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

Marcie Colleen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

marcie-and-books-1-and-2

MARCIE COLLEEN

Our guest today is a beacon of light for all of kid lit land. I remember seeing her name the first year of the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. And as time went on, I kept seeing her name. She’d signed with an agent. She’d gotten a book contract. And another. And then another! But what stands out most about this amazing writer is how she shares her passion with the rest of us. She’s the Dick Clark (I’m sure many of you have no clue who Dick Clark is…I am definitely dating myself) of the 12×12 Facebook group…and helps us all celebrate our successes with a rockin’ dance jam every week.

Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, and a nanny, but now she spends her days writing children’s books. She is the author of the Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series (Macmillan/Imprint). Her debut picture book, Love Triangle, illustrated by Bob Shea (Blazer+Bray/HarperCollins, Fall 2017) sold in a five-house auction. It is about best friends Circle and Square, and Triangle who comes between them. Other upcoming picture books include The Adventure of the Penguinaut (Scholastic, Fall 2018) which will be illustrated by Emma Yarlett. Marcie is a frequent presenter at conferences for SCBWI, as well as a faculty member for Kidlit Writing School offering courses with a focus on plotting and revising picture books. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband and their mischievous sock monkey.

Marcie, I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar! Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that there will be a giveaway of Book Three and Book Four of the Super Happy Party Bears series, so please stick with us throughout the post and then leave a comment at the end. 

book 4

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

 MARCIE:

I have always loved the Curious George adventures by husband and wife team, Margret and H.A. Rey. And I could lose myself for hours in the illustrations of Richard Scarry. I loved his city scenes where there was so much going on. It is a life goal of mine to write a story that will lend itself to this kind of illustration.

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

MARCIE:       

I would often feel like I wasn’t a real writer because I didn’t write every day. And I had heard that real writers must do just that. But getting to know myself as a writer and to let my creativity lead the way helped me to trust my own rhythm and my own processes.

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

MARCIE:

I write on a laptop and therefore am quite flexible as to where. Most often I can be found on my couch, sitting crisscross applesauce with my laptop propped up on a pillow. However, on Wednesdays I spend the whole day at the library in downtown San Diego writing. They have a beautiful reading room which has amazing views of the Coronado Bridge, the harbor, and the distant ocean.

cover book 3

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

MARCIE:

I like sleep, so I am not one to rise super early. But once my husband leaves for work at 8 am, I get to work writing. Then, I usually write until about noon or one-ish. After that, I usually feel my creativity dwindling. Although I have been known to get into a groove and write all day and into the night.

ME: Why do you write for children?

MARCIE:

I’m really connected to my inner-child. Honestly, I think deep inside I’m still a six-year-old. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. I have some people fooled that I am actually an adult.

 cover book 1

Marcie, thank you so very much…it’s been an honor to have you here!

To find out more about Marcie and her books: http://www.thisismarciecolleen.com or on Twitter @MarcieColleen1.

Okay friends…you know what they say…it’s not over until the cookie recipe is shared!

But, since yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday was a review that was not a picture book, our cookie recipe today is a recipe for something that is not a cookie!

 pandj

Huge thanks to Marcie for a wonderful interview! She is an inspiration!

Dear friends, thank you for spending your time with Marcie and me…next week I’ll have another wonderful guest as I turn the spotlight on Catherine Bailey, author of LUCY LOVES SPENCER. Don’t miss it!

Jessica Petersen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway Prize Package

 WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

JESSICA PETERSEN

Choo-choo! Will Write for Cookies is coming down the track…with another 2017 debut picture book author as our engineer.

Jessica Petersen started inventing new tricks for old tracks when her son was a train-obsessed toddler. Their adventures inspire her blog, Play Trains! (play-trains.com), where she writes about playing, learning, and reading with kids who love trains. She wrote, photographed, and illustrated OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS in her home in Seattle, Washington, where she lives with her husband, her son, and lots of happy wooden train tracks.

cover

Is everyone onboard? The conductor says relax, sit back, and enjoy the interview.

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

 JESSICA:

In elementary school, Jasper Tomkins came to my school — I’m pretty sure that was the only author visit I ever experienced as a kid — and I loved his whimsical books that anthropomorphize unlikely subjects, particularly the cloud in Nimby and the mountains in The Catalog. Years later, I was so happy to find copies of those books for my son, and in retrospect, I would guess his books were one of the things that started me down the path to bringing wooden train tracks to life in my own book.

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

JESSICA:

Perfection isn’t a goal on the first draft. Get the story down first, then get the story right, and then you can start trying to make the words sing.

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?

JESSICA:

You may notice that the very blue walls are the same color as the walls in the playroom in Old Tracks, New Tricks. My office is does triple duty as a writing room, photo/video studio, and play room for my son (he picked out the bright paint color, which I love too). I wrote (and photographed) most of the book there, although I also spent a lot of time drawing strange looks as I tapped out the meter of the verse on coffee shop tables.

workspace

I used to write many of my rough drafts longhand as a way of digging deeper into emotions, but I mostly work on my laptop now. When I’m writing rhyming verse or a lot of dialogue, I hear the words in my mind. They don’t stop to wait for me, so I need to type to keep up with them.

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?

JESSICA:

I write anytime I can. I used to be much more particular before my son came along. Children can be a great motivator to learn to write anytime, anywhere, with any amount of distraction. My big challenge now is that illustrating and promoting the book have taken up so much of my time for so long that I’m out of the writing habit. But I have another picture book in the works that I’m really excited about, so I’m hoping to figure out how to balance it all this spring.

ME: Why do you write for children?

JESSICA:

I used to work on fantasy novels aimed at adults, but I made the switch to children’s books when my son was younger, about four years ago. I loved the books I was reading to him, of course, but more than that, having him around made me think about what kind of work I was putting out there in the world, about how I could help kids learn about the world and how to approach life in a strong, kind, creative way.

creative ways to use tracks

ME: Jessica, 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.

JESSICA:

It can be a long, long journey from the first draft of your first manuscript until the day you see your first book in print. Look at that as an opportunity. Take the time to learn your craft, to build your writing community, to try different styles and forms of writing. Enjoy having the time to go down creative roads that don’t seem to lead anywhere. You never know when they’re going to be a shortcut. If I hadn’t gotten distracted from the novel I was writing to play around with fabric designs, I never would’ve been inspired to draw a sad train track, crying because it was left out of a full circle of happy tracks. (And yes, I’m going to use that to justify creative forms of procrastination for the rest of my life!)

One of my favorite things about Old Tracks, New Tricks is that I’ve been getting to collaborate with kids through the website (oldtracksnewtricks.com), where they can have grown ups submit photos of track tricks and adventures, and I add the faces in the same way I illustrated the book. I’ve been surprised and delighted by the creative ideas the kids are sending in — it’s even more fun than adding the faces to my own photos! I also decorated and painted a set of trains and tracks to look like characters from the book, and I’m taking them to train shows and other events so my son and I can share them with other children. It’s so cool to see my trains moving around the tracks, like they’ve rolled out of the pages of the book and come to life. As an author or illustrator, if you can play and create with your audience, it gives you a chance to connect in a significant, memorable way, for both you and your readers.

ME: I love this advice, Jessica. Especially about finding a way to play and create with your audience…great tip for authors to remember at book events.

You can visit Jessica online at http://www.jessica-petersen.com, on Twitter at @j_e_petersen, and on Instagram at @playtrains. And you can meet the little train tracks at http://www.oldtracksnewtricks.com, or on Instagram at @oldtracksnewtricks.

And now for one of my favorite parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

Coal Cupcakes

cupcake

These are by far the best, most moist and chocolately cupcakes I’ve ever tasted — and I trained as a pastry chef before I got into writing! We use a King Arthur Flour cupcake recipe (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/favorite-fudge-birthday-cupcakes-with-7-minute-icing-recipe), but mix them up with black cocoa (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/black-cocoa-12-oz) so they’re super dark. We started calling them “coal cupcakes” (https://play-trains.com/coal-black-chocolate-cupcakes/) when I made them for my son’s third train-themed birthday party in the row. After making a Thomas tiered cake for the first one and a 3D fondant-covered Thomas cake for the second one, I dropped the ball and didn’t have time to even decorate the cupcakes. But I convinced my kiddo that they looked like lumps of coal, and he loved them. The lucky thing is that they’re so good, they don’t even need icing — perfect for those of us who don’t really like icing very much in the first place!

WOW…we always used to threaten the kids that they’d get lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings…I actually would LOVE to get a couple of these!

Jessica…we want to thank you so very much…I know everyone gained valuable insight from your answers…and we’ll all gain a couple of extra pounds on the scale from your ‘lumps of coal’. Congratulations on a wonderful book and on just chugging along on your dream track! Your vision and persistence brought success!

And now, dear readers, please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the awesome gift package giveaway from Jessica. A signed copy of OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS, a personalized wooden track, and a sheet of decals for a young child to decorate their own.

giveaway

I hope you all have a beautiful week. Storms are ahead for New England…but THE CLOCKS ARE TURNING BACK! Don’t forget DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME is this weekend.

Will Write for Cookies: Peter McCleery + Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

unnamed

­

PETER MCCLEERY

Because my picture book was slated to pub in 2017, I was lucky enough to become part of a great group of 2017 debut picture book authors and illustrators. They’ve been truly lovely and haven’t kicked me out of the group, even though Sweet Dreams, Sarah was pushed back to 2018. Which is fine by me because it’s given me a chance to be part of the chain mail exchange of ARC’s and F&G’s. (ARC’s are Advanced Reading Copies. F&G’s are Folded and Gathered…the actual pages of the finished book before they are bound together). And it’s also given me a golden opportunity to connect with all of these talented creatives, review their books, and feature them on my blog.

Peter McCleery is the author of the hilarious Bob and Joss series of children’s books, Bob and Joss Get Lost! (available February 2017) and Bob and Joss Take a Hike! (coming in 2018). He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he occasionally gets lost. His favorite things include kids (and adults) who laugh. He’s also written for Highlights magazine and for grown-ups on the McSweeney’s humor website.

Peter…we are so darned excited to have you here…I’ve truly enjoyed your debut picture book…as well as the wonderful post you did for the Picture the Books blog. I urge you all to read this…Peter did a survey and interviewed some of the debut authors…it’s an inside peek into why they wrote what they wrote on the dedication page.

Dear friends, I want to remind you that if you leave a comment below, you’ll be entered into the giveaway of a copy of Peter’s debut picture book, BOB AND JOSS GET LOST which I reviewed yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday.

bob-and-joss-cover

And now we are going to get an inside peek into the who, what, where, when, and why of Peter McCleery.

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

 PETER:

I was a big fan of Babar and had a bunch of those books growing up, which I still have. I remember being easily engrossed by Brunhoff’s fanciful illustrations. I could just pop open a page and become immersed in the scene. I especially loved the unique architecture of Celesteville and the how each animal had their own type of building that perfectly suited them.  When I got older I sort of skipped typical middle-grade and YA novels and read a lot of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. What’s funny is that none of that style is apparent in my writing now!

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

PETER:  

How to be patient. When I first started writing I thought I could crank out great stories and be done. It doesn’t really work that way. I learned to slow down and take my time with a manuscript. (Some might say too slow.) Even if I write a draft really fast I will let it sit and steep like a good tea. Sometimes a solution or a new idea will pop in my head during this “downtime.” It’s important to make space for that to happen. The hard part is balancing that notion with actually getting things done.

Or all of that might be an excuse to procrastinate.

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

PETER:

I work in a bunch of different places. Sometimes at home or in my local coffee shops.

unnamed-1

Although recently, to help increase my production (see answer above), I started renting a small office. It’s a very basic space in a medical/health office building. Gray carpet, white walls, etc…It’s me and a bunch of orthodontists and physical therapists! It’s funny to be doing creative work in such an uncreative space. We’ll see if it works!

office

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

PETER:

I find that mid-day is my most productive time.  Early on I tried working at night after the kids went to bed but I realized that my brain was fried and writing was a struggle. Being a stay-at-home dad allows me to write during the day when my kids are in school and in between errands or their activities.

ME: Why do you write for children?

PETER:

This is such an interesting question! I think a big part of it is that I feel very comfortable with that age audience.  They take easily to the absurd. They don’t quite know what the “rules” are yet. Every time they read a book they are learning, “this is what a book is. This is how a book works.” I want to leave them with the impression that books can be fun and weird and full of clever delights.

ME: Peter, 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.

PETER:

I think some of the best writers are the ones most connected to kids’ sensibilities. Whether it’s humor, light or dark emotions, understanding relationships, etc., they get how kids think, how they see the world. Sure, adults should like and appreciate what you do (after all they are the ones making the purchase), but first and foremost the thing you are making should connect with kids.

I always try to imagine myself in front of a bunch of 6-year-olds (or whatever age range I’m writing for) with just my manuscript. It’s a scary thought, right? And it should be. Kids have no patience for the dull, the flat or the self-indulgent. Then I ask, can I honestly say this will hold their attention? Are there parts that would make me hesitant to present in front of them? If so, why?

Thank you so very much, Peter! This was amazing. I love that you suggest we connect with young kids if we are going to write stories they will love…it’s obvious that your connection with them is super strong!

And for all of you who want to find out more about Peter and his books, you can find him at http://www.petermccleery.com and at Twitter @pmccleery.

Okay friends…you know what they say…it’s not over until the cookie recipe is shared!

PETER:

 This cookie recipe is an old family traditional recipe. My mom makes them every holiday and so did her mother. While it’s a Greek recipe, my grandparents actually immigrated from Albania but there is a lot of cultural overlap. It’s not a very sweet cookie, in fact they taste best at breakfast with tea or coffee. The sesame seeds seem like an odd choice for a cookie but it works. Perfect for dipping!

cookies

cookie-recipe

My goodness…this is amazing! I love the way they look, Peter! And I’ll bet they taste even better. Not sure that the heavy cream, 4 cups of sugar, cup of butter and 12 eggs are quite what the doctor ordered…but hey, writers need nourishment…and eggs are very nutritious, right?

I know we all join together to thank Peter for his insights…and his wonderful recipe!

I hope your weekend is sprinkled with joy. And I hope you are all getting ready for #50PreciousWords…Challenge post goes live on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Thursday, March 2.

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