HANNAH HOLT: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Manuscript Critique AND Book Giveaways

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

HannahHolt_small

 

HANNAH HOLT

‘HOLT’ on to your hats, my friends. One of my dearest critique partners, Hannah Holt, is in the house.

Hannah is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer & Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

ME: What a thrill to have you here, Hannah. And it has nothing to do with those chocolate chip cookies. I’ve read your stories since 2012…and watched your stories get better and better as you grew in your craft…actually, your manuscripts were really good from the very start…in 2016, you won the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award for picture books. But I know right now everyone wants to find out a little bit more about you.

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

HANNAH: As a child, my favorite illustrator was Maurice Sendak. His characters were as beautiful as angles, but those angels seemed to wink at me. It made it easy to connect with them.

fathers love

My favorite author was Judith Viorst. I was a quiet child, who felt things strongly and her work spoke straight to me. I still remember sitting in kindergarten while the librarian read us Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I remember feeling relieved that someone else felt the same way I did sometimes. Then I realized that meant other people felt things. Sitting in the library that day, I experienced a new type of feeling—empathy.

 

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

HANNAH: I had a lot of doubts in the beginning. For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be good enough. Somewhere along the line, I changed my thinking from “if” to “when” and just settled in for however long and wherever the ride took me.

I’d say, don’t waste your energy wondering whether or not you will make it. Instead, pour yourself into creating the best work you can. The rest will follow…eventually!

book cover

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

HANNAH: I mostly write in my home office but once a week or so I take my laptop over to a friend’s house for a writing date. A lot of these are at Evelyn Shoop’s house. She’s a killer content developer and copy editor, who used to work full time for Sesame Street. She doesn’t write children’s books, but we both live the writing life. Sometimes it’s nice to work separately but together.

 

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

HANNAH: I write mostly while my kids are at school and late at night when they are in bed. However, when I’m on deadline, it’s every moment I can steal. Summers are the hardest time for me to write. Last summer I flew my mom in town, so I could finish a big project on time. I worked long days for a week straight, but I finished the project.

headshot

ME: Why do you write for children?

HANNAH: I’m a kid at heart. I’m constantly asking, Why, How, and What? Writing for children, is an outlet for me to explore my curiosity and connect with readers.

ME: Thank you so much for all of this insignt, Hannah. I especially love your answer to #2:

I’d say, don’t waste your energy wondering whether or not you will make it. Instead, pour yourself into creating the best work you can. The rest will follow…eventually!”

YES! That is so true…I believe that success will come to everyone who keeps writing, keeps revising, hones their craft, and NEVER gives up. And I also believe that chocolate chip cookies helps…so luckily, Hannah is providing us with one of her favorite recipes.

Hannah: Like any kid at heart, I love cookies! My husband’s favorite type of cookie is chocolate chip. For his birthday, I make him a giant chocolate chip cookie-cake!

treat

Every cookie cake, should be served warm, needs a giant scoop of ice cream on top, and several forks for sharing!

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 ¼ sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 10 oz chocolate chips

 

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside for later.

Cream together the butter and sugars.

Step 2: Mix in the eggs one at a time until well combined.

Step 3: Add the vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda one at a time. Mix well. Scraping the sides and mixing again. (I can’t be bothered messing two bowls while baking, and have never had trouble getting cookies to rise. However, if you want the “proper” way to do it, you are welcome to combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add them that way.)

Step 4: Gradually add the flour until just combined.

Step 5: Mix in the chocolate chips.

Step 6: Pat the cookie dough into the prepared cake pan.

Cook in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the sides look golden and the middle is no longer raw/shiny.

Step 7: Serve warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Our family of six eats it off one plate with several forks, but you may dish into individual portions to avoid the elbow-pushing rush to get the most. 🙂

Step 8: Nap. You’ll need one after eating this rich dessert.

THAT LOOKS AMAZING! Thank you so much Hannah. And thank you for sharing so much of your journey in this Q&A and thank you also for the generous giveaway of a picture book critique! 

Dear readers, please leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway of a picture book critique from Hannah Holt…I know from personal experience that her critiques are fabulous! She’s been a critique ninja for the 12×12 forum and she totally knows her stuff! And, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve added a copy of the book as an additional giveaway. We will have two winners, one for the critique and one for the book!

And here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar, we’ve got exciting weeks ahead…lots of Perfect Picture Book Fridays and Will Write for Cookies with old friends and new ones. Safe travels if you plan to go anywhere…I’ll be home on Saturday, glued to my computer screen for the Picture Book Summit conference. And Sunday, my local indie bookstore has a book signing with a couple of local writers. Next year it will be my turn times three, so I’d better take notes. 

I’m wishing you all a wonderful weekend. 

Beth Anderson: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Beth Anderson head shot hi res

BETH ANDERSON

I first met today’s guest in June 2014 when I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books. I fell in love with writing nonfiction…and so did Beth Anderson. We enjoyed critiquing together then…and we still do.

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same.

Welcome, Beth! Thanks for stopping by. I’m so excited for your debut picture book, AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. And I know you have more books in the pipeline…but for today, let’s find out a little more about you and your writing journey.

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

BETH: I don’t have a recollection of favorite authors or illustrators. I know the first book I bought with my own money (as recorded in my baby book, I have no memory of this) was Children of the World – which is interesting when you consider I became an ESL teacher! I remember The Cat in the Hat Came Back, a book of poems, and a book of Bennett Cerf’s riddles. (What’s black and white and red all over?) I was always checking out biographies and Nancy Drew books from the library. My mom also read to us each night from thick classics like Pinocchio and Winnie the Pooh. 

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

BETH: I wish I knew (and still wish I knew) more about the process of creating picture books! But in general, things unfolded as I was ready, so I don’t know if I’d change a whole lot. Sometimes if you know the road is littered with potholes and bumps and detours and barriers, you’re afraid to step out on the journey. There is so much information available now online that it’s immensely easier than when I took my first crack at writing for kids years ago. The most valuable bit of info now is knowing that there are endless resources for learning available.

inconvenient alphabet

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

BETH: I’ve claimed the study as my writing room where I have easy access to shelves of books, drawers of files, and the current pile of research. Sticking with one spot helps my focus – except that I can look out the window and watch the world go by. Initially, I use pencil and spiral to organize and make lots of notes. (See my post on how I organize HERE. I’ve found it’s really beneficial to brainstorm by hand. When I start drafting, it all goes on the laptop. At various points in the process, I print out a one-sided copy and start marking it up by hand with highlighters and notes. I like to be able to lay out the entire story and see how sections balance, where different plot points fall, where repetitions hit, identify page breaks, the conflict points, the emotional arc, etc. I think it helps to see the story in different formats.

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

BETH: I’m my best creative self in the morning. So as soon as I exercise and eat breakfast, I’m at it. Once in a while an idea hits when I’m about to fall asleep, so I have pencil and paper on the night stand. But I’ve learned that I shouldn’t work on a manuscript in the evening, or it will torture me all night. Most days, at least Monday through Friday, I’m researching, drafting, or revising. But now that I have a book coming out, there are some days that I’m working on other related tasks.

ME: Why do you write for children?

BETH: I’ve had the “someday” of writing for children in the back of my mind for a very long time. Finally, as I prepared to retire from teaching, that idea came out of hiding. When my students asked me what I was going to do, I admitted I’d always wanted to write for kids. Seeing their excitement gave me the encouragement I needed to give it a try. Also, they made me feel accountable. How could I tell them to chase their “somedays” if I wasn’t willing to?

But as to why I’m drawn to narrative nonfiction…it all comes from my years as an ESL teacher using literature to teach content as well as language. I saw the lightbulbs go on and heard the reactions. I watched wonder creep over a child’s face and listened to questions that came forth. I got to see the power of story to connect kids to their world, open minds, and inspire learning. My goal is to be a part of that.

Interior BF letters public

Jumping off from there, I’d say a story can teach us all something different, something we need. Certainly as a writer, I get multiple lessons, about life as well as writing, with every manuscript as I connect to the characters and learn from their experiences. With An Inconvenient Alphabet, the lingering idea gleaned from Ben Franklin was to let your ideas “take their chance in the world.” Once that book is out in the world, others will largely determine its success. But I’ll continue to learn from the experience.

ME: How about some thoughts for aspiring authors?

BETH: One of the most difficult things for any of us is to put our ideas out there and risk reactions that are not positive. When I started this kid lit endeavor, I couldn’t use the word “writer” about myself. When I got over that hurdle, I struggled with “author.” There seemed to be “requirements” I wasn’t sure I met. Am I a writer if no one reads what I write? Am I an author if my story is in my drawer? But…if we keep it to ourselves, no one will ever read that story in the drawer. We’ll never make the connections we desperately need to move ourselves forward. My first public “confession” that I was diving into this came at a weavers’ guild meeting, and lo and behold, I met a local author who told me how to connect with the kid lit community in the area. So…you just never know…one thing leads to another…a chance.

Thank you so much, Beth. I loved this entire Q&A…but I know that for me, your organizational tips will be so very helpful…I can’t wait to visit the link you provided!

And, my friends, Beth has provided something else just as sweet…her favorite treat recipe! Take it away, Beth!

 

Peach Cobbler

I got this recipe from a dear friend when we lived in Georgia, land of peaches. It’s fabulous!

¾ C. flour

2 C sugar (I cut down to justify eating more. Usually put ¾ c. into batter and ¼ to ½ c. with fruit.)

2 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¾ stick butter/margarine

¾ C milk

2 C. sliced peaches (be generous)

Melt butter or margarine in 8×8 pan (I use microwave, glass pan).

Combine flour, 1 C (or less) sugar, baking powder, milk, salt.

Mix peaches and 1 cup (or less) sugar.

Pour batter into the melted butter in pan. DO NOT MIX.

Dump peaches into batter (distribute evenly). DO NOT MIX.

Bake ~1 hour @ 350’ – you want a golden crusty top.

Oh my goodness…that sounds amazing! Thanks so much, Beth. I wonder how many people are going to try this…looks like the perfect dessert for company.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.  Have a safe and happy weekend, my friends. 

 

Robin Newman: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

head shot

ROBIN NEWMAN

I met today’s guest early on in my kidlit writing journey and was always impressed with her passion and determination.

Raised in New York and Paris, Robin is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the City University of New York School of Law. She’s been a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She’s the author of the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs her Sleep. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, National Writing Project’s Writers Council, and the Bank Street Writers Lab. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels, who are extremely fond of Phil, Jim, and Harry.  

ME: Welcome, Robin! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat…and a big thank you for offering a copy of your awesome new picture book, NO PEACOCKS! as a giveaway. I know everyone is excited to learn more about you, so let’s get started.

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

 

ROBIN: I will seriously date myself but here goes:

 

  • Maurice Sendak—My twin sister and I grew up with Max and Pierre. By age 3, I’m pretty sure we knew every single word in The Nutshell Library. And we can still sing all the stories out of tune with some help from Carole King in the background;

 

  • Ludwig Bemelmans—We lived in Paris when we were kids and fantasized about going to school with Madeline. Boohoo! Who wouldn’t want their appendix out too?;

 

  • Jean de Brumhoff—Loved Babar, Celeste, and the Old Lady. In fact, one of our English bulldogs was named Babar; and

 

  • Beatrix Potter—How could you not love The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny?

 

 

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

 

ROBIN: It may seem very obvious, but writers need a gene for patience. Patience for writing and developing story ideas. Patience for working on rewrites. Patience waiting for agents and editors to review your submissions and patience for implementing and processing feedback. Patience, as well as a good box of tissues and chocolate, for dealing with lots of rejection.

 

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

 

ROBIN: I work on a laptop. Most of the time, I work in my teeny tiny office that’s been overtaken by swag and books with my dogs, Cupcake and Madeleine, under my feet. But I also like to work in coffee shops while waiting for my son to get out of camp or school.

 

Now, if I don’t have my laptop with me, I always have a notebook or two that I use for marking down ideas and sketching/outlining stories. When I finally have a solid draft, I like to print it out and mark it up on paper. I seem to see the story more clearly when I’m reviewing it on paper. And if I’m working on a picture book, once I have a solid draft, I always always always make one or several dummies so that I can cut, see where the page turns are going to fall, and cut some more.

cover

 

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

 

ROBIN: I write in the morning after my son heads off to school or camp. And I have till school or camp pick up to finish my work.

 

ME: Why do you write for children?

 

ROBIN: I LOVE it! I love getting kids excited about reading and writing, including my own son, who’s a difficult customer to please. And it’s an absolute privilege to write for children.

 

Prior to writing for children, I had been a miserable attorney (that’s miserable with a capital M), and then a legal editor before switching gears completely to writing picture books and early chapter books. I still remember the day when I walked into my first children’s fiction writing class, it just felt so right. I knew I had found my people.  

 

Bottom line: there’s no better job in the world than writing for children. (And I’m extremely grateful to my amazing husband who supports my writing habit.)

 

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

ROBIN:

  1. Write and rewrite. Rinse and repeat.
  2. Follow Publishers Weekly, familiarize yourself with the children’s publishing industry and the business of publishing children’s books, and be aware of what editors are buying.
  3. Do your homework when looking for an agent. And yes, it is easier to sell a story with an agent who can get your work in front of the right editor.
  4. Join the SCBWI.
  5. Join a critique group.
  6. Don’t give up!

ME: HURRAY! What amazing advice, Robin! Thank you so much. I know everyone is applauding. We appreciate that you shared so much with us. And I know you have a very special treat to share with us.

ROBIN: Although I will most definitely write for cookies, I must confess that I prefer carrot cake. Here’s Molly Katzen’s awesome carrot cake recipe from The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. It’s super easy and super yummy!

recipe

Thank you so much, Robin! This is a fabulous recipe…and you’ve been so generous in sharing your thoughts on writing!

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway, dear friends.

I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful weekend! 

 

 

 

Christy Mihaly: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Picture Book Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

 

PHOTO_ChristyMihaly

CHRISTY MIHALY

I usually reduce the size of the headshot for my Will Write for Cookies guests…but I just couldn’t take away one inch of this glorious scene. It looks so much like a photo I have of my grandson and me at a lake in New Hampshire which figures because Christy is right next door in Vermont. 

Christy Mihaly lives and writes in Vermont, overlooking the hayfield that inspired her picture book, Hey, Hey, Hay! She has published a half-dozen books in the educational market, on topics from California’s redwood forest to cosplay to elephants and moose. She writes for children’s magazines about science, nature, and history. Her poetry has appeared in publications including Imperfect: Poems about Mistakes, an Anthology for Middle Schoolers; Highlights; and the SCBWI Bulletin. Christy also co-wrote a nonfiction book for YA readers, Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought, to be published October 1 by Lerner/TFCB. Christy loves walking in the woods and playing the cello (though not simultaneously). She is represented by Erzsi Deak, of Hen&ink Literary Studio.

You can connect with Christy on any of these platforms:

Blogging at GROG

Instagram: @christymihaly

Twitter: @CMwriter4kids

Facebook Author page

But right now, we are going to connect with Christy right here. 

Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Christy! We are so happy to have you hear!

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

CHRISTY: As a kid, I read all the time, but for the most part I didn’t think much about the people writing the books. I loved classics like The Borrowers and The Secret Garden. I also read and re-read Harriet the Spy and A Wrinkle in Time. And I guess the exception to my ignorance about authors was Beverly Cleary – if I saw her name on a book, I picked it up!

kid with book

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

CHRISTY: I wish I had appreciated the importance of meeting others who are doing this work. In the beginning, I didn’t understand that you’re not fully a children’s writer until you engage with the community of writers and illustrators. Even more than publishing my first magazine pieces, what made me feel like a real writer was meeting with others who were also writing for kids—and joining a critique group!

WOW July 2015

Conferences and writing retreats are a great place to connect with others in your field. This is from the 2015 WOW retreat in Helen, Georgia. I see a bunch of familiar faces there. (Vivian left early that morning with Ann Magee and a couple of others because they had an early plane to catch out of Atlanta so they missed the photo).

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

CHRISTY: Everywhere! I write on scraps of paper in the car, on my phone in the middle of the night, and in a notebook I keep in my purse. I write in my head when those words come in the middle of a walk in the woods. Still, most of my writing is on my trusty laptop, which I move around a lot – kitchen, porch, desk, seeking different views of trees and fields … As a writer, I am peripatetic.

Note from Vivian: I had to look that word up…peripatetic: traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.

beautiful rows

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

CHRISTY: I’m lucky right now to be writing for a living. So – I write all the time. I spend more time writing, in fact, than some people around me might prefer … [What, we’re out of dog food again?]

dog bale

Sometimes I sit down first thing in the morning and write a poem. Other times, I’m facing a book deadline and writing all day and at 4:00 I realize I forgot lunch. I do some of my best work after dinner and into the wee hours, but that can’t happen too often or I get sleep-deprived and cranky.

ME: Why do you write for children?

CHRISTY: Because I keep having new ideas that I want to write about and I love doing it! And because I believe that our best hope for the future is raising a generation of people who love to read. My wish is that by giving kids books that are engaging and fun, we can spark their love of learning, and also foster the critical thinking skills that this generation is going to need.

HeyHay_intr_tractor

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

CHRISTY: Vivian, you didn’t ask me about the many rejections I’ve received. I do love sharing about my published pieces – but the manuscripts that don’t find (or haven’t yet found) a home are equally important. Each one that gets a “pass” from an editor can help in my writing journey, because I learn from it: What works and what doesn’t work? What grabs an editor’s attention and what leaves her cold? How might I better address a subject I really want to tackle? How can I make this story sparkle? Or … which editor might like this story better? Rejections are never easy, but they’re inevitable, and they feel less awful if I remember that each one is a step forward.

Thanks, again, Vivian, for all you do to support children’s books and writers and illustrators. This has been fun.

ME: Christy, I love that you talked about rejections…and your attitude towards them is spot on! And it’s my honor and pleasure to feature authors and illustrators and to review all of their wonderful books! And hosting the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge is something I am truly passionate about…providing a safe and encouraging platform for fellow writers.

I know you aren’t finished here, Christy…there’s a VERY special recipe you’ve got in store for us!

CHRISTY: Yes…for a summer change of pace, how about a little switchel?

Switchel—or ginger water—is the traditional haymaker’s drink. In one of her books, Laura Ingalls Wilder refers to Ma’s zesty ginger-water, declaring that after a blazing hot summer day working in the fields, nothing could quench the thirst quite so well. Or, as my narrator reports with delight in Hey, Hey, Hay!,

“Mom calls out, ‘Let’s take a break … for switchel and a piece of cake!’”

There are many regional variations, and you can make your own adjustments to taste. This simplified recipe (included in the back of HAY) is based on the Vermont version of the drink. And yes, they’re bottling this stuff now – but why not make your own?

quart-jar-switchelPhoto courtesy: The Vermont Switchel  Company

Make Your Own Switchel

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

4 cups water (plain or sparkling)

Combine the ingredients in a large jar with a lid, and shake. Pour the mixture over ice cubes to serve right away, or chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Stir well before pouring it into your glass. Makes about a quart.

Variations:

You can add mint leaves, lemon, or cucumber – why not experiment? Try some switchel with ginger cookies!

Thank you so much, Christy! This has been so much fun. And I want to remind everyone that Christy has generously offered to do a picture book manuscript critique…so make sure you leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Stay safe and be happy!

Tina Cho: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

 

authorphoto1

TINA CHO

In this business, we need a core of critique partners who not only help us polish our manuscripts, but also encourage and support us, commiserating when we get rejections and cheering when success comes knocking at our door. I am truly fortunate to have today’s Will Write for Cookies guest as one of mine. Tina Cho is part of the very first critique group I joined back in 2012 and I credit her with helping me revise and polish many of my manuscripts.

Tina Cho is the author of three picture books– Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books/Bonnier Publishing August 2018), Korean Celebrations (forthcoming Tuttle 2019) and Breakfast with Jesus (forthcoming Harvest House 2020). Although she grew up and taught in the United States, she currently lives in South Korea with her husband and two children while teaching at an international school. To learn more about her, you can go to her Website, or connect with her on Twitter or Instagram: tinamcho.

I love doing Q&A’s with every author and illustrator who stops by here, but there is a special joy when it is someone whose work I’ve seen from early draft to polished picture book story. I hope you will all join me in welcoming Tina!

ME: Hello, Tina. After all these years, I feel like I really know you. And I hope that after this interview, many more people will, too. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

TINA: Richard Scarry: My mom used to read to us from Richard Scarry’s Animal Nursery Tales (fairy tales).

Beverly Cleary’s Ramona & Beezus

Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy & Eddie series

Judy Blume–everything

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

TINA: I wish I had understood that it takes many, many drafts and real revision to make a story superb. When I first began, I thought my first and second drafts were pretty good. Not!

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

TINA: I like to write in my little office off my bedroom. It’s really a connecting room to the bathroom with a vanity, but it’s big enough for a small table, my laptop, and small shelf. I usually outline my stories in a notebook with pen or pencil. Then, I type out the story on my laptop in my office.

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

TINA: During the school year, I write in the evenings after school, especially when I’m doing a work-for-hire assignment. Otherwise, I have dedicated Saturdays as my writing day.

ME: Why do you write for children?

TINA: I fell in love with picture books, especially, from being an elementary teacher and reading them every day to my students. I want to create stories for children because children are our future. Children deserve to learn, to be loved, and to hear about all the stories in the world. I also write for children because I have a passion for different topics, and I just have to share it!

ME: Do you have any special thoughts for aspiring writers

TINA: Never give up. If you want to write, then you have to learn the craft, just like any other career. Take writing classes, read writing craft books, join critique groups, and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Find writing groups in Facebook and stay active 😊

ME: WOW…thank you so much for sharing all of this with us, Tina. I love your action plan for aspiring writers. You’ve laid out all the right steps that lead to success! And I know you are also going to lay out the right steps to creating one of your favorite sweet treats…so, take it away, Tina!

TINA: My grandma used to make Scotcheroos, and I’d take some with me to college. They were so addicting. Here’s a Scotcheroo recipe from a friend in Iowa.

Scotcheroos

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 cup white corn syrup

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

 

  1. Cook sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until it boils in the saucepan. Let boil 1 minute. Take off heat.
  2. Add peanut butter. Stir. Add Rice Krispies.
  3. Press into a 9×13 pan.
  4. Melt butterscotch chips and chocolate chips in a pan on the stove. You can add a tiny bit of water or milk if needed. Pour over the bars. Cut into squares right away.

Enjoy!

We will definitely enjoy these, Tina! And I am enjoying RICE FROM HEAVEN. I know many people are buying it because it is the #1 New Releases in Children’s Asia Books on Amazon..and I hope that many people will be reviewing it as well. Reviews are so important because they help other potential buyers to make good choices when it comes to selecting books for their children.

RicefromHeaven cover

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend. Thank you for spending your precious time here.

EMILIE BOON: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Emilie Boon Press Kit Photo 2 lowres

 

EMILIE BOON

I love getting to meet fellow kidlit people. A couple of years ago, I went to lunch with a local critique buddy and two of her author/illustrator friends. We had a lovely time, even though I felt a bit out of my depth because my artistic talent consists of stick figures standing on swirls of color and all of these ladies are gifted artists. One of these friends was Emilie Boon. And when I heard that Emilie had a new picture book coming out, I knew I wanted to feature it on Perfect Picture Book Friday as well as interview her here on Will Write for Cookies.

 

Emilie Boon is the illustrator or author-illustrator of more than twenty books for young children. She was born in the Netherlands and spent her childhood in California and Mexico. Emilie later went back to the Netherlands to study graphic design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. She has always loved to draw, especially with crayons, which she still uses regularly. Emilie lives in the Boston area. To learn more about Emilie’s work please visit her website, tour her studio, or visit her on Instagram.

So, dear friends, you can see why I am excited for Emilie to stop by – she has so many books to her credit and and I know she plans to share some of her experiences with us AND show us some of the process using early sketches of her story!

But first I want to remind all of you to leave a comment at the end of the post because Emilie and her publisher are donating a copy of ELLA AND MONKEY AT SEA for a giveaway.

book cover

ME: Welcome, Emilie! We really appreciate you taking time to chat. By the way, congratulations on your new book. I wonder if your early experiences with books had a big influence on you. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

EMILIE: Since I was born in Holland, my favorite book was in Dutch! It was a book of poems and nursery rhymes, originally titled Do Kola in Cezch, written by Petr Denk and illustrated by Adolf Zabransky. My beloved grandmother, Oma, gave me this book when I was two and I can just see myself sitting on her lap listening to the poems. The illustrations are so gorgeous that I have always cherished this book which is still on my bookshelf. I’m sure it inspired me years later to become an author and illustrator of children’s books. But before that, it inspired me at a very young age to love drawing, especially with crayons just like my main character Ella in Ella & Monkey at Sea. That story is based on my own childhood experience of emigrating from Holland to America via passenger ship when I was three.

Alle Voetjes Dansen 0 © Adolf ZabranskyPhoto credit © Adolf Zabransky

 

After I arrived in America, I struggled to learn to read. My parents spoke Dutch at home and I ended up being the youngest in my first grade class. Maybe that’s why my favorite books in English were classic easy readers from the 60’s that inspired me to learn to read. I especially loved those written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman. Favorites were: Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish, Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, Are You My Mother? and Go Dog Go!, among many others. Once I learned to read I became a voracious reader!

Alle Voetjes Dansen 2 © Adolf ZabranskyPhoto credit © Adolf Zabransky

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

EMILIE: It always surprises me how hard it is to write picture books and how much rejection is involved. I don’t think I would have wanted to know that when I first started! I certainly would have liked to know how helpful it is to have a critique group and how important it is to connect with fellow writers.

 

Something I like to tell young students when visiting schools, is how I first started writing and illustrating. I was living in London right after graduating from art school and an editor I visited loved my illustrations. She especially liked a little character I had in my portfolio and asked if I could write a story about him. I told her I wasn’t sure if I could do that (I was very honest!).  She suggested that I create a wordless book, and that’s what I did. In the end we decided to add words and named the character “Peterkin”. Since I had created the story with pictures, the writing followed more easily. So for me, many times images and pictures come before words. Often I first create an illustration, which in turn inspires the writing. That can be a helpful way for young elementary school students to start their writing, too. Start with the pictures and the writing will follow naturally.

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

EMILIE: Since I am also an illustrator I’m lucky to have a small but lovely studio in an old mill where I draw and paint, mostly with watercolors. You can take a tour here. (http://www.emilieboon.com/studio-tour). But when it comes to writing, my favorite place is in bed at home. It sounds a little indulgent but I like to trick my unconscious into staying relaxed to keep it playful and fun. I usually start with pen or pencil in a notebook so I can sketch a little, as well. Then I move over to a laptop. When I’m in the editing stage, I usually switch to my couch or desk at home or at my studio. Similarly, when I start a project as an illustrator, I also try to let myself just play with lines and color. It’s helpful not put too much pressure on myself in the initial creative stage. That’s why at my studio I have two desks, one for sketching and painting, the other for digital work.

Regarding ELLA AND MONKEY AT SEA, all of the character sketches and artwork were created months before I wrote the story. In between developing the character and writing the story, I took a trip to Holland where I visited the original ship I sailed on! You can read about it and see a few photos on my website here.

Looking back at my sketchbook, I’m surprised at how early on the suitcases appeared in my drawings. They made it all the way to the final cover and hint at the narrative to come.

Notice how Ella and even Monkey changed in the sketches below, all done in quick succession.

Very first sketches for “Ella” in my sketchbook

1. Ella & Monkey at Sea sketchbook

 First “Ella” with pigtails and suitcases

2

Experimenting with emotion and character

3

“Ella” the final character appears only a few pages and days after the first sketches

4

© Emilie Boon 2018

The final color character piece that caught the attention of my editor at Candlewick

5. Ella Says Good-Bye 4

© Emilie Boon 2018

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

EMILIE: Morning is my favorite time. But I’ll take any time the muse strikes, and I’m perfectly happy to spend a whole afternoon or evening writing!

ME: Why do you write for children?

 

EMILIE: Children are my favorite people. I love how open, curious and full of wonder they are. Before I had children of my own and before I had the opportunity to regularly visit students at elementary schools, I probably created books solely for my inner child. Maybe I still do. But now I also have a better understanding of children. I feel inspired by the experiences I had with my own children, as well as from encounters with the wonderful young people with whom I interact at schools. Because I love books and I’m young at heart, creating books for children is the most satisfying thing I can do.

ME: And your books are so beautiful, my friend. You put your heart into each one! Do you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring authors or illustrators? 

 

EMILIE: Picture book writing can be like a puzzle. All the pieces have to fit together. It can be frustrating at times, to be sure, but it can also be fun! Try and stay playful and open. Listen to your characters and what they want. A blank page in front of you before writing or sketching can feel overwhelming but it’s also exciting! There’s a little magic in there along with all the hard work. Enjoy the process, from generating ideas to editing over and over again. Keep at it… but also know when it’s time to put a story aside if it just isn’t working and let something new reveal itself to you. Let your imagination take flight and trust it!

ME: This has been wonderful, Emilie. We are all cheering for everything you have shared with us. Seeing the actual process the illustrations go through is extremely helpful, not only for other illustrators, but for all of us writers!

EMILIE: Thanks so much, Vivian! It’s been fun stopping by! And I have a special treat to share with you.

I love this recipe for meringue nut cookies because it uses only 3 ingredients and allows the baker to be creative while still having a foolproof recipe. Pecans are one of my favorite choices. Have fun experimenting because these cookies are simple and delicious every which way!

Emilie's Merinque Nut Cookie Ingredients

 

Emilie’s Meringue Nut Cookies

1 egg white

½ cup sugar

¾ cup nuts of your choice––salted or unsalted.

If using small nuts like peanuts or pine nuts, they can be left whole. For larger nuts, chop into medium pieces, not too tiny.

  1. Heat oven to 325º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat egg white until stiff with a hand mixer. Slowly beat in sugar to make a meringue. The egg whites will become opaque and shiny. Fold in the nuts.
  3. Drop the meringues by the teaspoon full onto the paper-lined baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave cookies in for another 15 minutes. Cool before serving. Cookies can be stored in an airtight tin or plastic bag between layers of wax paper for up to a week.

Makes 2- 2 ½ dozen cookies

Dear friends, this looks amazing! Honestly, inviting my guests to share their favorite recipes is dangerous…so much temptation for me to be baking, and then eating, these yummy treats. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…filled with all sweetness…and maybe even a few of Emilie’s cookies!

Please make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway. And remember that the greatest gift we can give our favorite authors is to buy their books, review their books, and tell our libraries and friends about their books.

Anna Redding: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

ANNA Crowley Redding- Author of Google it! A history of google

ANNA CROWLEY REDDING

Anna is one of my favorite kidlit people. She is smart and kind, passionate about writing and compassionate about life. We’ve been critique buddies for several years and have had many long Skype one-on-ones. We live in contiguous states. But…

…we’ve never actually met in person. Each conference at which we were supposed to connect, something happened and one of us couldn’t go. I’m making a promise that, before the end of next year, Anna and I are going to hug each other for real! Anna…I hope you are listening!

Anna Crowley Redding is the debut author of YA nonfiction Google it: A history of Google (How two students’ mission to organize the internet changed the world). Her debut picture book RESCUING THE DECLARATION OF INDEPEDENCE (illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham) will hit the bookstore shelves in 2020.

Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids and teens — which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Dear readers, thanks to Anna, we have a giveaway of a copy of GOOGLE THIS! Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.

book cover

ME: It’s definitely an honor and a pleasure to welcome you, Anna.

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

ANNA: I loved Maurice Sendak’s In The Night Kitchen. I can remember being about 5 or 6 years old and poring over the illustrations and I can remember being completely captivated by the fact that illustrations spilled out of their borders. He went outside the lines of each spread and I LOVED that. He was a rule breaker and I identified with that immediately. I also loved that he used the cross-hatch technique for shadows, fill, and definition. My father, then, taught me how to do it. That technique gives children a lot of freedom when they are drawing and I loved that, too.

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

ANNA: Learn the rules of writing, craft, structure . . . so that you can break them really well, in just the right spot. This adds more depth and voice to your writing and punctuates your storytelling. But if you don’t learn the craft first, you can’t properly break the rules in compelling ways.

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

ANNA: There are four places I love to write. 1) My desk which is a piece of live edge pine from Maine. The trick is not staring off at the ocean endlessly. 2) On the floor in front of the fireplace. I love sitting in front of the fire. It’s such a creative and cozy spot. I stack up my favorite books and plop my laptop right on top. 3) At the coffee shop. There is something about writing in a public space with other people around that makes me super productive. I mean first of all you want to look like you are working which usually leads to actual work. 4) The Library. I love writing with lots of other books around and you cannot beat the expertise of real live actual librarians for help with research questions, mentor text ideas, and market knowledge. Plus, they are fun to be around.

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

ANNA: I write on a schedule, keeping normal business hours and adding a couple of nights and some weekend times. For me it’s like going to the gym. If I take a break, then starting up again is super painful. So, I try to keep it going all the time.

ME: Why do you write for children?

ANNA: I have wanted to write for children and teens since I was in early Elementary school. I think it’s a very creative time in life with tremendous purpose. And so creating books that might inspire and empower young readers or capture their imagination, really, there is nothing better!

ME: And Anna, your books are definitely going to do that! Thank you so much for sharing so much of your process. If you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share.

ANNA: To young writers, don’t ever give up. Keep writing, keep learning, try new things, and learn as much as you can. All of your life experience, what you read, who you meet, the music you listen to . . . all of it informs and shapes your own writing. Get out there and experience life, soak up as much information as you can, and don’t forget to share what you learn with others along the way. And have confidence in your writing and your ability to grow. The pithy nature of social media writing is making your generation a really fabulously practiced group of writers. Social media really forces you to get to the heart of every story. That is such an exciting quality you guys are growing up cultivating. Once you have the heart of your story, you can build out from there. What a fun journey lies before young writers!

ME: WOW…what great advice for kids…and we, as older writers, can probably follow Anna’s suggestions, too.

One thing I know we will want to follow are the instructions for her delicious banana muffin recipe. Take it away, Anna!

ANNA: Here’s our Banana Muffin recipe. We love to make this when reading IF YOU GIVE A MOOSE A MUFFIN By Laura Numeroff :

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 2 eggs or egg replacer
  • 4 mashed bananas (honestly I throw mine in whole)
  • 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoon chia seed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon flax-seed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream butter  and sugar
  3. Add Maple syrup and apple sauce
  4. Add two beaten eggs
  5. Add bananas and combine well
  6. Add dry ingredients to combine
  7. Add vanilla and cinnamon
  8. Spoon into muffin tin
  9. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until an inserted knife comes out clean

Yield:  A dozen muffins (we had enough for two extra 

Thank you so much, Anna! I’m thrilled you stopped by to chat with us today. I hope everyone tries the muffin recipe, buys a copy of GOOGLE THIS!, and leaves a comment for the giveaway.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends. I thank you so much for spending your precious time here with us. I hope you’ll be back often this month…we have a FULL schedule with Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews EVERY Friday and Will Write for Cookies author/illustrator interviews EVERY Saturday PLUS FOUR book birthday posts! Lots of giveaways, lots of insights, and hopefully, lots of fun!

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