KRISTEN NORDSTROM and PAUL BOSTON: Will Write and Illustrate for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUESTS

AUTHOR KRISTEN NORDSTROM and ILLUSTRATOR PAUL BOSTON

As you can see, you are getting two for the price of one today! Both the author and the illustrator of a brand new book that is sure to be a big hit with kids and parents and teachers, MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature and it launches in just a few days on July 13!

And before we welcome these fabulous creators to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, here’s a little bit about them!

Kristen Nordstrom, M.Ed. is the debut author of Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature (Charlesbridge Publishing). This picture book is illustratated by Paul Boston and is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard 2021 selection. Kristen is a founding member and full-time teacher with a Title One, STEAM public elementary school. This magnet school brings the power of hands-on science to a beautiful and diverse group of students including: foster youth, bilingual learners, and children on the autism spectrum. Kristen has a Masters Degree in Education from Pepperdine, extensive training as a STEM educator with The Lawrence Hall of Science, and is a member of NSTA. She is currently completing her National STEM Teaching Certification with Rice University. She is married to a journalist and has two adult sons.
www.kristennordstrom.com, Twitter: @KristenNordstr1, Instagram:@knordynordy,
Book Promotion Group: readingfunin21.weebly.com


Paul Boston grew up in the English countryside and spent much of his time heading off into the fields and woods exploring and drawing pictures of the birds and wildlife he found. Now, from his country hideaway in South Wales, Paul keeps himself busy enjoying the outdoors, accumulating musical instruments and illustrating books for young people on subjects including – inventions, airplanes, trains, string and anything else you care to mention. His work has a wide appeal and has been commissioned across a wide spectrum of publishing projects, including activity books, educational titles and non-fiction books. To find out more about Paul and his work: https://www.meiklejohn.co.uk/artist/Paul_Boston_MJN

ME: I’m so excited to welcome you both, Kristen and Paul. Your book is amazing! Thank you for stopping by to share a bit of your writing and illustrating journeys with us.

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

KRISTEN: Thank you, Vivian, for hosting us on your awesome blog today.  It is an honor to be included in the company of so many talented writers and illustrators! You lift up the whole kidlit community with your infectious enthusiasm, wonderful writing, and commitment to good literature for children. I loved Roald Dahl’s fantastic stories, Arnold Lobel’s adorable characters and their sweet friendships, and Beverly Cleary’s sense of humor.  She made me laugh!! I could always be found with one of her books in my hand, and she will always be remembered with gratitude in my heart. I could also be found with stacks of books from the library on nature. My mother was an elementary teacher, and she passed down a love of Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, and National Geographic Magazine.

PAUL: There was a great library near where I grew up and I made some lasting connections with the picture books I found. Later on I discovered that so many of my favourites were classics of the picture book world. Conveniently my current line of work gives me excuses to hunt down some of my old favourites – like Virginia Lee Bourton’s Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and The Little House with their fantastic compositions, and her knack for making technology look friendly without ever being cute. I discovered David Macaulay’s epic architectural picture books Cathedral and Underground a little later on. A big favourite when I was small that never attained that classic status was Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll by Franklyn Bramley. The original 1965 version had fantastic 3 colour illustrations by Ed Emberley, where clouds broiled and darkened above an anxious family, before unleashing a storm which was practically audible, all interspaced with entertaining diagrams showing how sound and light travel at different speeds and so on.

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

KRISTEN: In hindsight, I would trust my instincts, the creative process, and my curiosity about a subject a bit more. In the early days of writing, I got feedback that some of my manuscripts were too sciency – not commercial enough. This got me wondering if I should be picking more marketable topics, but you have to trust what interests you as a writer. I’ve found the fun of nonfiction is finding a way to draw young readers into a subject they don’t know anything about. This could involve writing a manuscript in thousands of different ways! I’ve learned no matter how many times you deeply revise, you’re always cultivating your craft as a writer, and learning more as a human being. How fun is that? Writing is a creative adventure – enjoy the process.

PAUL: When I first started working as an illustrator, the isolation was quite an issue. At college everything I was doing was in some kind of conversation with, or a reaction to what everybody else was doing – even when it wasn’t something we were literally talking about. After being in that environment for so long, I found it hard to keep track of who I wanted to be as an illustrator. I know now that starting out professionally is the time when it is most important to have somebody to communicate with and share feedback. If I had been better at that I think I would have made much faster progress back in the early days. I think it might be easier starting out now in the sense that there are online communities you can connect with, share and learn from that didn’t exist back then.

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

KRISTEN: I write on my trusty Mac at my kitchen table in the early morning hours before school.

PAUL: I feel very lucky about where I work. I am currently in my upstairs room in South Wales, facing out over the rooftops of my small town, beyond the roofs are fields, and about 20 miles away, there are distant hills. I can’t grumble! It’s a big room but full of piles of picture and reference books because I desperately need more shelves.

ME: Why did you write a picture book about biomimicry?

KRISTEN: I started early in my career as a teacher reading aloud from a chapter book to my students after lunch each day. I also told my students a true story from nature, usually about animals, that I had read in the newspaper or National Geographic.  It was during this special storytelling time that I began to appreciate the deep connection children have to nature and animals. Because while my kiddos always loved to hear chapter books read aloud, when it came to nature and animal stories, you could hear a pin drop in the room. The wiggling stopped. The fidgeting paused. It was a lean-in moment. As  a teacher, you pay attention to those moments.  In my beautiful, very diverse, public school classroom,  I was witnessing a collective curiosity and deep love children share about the natural world. When I came across the topic of biomimicry (long story), I fell in love with the subject because it hinged on the idea of learning from the living world, and is a deep investigation into animals and plants.

PAUL: One of the things I immediately liked about Mimic Makers was that biomimicry is such a new field that it has really not received much attention in picture book form. It isn’t often that you get to be one of the first people to explore a new subject like this. And Mimic Makers combines several of my favourite subjects in a way I hadn’t encountered before. Kirsten also did a great job of simplifying some very technical innovations into a story about the excitement of looking at nature, and all the different ideas you can come up with as a result. 

The text also literally left plenty of space for my own interpretations of things, which usually draws me in. Some editors like to set everything out precisely – with lots of text and little boxes for the drawings, which can be helpful – but I’m sure what all illustrators really want is to be sent a layout with big empty spaces to fill! Working this way meant that sketches had to go back and forth a couple of times to get everything in the right place, but the editorial team was really good and only jumped in to help with new information and feedback where it was most helpful.  Some spreads needed updating a few times during the writing process to keep pace with new developments, as some of the biomimicry projects are still at the laboratory stage. For me it was important to get some kind of continuity to some very different ideas at very different scales, from whale-sized to microscopic and show people thinking and working and give a sense of place without getting too technical. I think we managed to keep things fun as well as informative.

ME: Oh my goodness! Thank you both so very much! It’s always a thrill to discover what motivates and inspires authors and illustrators! Kristen, we’ve been friends in kidlit groups for a while, but can I ask you…why do you write for children?

KRISTEN: It is an honor to write for young children. I’ve raised two amazing people (I’m partial), and I’ve taught in a public elementary school for over twenty years.  Children are innately creative, compassionate, and curious.  They forgive, they laugh, they look out for each other, and they live life to the very fullest. Sure, they have their moments when they can’t share the tetherball on the playground or graciously give somebody else a chance to be the line leader, but children are tapped into a kind of genius for living. They start each day as a new beginning, and it’s a privilege  to be in their company as a teacher, and to write for these awesome humans.

I feel the same way, my friend. And now I think we are about to be motivated and inspired to bake…and it’s a GLUTEN-FREE recipe! Take it away, Kristen!

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe (Gluten Free)

¼ cup of butter
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup sugar
3 cups rolled oats
¾ cup brown sugar
6 oz chocolate chips
2 eggs
½ cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.In a large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and butter.  Beat until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix.  Stir oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.Place each teaspoon full of dough about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

YUM!! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Please make sure you leave a comment on the blog to be eligible for the giveaway of a copy of this incredible book! Why don’t you share which insect or animal you think humanity could learn the most from? And remember, our favorite authors and illustrators need our support – buy their books at your local indie, review their books on Amazon, and request their books from your local library.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: MY SCHOOL STINKS Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. Kids often complain about their school. They don’t like the teacher. Their best friend isn’t in their class. And the work is too hard or too boring. The pandemic didn’t help matters – going to school with a mask or attending remotely was definitely a challenge for kids as well as parents and teachers. But it’s Becky Scharnhorst to the rescue with this hilarious new book about a school where the challenges are WILD! And the lovely Becky is offering a super cool giveaway: a copy of this awesome book or a picture book critique – winner’s choice! Make sure you leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

MY SCHOOL STINKS

Written by Becky Scharnhorst

Illustrated by Julia Patton

Published by Philomel (July 6, 2021)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: First day of school, humor, SEL

Synopsis: From Amazon:


A hilarious back-to-school story told through journal entries about a boy who finds himself at a new school where the other students are REAL animals. Perfect for fans of Ryan T. Higgins’s We Don’t Eat Our Classmates and Elise Parsley’s If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!

Dear Diary,

Today is the first day at my new school and I think there’s been a mistake. My desk mate stinks, my locker buddy bites, and my teacher is unbearable! I told Mom my classmates are WILD ANIMALS but she said all little kids are wild animals. I think I’m going to be sick tomorrow.

Celebrate back to school (and even calm some back-to-school nerves) with this clever and funny story about a boy who accidentally winds up at a school for animals, but soon realizes friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species. A great read for kindergarten through second grade!

Praise for My School Stinks!:

“Along with being a good choice for children anxious about their own upcoming “first day,” this offers a nifty exercise in reading between the lines.”–Booklist

“An encouraging new-kid narrative told from an entertaining perspective.” —Publishers Weekly

“Just might convince complaining children that their school isn’t so bad after all.”–Kirkus reviews

Why I LOVE This Book:

  1. Funny! Funny! And more funny! Humor leaps off the pages.
  2. The illustrations are fabulous – engaging…and…FUNNY!
  3. I love the turnaround at the end…the story is so clever…what a great lens to view a school experience. And I love the diary approach – it really connected me with the main character.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

Animal Bookmarks

I hope everyone is set to have a wonderful weekend. I’m leaving tomorrow for a week at an Air B&B on Lake Winnipesaukee – looking forward to doing lots of writing – and I’m also participating in Nerd Camp PA…are you signed up? It’s on July 15 and it’s for educators and librarians and parents and students. It’s all about literacy and encouraging kids to love books – to find topics that rock their boats and then discover books that can help them learn more – to find books where they are validated because they see themselves – to find books that are a window to the wider world so they can connect with other cultures. There are dozens of awesome author/illustrator panels – my panel is speaking about Using Picture Books to Inspire Self-Advocacy and Student-Led Learning.

nErD Camp PA is being held via Zoom from 9:00 AM – 3:45 PM EST on Thursday, July 15th.Here is the link to register:https://tinyurl.com/21nerdPAreg

  And please remember to leave a comment to be entered in the SUPER AWESOME Giveaway – the winner will choose either a copy of MY SCHOOL STINKS or a picture book critique from the fabulous Becky Scharnhorst. Maybe you can share what YOUR biggest challenge was in elementary school. Plus, don’t forget the the best way we can thank our favorite authors is to buy their books, review their books, tell friends about their books, and ask local libraries to purchase copies…also, if your library already has copies of the book, borrow it! When there isn’t activity for a book, the library might not keep it on the shelves.

CARRIE FINISON: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

Carrie_Finison_headshot

TODAY’S GUEST

CARRIE FINISON

In 2012, I jumped into the kidlit world, intent on becoming a published picture author. I joined 12×12 and quickly connected with many of the other writers who were pursuing the same goal. When Carrie Finison reached out to ask who’d like to be in a critique group, my hand flew up. Having Carrie for a critique buddy has been a blessing, for sure.

Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her debut picture book is DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (July, 2020), and a second picture book, DON’T HUG DOUG, will follow in January, 2021. She also writes for children’s magazines including Babybug, Ladybug, High Five, and Highlights. When she’s not writing, Carrie enjoys reading mystery novels, trying new recipes, and curling up on the couch for family movie nights. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. Find her online at www.carriefinison.com or on Twitter @CarrieFinison.

ME: I am jumping for joy to welcome you, Carrie, to Will Write for Cookies. I loved DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS even in its early drafts and I’m thrilled to see it become a real book!!! Thank you for stopping by – let’s get started with the questions because I know everyone is excited to find out more about you and your writing journey!

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

CARRIE: It’s so much fun to look back at old favorites. My mother still has many of my childhood books. I remember reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton many times over, and also her book The Little House. I loved seeing the Little House get all fixed up and taken care of in the end. Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library was another favorite and when I got the soundtrack to the show Really Rosie, I had fun singing Carol King’s version of those stories. I also loved One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey. We spent many vacations in Maine so those illustrations feel familiar and homey.

Another book that I remember vividly is The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer. It’s an unusual story about a girl who gets rescued from an unhappy life by three robbers. They then set up a home for her and for other unhappy children. I liked the idea that the robbers could be good at heart even though they did some bad things.

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

CARRIE: I’ll answer the opposite. I’m glad I DIDN’T know how long the path to publication would be and how much persistence it would take. I might have given up before I started! I think the key to moving forward in this business is that you have to really enjoy the process – the actual act of writing and revision. As much as I sometimes avoid it, I do take pleasure in just creating something, whether or not someone is ever going to publish it. That part never feels like work.

Doughnuts_front_cover_web

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

CARRIE: I’m lucky to have an office up on our third floor. I write at my grandfather’s desk with my two cats nearby – and sometimes draped over my keyboard adding their own “revisions.” But I’m not always in that space. Especially in summer, when it’s way too hot up there, I spend time writing on the couch, out on our deck, or (in pre-Covid times) in coffee shops. I miss the coffee shops!

desk_workspace

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

CARRIE: As the muse strikes, for sure! Most often that is early in the morning. Sometimes she gets me out of bed! I really don’t have a set schedule and probably need to get better about that. But every time I try to create a schedule something seems to happen to derail it. These days, with my family home, it can be difficult. I don’t need quiet to write, but I do need time free from interruptions and that is hard to come by lately.

ME: Why do you write for children?

CARRIE: I remember all those special moments when my own kids sat on my lap and we shared a story, often reading whole piles of books. It’s a privilege to be a part of that moment of enjoyment between an adult reader and a child. Even better is knowing that I have the power to actually make that moment of connection happen by writing books that kids will ask to read — hopefully more than once!

ME: With DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS? Definitely more than once! The rhythm and rhyme are so spot on…clever and a great message to boot!

Thank you so much, Carrie…and if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share.

CARRIE: My best advice for aspiring writers is to read many, many recently-published books, and read them with a child if you possibly can. Pay attention to how they interact with books as well as what appeals to you about the books you read.

Then write many, many manuscripts. The biggest mistake I made starting out was to focus too much on “perfecting” one or two stories, rather than just writing a lot. Picture books take a lot of practice and some stories are never going to make it for a whole host of reasons. Give yourself lots of practice and lots of options. I won’t say it gets easier, but I will say that the more you read and write the more ideas you will have and the more writing you’ll want to do.

ME: That is fabulous advice, Carrie! Thank you so much!

And dear readers, here is some information if you’d like to find out more about Carrie and her books:

Order a signed copy from her local bookstore, Belmont Books: https://www.belmontbooks.com/book/9780525518358

Website: https://www.carriefinison.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carrie.finison

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarrieFinison

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carriefinison/

And just like with doughnuts, we always want more…and Carrie is ready with a fabulous treat for us! Take it away, Carrie!

doughnut_cookies

CARRIE: Vivian, I’m so glad you invited me to do this blog because it gave me an excuse to develop a recipe for doughnut cookies! I originally wanted to include a doughnut recipe with DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS – it seems like a natural fit. But, between rising them with yeast or deep frying, they can be difficult to make and aren’t the most approachable project with young children. In the end we ran out of space in the book, but I did develop a simplified doughnut recipe that’s available on my website and that I’m using as a freebie at events.

However, a doughnut COOKIE is a much easier project for kids, and just as satisfying! I started this with a basic sugar cookie recipe, but added some spices to make it taste more like my favorite fall apple cider doughnuts. I hope you like it!

LouAnn's_Doughnut_Cookies (2)

This is fabulous, Carrie! Thank you so very much! I bet if I asked for a show of hands, we’d have a bunch of readers and writers who are going to give these doughnut cookies a try! But before you get busy doing that, make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway of a copy of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, thanks to our lovely guest! Why not share which is YOUR favorite doughnut. Mine is Chocolate Glazed Chocolate…with Chocolate Sprinkles…because you can never have enough chocolate.

For those who have been following my house-on-the-market saga, it was listed on July 16, Open House on July 18…with immediate offers! We signed the contract July 21…and I’m now packing in earnest. And so very excited to turn the page on this next chapter of my life!

Stay safe, dear friends…and have a wonderful weekend!