FIONA HALLIDAY: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway



Plate of Cookies





Blogger error alert!!!!

This post was supposed to go live NEXT SATURDAY! But for some reason (we all know the reason – Vivian is kind of distracted because she has her book launch at Barnes and Noble this morning) it posted today, instead of Laura Renauld’s WWFC post. So some of what I say in the post refers to NEXT WEEK. Please forgive me, everyone…especially Laura and Fiona! What follows is what should have made sense if this was posted on January 25…

You may be thinking this is Fiona Halliday week over here at Picture Books Help Kids Soar. Tuesday we had a Happy Book Birthday celebration for her new picture book, NUMENIA AND THE HURRICANE, which just launched from Page Street Kids. Yesterday, we featured that beautiful book for Perfect Picture Book Friday. And today, I’m thrilled to welcome Fiona as our guest for Will Write for Cookies. She’s one of my Storm Literary Agency sisters…and I was fortunate to meet her in person at the Bologna Book Fair last year. She is a brilliant author/illustrator – and a really lovely lady – and here are a few words about her…in her own words:

Since childhood I always wanted to be a writer, but I had no real aspirations to be an illustrator. (My family are all very artistic.) I have a degree in English Literature from Edinburgh University, 2004. In 2012, I moved to Austria without being able to speak a word of German. It was then I started dabbling with illustration, I think perhaps out of frustration at not being able to communicate very well! I was always a very keen photographer, but it is quite limiting compared to illustration.

Since then I haven’t really looked back. I signed with Essie White of Storm Literary Agency in 2016. I didn’t sign my first PB deal until summer of 2018, but now I have ‘Numenia and the Hurricane,’ to be followed in May 2020 by ‘Hello Little One,’ written by Zeena Pliska, I illustrated, and then in 2021 comes ‘The Storm Goose’ (written and illustrated by myself), all with Page Street Kids.

ME: And now, my friends, you can see why I just had to make this FIONA HALLIDAY week! Welcome, Fiona…it’s so lovely to have you stop by to chat and I know everyone is waiting to hear a bit about your journey, so let’s get started.

Who were your favourite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

FIONA: My favourite illustrator when I was small was Errol Le Cain, because he illustrated ‘Hiawatha’s Childhood’ (by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I think this version is out of print?) My sister and I were entranced by his depictions of the forests, the animals, the simmering sunsets and old Nokomis. He had a very dark, luminous palate and his images crackled with a lovely dark energy.

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

FIONA: Haha, that question could produce a book in itself! I wish I had known just how much dedication and patience it requires to produce a picture book, and how much easier and nicer the journey is when you surround yourself with others who understand and love the craft.

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

FIONA: Honestly, I will write anywhere I can. My phone is cluttered with notes written whilst I am at work, on the train, sitting on the couch… I find my phone better than scraps of paper which tend to get lost. I dream of a tranquil, light-flooded studio, but it is still a building site!


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

FIONA: I tend to write/illustrate in the afternoons simply because I work in the mornings. Depending on whether I’m working to a deadline I will often work evenings as well.

ME: Why do you write for children?

FIONA: his may sound deeply selfish, but honestly, firstly, I write/illustrate for myself. The idea that I could enchant a little stranger with my words and images is so lovely, but as a debuter, that feels somehow unreal to me still! I must admit I feel a strong sense of loyalty to and love for the characters I create. They feel real to me.

ME: Fiona, is there anything else you’d like to share – advice for aspiring writers and illustrators, perhaps.

FIONA: The most valuable thing I have learned in the last few years is that the Kidlit Community is utterly amazing and if you are a budding writer, the best thing you can do is to jump in and join it – there are hundreds of doors through which you can go: SCBWI, online courses like 12×12, Kidlit 411, local and online writing and critique groups, mentorships of every kind to help you hone your craft… they and the people they contain are invaluable. Writing can be lonely, rejections are tough, the waiting is excruciating, but the landscape of Kidlit is enchanting and full of friends and magic. I live in the depths of Upper Austria but I feel like in the KidLit community I have my own personal Hogwarts.

This is wonderful, Fiona! Thank you so much. And I know there is a bit more to this post…a special recipe that pairs beautifully with your book…so take it away, my friend!

FIONA: This is a recipe for Birsay Biscuits made from Beremeal. Beremeal is the ancient flour (which possibly predates the Vikings) used to make the famous Orkney Bere bannocks, a traditional flat bread (eaten normally with cheese ) which my mother loved. You may want to increase the amount of sugar in this recipe!!


8 oz. Plain Wholemeal (you can use more Beremeal and less Wholemeal)
6 oz. Sultanas
8 oz. butter/marg
6. Oz sugar
8 oz. Beremeal
2 eggs
2 teasp. baking powder


Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, slowly add dry ingredients and sultanas. Roll out and cut out on floured board. Place on greased tray and bake at 175 degrees celsius for 15 mins.

Thank you again, Fiona. I would love to try these biscuits. It’s a very simple recipe…something my daughter-in-law would love for my granddaughter…I’m in Chicago right now with them…maybe we will give it a whirl. (Blogger error alert…I am not in Chicago right now…I will be there next week!)

To learn more about Fiona:

Twitter: @Fdhalliday

And please don’t forget to leave a comment and share this post on social media for more chances to win a copy of this amazing book!

Thank you for spending your precious time with us, my friends. As I mentioned,  I am in Chicago right now…last night was the Author Night event at my granddaughter’s school…and now I’ll be heading out to the Chicagoland suburbs for a visit with my sister, some school programs, and a bookstore event at Andersons in Naperville…looking forward to seeing lots of Chicagoland kidlit friends. (Blogger error alert! No, I am not in Chicago yet…I fly out on Sunday, January 19)

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. On Sunday (Blogger Error Alert! The Grammys are NEXT Sunday, January 26 – but there’s no error about Ella being the best jazz singer around!) it’s the GRAMMYS…did you know that Ella Fitzgerald won TWO Grammys the very first year they were awarded, in 1959? What an amazing singer she was.


LAURA RENAULD: Will Write for Cookies Plus GIVEAWAY



Plate of Cookies






It’s been quite a while since our last Will Write for Cookies post. And there’s no better way to jump back into this author interview series than with someone like today’s guest.

LAURA RENAULD is the author of Porcupine’s Pie, illustrated by Jennie Poh (Beaming Books, 2018) and Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020). She is also the creator of the Debut Review Challenge which encourages readers to write online reviews for debut authors and illustrators. Laura lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and their two story-telling sons. Read her blog, sign up for her quarterly newsletter, and learn about the Debut Review Challenge at You can also find her on Twitter (@laura_renauld; #DebutReviewChallenge), Instagram (@laurarenauld), and Facebook (@kidlitLaura).

I am so very thrilled Laura was able to stop by today to answer a few question about her writing journey…and of course, we are excited to see what delicious treat recipe she will share with us, plus she’s offering a giveaway of a Mr. Rogers First Day of Issue Stamp to celebrate the launch of her brand new picture book: FRED’S BIG FEELINGS: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, illustrated by Brigette Barrager). Please remember to leave a comment on this blog to be entered to win.

ME: Welcome, Laura!

LAURA: Thank you for having me, Vivian!

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

LAURA: I loved Lois Lowry, Roald Dahl, Eleanor Cameron, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Madeleine L’Engle. I realize I’m listing authors of chapter books. I can’t remember too many specific picture books from when I was a young child. I know Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd was on repeat at my house and my brother and I would listen to Mercer Mayer books. I still have a copy of one of my favorite picture books as a child: Christina Katerina & the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch and Doris Burn. Going to the library to find new books was my favorite part of the week!

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

LAURA: I wish someone had told me to make friends with WAITING because publishing is a slow business. At first, I waited for ideas to come and time to write. Then I waited for monthly critique group meetings and SCBWI conferences. When I started sbmitting, I waited to hear back from agents, editors, and magazines. Once I got my first book contract, I waited for editorial notes, illustrator sketches, and the seemingly never-ending stretch of time that is your debut year(s). Last year, my agent sent one story we both adore on three rounds of submission. After one Revise & Resubmit request, it didn’t sell so that story is still waiting to find the right home. Don’t let waiting immobilize you. At every stage of waiting, make a conscious decision to keep writing – that’s what you can control. Work on your craft, your query skills, and your Kidlit connections because what you don’t have to wait for on the path to publication is the intrinsic value of the creative process.

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

LAURA: I usually write inside at my desk, which is thankfully in a room with door so I can shut out household noise. (I’m not the kind of writer who can be productive in a coffee shop.) There is a window to my right where I can turn and daydream when I get stuck.

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

LAURA: I am so impressed by the 5 AM Writing Club folks, but that is just not for me. And I have tried to give myself a schedule time and again. Usually, though, I sit down sometime during the school day when the house is quiet. Is that specific enough for you? 😉

ME: Why do you write for children?

LAURA: I believe that children’s books give kids an opportunity to empathize, imagine, experience, and question. They encounter circumstances and character traits that may be new to them. Books expand the world for kids, introduce new perspectives, and allow kids to say, “Me, too. I’m not the only one.” If I can contribute in some small way to the healthy social and emotional development of a child, I will have succeeded. Bonus points if I can make them smile. 

ME What a wonderful mission, Laura…your new picture book, FRED’S BIG FEELINGS: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers is certainly going to contribute to that! And I know you are not finished sharing…I’m excited to see what your sweet treat will be!

LAURA: I look forward to cookie exchanges during the holiday season. They give me a chance to try out new recipes, do a lot of taste-testing, and find new favorites… Like this one! Enjoy!

Blackberry Swirl Almond Cookies

(recipe credit: Driscoll’s)


  • 1Package (6 ounce) Driscoll’s Blackberries
  • 3Tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4ground cinnamon
  • 2Tablespoons water
  • 1 3/4Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1baking powder
  • 1/4salt
  • 1/2almond extract
  • 1/2vanilla extract
  • 2Teaspoons granulated sugar or sanding sugar (optional)
  • 1/8ground cloves
  • 1stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1large egg


  1. TEAR a sheet of parchment paper about 14 inches long. Set aside.

PLACE blackberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and water into a medium saucepan.

HEAT blackberry mixture over medium-high heat just until it begins to boil WHILE STIRRING occasionally.

REDUCE HEAT to medium-low.

SIMMER blackberry mixture until thickened, about 10 minutes WHILE STIRRING and mashing berries occasionally with a potato masher. You should have about 1/2 cup blackberry filling.

SET ASIDE blackberry filling to cool completely.

BEAT butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

ADD egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract.

BEAT butter mixture again until ingredients are incorporated.

SET ASIDE butter mixture.

WHISK TOGETHER flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

ADD flour mixture to butter mixture gradually WHILE BEATING on low speed until ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

POUR OUT dough onto parchment paper.

ROLL OUT dough to a rectangle about 12 inches by 8 inches and ¼ inch thick.

SPREAD blackberry filling over dough leaving 2 inches of boarder around edges.

ROLL UP dough into a tight log starting from the long side using parchment paper to help lift and roll.

TIGHTLY WRAP dough log in plastic wrap.

REFRIGERATE dough log at least 4 hours.

PREHEAT oven to 350ºF.

LINE 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

SLICE dough log into cookies about 1/4 inch thick.

ARRANGE 12 cookies on each baking sheet leaving one inch between cookies.

BAKE 13 to 15 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown.

REMOVE cookies from oven and immediately SPRINKLE with granulated sugar or sanding sugar (if using).

COOL cookies on baking sheets for 2 minutes.

TRANSFER COOKIES to wire racks to cool completely.


WOW…I’m sure you all want to run right out to get all of those ingredients so you can get baking! But before you forget, please leave a comment below so we can enter you in the giveaway of a Mister Rogers First Day Issue Stamp. Share the post on your social media for extra chances in the giveaway hat. And remember that the best way we can support our favorite authors and their books is to buy the books, review them on Amazon/Goodreads, tell friends, and ask your local library to purchase them for the collection.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. This morning, Saturday, January 18 at 11am, I will be reading Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, illustrated by Alleanna Harris) at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Nashua, NH. I hope all my local friends will stop by!

DAWN PROCHOVNIC: Will Write for Cookies PLUS PB Manuscript Critique Giveaway



Plate of Cookies







One of the things that always impresses me is how multi-talented my kidlit friends are. Many have had (or still have) careers as engineers, educators, and doctors. Others are, as Paul Simon wrote:

I’m sitting in the railway station.
Got a ticket to my destination.
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand.
And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.

I think, after you finish reading this post, you’ll agree that my guest today fits the bill of that last line.

Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the author of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?; Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?; First Day Jitters, featured in the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud; and 16 books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series, including one title that was selected as an Oregon Book Awards finalist. Dawn is a vocal advocate for school and public libraries and was honored Continue reading

ALLEANNA HARRIS: Will Write/Illustrate for Cookies PLUS Original Art Giveaway



Plate of Cookies







What an honor this is for me! Today I’m hosting the illustrator for one of my upcoming picture books…and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how she has brought the characters of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe to life. Every page turn sings…Alleanna has definitely made their voices be heard!

Alleanna Harris is a illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would Continue reading




Plate of Cookies



photo Shannon



Why do I love this kidlit community so much? Because of people like today’s guest, Shannon Stocker, that’s why!

Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who loves all letters equally. She lives with her husband, Greg, and her children, Cassidy and Tye, in Louisville, KY, where she molds the alphabet into picture books and songs all day. LISTEN, Shannon’s picture book biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, is next in line (Dial/Random House), and several of her stories have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors.  Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, and an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate. She’s also a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. To subscribe to her blog, visit her website, She can also be found Continue reading

Carmen Gloria: Will Write, Illustrate and Self-Publish for Cookies Plus GIVEAWAY

I meet the nicest people in the kid-lit world. The other day, I discovered a lovely new series of books about space – and with the mega-celebration this weekend, I knew I wanted to share it with all of you. Especially because the author is also the illustrator and also the publisher. Carmen Gloria is wearing many hats…and she looks good in all of them!

Carmen Gloria Author Illustrator

Carmen Gloria was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, now a veteran, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. She was born in The Bronx, New York and moved to Puerto Rico at the age of ten. She is a member of SCBWI and is a writer, artist, award-winning actress, experimental short film writer/director, and even co-wrote two songs in the Billboard Dance and UK Pop charts. After moving to Norway in 2017 with her family, she decided to focus on her writing. She launched her first children’s picture book series as an author and illustrator, in which the first book “Thank You Mercury” made the Best New Space Books 2019 list by Book Authority.

thank you mercury cover

Well, dear friends…do you see why I just had to invite this amazing woman to stop by to chat with us.

ME: Carmen…welcome! And before we begin with the questions, I want to thank you for your service to the country. I’m sure you have buckets full of stories about your experiences, but today we are going to concentrate on your writing journey.

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

CARMEN: Thank YOU for having me, Vivian! You have one of my favorite blogs, and I am so honored to be interviewed by you. I feel pretty lucky in this business to meet people like you, who care so much and are doing so many things for the children’s books community. You’re inspiring. And to answer your first question, Dr. Seuss has always been my absolute favorite, including his illustrations. Also A.A. Milne with his Winnie The Pooh series. I also love Hans Christian Andersen’s books and illustrations by Arthur Rackman.

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

CARMEN: I wish I knew how challenging it would be to get the story “just right.” I still find it difficult to finish stories sometimes and not doubt myself. I’ve only just launched my second book, and already learned that making the characters relatable is important.

dear pluto cover

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

CARMEN: I have a home studio where I write, draw and paint. It’s a cute little studio we built when we first moved in to the house. I have a Mac Laptop where I write most of the time, but sometimes I like to just hand write ideas and notes. I feel a bit more free with pen and paper. Writing while traveling is also very inspiring.

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

CARMEN: I write best early in the morning with my coffee or tea. Sometimes the muse strikes the middle of the day or at night too, and I just go with it!

ME: Why do you write for children?

CARMEN: I write for children because I love drawing and painting fun and sweet characters that children will love. I also love being able to show and teach children things in an entertaining manner so it doesn’t feel like “school.” I chose to begin with the Kid Astronomy series because as a space lover, I wish there were more books about astronomy when I was growing up. Children are our next generation and they are the ones that will be exploring space.

Other reasons I like about writing for children is the freedom of topic and being able to tap into the imagination – anything is possible.

 ME: 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.

CARMEN: What I’ve learned as a new writer is that we have to stick to our goals. It is easy to fall into doubts as new writers and then stop writing. But we have to keep going and not give up.

As far as educators, parents and librarians, I believe in exploring and being open to sharing new books, stories and new authors to children. Information is limitless and it’s beautiful when we as authors can be a part of what kids absorb in this day and age.

in studio

ME: This is fabulous, Carmen! Thank you so much for your insights. I’d also like to pick your brain on behalf of all the authors and illustrators out there – you’ve taken a big step…just like the astronauts did 50 years ago when they stepped out on the moon. You’ve taken the leap into self-publishing – and that takes courage! Would you share with us some thoughts about that?

CARMEN: I debated for about a year whether I was going to publish my book the traditional route or self-publish. I researched and read a lot about how to self-publish, and the pros and cons of both. There is so much information online! I decided on self-publishing because I wanted to learn all of the ins and outs of the publishing business. I am a creative being, but I also love being an entrepreneur. One of the downsides to self-publishing books though is that they are not as easy to promote, as not everyone is open to reading and reviewing books that are not traditionally published. Also not easy if there is not a big budget.

It is A LOT more work to write, illustrate, design, format, and promote the book myself,  but in some weird way, it is more rewarding to me. As a self-published author, I appreciate the artistic freedom, making my own deadlines, ownership to my art, and being the final decision maker. I’m sure there are many advantages to going the traditional route, but I’m enjoying self-publishing so far.

ME: Kudos to you, Carmen. And thank you so much…this has been such a pleasure for me. I know that everyone is applauding and will be RUSHING over to Amazon today to view your newest book DEAR PLUTO, using the link for the FREE download of the Kindle version:

But before you leave, please share with us that special Apple Pie recipe you were telling me about.

CARMEN: My favorite type of apple pie? Here goes:



  • 2 ½ cups flour (320 g)
  • ¾ cup butter, 1 1/2 sticks, cold, cubed (170 g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons ice water, or as needed


  • ¾ cup sugar (150 g)
  • 2 ½ lb apples, cored, sliced, peeled (1 kg)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten


  • In a bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix with fork.
  • Add in cubed butter and break up into flour with a fork. Mixture will still have lumps about the size of small peas.
  • Gradually add the ice water and continue to mix until the dough starts to come together. You may not need all of the water and the dough should not be very sticky. It shouldn’t be too dry either. If it is too dry, you can add more water.
  • Work the dough together with your hands into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate.
  • Peel the apples and slice.
  • In a bowl, add the sliced apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, flour, salt, and juice from the lemon.
  • Mix until combined and all apples are coated. Refrigerate.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (200°C).
  • On a floured surface, cut the pie dough in half and roll out both halves until round and about 3 mm thick.
  • Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a pie dish making sure the dough reaches all edges.
  • Pour in apple filling mixtur
  • Roll the other half of the dough and cut it into even strips, 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch wide, depending on how thick you want your lattice strips. You can use a blunt knife or a pizza wheel to cut them evenly.
  • Lay out 4 to 7 parallel strips of the pie dough on top, and then lay them over in the opposite direction.
  • Trim the extra dough from the edges and pinch the edges to make sure they are sealed together.
  • Brush the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.
  • Bake pie for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

How did you know apple pie was one of my favorite desserts? Anyone have some vanilla ice cream for some pie ala mode?

Please don’t forget to leave a comment because Carmen is offering a print copy of DEAR PLUTO as a giveaway. And take advantage of this last day of FREE Kindle download so you can read the book right now:

And dear friends, remember, the greatest gift we can give our favorite authors is to buy, review, and shout out about their books! I hope you all have a beautiful weekend. There are a couple of major kidlit happenings coming up this week:

FREE Picture Book Palooza

banner photos


FREE 12×12 Mini Picture Book Summit


Will Write and Illustrate for Cookies: Raven Howell and Carina Povarchik PLUS Double Giveaway


Plate of Cookies



Carina Povarchik self portraitRaven Howell portrait by Carina



(That’s Carina up top and Raven below – both portraits were created by Carina)

KABOOM! This is going to be an explosively awesome post, my friends! So much talent in one spot – I feel blessed to Continue reading