kids PLUS an amazing picture book critique giveaway (or school Skype visit if the winner is a teacher) from debut author Julie Segal Walters who will be stopping by to chat tomorrow with loads of insights and a yummy treat recipe.

However, first we have some books to give away!

Author Katey Howes is giving away a copy of GRANDMOTHER THORN. And the winner is…

Jarm Del Boccio!

Suzy Leopold is giving away a personalized journal. And the winner is…

Maria Marshall!

Lori Alexander is giving away a copy of FAMOUSLY PHOEBE. And the winner is…

Barbara Cairnes!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL! A huge thank you to our authors and illustrators…we’ve had 44 giveaways this year so far, and that doesn’t count the ones for #50PreciousWords and the Skype visits that were awarded to seven schools after #50PreciousWordsforKids. And of course, a huge thank you to all of my wonderful readers who bless me with their comments! I’m honored that you spend your precious time here at Picture Books Help Kids Soar. And I know you are waiting patiently for today’s selection…so here it is.

Animal Book cover

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK

Written by Julie Segal Walters

Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Published by Simon and Schuster (October 2017)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, humor

Opening Lines: “Animals can be classifed into groups by their unique traits. Read the rest of this entry

Suzy Leopold: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT, INFORMATION, INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot 1

SUZY LEOPOLD

Whenever I think of Suzy, I think of flowers. She is well-known in the kidlit community as the official giver of the most beautiful flower photos. If someone is sick or in need of cheering up…if someone has just gotten a book contract or signed with an agent, Suzy gifts them with virtual flowers. Birthday, anniversary, you name it, this lovely lady finds the perfect bouquet. I’ve known Suzy online for several years and was fortunate enough to meet her in person last summer at the WOW writing retreat. And she is even sweeter in person!

flowers on piano

When I asked Suzy for a bio, this is what she wrote:

I am a wife who is adored by my husband, Perry. We are proud parents to five boys and three daughters in law. Pa Perry and Oma Sue [grandparents] adore their seven sweet, smart, and sometimes sassy grandkids, who reside in Texas. I am an educator of hundreds of students, from preschool through eighth grade, including college level students, administrators and colleagues. Currently I teach a Reading course at Lincoln Land Community College and share summer school and after school reading and writing lessons in our community.

I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, a Bilingual certification, Reading Recovery certificate, and a Master’s of Science in Reading.

My husband and I are organic gardeners on the Illinois prairie, who enjoy cooking and baking for family and friends. I am a reader and a writer. I am a painter of acrylics & watercolors and a creative crafter. I am a cyclist on a pink Marin Portofina. The proprietor of Afterwords Book Store calls me a reading extraordinaire, as I participate in story time and share the love of reading.

Leaving the world a better place is important to me.

Read, write & create every day.

yellow flower

WOW! And now you know why I love her! And why, when I had an opening in my blog schedule, I invited her to share her knowledge and her spirit with all of us.

Welcome, Suzy! I’m so happy to have you stop by today. I know you are going to chat about the importance of writing in journals. Thanks to you, yesterday we had a journal-making craft to go along with the Perfect Picture Book Friday selection which was a book you use in your classroom.

So, please take it away!

As a reader, writer, and an educator I use journals. I have a collection of them. Journals help me stay organized and become an excellent resource to refer to over time.

There are many purposes for keeping a journal or two or more. A journal has many functions and uses. Some of my journals list numerous book titles, including summaries, and my thoughts and recommendation about books. Many of my journals include tips, ideas, titles of mentor texts, even rough drafts for my fiction and nonfiction stories I write. I use journals to write notes about my students’ and their progress. My students and I keep reading and writing skills and strategies in classroom journals that become interactive notebooks.

mix of journals.jpg

Let me share some more ideas with you on how to keep a journal and encourage children to do so as well. Parents are our children’s first teacher. Empowering parents and guardians with tips and tools needed to support their child’s learning at home and at school, prepares the child for a successful future.

Many readers keep a journal to write about books. A journal is an excellent place to create a reading log of books being read. Scribe your thoughts about the book. Write a quick book report. Summarize and evaluate the book. Would you recommend the book to others? A journal can be used as a wish list of titles a reader wants to read. A double-entry journal, is a way to share, read and respond while rotating the journal between two writers. Most often a double-entry journal dialogue is between a teacher and a student or a parent and a child. These journals become a written conversation for learning, growing, and reflection.

Many writers use journals to create stories. Consider recording ideas, information, data and facts, or rhyming words about topics you wish to write about or are currently researching and writing. Many students and writers brainstorm thoughts and make lists in a journal. A journal can be used for pre writing. Make it spontaneous and write in a first draft form. Try a strategy referred to as quick writing. It is an informal ramble of words on paper to develop and generate ideas. Create a graphic organizer. Jot down words and more words. Just focus on your thinking and ideas; not grammar and spelling. The revisions and editing can follow later.

IMG_3486

Many people, young and old, keep journals-artists, students, teachers, librarians, gardeners, farmers, athletes, politicians, scientists, writers, chefs, and many more. Writing in a journal is an excellent place to jot down personal experiences, thoughts, favorite quotes, and Bible scriptures. The journal may turn into a mini scrap book filled with memories. Add mementos and ephemera. Doodle. Sketch. Be creative. Most writers use a journal to record everyday events and topics that interest them. These journals may include daily entries that record news and events that are personal in nature. They are private and not intended for others to read as one writes about personal experiences, thoughts and dreams, turning the journal into a diary.

Journals come in a variety of sizes and styles, making them portable. Carry one in your purse or backpack. Use a variety of writing implements. You can use more than a pencil. Try writing with colored pencils, markers, or even a collection of rainbow colored pens.

leo inventions

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci kept over forty notebooks? He wrote about his activities, and recorded plans for his engineering projects. If Meriwether Lewis had not kept a journal, while exploring across North America, we would not have a glimpse of his travels, during the time he lived, nor the geographical information that he recorded in his journal. The beloved, best known child diary, The Diary of Anne Frank, was written while Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II.

anne frank

Don’t place limits on what you write and put in your journal or notebook. Reading and writing are reciprocal. Reading and writing are thinking. If readers are writers and writers are readers, then all readers and writers should keep at least one journal.

YAY! Thanks so much, Suzy! I’m definitely a paper person. I love journals…and especially love the one you made for me. And I’m so excited you are giving away a personalized journal as a prize today! 

my journal

To find out more about Suzy:

Grog Blog: https://groggorg.blogspot.com/2017/02/meet-jennifer-ward-by-suzy-leopold.html

Through the Prairie Garden Gate: http://sleopoldblog.wordpress.com

Twitter:  SuzyK5

Facebook: suzy.leopold

I’m also excited about the yummy recipe she is sharing! The floor is yours, Suzy…or should I say, the kitchen!

journals group

Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup softened butter

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tarter

Instructions:

Mix sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla; mix thoroughly, set aside. Mix flour and dry ingredients in another bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 375°. Divide dough in half and roll 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut with cookie cutter; sprinkle with sugar. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until delicately golden. Makes about 4 dozen cookies. While they may not last long, these cookies can be wrapped in stored in the freezer.

Please leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway – you might be the lucky winnr of a personaized journal from Suzy!

Have a safe and happy weekend, everyone!

 

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