SHERRY HOWARD: Will Write for Cookies PLUS PB Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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VIVIANE ELBEE: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Viviane Headshot

VIVIANE ELBEE

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AMBER HENDRICKS: Will Write for Cookies Plus PB Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

updated author

AMBER HENDRICKS

Hello everyone! You are in for a treat today! It’s always such fun to chat with authors who are friends and critique partners – even I learn more about them during the Q&A.

Amber grew up reading everything she could get her hands on, including the morning cereal boxes. That passion melded into writing, and by the age of 11 she was writing and binding her own “books.” Over the years, Amber has worn many hats. Those include army wife, mother, visual merchandiser, certified pharmacy technician, and childcare professional. But she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories. SOPHIE AND LITTLE STAR is her first book for children.

To learn more about Amber and her writing:

Facebook, Twitter, Publisher website

Okay…so there you go! I just learned that Amber also read cereal boxes! I wonder how many other people do that? I’m so thrilled you stopped by today, my friend. Thank you for offering a pb critique as a giveaway…I can attest to the fact that your feedback is fabulous!

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

AMBER: I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, outside of Dr. Seuss. What I do remember is the feeling I would get when I held a book. A magical feeling that I was about to go on an incredible adventure and discover amazing new people and places I could only visit in my imagination. I still get that feeling every time I hold a book!

SALSCover_Final_RGB_NoBleed_Stars

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

AMBER: So many things! But one of the important lessons I learned was that publishing takes a very long time. Patience in publishing is a must! There will always be something you’re waiting for: responses to submissions, that new shiny idea, your book to release….  Once I learned to accept and embrace the waiting, I was able to enjoy the process even more and turn my focus onto writing something new.

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

AMBER: My laptop sits atop my fireplace mantle, so I write standing up! Standing gives me the freedom to pace around if I’m working through a particularly tough scene or if I want to grab another book for reference. After so many years of standing, I couldn’t imagine writing at a desk.

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

AMBER: I have two young children and work a full time job, so it is almost impossible to find time during the day to write. Often, you’ll find me typing away in the late evenings after the kids have gone to bed and all the chores have been done. Though sometimes an idea or perfect line will pop into my mind in the middle of the night!

Writing area

ME: Why do you write for children?

 AMBER: I think there is a certain magic in introducing a child to the love of reading. When I first got the idea to pursue publishing, I thought I’d write Young Adult novels. But I was running a preschool/daycare at the time and picture books were a huge part of our day. I began to see the complexity in those seemingly simple stories and challenged myself to give picture books a try. I fell head-over-heels in love. Four years later, I’m still honing that craft!

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

AMBER: To aspiring writers…… Publishing is full of ups and downs. There is no magic formula. Writing will always be hard, and will most likely get harder as you push yourself to learn more and hone your craft. The good news?  We belong to an amazing community of like-minded people who will lift you up and encourage you along the way. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep learning. You CAN do this!

ME: WOW! Thank you so much, Amber. I love your advice…yes, definitely, there is no magic formula…although you’ve laid out the steps that must be taken: Keep Reading! Keep Writing! Keep Learning! 

I wonder if anyone else is amazed that Amber writes standing up…that is probably a great idea for the back…no bending over and rounding of the spine!  I just may have to try it! And something else I may have to try…Amber’s Mom’s No Bake Cookie! Take it away, Amber.

AMBER: I’m not the best baker, but my mom is and she makes a mean No Bake Cookie!

No Bake Cookies

NO-BAKE COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

½ cup butter

¼ cup cocoa

3 cups quick oats

½ cup peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt

Directions:

Melt ½ cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Add sugar, milk, and cocoa and mix well.

Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until peanut butter is melted.

Combine oats and salt and add to the pot stirring until well mixed.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto wax paper.

Allow to cool thoroughly and enjoy!

This sounds like pure comfort food to me…I’m going to make them with my grandson the next time he comes over. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to meeting a kidlit friend on Wednesday, one of my inperson critique groups on Thursday, and my local SCBWI group on Friday – so I’d better get busy revising an old nonfition pb bio I want to send to my agent and also get writing on the tentative follow up Pippa story.

And please stay tuned because one day early next week I’m going to have a SURPRISE COVER REVEAL for my FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN:An Animal Counting Book story with a special giveaway in honor of that.

What’s happening in your writing world, my friends? I hope you have a wonderful weekend – the New England foliage is probably coming into its peak…at least here in southern New Hampshire. Don’t forget to leave a commnet to be entered into the giveaway for the FABULOUS PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE from Amber!

 

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!