JOANA PASTRO: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Critique Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





What a joy it is to be part of this incredible kidlit community! I love attending conferences and taking classes because I get to meet so many wonderful people. Another way I connect with authors and illustrators is by doing critiques – and the win-win of that scenario is that I get to read fabulous stories…like the one that today’s Will Write for Cookies author wrote and asked me for feedback. And how cool…that manuscript is now a real book!!!!!

Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream is coming true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Boyds Mills Press, an imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane, on October 20, 2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in Fall/2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. You can find her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram on @joanapastro, on her website at

ME: Welcome, Joana! What a thrill to have you here today! Thank you so much for stopping by and for offering such a generous giveaway…a nonrhyming pb manuscript critique! I know everyone is excited to hear a bit about who you are and how your path to publication progressed – it’s a fascinating story and I thank you for sharing it with us.

JOANA: I’m so happy to be here, Vivian. Thank you so much for having me! I’m ready whenever you are.

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

JOANA: As you know, I was born in Brazil and spent most of my childhood there, so my favorite Brazilian authors were (I guess still are!) Ziraldo, Ruth Rocha, and especially Mauricio de Souza. He’s the creator of the most popular comic book series in Brazil, A Turma da Mônica (Monica’s Gang). Me and my sisters had a subscription for it and a huge drawer full of them. It was our favorite bedtime reading. I also lived here in the US as a toddler, at that time my favorite books were the ones by Dr. Seuss. Those traveled back with us to Brazil. Later, when we lived in England, my absolute favorite was Beverly Cleary. I only found out she was American a few years ago!

Turma da Mônica Figurines I keep in my office.

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

JOANA: When I decided to pursue writing circa 2011, I bought the book WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES. I devoured it and that’s when I first heard of SCBWI (Society of Children’Book Writers and Illustrators). The book highly recommended becoming a member. I wish I had followed that advice right away, but because I was an absolute beginner, I thought I wasn’t ready. Instead I used only the tools I had at hand. Progress is slow for those who go it alone. Three years later, I finished my middle grade novel, and finally joined SCBWI. I won’t underestimate the experience of writing on my own—it was valid and I did learn a lot. However, I was only able to feel that my writing was truly improving once I became part of a critique group and found the camaraderie of people who share the same passion and goals.

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

JOANA: The first thing I do when I have an idea is try to solidify the beginning and the end. I write a rough pitch—I’m awful at pitches—to help keep my goal, and the takeaway focused. Then I roughly plot the middle, which inevitably changes as I get to know my character. This part of the process is usually done on a clipboard that I carry everywhere around the house, in the car, wherever I go.

Once I’m ready to start writing the manuscript, I move to my laptop in my office. I have a balcony facing the lake behind my house and I love staring at it. I might spend too much time doing it while I try to solve plot problems, but all that daydreaming seems to help the process. Having my books at hands reach is another advantage of working in the office.

For the record, I still carry that clipboard with my work in progress everywhere, so no matter where I am, if an idea strikes, I’m able to jot it down really fast. Especially when my kids were younger and I needed to carve small periods of writing time. I’ve written while waiting for swim, karate and ballet lessons. But life is different in 2020, and these days my clipboard only moves around the house.

The view from my desk

My workspace: desk and clipboard!

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

JOANA: I feel a lot more creative and productive in the morning, but not too early! I usually get started around 8 am, after I’ve sent the kids to school and gone for a walk. If I’m in the zone, I’ll write any time. The clipboard really helps me stay on a writing mood all day.

5.ME: Why do you write for children?

JOANA: Because picture books make me happy! I love diving into that world. It’s fun! I love the lightness of writing for children, even when we tackle deep, difficult subjects.  

Picture books are targeted for children but, in reality, they’re for everyone. A picture book can help deal with emotions and problems, understand our place in the world, and reminds us of our worth. Seeing ourselves in a book, by relating to a main character or a situation lived, can be truly empowering. I think we all need that reminder and that feeling in our lives, don’t we?

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.

JOANA: For aspiring authors, don’t underestimate the power of picture books and their complexity. A good picture book looks easy to write, but it isn’t. Learn the craft and seek feedback from other writers and professionals in your genre. Read extensively and as part of your learning process, read recently published picture books.

For all readers, don’t discard picture books once you’ve turned 8. Picture books are for everyone!

ME: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I know everyone is thrilled to read your insights, Joana…such valuable advice! And you’ve got something else that is very valuable – you are sharing a fabulous GLUTEN-FREE Brazilian cookie recipe…woo-hoo!

JOANA: Casadinho” Cookies – A traditional Brazilian cookie that’s a hit at my house! (And since one of my kids has celiac disease, I added the modifications I make  for a gluten free version.)

My cookies aren’t the prettiest, but they sure taste good!


  • 3/4 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour (I used 2 cups of multipurpose gluten-free flour and added an extra 1/3 tsp of xantham gum)
  • 1 cup guava jam for the filling (or any jam you have at hand, it’s great with dulce de leche too!)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy.
  3. Add the egg and the flour (or gf flour + xantham gum) and mix by hand until well combined.
  4. Divide the dough in smaller pieces and make rolls (about ½” diameter) and place them on a cookie sheet.
  5. Cover with plastic and place in fridge for about one hour.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Cut the rolls in 1/2″ pieces and place them on the new cookie sheet.
  8. Place in preheated oven until golden. About 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow it to cool on a cooling rack.
  10. Using a spoon spread the filling on one side of the cookie and top with another piece of cookie, like a sandwich.
  11. Let them dry for about one hour.
  12. Enjoy!

This looks amazing, Joana…I can’t wait to try them. Raspberry jam is my favorite, with apricot coming in as a close second – so, I think I will do some with raspberry and some with apricot!

I want to remind everyone to leave a comment to be entered in the fabulous giveaway of a nonrhyming picture book critique from the lovely Joana! For extra tickets in the giveaway hat, you can share of your social media platforms and follow Joana on Twitter @jopastro. And don’t forget that our favorite authors need our support, especially these days. Please buy their books, review their books, tell friends about their books, and ask your local library to purchase their books.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be moving next week, but I’ll be back bright and early on October 1st with a Book Birthday post for Vicky Fang’s new board book series, I CAN CODE and then a double header with Julie Abery’s newest nonfiction pb THE MAN AND THE PENGUIN for Perfect Picture Book Friday and a Q&A with Julie on Will Write for Cookies. Stay well, dear friends, and be safe.

A Super Trifecta: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





A super trifecta – triple the awesomeness – I’m so honored to present these three talented women who will be sharing their insights and inspiring all of us today. Their newest book, NO VOICE TOO SMALL, was our Perfect Picture Book Friday pick yesterday. Let’s find out a bit about each of them first.

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Roaring Brook Press in 2018. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She is also co-editor and illustrator of the forthcoming anthology NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY (Charlesbridge, 2020) and illustrator of WHEN THE BABIES CAME TO STAY (Viking, 2020). Jeanette lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.  Follow her on Twitter @JeanetteBradley and on instagram @jea_bradley.

Keila V. Dawson worked as a community organizer, teacher, school administrator, educational consultant, and advocate for children with special needs before she became a children’s book author. She is co-editor of NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY, along with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, September 22, 2020). Dawson is the author of THE KING CAKE BABY, illustrated by Vernon Smith (Pelican 2015)andthe forthcoming OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK, illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Beaming Books, January 26, 2021). She is a New Orleans native, has lived and worked in the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Website: Twitter: @keila_dawson Instagram: @keilavdawson Pinterest: Flipgrid:  

Lindsay H. Metcalf is a journalist and author of nonfiction picture books: Beatrix Potter, Scientist, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020); Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices (Calkins Creek, 2020); and No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, a poetry anthology co-edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, 2020). Lindsay lives in north-central Kansas, not far from the farm where she grew up, with her husband, two sons, and a variety of pets. You can reach her at or @lindsayhmetcalf on Twitter and Instagram.

Do you see what powerhouses these women are? And why I’m so excited to have them all here today? HELLO, HELLO, HELLO! Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar. I really appreciate you all stopping by. I know everyone is excited to hear what you have to say, so let’s get right to it!

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

Jeanette: I loved Mary Bair, especially THE COLOR KITTENS, which I read until the binding fell off of my Little Golden Book.  Arnold Lobel has also had a big influence on my aesthetic. There was something about that tiny house in MISS SUZY that was so appealing to me that I used to just stare at those drawings and imagine I lived there. I think it shows up in my work.

Keila: I have fond memories of nursery rhymes and fairytales, but no particular authors come to mind. As a young reader, I liked HIGHLIGHTS magazines and when older I loved the humor and satire of MAD Magazine. I grew up in the era of Dick and Jane. I can still hear my mother’s voice when practicing a school reading assignment and she’d say, “Those words aren’t on the page.” I think I’ve been creating stories in my head for a long time.

I remember when the Nancy Drew books were popular, but I was an active outdoorsy kid and preferred having my own adventures rather than reading about them.

 Lindsay: I remember loving picture-book series. The Berenstain Bears (Stan & Jan Berenstain), Little Critter (Mercer Mayer), and the Little Miss and Mr. Men books (Roger Hargreaves). For the latter, I had many of them on tape and would sit for hours listening through my giant headphones and kiddie tape deck. I can still hear the music that would play when it was time for a page turn. I learned to read at age 4 by listening to those tapes. Even though I write mostly nonfiction now, I almost never read it as a kid—unless you count the newspaper. Which I guess you should, since I grew up to be a journalist.

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

Jeanette: There will always be people whose work you love and wish your work looked more like theirs. Don’t try that.  Just be you, making the marks on the page that only your hand can make.

Keila: That it’s important to learn all you can about making connections, networking, and marketing before your first book sells so you will have time to focus on writing your next book.

Lindsay: That not every project will sell, and that’s OK.  Each manuscript is a learning experience with its own challenges that sculpt you into a better writer.

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

Jeanette: I create whenever and wherever I can find the time. Sometimes that means I’m drawing on my iPad on the sidelines of a field hockey tournament. Other times it means locking myself in my basement studio with a pair of noise cancelling headphones. 

Keila: I turned my solarium into an office and use a laptop, but I often work in my kitchen where I act as concierge to my cat and dog.

Lindsay: On my porch swing with my laptop. Our porch overlooks a quiet street corner, and all the backyard critters are my must. I get to hear the breeze blow through the leaves, the crickets, the cicadas… I can watch the squirrels play chase and hear the Mississippi kites with their haunting cry. Nature is my muse.

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

Keila: My muse is a night owl! I do my best thinking while writing. And sometimes when dozing off to sleep or waking. I do my best revision work in the shower!

 Lindsay: I think best during a specific window between morning coffee and lunchtime. Trouble is, that’s when my kids need help with online school! After lunch, I crash for a couple hours and struggle to put together a thought. Late afternoons are for marketing tasks, errands, and chores. So I find myself often writing and working on the weekends when my husband can take care of the day-to-day.

ME: Why do you write or illustrate for children?

Jeanette: In college I studied ceramics, and I was drawn to an aesthetic of deceptively simple appearing art that is called wabi-sabi in Japan. It is a philosophy of beauty that embraces imperfection and strives for simplicity, and yet is the hardest thing to do well. So of course writing and illustrating picture books would appeal to me! 

Also, I love multimedia art, and picture books are meant to be read aloud. They are in a way, a performance on a very intimate stage. When creating with words or pictures, I am always thinking about the interaction of three art forms: visual art, literature  and theatre.  Even when I am just illustrating a book, I think about it as both a series of 2D images and as an interactive, 3D sculpture.

Keila: As a writer, I want to introduce children to people and places they may not have ever imagined. When I learn something that isn’t in a book for kids, I want to write about it so children can be better informed. I write for kids because I believe learning about and from one another is the key to understanding the one world we share.

Lindsay: Because I want to help make the world a better place, and children are wide open to new ideas and excited about joining in the same mission.

ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers and/or illustrators, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear.

Jeanette: My advice for aspiring writers and illustrators is the same: find a critique group! You can’t grow in isolation. 

Keila: Writers often hear read, read, read. I think it’s important to read the whole wide world. And for parents and educators – take Kwame Alexander’s advice, “If you want your kids to imagine a better world, the books on your shelves should reflect that.”

Lindsay: My advice for teachers, parents and children is that reading is reading is reading. Let kids choose what they read—whether it’s the same comic book 109 times in a row, the Jeep manual, or a book that features a main character of a different gender. Putting young readers in boxes for reading levels or asking them to take a quiz after they read sucks away the joy and discourages them from becoming lifelong learners.

ME: WOW! A tremendously helpful trifecta of insights and information, for sure. Thank you so very much, Jeanette, Keila, and Lindsay! Thank you also for the generous giveaway…I know there will be LOTS of interaction for this post because every comment and every social media share is another ticket in the giveaway hat…and everyone is panting to have a copy of this book! Plus, thank you for sharing a favorite recipe,.which is coming up in three, two, one…take it away, Keila!

Keila: Do you want to host a post pandemic protest planning potluck party? I made this dish when hosting a Get Out The Vote event. And it was a hit!
And I’ve included an invitation template also.

New Orleans Crock-Pot Red Beans & Rice


1 lb. Camellia red beans

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ green bell pepper

2 bay leaves

½  tsp black pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½  teaspoon salt

 ½ teaspoon thyme

1 medium-sized ham hock

½ lb. ham

½  lb. beef smoked sausage

½ 1b. hot sausage

¼ cup butter (4 tablespoons)

1 4 oz. can tomato sauce

2 cups long grain white rice, cooked

French Bread


  1. Put beans in a large bowl, cover with 2 inches of water, and soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain remaining water from beans, rinse. Put the beans in a Crock-Pot; fill with water about 2 inches from the top. Add meat and all fresh and dried seasoning except garlic.
  3. Cut yellow onion, garlic, and green bell pepper. Slice sausages and ham into bite-sized pieces.
  1. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours or until beans are soft and easy to mash. Mash about a third of them on the side of the crock-pot with a large spoon to create a creamy gravy.
  2. Add butter, tomato sauce, and garlic. Cook for another 30 minutes.

And here’s a template for an invitation to a Post Pandemic Protest Planning Potluck. What will you be speaking out about? And what dish will you bring?

I hope everyone has a beautiful weekend. It’s Rosh Hashanah for those who celebrate…a New Year…a new beginning…but honestly, I think we all need those wishes for a Good and Sweet Year.

KIRSTI CALL: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





I love relaying how I met each of our Will Write for Cookies guests – I think it shows what a close-knit kidlit community we have. As co-coordinator of ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month), Kirsti was one of my first kidlit mentors. I loved participating in that challenge – it really helped me focus on the importance of using published picture books as mentor texts for my own writing. And I’m grateful to her and to Carrie Charlie Brown for creating such a helpful resource.

Kirsti Call is the co-host of the Picture Book Look Podcast and the co-coordinator of ReFoReMo. She reads, reviews, revises and critiques every day as a 12×12 elf, a blogger for Writer’s Rumpus, and a member of critique groups. She’s judged the CYBILS award for fiction picture books since 2015. Kirsti’s picture book, MOOTILITA’S BAD MOOD (Little Bee) debuts fall 2020. COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) release in 2021. Kirsti is represented by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency.

And I count myself fortunate to have connected with Kirsti in person…we’ve met at our regional NESCBWI conferences, as well as at other local book events. Plus, she generously invited me and Alleanna Harris to be the very first author-illustrator duo to be interviewed on her fabulous new undertaking: Picture Book Look Podcast.

ME: Howdy, Kirsti! I’m thrilled to have you visiting here today! And I know that everyone is excited to hear more about you and your writing journey – so let’s get to the Q&A.

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

Kirsti: I absolutely loved Maurice Sendak’s quirky stories and his expressive illustrations. 

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

KIRSTI: I wish I had known how little I knew.  Haha.  But seriously. There’s so much that goes into the craft and business of children’s writing—I had no idea. I wish I had slowed down and enjoyed the journey and been less frustrated about the concrete results (or non-results) of my work.  I now know that I’m closer to creating exceptional books with each new day that passes.

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

KIRSTI: I like to mix it up.  I write on paper and on my laptop.  I write inside and outside.  I just finished converting my sunroom into a writing studio! 

It’s the perfect place for creating. I have a desk and a papasan and windows that overlook a backyard teaming with birds and animals.  And of course I have a stream filled with frogs.  And children to enjoy all of it with me.

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

KIRSTI: Early mornings are my favorite time to write.  But in actuality, I write in the open spaces and the ten minutes crevices of time between kid interruptions.  Having five kids and my husband home full time makes for a chaotic (and fantastic!) household, so focused writing time is rare. 

ME: Why do you write for children?

KIRSTI: I write for children because I love them. I love how silly kids are, how they let curiosity lead them to learn, how easy it is for them to love other people, how kind and open hearted they are, how they soak up stories.

I write for children because reading has been one of favorite things for as long as I can remember.  I hope my words make children laugh and maybe even learn a little too.

ME: Kirsti…thank you so much. I love that you write for kids because…you love them! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

KIRSTI: I sure do, Vivian

Failure lives in the neighborhood of success. 

The more rejections we get, the closer we are to getting those book contracts.

Just. Keep. Writing.

My first book came out 7 years ago.  It took me 5 years after that to get an agent.  And now I finally have another book coming out.  Persistence, baby!

Enjoy the journey.

There’s nothing better than putting words together in a way that will influence other people for the better!

Thank you so very much, dear Kirsti! We are all loving your insights…and I know you are sharing a great recipe with us – because when it comes to cookies…there is nothing better than putting great ingredients together!

KIRSTI: This has been so much fun, Vivian! And I sure do have a super yummy recipe for everyone.

WOWOWOWOW! Rice crispies in date balls…that is an amazing combination. Thank you so very much, Kirsti!

Hey, dear readers…I know we are all grateful to Kirsti for her thoughts and for the recipe…and please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a signed ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of MOOTILLA’S BAD MOOD, written by Kirsti Call and Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Claudia Ranucci, and published by Little Bee Books.

If you’d like to check out the other stops on the book blog tour for MOOTILLA’S BAD MOOD, check this out:

August 17   The Story Behind the Story

August 19   Grog

August 24    Kidlit Oasis

August 28

September 1    ReFoReMo

September 1    Picture Book Look Podcast

September 2  Future Bookworms

September 4  Perfect Picture Book Friday 

September 10

September 12  Will Writer For Cookies

September 15  Writer’s Rumpus

September 25 Mining for the Heart

And remember…the best way to help your favorite books success is to buy them if you can, review them on Amazon and other sites, share them with friends and on social media…and ask your local library to purchase them for their collections.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…and please swing by next week for more Picture Book awesomeness when we feature NO VOICE TOO SMALL and authors Jeanette Bradley, Keila Dawson, and Lindsay Metcalf.