HEATHER MACHT: Will Write for Cookies Plus A FABULOUS TRAILER REVEAL for THE ANT FARM ESCAPE and a Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

heather macht

HEATHER MACHT

Continue reading

ALEXANDRIA LAFAYE: Will Write for Cookies Plus GIVEAWAY

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

ALEXANDRIA LAFAYE

When I joined Storm Literary Agency in 2015, not only did I get an awesome agent, but I also got a wonderful support system – all of the other clients – authors and illustrators. And one of the most active is today’s guest, Alexandria LaFaye. I grabbed a bit about her from her wonderful website.

ALEXANDRIA: Family is at the core of who I am which why families are at the center of most of my books whether it is families torn apart by injury (Worth) or absence (The Year of the Sawdust Man) or drawn together by tragedy (Water Steps and The Keening) or seeking each other (Walking Home to Rosie Lee). 

When I’m not joining my family for a board game, a jaunt to the park, or a trip to the zoo, I’m usually writing or reading, but I’m also an associate professor of English at Greenville College in the academic year and a visiting associate professor in the Hollins University Summer Graduate Program in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Follow Me Cover

 

ME: Welcome, Alexandria! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us and share your writing journey. and a little bit about yourself. Can you name a book that changed the way you saw the world?

ALEXANDRIA: I seek out books that show me things about the world I did not previous know like Michelson’s The Alphabet of Angels revealing that Hebrew had nearly died out as a spoken language until one man, Ben Yehuda, popularized it in Isreal in the 19th century. Hesse’s Aluetian Sparrow opened my eyes to the horrific treatment of the Aleut people of the Aluetian Islands during World War II.  I love books that expand my world one page at a time and that’s the type of book I was trying to write  with FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN.  By sharing a story of the Exodusters who built Nicodemus, KS and homesteaded in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and other parts of Kansas, I hoped to celebrate their achievements and spread the world about these historical heroes who are often overlooked in historical accounts of homesteading the US.

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

ALEXANDRIA: How to write in way that is true to my own voice and experience, but that reaches out to readers of all walks of life and speaks to them in a way that makes them feel understood, inspired them, or lead to see things in a new way.  I’ve also always wanted this literary connection to lead readers to spread the news about my books to other potential readers.   I’m still trying to figure out this formula for great writing.

book vobrt

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

ALEXANDRIA: The answer depends on the genre.  I prefer to write poetry and short stories with a pen and paper and usually in one of my writing journals and I can do that pretty much anywhere, but I often do it at my writing desk at home or in my office at work (I’m an associate professor at Greenville University).  I have to admit that when I write “outside” of these spaces, I’m usually too drawn into observing things around me to focus on writing.

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

ALEXANDRIA: I’ve always been quite bad at doing things routinely, so I write as the muse strikes most of the time.  I often get a burning idea I need to write down and that often leads to more ideas which means I put other things on hold until I’ve followed this vein of creativity to its conclusion, then I go back to my daily activities. Other times, I leave things at home in my husband’s capable hands and spend a weekend in a cabin on a nearby lake and write, write, write.  That often involves a lot of revising, revising, revising.  But it’s a great time to fully emerse myself in my work.

with kids at bookstore or library

ME: Why do you write for children?

ALEXANDRIA: I write the stories that come to me.  Since I so enjoy children—understanding them, raising them, helping them, I believe I’m drawn to the stories that interest them. I also have an alterior motive.  If the books children read are inclusive, inspiring, historically and culturally accurate, and open the world up to young readers, then they will grow up with a kinder, more accurate, and layered view of the world.  The things we read as children shape our views of the world and prepare us for all the learning and experience that follows, so I guess, I’m hoping to help kids build expansive and supportive views of the world through the stories that I write.

ME: What is your writing advice?

ALEXANDRIA: Write to become the best writer you’re meant to become—don’t try to measure up to some external ideal of writing and writers—find your own voice and speak in it through your writing.  You’re a uniquely made person who has a singular life experience and point of view to share with the world, so embrace that and become the best writer you can as you learn to speak in your own voice.

ME: Is there anything you’d change about your writing life right now?

ALEXANDRIA: Yes, I’d love to do more school visits!  As a greater admirer of kids, I love to create school presentations that are entertaining, educational, and uplifting.  As a geek who was bullied in school, I can inspire the kids who struggle with self-confidence and engage with the kids who are following the crowd and need to be encouraged to become the “kind kid” who says “no” to bullying.  I’m also a professor who teaches preservice teachers how to integrate literature into the classroom, so I’m uniquely skilled to help kids become life-long learners and process writers. My professional credentials also make it possible for me to do professional development programs for teachers, administrators, and librarians.  And I love the school visits where I learn as much as I mentor.  If anyone would be interested in hosting me for a school visit, they can contact me at Alexandria.lafaye@greenville.edu

with class reading

ME: WOW…thank you so much, Alexandria. I love your authenticity…it shines right through all of your answers. I know we all appreciate you stopping by…and I know you are not done yet. You’ve got a recipe to share with us that is kind of special to your new picture book, right?

ALEXANDRIA:  Yes, this is a recipe Dede’s mama would have known by heart – hoecakes:

 Hoecake

The legend is that African Americans who had been enslaved “baked hoecakes on a hoe in the fields for their midday meal.  Elizabeth Lea, a cookbook author from Montgomery County in the mid-19th century has several corn cake recipes, one of which she called a “Virginia hoe cake.”  Indeed, hoecake was the hardtack, the matzah, of enslaved Blacks for several centuries.  Some Maryland hoecakes were made over a griddle in the hearth (also known as a hoe), others were baked on a “bannock” board placed facing the fire.”  Although an African-American staple it was also a food served in many kitchens across the frontier in the 1800s.

1 cup of white stone-ground cornmeal

3/4 cup of boiling hot water

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup of lard, vegetable oil or shortening

Mix the cornmeal and salt in a bowl.  Add the boiling water, stir constantly and mix it well and allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes.  Melt the frying fat in the skillet and get it hot, but do not allow it to reach smoking. Two tablespoons of batter can be scooped up to make a hoecake.  Form it into a small thin pancake and add to the pan.  Fry on each side 2-3 minutes until firm and lightly brown.  Set on paper towels to drain and serve immediately once all the hoecakes have been cooked.

Recipe and background by  Michael W. Twitty in “A Few Antebellum African American Recipes” published in Afroculinaria (2011)

https://afroculinaria.com/2011/11/10/a-few-antebellum-african-american-recipes/

My dear friends, please join me in thanking Alexandria for her wonderful insights and the fantastic hoecake recipe…plus, she is generously donating a signed copy of her wonderful picture book, Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town, so make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you back here next week for another review (and a giveaway!) of a fabulous new picture book, HONEYSMOKE, by Monique Fields. I’ll be cloistered away, working on the redlines for the big compilation book – 9 stories means 9 times as many edits to go through, right? So if I am a bit MIA on social media this weekend, you’ll know why.

KATY FARBER: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

cropped-launch-photo-higher-res

I mentioned in yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post that Katy was one of the first bloggers I connected with. Her Non-Toxic Kids blog really appealed to me and I immediately signed up to follow it – and I’m still subscribed!

Katy Farber is a Continue reading

BRIAN LIES: Will Write for Cookies Plus Double Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Continue reading

SHERRY HOWARD: Will Write for Cookies PLUS PB Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.