JODIE PARACHINI: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

JODIE PARACHINI

One of my favorite things is to connect with a new person in the kidlit community. Sometimes they are a newbie…new to writing and/or illustrating. And sometimes, they are not newbies…but they new to me.

Jodie Parachini (pear-ahh-key-knee) is an American/British author and editor who currently lives in Hertfordshire, England. Jodie has worked for museums around the world, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. She is the author of ten children’s books including Listening to the StarsHalf a Giraffe?, and This Is a Serious Book. She loves writing, researching, swimming, hiking, and animals, but refuses to buy her daughter a reticulated python, no matter how hard she begs. Jodie can be found at www.JodieParachini.com

ME: Welcome, Jodie! I’m so glad you stopped by for a visit. Congratulations on TWO books out this year! I know everyone is excited to learn more about you, so let’s get started.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child? 

Jodie: HI Vivian, Thanks for chatting with me! I had a zillion favorites as a kid, many of which were obscure books of the 70s. Sit back, relax, and take in what could have been a HUGE list (but I’ll spare you):

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina. Still one of the most fun read-alouds that I know.

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. Starring the absolute cutest pet of all time.

Corduroy / A Pocket for Corduroy by Dan Freeman. Talk about emotions, I had all the feels reading this. 

Just for You by Mercer Mayer. This Little Creature (porcupine? hamster?) made my day with all his (her?) mistakes and mishaps.

But my mostest favoritest, read-under-the-covers-until-mom-yells-at-me-to-put-the-flashlight-away books of childhood were Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. I memorized his poems, copied them, made them into “performance art” to my parents’ chagrin, and when I was old enough (9 or 10, double digits!), wrote and illustrated my own and sent them to Shel (I felt I could be on a first name basis with him) for him to “include” in his next book. Sadly, he didn’t comply. 

Now that I have kids of my own, I find it fascinating to be raising them in Britain, where none of these books are known/loved. Happily, it has allowed me to learn about a whole host of British classics that I never knew, such as Zagazoo by Quentin Blake and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.



STARRED REVIEW! “An inspiring picture book biography of an inquisitive girl who became a world-renowned scientist, told in accessible language.”―School Library Journal starred review

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

JODIE: Take your time. Like many wannabe writers, I rushed into sending out my work too early to agents/publishers on the hunt for that illusive acceptance. First drafts are never brilliant (very few of us are (evil) geniuses that way), so take a step back and recognize that writing is a process that evolves over time. Critique partners can really help you see your work more clearly (and point out your weaknesses, which sounds awful, but be open to it and the results may surprise you.) 

Getting published isn’t always the validation that many people are seeking. Sure, there are some cheery moments, but mostly writers just “crack on” and get back to work. As Anne Lamott puts it in the wonderful Bird by Bird (still one of my favorite books on the craft): 

“the odds of … getting published and of it bringing … financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. …[W]rite anyway.”

 Good advice, in my mind.

STARRED REVIEW! “As gorgeous as it is informative.”―Kirkus Reviews starred review

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

JODIE: I don’t have a writing room or office but I feel most comfortable writing in bed, anyway (which annoys my husband to no end. But he’s also my muse, so he tolerates it for the sake of “Art.”  

Like many writers, ideas strike everywhere, and I’ve had to learn to write in short bursts—fitting it in between the rest of life (including homeschooling during the extensive lockdowns we’ve had in England.)

This past year I wrote most of my nonfiction books sitting in the car during my daughter’s soccer practice (parents weren’t allowed to congregate near the field). I tend to have great ideas in the shower, too, so I often have soggy first drafts. 

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

JODIE: I envy those writers who have schedules (from the 5 am writers’ clubs to those who keep their butt in chairs until they have 1,000 words on the page).  Maybe someday I’ll make a structure I can stick to, but that doesn’t fit my life right now. Even so, I continually remind myself that I AM a real writer, even if I’m just jotting ideas or scribbling notes. Every finished draft is a super-mega-WIN in my book, and one to be celebrated (even if it’s rubbish). 

Launches October 2021 from Albert Whitman

ME: Why do you write for children? 

JODIE: Your question reminds me of a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Go into yourself,” Rilke suggests in Letters to a Young Poet. “Find out the reason that commands you to write; [and] see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart.” 

Formerly, I had a love/hate relationship with writing, having written everything from essays to plays to short stories to poetry. Taking Rilke’s suggestion, I think the “reason that commands” me to write is a primal need to express myself, but I always felt compelled to do so in an angst-ridden, soul-plumbing, adult-y way. 

When I began writing for children I found that the love/hate dichotomy disappeared and it became pure joy. And who doesn’t want more pure joy in their life?

I’m also fascinated about the idea of being “in the zone.” Artists, athletes, musicians all aim for that moment when the dopamine or serotonin kicks in and the world around you disappears. In a sense, I’m always striving for that feeling of calm transcendence that for me comes from being creative, and I tend to get that feeling a lot when I’m writing for kids. 

Having said all that, I also think writing for kids is like giving them the most wonderful gift in the world. Sharing a book with a child—and watching their eyes light up, their senses heightened, their focus concentrated, and their creative mind sparked—has to be one of my highlights of parenthood. So, by extension, I’m hoping that other families and teachers get to experience more of this through my writing. 

ME: Oh, I love this, Jodie – and I can’t wait to add your books to my shelves. And another thing I want to add is your awesome recipe to my file.

JODIE: When I was a child I received a paper doll book. On one of the pages of the book, the doll, Kim, could be dressed as a chef, and the page came complete with a paper apron, chef’s toque, and a recipe for Kim’s Cookies. These wonderful, gooey molasses cookies have been my favorite treat ever since. In the interim 40 years, I’ve lost the book, so my apologies for not citing the recipe’s author! 

KIM’S COOKIES

Ingredients

¾ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

In a large bowl, beat oil, molasses, sugar, and egg. In a separate bowl, sift all other ingredients. Combine the two and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When mixture is cool, roll into golfball-size balls and roll in a bowl of sugar to coat. Place on a greased or baking-paper-lined cookie sheet and bake, 8 minutes, until crisp on outside. Let cool.

YUMMY!!! These look like something that needs to be tried this weekend, Jodie. Thank you so much for stopping by.

And thank you, dear readers, for spending your precious time with me. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of LISTENING TO THE STARS…and please remember that the best way to thank a favorite author is to buy her book, review her book, put it on your Goodreads Want-to-Read list, tell friends about her book, and ask your local library to purchase copies.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: HIP, HIP, BERET Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends.

Do you like rhyme? Do you like repetition? I sure do…and so do young children. And that’s why I’m featuring this new book, HIP HIP BERET from author Melanie Ellsworth who stopped by 2 weeks ago for a Book Birthday post when her other picture book launched, CLARINET AND TRUMPET. What’s really special (other than that they are both great books) is that both books are touchy-feely books…this one has soft berets – young kids will LOVE that. And I know all of you will love the fact that Melanie and her publisher are offering a copy of HIP, HIP, BERET as a giveaway prize!

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AMANDA DAVIS: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Photo courtesy:  Angela Wood Photography.

AMANDA DAVIS

I’ve met today’s guest at our regional NESCBWI conference and she’s attended my Writer’s Loft nonfiction picture book writing webinar – so, when I saw she had a new book launching this May called 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG, I knew I wanted to feature her on the blog so that all of you could learn more about her. And we are the FIRST STOP on Amanda’s book blog tour! Yippee!!!!

Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.

Published by Hachette Book Group/Worthy Kids – May 2021

Just look at that cover! You can totally see why we need to find out more – so, let’s get started!

ME: Welcome, Amanda! Thank you so much for stopping by to share a little bit about yourself…and your story. Here’s the first question…who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

AMANDA: Thank you so much for having me, Vivian. I can remember reading Jan Brett’s books. The Mitten, was one of my favorites. I loved looking for the hidden stories in the detailed borders of her illustrations. She is local to me here in Massachusetts, too. I also loved Corduroy by Don Freeman, Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, and Clifford the Big Red Dog series by Norman Bridwell. I enjoyed search and find books such as, Where’s Waldo, and the I Spy and Magic Gallery series. When those 3D images in the Magic Gallery books came into focus, I was always amazed! I’m still a big magic fan. When I reached middle school, the Scary Stories and Goosebumps series were some of my favs!  Funny how thinking about childhood favorites can transport you back in time. 

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

AMANDA: When I first dove into the world of children’s books (about 10 years ago), I had so much to learn! Trying to balance working full-time as an art teacher while learning how to write and illustrate children’s books was no joke! Here’s a couple things I wish I had known:

1. For author-illustrators who may just be starting out, you don’t need to illustrate your whole picture book dummy with full color when submitting to agents and editors. I made this mistake with my first dummy. I used colored pencils and made finished spreads for each page. This was extremely tedious and time consuming.  Most agents and editors only request 2-3 colored illustrations with the rest of the dummy as black and white polished sketches. Be sure to check each editor and agent’s submission guidelines for details before you submit. 

2. If you’re writing nonfiction and submit photos to agents or editors with your manuscript, make sure you can secure permissions for those photos as this will likely be your responsibility. I have numerous photos in the back matter of 30,000 STITCHES and was fortunate to have worked closely with my sources who provided me with useful information that enabled me to secure those permissions.  And, if you can, try to use photos that are part of the public domain so you don’t run into issues with having to pay a licensing fee to use the photo in your book. 

3. Lastly, I of course wish I knew that one day I would indeed get published! There are so many ups and downs that it would be nice to have a crystal ball that could show us that one day our dreams will indeed come true. Even without knowing this, I always believed it was possible. I truly feel that with enough hard work and determination, we can do whatever we put our minds to. We can learn anything. Writing and illustrating for children is no exception. 

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

AMANDA: I usually write on my laptop, at my dining room table, which to the dismay of my partner, has transformed into my paper and paint filled office/studio area. I also have a dedicated art space in our basement, but I prefer more natural light, which we don’t get much of down there. My favorite creation partner is my rescue pup, Cora. When I’m working she’s usually sleeping on the couch behind me or curled up on her dog bed at my feet. She’s the best! ☺  

Amanda’s rescue pup, Cora
Amanda’s basement studio

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

AMANDA: I tend to write first drafts as the muse strikes. I find that when my mind is free and clear, ideas flow more freely. Most of my ideas come when I let my mind wander. Most of my mind wandering takes place through meditation, nature walks, sitting near the ocean, in the shower,  or when I’m driving, ha! I have oodles of notes and phrases in my Notes app on my iPhone for those moments when ideas strike. I’m much more intentional with my revisions and schedule time to revise. Most of my ideas for revisions stem from suggestions and brainstorm sessions with my critique groups. With their feedback in mind, I often feel inspired to revise and schedule a time to do so.  

I left this image big because I think we’d all love to lose ourselves in this scene

ME: Why do you write for children? 

AMANDA: As children’s book creators, we have an opportunity to empower children to learn more about themselves, others, and the world around them. This is my philosophy as an art educator as well.  This is a huge responsibility and a very important job. With nonfiction for kids, I love the idea that we can make little known topics accessible to children.  I hope that my debut, 30,000 STITCHES, empowers parents and educators to talk to children about difficult events in our history and current day society. We can’t shield children from all the bad in the world, but we can help them understand it and show them how to work through it. We can teach them how to cope…how to move forward…and how to unite. We can remind them of the bright spots within the darkness and of the good in humanity. The fact we, as creators, can provide readers with the opportunity to explore these ideas through our stories is something truly special.  

ME: WOW! Thank you so much, Amanda. These are definitely sweet words of wisdom and I happen to know that you have something else to share with us that is very sweet.

AMANDA: This is not quite a ‘cookie’ recipe as I’m not the biggest baker but I would categorize it as a yummy sweet treat and with Passover underway, it’s also quite festive! In my family, kugel is eaten as a main dish but it could also be enjoyed as a dessert. I’m half Jewish so this is a staple in my family; especially during the Jewish holidays. Hope you enjoy it!   

Aunt Bev’s Apple Kugel:

Oh my gosh…noodle kugel…one of my favorites! My mother-in-law used to make it also! True comfort food! Thank you so much, Amanda…the recipe is awesome and your insights are much appreciated.

Dear friends, please don’t forget to leave a comment because the lovely Amanda and her publisher are giving away a copy of 30,000 STITCHES. If you share this post on social media, you earn extra tickets in the giveaway hat. And before you leave, please check out the charts of the virtual book blog tour and other events that Amanda will be participating in. Remember that the best way to thank an author is to buy her book, review her book, ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection, and tell friends about it.

It’s been a busy week for me…announcing the winners of the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest, and starting to distribute the 51 prizes! What a joy that is! Who knows what will transpire from these opportunities…doors that are opened because people where brave and put their work out there. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend! Sunday is Easter and the last day of Passover! The very best of holidays for those who celebrate.