Category Archives: Will Write for Cookies – Author/Illustrator interviews

Patricia Keeler: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

PATRICIA KEELER

I connected with our Will Write for Cookies guest early this year and fell in love with her beautiful art and wonderful stories. (Plus, she’s an awesome person!) When she said she’d be happy to stop in to chat, I was thrilled!

Welcome, Patricia! We are so happy to have you here.

ME:  What was your favorite book when you were a child? 

PATRICIA:

My favorite book was THREE LITTLE HORSES. This is a wonderful story written and illustrated by Piet Worm. The little horses liked playing games that they dreamed up wearing their colorful thinking caps. An artist, wearing a tree suit, befriended them and took them to town. He disguised them in elaborate princess costumes and masks.  

 You might think this a strange story, but it made perfect sense to my six-year old brain and heart. My mother was a textile artist. She spun and dyed her own wool. She wove the yarn into sweaters and dresses. She also created beautiful wedding dresses. Her clients, the brides-to-be, would stand in the middle of our living room to try on their new gowns. Imagine the twirling, the billowing, the excited laughter and chatter.

 So of course little horses could go to town wearing princess masks and wearing princess gowns. Better yet, an artist, like my mother, provided them. I still have the book, and will occasionally pull it down and page through it just for the joy of it.

three little horses

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

PATRICIA:

I mostly write in my studio. First drafts are usually with pencil on paper. I write later versions on my computer. I often take these to my writer’s group, where I get constructive feedback. While it’s still fresh, I’ll often start improving the manuscript on the subway on the way home from Brooklyn.

 I’ll almost exclusively do my illustrating in my studio, although I’ll take walks along the Hudson River to work out content, design, layout and color paletteconcerns. After sketching a dummy of my story, I’ll start painting with watercolors. I’ll scan each page spread, and then combine images in Photoshop. I also incorporate elements of collage and photography. With LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL I created ocean waves and Lou Seal with encaustic wax. If you’d like to see more of this process, look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evADOs7z068

V AT THE DRAWING TABLEHere I am at my drawing table.

supplies Here are some of the art supplies I work with.

And if you’d like to see even more of my art studio and my illustration approach, look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St9cCm4T1V0

This You Tube video shows me at work on my current project, SCOOP the ICE CREAM TRUCK, (Sky Pony Press, Spring 2018).

ME: Why do you create picture books for children? 

PATRICIA:

One of my greatest joys is creating art for children’s picture books—art that shows the rich emotions of feisty, assertive little girls. I illustrate independent creatures who demand to solve their own problems and expect to enjoy the rewards of doing so.

 I’m especially interested in girls who run up playground slides, win watermelon-spitting contests, and dress in colorful layers. I love little girls whose voices are dainty-delicate but when they shout, trees bend back.

 When visiting parks and playgrounds I discover the unique characteristics of a child by noticing how a baby’s legs hang like noodles from a carrier, how a toddler in a diaper walks like a goose, and a child can bend in positions that are a yogini’s dream.

 My greatest challenge is to have a consistent character while keeping up with her ever-changing moods. Hair and clothes help keep the character looking like the same child, but over 32 pages keeping her 5 years old and not 4 or 6—or her look irritated, but not angry—is on me.

lizzie crash

 I want the world to be a place of true opportunity for girls. In my work I want to show that crying is a badge of courage, because she gave her all. Her hair and clothes are expressions of freedom, because they’re her own flag. And failure is a necessity, because she’ll never move forward without it.

 Little girls intuitively know these things. I want to create books that support them from the get-go.

V BEAHere I am at Book Expo America this May sketching Lizzie wearing everything she needs for her day at the beach on her beach tool belt!

 Now about those cookies, I’ve asked my wonderful husband, Francis McCall, chief cook, bottle washer, editor, my biggest supporter—and baker—to supply the recipe for the best cookies I’ve ever had, cookies I defy anyone to manage to only eat one and not go back for more!

 Grandmother Gera’s Almond Crescent Cookies

V HOT FROM THE OVEN

 

 1/2 pound butter

1/2 pound fine ground almonds

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup granulated sugar

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add almonds.  Add 1 cup of the flour.  Add vanilla.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of flour over this mixture and mix by hand.  Place a handful of dough on a floured board.  Roll out a log of this mixture 1 inch in diameter.  Cut off 1/2-inch slices.  Roll small crescents from the slices with the heels of hands.  Place the crescents on a buttered cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.  Slightly cool and remove.  Place in container and dust with powdered sugar while still warm.  Yield approximately 10 dozen cookies.

 yumYUM!

 

 Giveaways

 coverLIZZIE and LOU SEAL book

necklaceLOU SEAL necklace

 HURRAY! I can’t thank you enough, Patricia, for sharing all of these insights with us. And for your generous giveaways! And for the yummy cookie recipe…Almond Crescent Cookies are one of my favorites! Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever met a cookie I didn’t like…but these are melt-in-your-mouth awesomeness!

Dear friends, if you’d like to connect with Patricia or find out more about her many wonderful books:

LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, Sky Pony Press (why not hop over and write a review?)

SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK, Sky Pony Press (Spring 2018)

patriciakeeler-author-illustrator.com

Facebook – PatriciaKeelerBooks

Instagram – @patriciakeeler

Twitter       – @patriciakeelerbooks

WOW…what a post! Patricia has been exceedingly generous in sharing so much of her process…we even have the YouTube videos to learn from. You definitely don’t want to leave without commenting because I know everyone would love to win the book and necklace. And don’t forget, leave a comment on yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, and you’ll be entered in THAT giveaway for a copy of the book AND the earrings.

And guess what??? The goodness just doesn’t stop because we need to announce the winners of author/illustrator Denise Fleming’s giveaway!

A copy of Beetle Bop goes to….LESLIE GOODMAN

And a copy of 5 Little Ducks goes to…MANJU HOWARD

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Please contact me so I can connect you and Denise.

Phew! I think I need to grab a big glass of iced tea and a plateful of those Almond Crescent Cookies! Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends.

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

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