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BRIAN LIES: Will Write for Cookies Plus Double Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS (AND ILLUSTRATORS, OF COURSE!)

TODAY’S GUEST

Brian Lies photo

 

BRIAN LIES

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve only recently connected with today’s guest. Of course, I’ve been a long time admirer of the work of this talented author/illustrator and I’m thrilled to welcome him to Will Write for Cookies.

Brian Lies is the NY Times-bestselling author and/or illustrator of nearly 30 children’s books, including his latest, THE ROUGH PATCH (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Aug. 2018) and GOT TO GET TO BEAR’S! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 2018), and his bat series (including BATS AT THE BEACH, BATS AT THE LIBRARY, etc.).  When he’s not working on his stories or visiting schools around the country, he can be found in his vegetable garden, reading, or preparing unusual foods such as kimchi, pickles, switchel or limoncello.  He and his wife have a grown daughter and live 30 miles south of Boston, MA.

To connect with Brian and learn more about his books: 

website:  www.brianlies.com

Twitter:  @BrianLiesbooks

Blog:  GETTING INTO CHARACTER,  brianlies.blogspot.com

Instagram:  brianlies

ME: Hi Brian! So glad you could stop by to chat with us today. I know everyone is excited to hear more about you and your writing/illustrating life. 

rough patch

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

BRIAN: I grew up with a lot of books, so creating a shortlist is tough!  Early on, I loved Richard Scarry’s “Best Word Book Ever”—it was the book that taught me the connection between objects and the words that described them.  Another favorite was “Miss Suzy,” by Miriam Young and Arnold Lobel.   There was “Put Me in the Zoo” by Robert Lopshire, with the creature (polar bear?) with its moveable and changeable spots, and a very obscure one called “Why I Built the Boogle House,” by Helen Palmer (photo illustrations by Lynn Fayman).  That one’s about a boy who keeps remodeling a small pet house to accommodate larger and larger animals.  Also Bennett Cerf’s “Book of Laughs,” with its really corny, 1960-era illustrated jokes.

When I entered the world of chapter books, I loved things like the Edward Eager “Magic” book series, “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” by Lloyd Alexander, and anything by Jane Langton (“The Diamond in the Window,” “The Swing in the Summerhouse,” etc.).  I was also very into the “Childhood of Famous Americans” series, though I’d probably be really dismayed now to know how much of those books was fabricated or idealized.

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

BRIAN: I think the biggest thing would be that, for the vast majority of writers, you never “make it” in a blockbuster-so-big-you-never-have-to-worry-again way.  You’ve got to keep paddling, because there’s always a current, even if slight, against you.  It’s so much easier to NOT write than it is to write.  So focusing on the joy that comes when you’re on a new idea and madly scribbling away, or revising a really tricky bit, and it suddenly falls into place—is more important than focusing on the ultimate success of any particular book.

GOT TO GET TO BEAR'S 300dpi

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

BRIAN: Like many authors or illustrators, I’m a creature of habit.  I write with a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil on yellow Ampad legal pads (they feel sturdier than other brands).  I write by hand because it almost always comes out better than drafting on the computer.  I type really fast, so my first ideas splat onto the screen without a lot of consideration.  But when I write by hand, it’s slower, and I pre-edit or reconsider each sentence as I’m writing.  So a first draft is invariably better when it’s put down on paper.

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

BRIAN: For me, the best writing comes in the first thing in the morning, when I’m not thinking about “have-tos” or people I should email, etc.  There’s something about that quiet time before the world is in gear that feels the clearest.  Unfortunately, that time has become polluted by the iPhone—news or emails may have come in overnight, and as soon as you’ve looked at them, that quiet time is gone.  So the idea of a social media vacation sounds pretty good right now.

writing desk

ME: Why do you write for children?

BRIAN: It’s a cliché to say “I really write for myself,” but there it is.  Books meant so much to me as a boy:  entertainment, knowledge, imagination.  And as a boy, I worried about whether I’d ever be good enough at anything to do something “real,” something that nobody would question in the adult world.  So I try to write stories that I enjoy now, but also ones that I think I’d have liked as a kid.  I do love the idea that real people, people I’ve never met and haven’t shoved a homemade copy of a story at, might read one of these books out there in the world and then write to me about how it affected them.  That’s pretty amazing.

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. 

BRIAN: There’s little I can say that hasn’t already been said, but repetition drums things into our brains.  So:  focus on craft.  Try writing the story from different perspectives.  I have a 300-page novel which I first wrote in third person, then tried again in first person, and the action became more immediate (I still have to go back and whittle perhaps 1/3 of it away).  Make sure every character’s voice is distinct enough that you can guess who’s speaking, after a few lines, without dialogue tags.  Nancy Werlin has a fantastic revising process in which she makes sure every chapter serves the story, every paragraph serves the chapter, and every sentence serves the paragraph (she may have something about that on her web /social media platforms).  Very important:  read everything aloud.  What looks good on paper or screen doesn’t always sound good aloud.

And for educators and librarians:  Please let kids read what they want.  I believe that becoming a good reader springs out of enjoying reading, rather than out of a drilled mastery of skills.  Kids are going to read at different levels—that’s just life.  I think kids should read what they want, whether it’s “above” or “below” their level.  Not letting them take out an advanced book stifles learning—how do we learn unless we reach beyond our grasp?  What’s so bad about having a book at home for a week that’s too hard to read? Shaming them because they’re “behind” or pressuring them into reading above their level makes reading a chore, and something to be avoided.  I used to despair at the idea of boys wanting to read what some would consider “garbage,” but I’ve come around—at least they’re reading!  And if they love it, they can be coaxed to try other, more “literary” materials.  In any case, wouldn’t it be better to have a grownup who loves reading comic books than a grownup who wouldn’t touch a book?  I know our culture is all about achievement and scores, but the real end goal here is someone who picks up a book because she or he WANTS to.

ME: PLEASE LET KIDS READ WHAT THEY WANT…you put it in italics, Brian, but I’m going to put it in it in caps as well. Not that I’m shouting it, but for emphasis. I am so much a fan of that, Brian. Because, as you say, they are reading. I remember reading plenty of comic books and Trixie Belden and folktales…even these days I’ll reread books like Pollyanna or Little Women…bringing back memories of when summer days meant nothing but bringing home piles of books from the library and sitting all day long, devouring those sweet stories.

And mentioning sweet reminds me that Brian has a very special recipe for us. Take it away, Brian!

BRIAN: My Will Write for Cookies recipe is Angel Flakes.  There’s a chance that the recipe is on the side of shredded coconut bags all over the world, but this is one of our favorite Christmas cookies—to the point where I double the batch and we’ve left off making some of our other favorites to make more room for these.  The photo below is a Xerox of the typed card that’s been in the family for many decades—the recipe was originally baked by my grandmother, Bertha Sherwood Bonham, and it’s now gone three generations down.

Brian Lies recipe

ANGEL FLAKES

1/2 C butter

1/2 C shortening

1 tsp vanilla

1 C sugar

1 1/2 C. sifted flour

1/2 tsp soda (baking soda)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 C flake coconut

Cream butter, shortening and sugar.  Sift dry ingredients together and add to butter-sugar mixture with coconut and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.  Roll into small balls, dip in powdered sugar and place on cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly. (Not too much).  Bake at 350 for about 15 min.  Makes about 48.

Thank you so very much, Brian…for all of your insights and for sharing some of your process with us. And of course, we are grateful for a family recipe that just might become someone else’s holiday tradition. We are all wishing you much success with your newest additions to your bookshelf…and for your very generous giveaway.

Dear friends, please leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway…and find ways to thank your favorite authors: buy their books, ask your local library to purchase for their collection, post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, tell all of your friends how much you enjoyed a particular book. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool we have – and it doesn’t cost a penny.

I hope you all have a safe and happy weekend. See you on Monday for another extra special blog post…a COVER REVEAL for Laura Gehl’s newest picture book: DIBS!

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE ROUGH PATCH Plus Double Giveaway

Sometimes things are just meant to be.

A couple of months ago, I noticed author/illustrator Brian Lies was promoting a new book and offering a signed copy and an original illustration sketch as a giveaway. All you had to do to enter was to share the post. Of course, everybody knows I love sharing the word about new picture books…so I did. And guess what?

I won! The book is  AMAZING! And the sketch will be hung in a place of honor in my home. But even more special is that I got to connect with Brian. And when I asked if he’d like to participate in a Will Write for Cookies Q&A, he said: YES! Plus, because Brian is a generous soul as well as being a super talented author/illustrator, he’s doing a DOUBLE giveaway…a copy of THE ROUGH PATCH and a copy of his other new book that just launched, GOT TO GET TO BEAR’S. So, please make sure you leave a comment here and also come back tomorrow when Brian stops by to chat with us.

rough patch

THE ROUGH PATCH

Written and illustrated by Brian Lies

Published by Harper Collins/Greenwillow Books (August 2018)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Loss, grief, friendship, hope

Opening lines: “Evan and his dog did everything together.”

Synopsis: From a Starred School Library Journal Review:

“Lies taps into the powerful nature of love, loss, grief, and hope in his latest picture book. Evan, a fox, and his dog are best friends and in a series of acrylic, oil, and colored pencil vignettes, they are shown attending a fair, playing games, and, most important, working in Evan’s meticulously groomed garden. These loving scenes are abruptly cut short by a large spread of white space with spare text stating: “But one day, the unthinkable happened.” On the opposing page, white space surrounds a grieving Evan as he mourns the loss of his dog. In his grief, Evan destroys the garden that reminds him so much of his friend and weeds grow in its place. When a pumpkin vine sneaks into the garden, Evan allows it to take root and with it, hope returns. With lyrical figurative language, Evan transitions from being devastated by heartache to a being willing to step back into the world again. With his pumpkin, Evan rejoins his friends at the fair. Although it’s not the same without his best friend, he enjoys himself again and even wins a prize for his pumpkin. His prize and the hope of all those who suffer love’s loss is a chance to love again with a new puppy. While best suited for independent readers or shared moments during a loss, this poignant picture book provides an exquisite depiction of grief and hope. VERDICT A remarkable first selection for all libraries and a helpful guide for children and adults who are going through their own rough patches.”  –-Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Why I like this book:

  • The subject: we need more books that will help young kids cope with loss and grief – this book is perfect for a parent or teacher to use as a vehicle for opening a discussion when a child is going through a rough patch.
  • Even more importantly, I think, because of the fabulous illustrations, it is a book a young child can ‘read’ just by turning the pages and looking at the pictures. THIS is a book where every picture is worth a thousand words.
  • And the words that Brian does use, are absolutely perfect, setting just the right tone and pace for loss, grief, and finally, hope. This is a wonderful book for writers to use as a mentor text if they are looking to write a picture book about loss.

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

10-adorable-fox-crafts-sqPhoto courtesy: https://iheartcraftythings.com

Paper plates, paper bags, and just plain paper – that’s what you’ll need for most of these fun fox crafts, plus scissors, glue, and maybe a couple of googly eyes. I even see one that uses autumn leaves. How cool is that! Hop over to get detailed instructions here: https://iheartcraftythings.com/10-adorable-fox-crafts-for-kids.html

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for a chance to win one of the two books.

GOT TO GET TO BEAR'S 300dpi

Brian’s newest book, GOT TO GET TO BEAR’S (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) actually launched last week. This author/illustrator is on fire!!! And one lucky person is going to win a copy of it. Here’s a short synopsis from Amazon:

Bear never asks for anything. So when she sends a note to Izzy urgently requesting her presence, Izzy can’t refuse! But a blizzard begins and slows Izzy’s progress.  As the snow accumulates, so do her friends, helping her on her way to Bear’s place.  
     This heartwarming tale from best-selling author and illustrator Brian Lies shows readers the rewards of counting on friends to get you through, snowstorm or not.

And please do come back tomorrow when Brian shares insights, inspiration, and a lovely cookie recipe with us that has been in his family for THREE generations!

Speaking of family, I just booked a last-minute flight to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with my son and his family. I have to honestly say that Brian’s book, THE ROUGH PATCH, was part of the push to do that because it makes you realize how very important friends and family are.  We need to enjoy them and cherish them while we can. And when my 5-year old granddaughter heard I was coming, she told me she will be doing the cooking of the salad, turkey, and dessert. I am surely in for a rare treat!

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