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

Kerri Kokias: Will Write for Cookies Plus Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Kerri Kokias Headshot

 

KERRI KOKIAS

I met today’s guest in Picture the Books 2017. Debut picture book authors together, we really had no clue as to how the process of publication worked. As Robert Burns said in To a Mouse: The best laid schemes o’mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” Which in plain English means, sometimes your plans don’t work out exactly as you thought they would. There can be all kinds of hold-ups in the publishing industry…that’s just how it is. So here it is 2018, and Kerri and I are part of Epic Eighteens, the group formed to give support and encouragement to debut picture book authors and illustrators with books coming out this year.

Now it looks like there is a chance Sweet Dreams, Sarah may be pushed back even further to 2019, but I’m thrilled to welcome Kerri and congratulate her on her exceedingly beautiful 2018 picture book debut!!! 

Kerri’s writing features unique structures, playful language, humor, tension, tenderness, simple text, and complicated characters. She has a good vision for how text and art can work together to tell a complete story. Kerri credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper.  Kerri lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two children, and three dogs.

book covers for sisters

Hello, Kerri! Thanks so much for stopping by! We enjoyed finding out about SNOW SISTERS yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday and everyone is excited to hear a little bit more about you.

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

KERRI: In my youngest reading memories I was a big fan of anything written by Shel Silverstein, James Marshall, Arnold Lobel, Judith Viorst, and William Steig. As I got a little older I liked books by Beverly Clearly, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Ann Martin. I still treasure these author’s books and expect that I’ll never outgrow them.

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

KERRI: Hmm, I started to say that I wish I knew how long it was going to take me to get published, but then I realized that it was probably a good thing that I didn’t.  (12 years!) I guess I would reframe that a little and say that I wish I knew that a career as an author doesn’t really come easy for anyone, even if it may look like it from the outside. I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of author friends through the years and everyone’s path to publication is different, but every one includes a lot of hard work, determination, grit, a little luck and some disappointment along the way.  And as best as I call tell, this doesn’t change post publication either.

SnowSistersLargeCover

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

KERRI: I can tell you the most unusual place I have even written- at the swimming pool while swimming laps. There was one particular manuscript I was working on that I kept getting ideas for while I was swimming. So I kept a waterproof notebook at the end of the pool and would jot down notes between laps. But more ordinarily, I have a nice space with my picture book collection set up in my basement but I usually prefer to just sit on my living room couch or at my kitchen table and write on my laptop. Occasionally, if I’m having a hard time staying focused I’ll go to the library or a coffee shop to work. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I often come up with my best ideas when I’m driving or falling asleep. So a surprising amount of my writing originates as notes taken on my phone or whatever scrap of paper happens to be nearby. I have learned the hard way that these pieces of inspiration are lost if I don’t record them immediately, so I know to pull the car over when I need to jot something down and that it’s worth it to turn on that bedside lamp at record my idea even if it’s tempting to just roll-pver and fall asleep.

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

KERRI: I’m not very structured with my writing time (gasp!) and have never had much luck with the old butt in the chair technique. I’m more prone to just go about my day and write as the muse strikes. However, projects are ALWAYS stewing in my brain, even if I don’t have anything on paper to show for it. I take notes throughout the day and typically when enough of them build up I feel motivated to sit down and pull them together.

ME: Why do you write for children?

KERRI: Kids are my favorite kind of people!

ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. 

KERRI:  I often hear beginning aspiring authors say that they can write better stories than what’s already out there. My advice here is that people’s tastes vary, and there is an audience for just about anything. So don’t compare your writing to books that are outside of your taste; compare it to the books that you most admire.  Take your time striving to get your work the best that it can be.

ME: What awesome advice, Kerri. TAKE YOUR TIME STRIVING TO GET YOUR WORK THE BEST THAT IT CAN BE!!! That’s a great mantra for all of us!

I know we are want to thank Kerri for her insights, her generous picture book manuscript critique giveaway, and for spending this precious time with us. But we’re not done yet!

I guess Kerri is part seer…she must have known that here on the East Coast, we have been hit by a blizzard and record cold temperatures and we are in need of some warm beverages. So pull out some of those previous cookie recipes and bake up a hatch and then…

KERRI: How about some hot cocoa to go with all of those cookies?

Homemade Hot Cocoa

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Cup milk

Dash of salt

Multiply by desired number of servings. Heat until warm. Snuggle up and enjoy!

YUM! And while you are sipping your hot chocolate, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of A PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE from the lovely and talented Kerri Kokias! And after you do that, choose one or more of the following to help your favorite author:

1. One of the best ways is to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book review sites. 

2. Ask your local library to order the book…many libraries honor patron requests and some even have online request forms.

3. Buy a copy of the book.

4. And most importantly…TALK ABOUT THE BOOK…to friends, family, and anyone who will listen!

Amazingly, it is almost time to start talking about the #50PreciousWords writing challenge. The challenge opens March 2 – it celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss – last year we had 253 incredibly wonderful entries and 40 prizes! I’ve already got two kidlit powerhouses to help me. So, if you have a prize you’d like to donate (book, critique, original art, or anything a writer would love to have), please contact me at viviankirkfield@gmail.com or via FB or Twitter PM. This challenge brought out amazing talent…the 1st place winner in 2016 already has a contract for that story and a sequel to it! Many people who participated said it was the FIRST time they had ever submitted anything. That is a huge accomplishment for them right there! And the camaraderie and positivity that wove through the thread of over 2000 comments was a testament to what a beautiful kidlit world we are creating! The informational post will go up in mid February, but I just wanted to get the ball rolling.

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Alison Goldberg: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Alison Goldberg headshot small

ALISON GOLDBERG

Our guest today is a debut picture book author this year–and I was thrilled to meet her when I joined Picture the Books 2017, a group dedicated to authors and illustrators whose books are launching this year.

Alison Goldberg is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. Alison is also a board member of the Food Research and Action Center, an organization committed to ending hunger in the United States. Learn more at http://www.alisongoldberg.com.

ME: Welcome, Alison! I’m thrilled you stopped by to chat with us. 

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

 ALISON: When I was in elementary school, Norman Bridwell visited my school. For months after, I drew fan art and even sent him a Clifford book that I made. I think this was the first time I understood that becoming a children’s author was an actual job that someone could do, so my love of his books was connected to that experience.

Clifford fan art

This is the Clifford book I sent to Norman Bridwell after he visited my school.

            Other favorite picture book creators from childhood include Maurice Sendak, Leo Lionni, Margaret Wise Brown, and Ezra Jack Keats.

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

 ALISON: I wish I knew what close friends and collaborators I would find in the children’s writing community! This knowledge would have inspired me in those early days when it felt like a big risk to change fields, when I was solely focused on learning about writing picture books and novels, and when I did not know if any of my stories could possibly ever become books. Then I would have known that through all of the ups and downs in this journey there would be such kind and generous book creators to share it with.

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

ALISON: All of the above. I like to write at my desk, while taking walks, at the library, in coffee shops, at the beach, in playgrounds, and on trains. The more I write, the more I realize writing isn’t something that’s easily shut off, so I’ve become comfortable with jotting down notes—whether on computer, phone, or on paper–wherever I am.

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

 ALISON: It depends on the project. Some picture book drafts arrive in a burst that last anywhere from an hour to a few days and at any time of day. In those instances, I just go with it (and sometimes forget to pull dinner together for my kids until the very last minute!).

            But when it comes to revision—especially for longer projects like the middle grade novel I’m working on—I prefer more scheduled, daytime writing sessions and setting concrete goals.

   Often what I choose to write about is connected to my desire to share stories with children that further social justice. I love writing about the topics that grab me and don’t let go—whether it’s the actions of inspiring activists, the art of creative individuals, or the journeys of fictional characters. When this happens I work on figuring out what makes the topic feel so meaningful and then how to introduce it to kids.

            And sometimes the process works the other way around, like in the case of I Love You for Miles and Miles. My kids were the ones hooked on trucks and trains, and I needed to understand their magic!

big rig page_Miles and Miles

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. 

 ALISON: For writers: Don’t worry about the market. Or, understand the market, and then let go of its expectations. Write the books of your heart. If something grabs hold of you and won’t let go you’ll bring a passion to that subject that will come through on the page. Carrying that story to publication will likely take years, so make sure it’s truly a story you want to tell.

ME: Oh my goodness…that is awesome advice, Alison. We really have got to love our subject and  story because when you get to the 45th revision, you want to still enjoy reading it! Thank you so much, dear friend! I know everyone is going to remember  this, for sure!

CARRYING A STORY TO PUBLICATION WILL LIKELY TAKE YEARS, SO MAKE SURE IT’S TRULY A STORY YOU WANT TO TELL!

And to give you energy along the journey, why not try this delicious treat that doubles as a dinner for Alison and her family.

Cinnamon French Toast & Bananas

Recipe: Cinnamon French Toast & Bananas (for 2)

I am a huge fan of chocolate chip cookies, but here I thought I’d share a quick and easy recipe for writers like me who sometimes get caught up in writing, forget about dinner, and need to pull food together in a flash. This treat doubles as supper! My kids eat a lot of French Toast ☺

4 slices of bread (I like to use sourdough, ciabatta, or challah, but any bread will work.)

2 eggs

1/3 cup of milk

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Butter for the pan

Banana slices

Maple syrup, honey, jam, applesauce, or any other topping you like

INSTRUCTIONS:

Beat eggs with milk, cinnamon, and vanilla in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip the bread into the mixture until the bread is coated on both sides. Heat up a frying pan over medium heat, melt butter, and then cook the French Toast, flipping to cook both sides. Once done, serve with banana slices (or another fruit) and topping of choice.

Enjoy!

Thank you again, Alison. I know I will definitely enjoy this…French Toast used to be one of my childhood favorites.

Dear friends, thank you for spending your precious time with us. Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES.

LoveYouForMiles_biblio

And, with the holidays just around the corner, if you want to give a wonderful gift to your favorite authors, please remember to leave book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other review sites. For more information or to purchase I LOVE YOUR FOR MILES AND MILES, please go to the author’s book page or indie-bound.

Have a safe and happy weekend.

And if you are in the writing mood, why not enter Susanna Hill’s Holiday Contest!

Patricia Toht: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Head Shot

 

PATRICIA TOHT

Today’s guest is yet another of the wonderful writers I met when I first dipped my toes into kidlitland. So when I heard that her second picture book was about to launch, I knew that I wanted to have her stop by to chat with us.

I grabbed part of the text from Patty’s website to give you a peek into who she is…what an inspiration to all of us who wonder…is this writerly path the right road for me…and will I ever get published:

When I was in third grade, I had my first brush with “writing fame” when I wrote a patriotic poem that won a contest. The prize was free summer writing camp.

Was that what propelled me to becoming a writer? Nope! Sports camp was much more fun. Archery! Trampolines! Dodgeball on scooters!

I didn’t think seriously about writing until I was an adult. When I was 28, I decided that I wanted to open a children’s bookstore. With the support of my family, I did just that. And, BOOM! I was completely and forever in love with children’s books.

When the store closed, I turned my attention from selling books to writing them.

And aren’t we all glad that she did!!!!

Welcome, Patty! Thank you so much for visiting Picture Books Help Kids Soar. I’ve got some questions for you, so let’s get started.

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

PATTY: I learned to read quite young and loved rhyming books, especially Dr. Seuss. I was also one of those kids who peppered my parents with non-stop questions, so they purchased a series of books called TELL ME WHY, and I devoured them.

Tell Me Why (1)

When I started reading novels, I fell in love with specific books more than particular authors. My favorites included THE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS by Dodie Smith, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl, and A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle.

101 Dalmatians

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

PATTY: About ten years ago, I went through a spell of being frustrated with and discouraged by the “black hole” – that policy of publishers and agents not responding unless they’re interested in your work. It felt to me like turning my kids out into the world and not knowing what happened to them. I tried to quit writing, but my brain wouldn’t turn it off. I then made an important decision just write for writing’s sake. I focused on exploring the depths of my craft, learning how to make my work better. In the process I discovered that a well-written piece was more important to me than a sale. Surprisingly enough, that’s when the sales started to happen!

All Aboard the London Bus_CVR

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

PATTY: At the idea stage, I’m all pen and paper (or napkins, sales receipts, paper bags…). But after that, I’m a laptop girl. I once had little writing nook under the stairs, which I loved, mostly because I could throw the doors open to a gorgeous yard. But in our current townhouse, my family complains that I make the entire house my office! I’ll write in a chair, on the couch, at the kitchen table, even in bed. And everywhere I go, a pile of books follows.

My Favorite Spot to Write

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

PATTY: With a busy day job in a middle school LRC, it’s a constant battle for me to write more consistently. When I’m hot on an idea, I’m pretty frenzied, working whenever and wherever I can. I’m a night owl, so my sweet spot tends to be after 8pm.

The View from MFSTW

ME: Why do you write for children?

PATTY: I’ve had many jobs in my adult life. Looking back, I’ve discovered that nearly all of them focus on the intersection of children and books – I’ve worked in schools and libraries, and for a business that facilitated author and illustrator visits for schools. I also owned a children’s bookstore for seven years, which was magical. I feel like all of those paths have converged on the sweet spot of writing for children.

LRC Crew

I love this quote from Zoltán Kodály, a Hungarian composer: “Let us take our children seriously! Everything else follows from this – only the best is good enough for a child.” I believe he was referring to music education, but I feel the same applies for writing, and I am happy to try my best to provide great reading material for children.

ME: WOW…Patty…I love all of your insights! Thank you so much for sharing. I know that many of the things you said will resonate for all the writers out there.

To learn more about Patty, please visit her fabulous website: http://www.patriciatoht.com

And in addition to everything else she does, Patty is also a contributing writer to the GROG blog: https://groggorg.blogspot.com

With the holidays coming, it’s always nice to have a new treat recipe…here is a NO-BAKE one that is perfect to make with the kiddos.

No-Bake-Christmas-Tree-Cookies-www.thereciperebel.com-2-768x1152Photo courtesy: https://www.thereciperebel.com/bake-christmas-tree-cookies/

For ingredient list and instructions: https://www.thereciperebel.com/bake-christmas-tree-cookies/

And more awesome goodness…here’s one of Patty’s favorite holiday recipes:

Hooty Creek Cranberry Cookies

(from Mo at the Container Store)

 

2 ¼ cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

 

Combine dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Mix in flour mixture and oats, then stir in cranberries, chips and nuts.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

 

Thank you so much, dear friends, for spending your precious time here. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of Patty’s wonderful book.

Pick a Pine Tree Cover

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a copy of PICK A PINE TREE to read during the holidays?

Have a safe and happy weekend.

 

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