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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.

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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

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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.

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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)

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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,

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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.

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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

 

Will Write for Cookies: Duncan Tonatiuh PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

DUNCAN TONATIUH

This summer I attended the WOW Retreat in Georgia. One of the most compelling presentations was from the incredible Duncan Tonatiuh. Lucky me…he was also one of my Round Table mentors. You can imagine how thrilled I was when he said he’d been willing to participate in Will Write for Cookies.

 Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is an award-winning author-illustrator. He is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, especially children, nowadays.

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I want to remind everyone that there will be a giveaway of a copy of Duncan’s newest book, The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanos (click here to read my Perfect Picture Book Friday review). Please stick with us throughout the post and then leave a comment at the end.

Welcome, Duncan! We are so very happy to have you here.

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

 DUNCAN:

 I remember reading and really liking Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I also remember liking a book in Spanish called Macario by B. Traven. When I was about eight years old, I really enjoyed the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I read all the ones they had in my school library.

In terms of illustration I was really into comic books and anime. That is what got me interested in drawing. I collected Spider-Man and X-Men comics and I would watch a cartoon about warriors called Knights of the Zodiac and another one about soccer called Captain Tsubasa.

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

DUNCAN:       

It takes time to build a career. When I was first getting started as an author-illustrator, I also taught, tutored, painted houses, walked dogs, baby sat and did other odd jobs to make ends meet. It was frustrating at times to take on certain jobs because I had to, not because I was passionate about them. As I published more books though, more people became familiar with my work. I started to receive more recognition for it. Nowadays I dedicate myself to writing and illustrating full time and I am able to support my family doing so. I feel very lucky that I get to do something I love for a living.

 funny-bones

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?

DUNCAN:

I like to write with a pen on a notebook before I type on the computer. My favorite place to write is the library, but often times I find myself writing on a bus or a plane.

pancho-rabbit

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?

DUNCAN:

I am definitely a night person and I get most of my writing and drawing done at that time. When I am able to, I like riding my bike to the library in the morning. I like to write and draw there for a few hours. In the afternoon, I type out what I wrote and I scan my drawings so I can start revising my work.

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ME: Why do you write for children?

DUNCAN:

I want children of color, especially Latinx children, to see themselves in books. There is a very small number of books where they can do that. I want them to feel proud of who they are. I hope my books help them know that their culture and their voices are important.

 dear-primo

I also want non-Latinx children to engage with my books. I think that when kids learn about people different than themselves they realize that we are all more alike than different regardless of our skin color, religion, physical abilities or sexual preference. If children learn about and care about people different than themselves through books, they are less likely to be afraid of others or have prejudices towards them when they are adults.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Duncan! And books like yours DO help! Thank you so very much for participating in Will Write for Cookies…this was so much fun!

 To find out more about Duncan and his amazing books or get in touch with him:

Website: http://www.duncantonatiuh.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DuncanTonatiuharte

Twitter: https://twitter.com/duncantonatiuh

And now for the sweet treat that ends all of our Will Write for Cookies posts. Duncan wanted to share his favorite Ria cookie made with walnuts, sunflower seeds, and chocolate…plus other deliciousness…the cookie is made by his cousins who own the fabulous Sweet Poppy in Hudson, NY…but unfortunately, the recipe cannot be shared…HOWEVER, I urge you to check out their Facebook page and if you live in the area, please give them a call and order some. https://www.facebook.com/sweetpoppyhudson/

sweet-poppy

But we knew that everyone wanted something special for the holidays. I found a traditional Mexican wedding cookie recipe to share…and believe me, you won’t want to wait for a wedding to make and eat these…they are PERFECT for the holidays! Many thanks to Bernie at AllRecipes.

mexican-wedding-cookiesPhoto courtesy: http://allrecipes.com/recipe

They are as easy as 1, 2, 3. You will need: 1 cup butter, ½ cup white sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 tsp water, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup chopped almonds, ½ cup confectioner’s sugar.

  1. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and water. Add the flour and almonds, mix until blended. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Shape dough into balls or crescents. Place on an unprepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from pan to cool on wire racks. When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Find complete details on ingredients and instructions here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15542/mexican-wedding-cookies/

 

And now, dear friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Duncan’s book. Why not share the title of your favorite folktale?  

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…please don’t forget…Susanna Hill has posted the FINALISTS FOR THE HOLIDAY WRITING CONTEST…hop on over and read the 12 stories and VOTE for your favorite.

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