Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. The year is winding down, but the windfall of fabulous picture books of 2018 is not. And the author of today’s book is offering a VERY special giveaway: a Picture Book Critique OR the first 10 pages of a novel. Continue reading
WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, my friends. The mailbox has been a flurry of awesome activity this week…lots of new picture books! And since this one is launching in just a couple of days, I wanted to share it with you. PLUS, the author, Viviane Elbee, will be stopping by tomorrow to chat on Will Write for Cookies AND she is offering a copy of her debut picture book for a giveaway!
TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI
Written by Viviane Elbee
Illustrated by Danni Gowdy
Publlished by Albert Whitman (November 1, 2018)
Themes: Facing fears, friendship
Opening lines: “Uh-oh. It’s snowing and your giraffe wants you to teach her to ski.”
What do you do when your giraffe wants to learn how to ski—but she wants to go down the big scary slope and you are NOT a fan of skiing even on the bunny slope? As the boy tries to control his giraffe and lead her to safer spots, he learns something about courage along the way and the reader learns about ski slope etiquette and the rudiments of skiing.
Why I like this book:
- The illustrations are absolutely adorable as humans and animals strap on skis and share the slopes.
- Kids will love the story…so over the top hilarious, but with important underlying messages of friendship and facing fears.
- I enjoyed the larger typeface and I think beginning readers will be encouraged to try to read this themselves.
Paper Plate Giraffe
Photo courtesy: https://familymaven.io
Paper plates are one of my favorite classic craft materials. For detailed instructions: https://familymaven.io/kidsactivities/kidsactivities/easy-giraffe-craft-for-kids-NQNcWRx1Z0SwCkAYeJjZ6w/
Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. And come back tomorrow when we chat with Viviane Elbee about her writing journey.
I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be at a local apple orchard with my grandson. Whatever you are doing, stay safe, and remember that authors need our support. Leaving a review, on Amazon, Goodreads, or other review sites, can really give a boost to the potential success of your favorite book!
FIRST POST OF THE YEAR!!!
So you know it is going to be special, right?
Last year I featured as many 2017 picture books as I could. This year I plan to do the same thing for the debut picure books of 2018. HOPEFULLY, my Sweet Dreams, Sarah will be one of them! But for today, I’ve got a really special book for you! From a dear friend and critique buddy of mine, Nancy Churnin, who has a knack for finding golden nuggets of history and turning them into fabulous nonfiction picture books that children and adults will want to read again and again.
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT
CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf
Written by Nancy Churnin
Illustrated by John Joven
Published by Albert Whitman
Themes: Determination, Civil Rights, golf
From Amazon: Charlie Sifford loved golf, but in the 1930’s only white people were allowed to play in the Professional Golf Association. Sifford had won plenty of black tournaments, but he was determined to break the color barrier in the PGA. In 1960 he did, only to face discrimination from hotels that wouldn’t rent him rooms and clubs that wouldn’t let him use the same locker as the white players. But Sifford kept playing, becoming the first black golfer to win a PGA tournament and eventually ranking among the greats in golf.
Why I like this book:
- I love when authors can entertain, educate, and inspire by taking an impottant event in history and making it come alive for kids
- The text and illustrations engage from the first page to the last
- This is an important moment that built on what had come before and opened doors for those who came after
Photo courtesy: https://www.thecrafttrain.com
Tin Can Golf is fun for young kids and can be ramped up to make it more challenging for older kids. For detailed instructions: https://www.thecrafttrain.com/tin-can-indoor-golf-fun-from-recycled-junk/
Thanks to author Nancy Churnin, we have a giveaway of a copy of CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT. Please leave a comment to be entered. Remember, there is only one copy that can be won, but the book JUST launched TODAY…so you can hop over to your favorite bookstore and get a copy And don’t forget that leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads only takes a couple of minutes, but it will mean the world to the author of that book you loved reading with your child.
Please come back tomorrow for the BOOK BIRTHDAY of LOVE, MAMA by Jeanette Bradley!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO A YEAR FILLED WITH POSSIBILITIES!
HOW ABOUT YOU?
WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION
I’ve known our Will Write for Cookies guest for just about as long as I’ve been active in kidlitland. And I’m so thrilled to finally get a chance to have her visit here.
Rebecca Colby is a children’s picture book author, poet, and screenwriter. Her fourth book just launched, CAPTAIN BLING’S CHRISTMAS PLUNDER (Albert Whitman). Her other books include MOTOR GOOSE (Feiwel & Friends, 2017)…which I just reviewed yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday, IT’S RAINING BATS AND FROGS (Feiwel and Friends, 2015), and THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE (Floris Picture Kelpies, 2014).
Rebecca, I am so very happy to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar!
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
REBECCA: There were lots but the ones that stand out from when I was of picture book reading age are James Marshall of the George and Martha stories, Dr Seuss, Garth Williams, Tasha Tudor, and Esther and Eloise Wilkin.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
REBECCA: That networking is as important as writing. You can’t write in isolation and expect to get anywhere. You’ve got to get out there and meet ‘your tribe’ and lift each other up!
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
REBECCA: I prefer writing outside, but because of all the rainfall in England, that’s not always possible. I try to make the most of the spring and summer months by taking my laptop to a nearby garden and writing amongst the birds and flowers. During the colder months, I sit at home in bed, snuggled under the comforter where it’s warm and toasty. Another place I enjoy writing is on trains, but as a general rule, I prefer an environment that is quieter. For that reason, I’m not much of a coffee shop writer.
As to paper or laptop, laptop wins hands down. I learned to touch-type in high school—a course I wish schools would introduce alongside their IT classes for younger children—and as a result, I can write quicker and more efficiently (not to mention neater!), if I’m on my laptop.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
REBECCA: The earlier, the better. My Twitter handle is @amscribbler because, for many years, I did most of my writing between 5 and 7 am. I rarely write in the evening as, after 8pm, my brain starts to shut down. I tend to reserve the evenings for marketing, e-mails, reading and watching films.
Wait for the muse to strike? You must be joking! No, this is a job–one I love, but a job. I write because I want to be a career-author and that means showing up for work regardless of whether the muse has graced me with her presence or not. Writers write!
ME: Why do you write for children?
REBECCA: Two main reasons: I enjoy children’s books far more than adult books and I want to bring more laughter into the world–and what better place to start than with kids’ books! My family would probably add that I’m a 7 year old at heart, so that probably has a lot to do with it also.
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.
REBECCA: Advice to writers:
I see a lot of writers posting their frustrations and disappointments on Facebook after receiving a handful of rejections, and I want to tell them that a handful is nothing. If they really want to get published they’ll stop counting the rejections and start counting the manuscripts they’ve written. My advice is: Up your game and keep getting better, and that means KEEP WRITING!
It’s a numbers as well as a talent game. I’ve had more than one published picture book author in the UK tell me that only about 1 in every 5 manuscripts they write is acquired—and this is from established authors. Don’t waste valuable time counting those rejections, or you may quit. I racked up about 140 rejections in 7 years (but, hey, who’s counting—shame I don’t take my own advice) but if I’d counted all the rejections as I’d gone along, I probably would have dropped out of the game. It was hard enough counting the years pass. So don’t count your failures, count your triumphs, and before you know it, you will ‘beat the odds’.
For educators and librarians:
I don’t consider my work finished on a book until I’ve completed an accompanying resource guide. If you’d like to use my books in a classroom or library setting, please feel free to download these free guides from my website at www.rebeccacolbybooks.com/teachers
Thank you for having me today, Vivian! Though I must admit, I’m much more of a cookie eater than a cookie maker. In fact, that’s why I’m here—you promised cookies! 😉
ME: Oh my goodness…you are so funny, Rebecca. And you are right…for all of your wonderful insights, you definitely deserve cookies!!! But I know you aren’t done yet…so please share your cookie recipe!
REBECCA: Here’s a recipe from my THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE resource guide. It’s a recipe for Midgie Shortbread. Enjoy, and thanks again!
Cook shortbread with chocolate sprinkles.
Note: Be aware of any food allergies.
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup chocolate sprinkles, plus some additional for topping
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Mix butter and sugar together.
- Add vanilla and flour.
- Fold in chocolate sprinkles.
- Roll out dough until a half inch thick.
- Cut into shapes.
- Place on a baking tray.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Shake additional chocolates sprinkles over the top and cool.
ME: Wow! These look amazing, Rebecca! I am definitely a shortbread fan! Thank you so very much for all of your insights. And I’m thrilled to talk a bit about your newest book that just launched yesterday! I know it is a book everyone would love to win, especially with Christmas around the corner…so thank you so much for offering a double giveaway!!! And I encourage all of my readers to be writers also…when you read a book that you love, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads or other book review sites. This will mean so much to your favorite authors and illustrators!
From Page to Stage
I didn’t intend to post on my blog today. I’ve been gearing up for the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge that opens…TOMORROW! But sometimes a window of opportunity opens…and the only thing to do is walk through it.
So, when one of my dear friends, Maryann Cocca-Leffler, shared this incredible story with me yesterday, I knew I had to share it with you.
Maryann Cocca-Leffler is the Author and Illustrator of over 60 children’s books including Princess K.I.M. and the Lie that Grew and Princess Kim and Too Much Truth from which this play is based. Inspired by her Italian-American upbringing in Boston, many of Maryann’s book ideas come from her own childhood, family and people she meets along the way. Her books include; Bus Route to Boston, Janine, Bravery Soup, A Homemade Together Christmas and the upcoming The Growing Season. She holds a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art. When not in her NH studio, Maryann often travels to elementary schools nationwide to share her beloved books with young readers and when she can- see her play performed.
PLAY, YOU SAY? Read on, and all will be revealed!
The Making of “Princess K.I.M. The Musical”
By Author-Illustrator-Playwright Maryann Cocca-Leffler
It all started in first grade. I had just started a new school and desperately wanted the kids to like me, so to impress them, I told a teeny lie. With my last name being ‘Cocca’, I informed my new classmates that my father owned the Coca Cola Company, (he didn’t). My well-intended scheme backfired and became a big problem when the kids discovered the truth. Lessoned learned.
Fast forward 40 years …I was sitting in my studio trying to conjure up an idea for my next children’s book when my first grade ruse came to mind. The idea of a tiny lie growing out of control seemed like a great concept. With some twists and imagination, the idea developed into my children’s book Princess K.I.M. and The Lie That Grew in which, Kim, my main character, tells a teeny lie to impress the kids in her new school. This time, Kim announces that she is from Royalty (she isn’t) and her lie grows into a big gigantic, sometimes comical, problem. After submitting my idea to book publishers, I sold the story to Albert Whitman & Co. in 2008. (www.albertwhitman.com)
As life would have it, about the same time, I happened to be involved in my community theater. I didn’t know it then, but soon the book world and the stage world would collide. While creating the artwork for the book I started to see the illustrations as a “stage set” and my characters as “actors”. I began to hear their voices and envision certain lines from the book being perfect lyrics for songs. On my vision board, where I post my big dreams, I wrote; “Make Princess KIM into a play”.
Princess K.I.M. And the Lie that Grew (the book) was published in 2009. A few years later, after completing the art for the sequel, Princess Kim and Too Much Truth,
I started seriously thinking about making my dream a reality. It was time to bring Princess KIM to the stage in the form of a Children’s Musical. In late 2010 I began my path from Page to Stage.
Confession- I cannot play a note of music. I am a writer, an artist with vision and a dreamer, but I’m also practical enough to know that I needed a creative team. I am also a believer that there are no coincidences. I can’t tell you how many times a conversation or an introduction led me to the person I was meant to meet. I also knew that if I wanted something, I’d have to have the courage to ASK!
With my mind open and my eyes on my goal, my path led me to my creative team; Theater professional, Toby Tarnow and two wonderful musicians, Andrew Cass and Premik Russell Tubbs, who, thankfully, where equally excited about my idea. (That’s the ‘Ask ‘part!) We worked together for 16 months, writing the script and developing the music. We spent many hours either sitting around my piano with my children’s books and script in hand, or sending music and script files back and forth over the Internet. Through it all, this solitary author-Illustrator found a love and respect for the collaboration process, which in turn, resulted in a wonderful script and score…Princess K.I.M. The Musical.
Photo courtesy: Beekay Theater, Tehachapi, CA
Education & Mentors-
Having published over 60 children’s books, I knew a lot about the Book Publishing world, but not so much about the Theater Industry. I had to educate myself. During the early stages of creating the script and score, I joined the Dramatists’ Guild of NYC and also connected with theater agents and playwrights, all of whom graciously and generously gave me guidance and advice, which were instrumental in moving my project forward.
One thing I learned was in order to land a theatrical agent the play must have several productions. But how? Through the Dramatist Guild I discovered New Play contests. I submitted Princess K.I.M. The Musical to a New Play Festival at the Carol Crane Youth Theater, Ohio in 2012. Out of 180 plays, we made the top 5. My team and I traveled to Ohio for the Festival readings…and at the end of the day- we won! The prize- A Full production in Spring of 2013! We did it! Our first production.
I then decided in order to gain more exposure I would produce Princess K.I.M. The Musical myself at a local theater. I started a Kickstarter campaign, gathered a production team, rented a 450-seat theater and had open auditions. This time I asked my NH community and they said YES…YES to being actors, set builders, musicians, sound engineers and everything in between. Our October 2013 local debut was a success with all five shows selling out.
One benefit of producing our own show was the work-shopping factor. My team could now clearly see how we could improve the play. We got to work again tweaking the script and the music as well as creating a Junior version. At this point, word got out about Princess K.I.M. The Musical. We licensed the Junior version show to the Interlakes Summer Theater in Meredith, NH (2014) www.interlakestheatre.com and a Full Version Production to the BeeKay Theater in Tehachpi, CA. (2015) (www.tctonstage.com)
At the same time, I was contacted by Artistic Director, Chase Leyner of Hoboken Children’s Theater (http://www.hobokenchildrenstheater.com) who was looking for a 50 minute TYA version of Princess KIM. Chase and I and our teams put our heads together and the TYA version was born. Princess K.I.M. The Musical TYA had a successful 8-week run at the Hoboken Children’s Theater, New Jersey in 2015.
The stars aliened once again when an agent from Stagerights, after attending our California show, offered to represent Princess K.I.M. The Musical.
So- the path from Page to Stage has brought us here, with hopes that the road will continue with many productions across the nation.
…And to think, it all started with a teeny tiny lie I told in first grade.
Photo courtesy: Amato Center for the Arts, Milford, NH
.What a story! Kudos and many thanks, Maryann!
My takeaway: you can make your dreams into your reality.
What’s your takeaway?
To find out more about this author/illustrator/playwright/all-around-incredible-creative or to contact her:, please click here.
And for anyone interested in using this play for their theatre, please contact Maryann or click here https://www.stagerights.com/allshows/princesskimjunior
WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
ANDREA J. LONEY
I met our Will Write for Cookies guest in Picture the Books 2017, a group of authors and illustrators who have debut picture books coming out this year. And Andrea has not one, but TWO picture books debuting in 2017.
Andrea J Loney’s picture book BUNNYBEAR, (Albert Whitman & Company, January 31, 2017) is about a bear who believes in his heart that he is really a bunny. Her upcoming debut picture book, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! (Lee & Low, May 2017), is a New Voices Award-winning picture book biography of the legendary black photographer of the Harlem Renaissance, and a third book is coming in 2019. A community college instructor with an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, Andrea is also a proud volunteer for Reading to Kids and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. She lives in sunny Los Angeles, California with her devoted family, embarrassingly spoiled pets, and towering stacks of picture books.
And guess what? Andrea is sharing some more great news:
WOW! Congratulations, Andrea…that is fantastic! You are on fire!
Before we begin our Q&A, I want to remind everyone that if you leave a comment on this post, you will be entered into the giveaway for a brand new copy of BUNNYBEAR…I’ve seen it (and reviewed it here for Perfect Picture Book Friday). You definitely want to have this book on your shelf.
So, without further ado, let’s welcome Andrea!
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
As a child, I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on – The Snowy Day, A Whistle for Willie, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, all kinds of poetry, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince, The Lord of the Rings, The Encyclopedia Britannica; authors Virginia Hamilton, Rosa Guy, Ray Bradbury, Judy Blume, E B White; and all the comic strips I could find. I loved these stories because they allowed me to travel through time and space to other worlds and cultures.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
I first tried writing children’s books fifteen years ago, and gave up in despair after about a year and a half. I wish I’d known back then how invaluable an active membership to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) could be – the critique groups, monthly free events, paid local events, national conferences, and even the Bulletin newsletter made a huge difference in my growth as a children’s author.
I also wish I’d known that part of the secret to publication, at least for me, was to write, rewrite, and revise as many polished manuscripts as possible, so that when opportunity knocked, I was ready for it. It’s not that all of those manuscripts were even publishable, it’s that the process of writing (and sharing) dozens of stories improved my craft draft by draft.
ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?
While my work desk is in a lovely, fairy light-festooned, cobalt blue room called The Imaginarium, I write pretty much everywhere. My little pink computer (named Seraphine) fits in my purse, so I tend to wander all over the house as I write. When I write standing up, I put the laptop on the kitchen counter next to the fishbowl – along with the cats, my betta fish loves being part of the creative process.
Outside of the house, I write in our backyard with friendly bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies fluttering around – sometimes it makes me feel like a Disney princess. I live 25 minutes away from the famous Santa Monica Beach in California, so sometimes I write by the ocean. But honestly I can work pretty much anywhere – in my car, a café, a hotel lobby, the faculty lounge at my college, anywhere.
For the past decade or so I have been fairly obsessed with Pilot pens, specifically the G2 gel ink pen. I stash them everywhere. And I always carry a notebook of some sort. And journals –I love blank journals with gorgeous covers. Like many writers, I have half a library of pretty blank books, still untouched.
ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?
My favorite time to write is between the hours of 11pm and 3am, but that’s not always feasible for the days I teach 7 am classes. I mean, I’ve done it anyway, but sure I don’t recommend it! So sometimes I get up at 5 am and write until it’s time to go to work. I like writing when the world is dark and quiet so I can color it with my own imagination. But when I have time between classes or days between classes, I generally use that time to write.
While I cherish the romantic concept of the muse and do my best to entice her (mine likes flowers, green tea, and fairy lights), deadlines motivate me more than anything. Sometimes the muse graces me with her presence and it’s like magic, but I show up to work on my stories whether she is there or not. My deadlines come from my agent, editors, competitions, online challenges, and contests. Also, belonging to a few critique groups means that I am constantly generating new material to share with others. I may not write every single day and some days I only write for fifteen minutes or so. But I rarely go more than two days without writing, revising, or brainstorming something.
ME: Why do you write for children?
Over the years, I’ve been a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a television writer, yet becoming a children’s book author was always my dream. Why? It was through picture books that I fell in love with words, reading, and the whole world around me.
Also, when I was in the second grade, my family moved from a big city with many folks of all ethnicities to a small town with few people of color. I had a hard time fitting in. So, I escaped my fear and sadness by reading. Books were always there for me. Books delighted me. Books saved me. By the third grade, I vowed that when I became an adult, I would never forget how it felt to be a little kid and that I would write the kind of stories that I’d wished were available when I was a child – stories that embrace and celebrate the humanity of all children.
ME: Andrea, 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.
For aspiring writers:
At my first SCBWI national summer conference in Los Angeles, I heard SCBWI president Linn Oliver refer to the people in the room as published writers and pre-published writers. That moment was a turning point for me. Once I saw myself as “pre-published,” the “getting published” part felt inevitable.
I also took action to back up that feeling – I joined critique groups, attended SCBWI events, joined Facebook groups like Sylvia Liu’s KidLit 411 and Kristin Fulton’s WOW NonFicPic, and online challenges like Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge and Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly known as PiBoIdMo).
The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that the kid lit world can be exceptionally kind and generous. Immersing myself in this community has made all the difference for my career. So join in the fun, because there is a child out there waiting to read a story that only you can tell.
Hurray, Andrea…joining in the fun is the best way to learn and grow. It encourages us to write and revise and submit…and that’s the way we will get our story to the child who is waiting for it. I totally agree with you. Thank you so very much for participating in Will Write for Cookies…this was so much fun!
To connect with Andrea and find out more about her awesome books:
She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest @andreajloney.
And now something REALLY special…Andrea has shared a unique treat. When I asked her for a cookie recipe, this is what she said:
I don’t bake cookies, mostly because I’m so good at eating them – often too many of them – and then staggering around the house moaning, “Why, oh, why did I eat all the cookies?”
But if I want a quick, easy, tummy-friendly treat, sometimes I whip up a gluten-free mug cake. There’s only six ingredients and it takes ninety seconds to make in a microwave. Best of all, all I have to clean afterwards is a fork, a spoon, and a mug.
PALEO CHOCOLATE CHIP MUG CAKE
Prep time: 2 mins
Total time: 2 mins
1 Large Egg
1 Tbsp. Almond Flour
1 Tbsp. Coconut Flour
2 Tbsp. Chocolate Chips
2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tsp. Vanilla
Crack the egg into the mug and whip with a fork.
Add the rest of the ingredients into the mug and mix well.
Microwave on High for 1½ minutes.
If the cake is still too squishy, microwave again in 30 second increments until firm.
OH YES…WE CERTAINLY WILL, ANDREA!
And now, dear friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Andrea’s BUNNYBEAR. If you could be any animal in the world, which would you be?
THIS JUST IN…Susanna Leonard Hill has announced her famous VALENTINY CONTEST: https://susannahill.com/2017/01/28/announcing-the-2nd-annual-valentiny-writing-contest/
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Next week, we’ll be reviewing another 2017 debut picture book, BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, and the author, Annie Silvestro, will be our Will Write for Cookies guest. Such richness…this is going to be a stupendous year for picture books. The journey is all the more fun for having you along.