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Linda Whalen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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LINDA WHALEN

 

I first met Linda in the Picture the Books 2017 group…what an awesome array of authors and illustrators! I’m thrilled with the quality of books that are debuting this year!

Linda Whalen lives with her husband on a plot of land in Northern California. Born a city kid, she married a farm boy from the mid-west and fell in love with country life.  Surrounded by family, pets and bunches of wild creatures, life is never dull. After working in, and then owning her own child-care facility, Linda is now pursing her passion of writing for children. She also enjoys time spent with her art supplies.

Maybe Linda will one day illustrate her own stories…we’ll have to ask if that is a goal of hers.

Just a reminder that Linda is giving away give a copy of LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY. If you want to see my review of it, click here. Make sure you leave a comment below. And if you haven’t already joined my email list, please click on the sidebar logo. I promise not to send you any junk…just good stuff.

 And now, let’s give a big Will Write for Cookies welcome to Linda!

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

 LINDA:

There were no funds for books in our household when I was growing up. But I did get an understanding that books were important because my mother had a set of The Book of Knowledge that were very dear to her and I wasn’t allowed to touch them. She also had a book that was a collection of children’s stories which she read to me occasionally. I still have that book and read it to my children often. When I was eleven she bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia and I loved flipping the pages and reading about all sorts of things outside of my little world. I still have the set and every yearbook that goes with it. The fact that someone actually wrote what I was reading didn’t sink in until I was a teenager.

book cover

Once I started reading books I couldn’t get enough of them. To quote my husband in our early years of marriage, “you always have your nose stuck in a book.” He’s used to it now.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

LINDA:

Gag the internal editor! I was like so many new authors who think that the words you put on that blank piece of paper had to be perfect in every way until at a conference, I heard a speaker say “write crap, then edit.” It took a while for it to sink in but it really does release the creative side of writing to just let go and write what comes to mind. Believe me there is a lot of editing going on when I’m done.  Then there’s editing after critique and editing after the sale. So just let go and go with the flow on the first 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?

LINDA:

I resisted writing on anything electronic. I love the feel of a pencil in my hand however, I’m much faster on the computer and can get the words down in a hurry. When writing by hand I sometimes have a hard time reading my own writing when I’ve rushed to get an idea down. Now I do both. I print out what I write electronically, grab a pencil and cuddle up somewhere to read and tear apart what I’ve written. I never clean my car or purse out completely, I need those scraps of paper to scribble down ideas when I get them.  Of course, I do pull over and stop if I’m in driving. On retreat or vacation when life isn’t whizzing by I like to write outside if my allergies will let me. I’ve found the balcony of a cruise ship is wonderful place to let your mind go where it wants. However, that doesn’t happen often so wherever I can find the time and space, I write.

workspace

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?

LINDA:

I’m working on setting aside a specific time to write (like a job…eek!) My life is way too crazy for that but I’m trying. If I haven’t taken the time to write for a while I get a little itchy to do so, it’s the same way with art. My daughter has said to me, “Mom, I think you need to go write something.” Maybe I get a little grumpy when I ignore my creative me. So, I guess I prefer letting the muse strike.

art space

ME: Why do you write for children?

LINDA:

Children have always been a big part of my life both personally and professionally.  I love reading stories to children and seeing their emotions dance through their eyes as they listen. What better way to connect with that dance than to write the words.

 Words written to bring joy, warmth, spark the imagination, sooth, and teach while entertaining young minds, cross all boundaries of color, gender, or wealth.

My husband while not an avid reader read bedtime stories to our children and often the words would spark his imagination and he would go off script and weave other elements into the story. While the author might not appreciate this, I think getting a reluctant reader to read stories to children is a great way to spark their imagination and interest to read more.

WOW! Linda…I love your reasons! And I know everyone joins me in thanking you for sharing those insights.

And now for one of my favorite parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

cookies

Coconut –Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. butter

1 C. brown sugar

3 eggs (well beaten)

2 C. Flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 C. shredded coconut

2 C. oats

1 C. chopped nuts (optional)

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
  2. Add eggs. Mix well
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamons.
  4. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture blending well.
  5. Add coconut, oats and nuts.
  6. Drop rounded tablespoons on greased cookie sheet.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Now, that’s what I call an oatmeal cookies that begs to be eaten! Dear friends, to find out more about Linda:

Website: http://www.lindawhalenauthor.com

Twitter:  @lindacwhalen

FB: Linda Whalen

LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY on Amazon

book cover

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY.

And a BIG thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word about the #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenge. Don’t know about it yet? Click on the link in the sidebar to get all the details…or email me at viviankirkfield@gmail.com…it’s going to be AWESOME!

 

Have a beautiful weekend, dear friends. Anything special planned? Our son is flying in from Chicago on Sunday to spend the night because he has a business meeting in Boston on Monday. Yippee! We love spending time with him!

Jessica Petersen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway Prize Package

 WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

JESSICA PETERSEN

Choo-choo! Will Write for Cookies is coming down the track…with another 2017 debut picture book author as our engineer.

Jessica Petersen started inventing new tricks for old tracks when her son was a train-obsessed toddler. Their adventures inspire her blog, Play Trains! (play-trains.com), where she writes about playing, learning, and reading with kids who love trains. She wrote, photographed, and illustrated OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS in her home in Seattle, Washington, where she lives with her husband, her son, and lots of happy wooden train tracks.

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Is everyone onboard? The conductor says relax, sit back, and enjoy the interview.

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

 JESSICA:

In elementary school, Jasper Tomkins came to my school — I’m pretty sure that was the only author visit I ever experienced as a kid — and I loved his whimsical books that anthropomorphize unlikely subjects, particularly the cloud in Nimby and the mountains in The Catalog. Years later, I was so happy to find copies of those books for my son, and in retrospect, I would guess his books were one of the things that started me down the path to bringing wooden train tracks to life in my own book.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

JESSICA:

Perfection isn’t a goal on the first draft. Get the story down first, then get the story right, and then you can start trying to make the words sing.

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?

JESSICA:

You may notice that the very blue walls are the same color as the walls in the playroom in Old Tracks, New Tricks. My office is does triple duty as a writing room, photo/video studio, and play room for my son (he picked out the bright paint color, which I love too). I wrote (and photographed) most of the book there, although I also spent a lot of time drawing strange looks as I tapped out the meter of the verse on coffee shop tables.

workspace

I used to write many of my rough drafts longhand as a way of digging deeper into emotions, but I mostly work on my laptop now. When I’m writing rhyming verse or a lot of dialogue, I hear the words in my mind. They don’t stop to wait for me, so I need to type to keep up with them.

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?

JESSICA:

I write anytime I can. I used to be much more particular before my son came along. Children can be a great motivator to learn to write anytime, anywhere, with any amount of distraction. My big challenge now is that illustrating and promoting the book have taken up so much of my time for so long that I’m out of the writing habit. But I have another picture book in the works that I’m really excited about, so I’m hoping to figure out how to balance it all this spring.

ME: Why do you write for children?

JESSICA:

I used to work on fantasy novels aimed at adults, but I made the switch to children’s books when my son was younger, about four years ago. I loved the books I was reading to him, of course, but more than that, having him around made me think about what kind of work I was putting out there in the world, about how I could help kids learn about the world and how to approach life in a strong, kind, creative way.

creative ways to use tracks

ME: Jessica, 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.

JESSICA:

It can be a long, long journey from the first draft of your first manuscript until the day you see your first book in print. Look at that as an opportunity. Take the time to learn your craft, to build your writing community, to try different styles and forms of writing. Enjoy having the time to go down creative roads that don’t seem to lead anywhere. You never know when they’re going to be a shortcut. If I hadn’t gotten distracted from the novel I was writing to play around with fabric designs, I never would’ve been inspired to draw a sad train track, crying because it was left out of a full circle of happy tracks. (And yes, I’m going to use that to justify creative forms of procrastination for the rest of my life!)

One of my favorite things about Old Tracks, New Tricks is that I’ve been getting to collaborate with kids through the website (oldtracksnewtricks.com), where they can have grown ups submit photos of track tricks and adventures, and I add the faces in the same way I illustrated the book. I’ve been surprised and delighted by the creative ideas the kids are sending in — it’s even more fun than adding the faces to my own photos! I also decorated and painted a set of trains and tracks to look like characters from the book, and I’m taking them to train shows and other events so my son and I can share them with other children. It’s so cool to see my trains moving around the tracks, like they’ve rolled out of the pages of the book and come to life. As an author or illustrator, if you can play and create with your audience, it gives you a chance to connect in a significant, memorable way, for both you and your readers.

ME: I love this advice, Jessica. Especially about finding a way to play and create with your audience…great tip for authors to remember at book events.

You can visit Jessica online at http://www.jessica-petersen.com, on Twitter at @j_e_petersen, and on Instagram at @playtrains. And you can meet the little train tracks at http://www.oldtracksnewtricks.com, or on Instagram at @oldtracksnewtricks.

And now for one of my favorite parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

Coal Cupcakes

cupcake

These are by far the best, most moist and chocolately cupcakes I’ve ever tasted — and I trained as a pastry chef before I got into writing! We use a King Arthur Flour cupcake recipe (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/favorite-fudge-birthday-cupcakes-with-7-minute-icing-recipe), but mix them up with black cocoa (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/black-cocoa-12-oz) so they’re super dark. We started calling them “coal cupcakes” (https://play-trains.com/coal-black-chocolate-cupcakes/) when I made them for my son’s third train-themed birthday party in the row. After making a Thomas tiered cake for the first one and a 3D fondant-covered Thomas cake for the second one, I dropped the ball and didn’t have time to even decorate the cupcakes. But I convinced my kiddo that they looked like lumps of coal, and he loved them. The lucky thing is that they’re so good, they don’t even need icing — perfect for those of us who don’t really like icing very much in the first place!

WOW…we always used to threaten the kids that they’d get lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings…I actually would LOVE to get a couple of these!

Jessica…we want to thank you so very much…I know everyone gained valuable insight from your answers…and we’ll all gain a couple of extra pounds on the scale from your ‘lumps of coal’. Congratulations on a wonderful book and on just chugging along on your dream track! Your vision and persistence brought success!

And now, dear readers, please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the awesome gift package giveaway from Jessica. A signed copy of OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS, a personalized wooden track, and a sheet of decals for a young child to decorate their own.

giveaway

I hope you all have a beautiful week. Storms are ahead for New England…but THE CLOCKS ARE TURNING BACK! Don’t forget DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME is this weekend.

From Idea to Book Deal to Stage Production..OH MY!

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!

maryann-with-coke

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.

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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)

book-cover-1

 

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,

book-cover-2

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.

 

The Team-

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.

beekaykidstogether-width-500Photo 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.

colorlogo_princesskim_-width-500

The Launch-

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.

 

dsc_8643-width-500Photo 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

 

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