ROCHELLE MELANDER and AILEEN WEINTRAUB: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaways

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

ROCHELLE MELANDER AND AILEEN WEINTRAUB

We’ve got a double-your-pleasure/double-your-fun Will Write for Cookies post today – and you, my dear readers, are so lucky because not only do you get insights from two amazing authors plus two treat recipes, but you also get a chance to win a Coaching Session from Rochelle and a Picture Book Critique from Aileen!

Rochelle Melander is a professional certified coach and the bestselling author of eleven books for adults including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) and Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. She’s the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. Rochelle believes that you can find the answer to your questions and the questions that deserve answers in a book or at the tip of your pen. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.  Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is her debut book for children (Beaming Books). Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing (July 27, 2021) is a middle-grade book that connects life-changing writing activities with the inspiring stories of a diverse group of people who have transformed lives and communities throughout history. The book features people from a variety of disciplines who used their words to save the environment, educate people about the planet, give rights to women, end slavery, and more. Visit her online at writenowcoach or rochellemelander.com. If you write for kids, consider writing for her new blog, themightywriters.com

Aileen Weintraub is an award-winning author and editor. Her previous social justice book, the best-selling Never Too Young: 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference, won a Parents’ Choice Award. Her next book, Knocked Down A High-Risk Memoir is forthcoming in March 2022. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, AARP, Glamour, HuffPost and other publications. We Got Game! 35 Female Athletes Who Changed the World by Aileen Weintraub (May 4, 2021) is a middle-grade social justice book about diverse female athletes who are advocating for change in the world, focusing on issues including gender equality, disability rights, climate change, body positivity, cyberbullying, and more. Of course it also includes a lot of stats and facts about the athletes’ amazing careers.  You can find out more about her at aileenweintraub.com 

ME: Now that you’ve read their bios, you can all see why I am so excited that these two talented writers wanted to stop by to chat.

Welcome, Rochelle and Aileen! Thank you so much for visiting! We’ve got lots of questions and answers to get through, to say nothing of the extra special treats you’ve got lined up for us, so let’s get started!

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

ROCHELLE: As a little girl, I treasured a little book about two sisters called Me, Too, pouring over the illustrations. When I was seven, I discovered A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which smashed open the universe for me. Suddenly, I could imagine other worlds. I’ve read that book at important junctures in my life to remind myself that my uniqueness, even my faults, will help me succeed and that I do have a community of supporters. (Though sometimes it would be nice if Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit would stop by with a bit of their sage advice and magic.)

AILEEN: I love this question because it gives me an opportunity to think back to the books that influenced me early on. When I was a child, my two favorite books were Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans and Me Too Iguana written by Jacquelyn Reinach and illustrated by Richard Heftner. I loved Madeline because it’s about a strong independent girl. It’s also set in Paris which is one of my favorite places. Me Too Iguana was part of the Sweet Pickles series, and I still have many of my original books! I asked my mother to read Me Too Iguana so many times she would occasionally hide it just to give herself a break. It’s about an iguana trying to be like everyone else and eventually realizing that she is perfect just the way she is. Now that I think about these books as an adult, it’s an interesting dichotomy that on one hand I was drawn to a book about a fearless girl who does what she wants and another book about a girl who wants to be like everybody else. I think this is something that children often struggle with, and it’s a big part of why I wrote WE GOT GAME. I want kids to know that it’s okay to be different, to take risks, and follow their dreams.

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

ROCHELLE: It takes time and persistence to succeed. You must believe in yourself and your work—and keep submitting! Madeleine L’Engle received 26 rejections for A Wrinkle in Time before it found a home. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/03/10/publishers-hated-a-wrinkle-in-time-madeleine-lengle-never-forgot-the-rejections/) Kate DiCamillo got 473 rejection letters before selling Because of Winn Dixie. (https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/kate-dicamillo-how-she-became-a-bestseller-after-473-rejection-letters-20170310-guv3e7.html) But both writers kept submitting their manuscripts and showing up to write—and their work has delighted many young people.

AILEEN: Becoming an author is a long game and instant success is rare. Things move very slowly in publishing. To build a successful writing career takes years of nurturing relationships and practicing patience. I also learned that writers experience a lot of rejection, probably more than most other professions. It’s difficult not to take rejection personally, but one person’s opinion is just that, one opinion out of many. I’ve also found that rejections happen for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the merit of one’s writing. It might be timing, or an editor’s particular interest. My advice to other authors starting out would be to persevere through difficult moments. It’s important to take time to acknowledge your feelings, but then you need to get back to the process.

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

ROCHELLE: I read that Sir Walter Scott had an enormous desk with two working surfaces so that he could work on more than one project at a time. I’m lucky enough to have room for two desks in my office, and I use one for computer work and the other for analog writing. I tend to brainstorm and plan on paper. I keep large sketch books around to plot out books, mind map articles and chapters, and draft picture books. But I usually end up writing on the computer.

Writing books plus the work I do as an editor and coach keep me tied to my computer all day, and that really challenges my body. So I’m trying to change it up. I have a standing desk in my office and writing tables on both the porch and back patio. I just bought an under-desk treadmill, which I hope I can use without injuring myself!

AILEEN: I just moved into a new house and when we were remodeling, I made sure my office would have a lot of windows and a nice view. I can see my garden and the woods, and since I live in the country, I’m lucky enough to catch the occasional animal sighting. I almost exclusively write on my laptop, so on nice days I’ll sit on my porch, which overlooks a pasture of cows, who are very entertaining. When I have a deadline or I’m deep into a research project, I’m in my office with the door closed, a bunch of healthy snacks, and a hot cup of tea.

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

ROCHELLE: When I first started writing, I had a lot of rules about when and where I wrote. If I didn’t get to it first thing in the morning, when it was quiet, the day was ruined! But then I had kids, and I wrote whenever I could grab a few minutes. Now that my kids are in college (one studying from his bedroom), I schedule my writing and other work so that it matches my ideal energy patterns. I focus best in the morning, so I work on my most important projects then.

When I wrote MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD, I had less than six months to finish the book. Plus, I work as a freelance coach, editor, and writer. I couldn’t be precious about my time—so I blocked off every morning to write and then grabbed free moments for research. Even though I still prefer writing first thing in the morning, I discovered I could be productive at almost any time day!

AILEEN: As a mom who is often multitasking, I’ve had to be creative with my writing time.  When my son was younger, I would write any chance I had—at the doctor’s office, in the school pick up line, sometimes even at soccer practice. I practically wrote my next project KNOCKED DOWN: A High Risk Memoir that way.  Now that my son is older and has his own life, I  have much more time to write. Most days I’m in my office from 9 to 5 when I have an idea or a specific project, but there is so much more to writing besides actual writing! There’s researching, networking, marketing, etc, and these things all take up time. I’m so grateful that WE GOT GAME! is finally out in the world. Looking forward, I’m excited to be back in front of my computer writing my next project!

ME: Why do you write for children?

ROCHELLE: I’m one of those people who’d rather sit at the kid’s table. Throughout college and graduate school, I freelanced as a storyteller for local preschools. After starting to write professionally, I began working as an artist educator in the schools. Then I founded Dream Keepers, a writing program to help young people tell their stories. I love spending time with young people and hearing about their imaginative ideas. For a long time, I’ve wanted to create books to help them access, celebrate, and share their stories. I’m so honored to finally have that opportunity.

AILEEN: Children are my favorite audience to write for because they read books with a natural curiosity that I love. There is so much they have yet to discover and I want to be part of the discovery process by providing information about the world in a fun and engaging way that will encourage them to develop a love of reading. These days my writing focuses on ways to make a difference in the world. I hope to inspire kids to dream big and feel empowered to become activists for the causes they believe in.

ME: Why did you choose to focus on writing about activism and why is it so important?

ROCHELLE: I mostly work in libraries set in primarily poor, urban neighborhoods, and hear young people express their fears about violence and climate change. I’ve also heard their big, bold ideas to change the world. Only, they don’t think they have any power to make a difference. And they don’t think that anything they are doing in school will help them do that.

When I wrote the book, I purposefully chose people who demonstrated the diverse ways writing can make a difference. Sophie Cruz was just 5 years old when she wrote a letter to the pope about immigration reform. That letter made a big difference in the public and political conversation about immigration. When she was in college, Patsy Mink spearheaded a writing campaign to integrate her dorms. As a congresswoman, she wrote Title IX, the statute that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs. The young survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting wrote and presented speeches to fight for gun laws and sign up new voters. When young people hear these stories, they are empowered to use their voices to change the world.

AILEEN: It’s important to teach kids from a young age that they have the power to facilitate change in the world. For young kids, that can mean volunteering at an animal shelter or making sure to recycle and being mindful of their environment and the choices they make. For older children it can mean being aware of cyberbullying and promoting body positivity.  The athletes in WE GOT GAME! are social justice warriors. Billie Jean King fought for Title IX, a law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational settings. Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe are fighting to close the gender wage gap. Grete Eliassen has made it her mission to knocked down gender barriers. Serena Williams, Nancy Lopez, and Ibithaj Mohammad have created inclusive clothing lines for women. They are incredible role models, and I hope kids will read about them and feel inspired.

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.

ROCHELLE: Don’t compare yourself to other writers. In one of Madeleine L’Engle’s books, a character says, “Comparisons are odious.” For me, the sure path to defeat is paved with envy.

Treasure you. Charles Darwin’s father told him, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.” James Baldwin’s stepfather told him he was ugly. Audre Lorde remembers herself as a difficult child, at war with the other members of her family. And you—no doubt you carry around the voices of parents and teachers who didn’t think you measured up. I’m here to tell you that you do. You have your own unique voice and perspective that the world needs to hear. Somehow, Darwin, Baldwin, and Lorde pushed through the external criticism and achieved amazing things. You can, too.

Don’t forget to play. Yes, show up, submit, and persist. All those things are crucial. But I’m discovering that the best stories emerge out of a playful spirit. When I give myself enough time to play with ideas and characters and words, the work is so much better.

AILEEN:

For aspiring writers I would say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there is an audience for almost every story. If you have a story you believe in, don’t give up on it. One of the things that really helped launched my career was surrounding myself with a community of other writers both online and in my own town. Workshopping each other’s writing has helped me grow as a writer. I also think educators and librarians can be some of the most important people in a child’s life. My childhood librarian instilled a love of reading in me when I was a kid going to Reading Is Fundamental programs on Friday nights at my local library. My high school English teacher was one of the first people to believe in my work. I owe them everything.

GIVEAWAY ALERT #1: Rochelle is a certified professional coach with more than 15 years of writing coaching experience. She is in the process of becoming a certified ADHD coach as well. She is offering one lucky reader a 45-minute coaching session.

GIVEAWAY ALERT #2: Aileen has created a digital printable 8-page activity packet for WE GOT GAME! filled with trivia, puzzles, journaling, and so much more.  She’s offering this packet to readers of Will Write for Cookies for free to anyone who sends her a proof of purchase throughout the month of June. All you have to do is contact her through her website with your email address and she’ll send it along.

GIVEAWAY ALERT #3: Aileen is also offering a picture book critique to one lucky winner!

And of course, we are not done yet! There is more awesome sweetness from these wonderful writers!

Here’s something amazing from Rochelle’s kitchen:

Chocolate Chip/M&M Cookies
Based on Nancy Olin’s Chocolate Chip Cookies in
The Bake Sale Cookbook by Sally Sampson

Ingredients
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, a little softer than room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract (Penzy’s is the best.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips or M&Ms (Plus a cup extra for topping, if desired.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.
Sift together in a separate bowl: flour, salt, and baking soda.
Place butter and sugars in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth.
Scrape down sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until just combined, being careful not to overbeat.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour mixture. Remove from mixer and fold in 2 cups of chocolate chips or M&Ms.
Place tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. I use cookie scoops. If desired, add extra M&Ms or chocolate chips on the top of each cookie.
Bake until brown on the edges and soft in the middle, about 12-13 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE. For crisper cookies, cool on the cookie sheet. For softer cookies, cool for 2 minutes and then remove from rack. (I usually cool on the sheet for 3-4 minutes and then remove to the rack., That makes them both soft in the middle and crunchy at the edges.) Cool the cookie sheet between batches.

Dear readers, I know you are joining me in a hearty round of applause and thanks for Rochelle and Aileen – they’ve been exceedingly generous with their insights, inspiration, and their giveaways! And you know the drill…the best way to thank an author for books that you love is to buy them, review them, tell friends about them, and ask your local library to purchase them for their collection.

Aileen’s book, WE GOT GAME: 35 Female Athletes Who Changed the World is available right now

Rochelle’s book, MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing comes out in July and is available for preorder

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I’m at the Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA today, just for the fun of it! And don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered for these amazing giveaway opportunities…and please share on your social media channels for extra tickets in the giveaway hat!

Will Write and Illustrate for Cookies: Raven Howell and Carina Povarchik PLUS Double Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

Carina Povarchik self portraitRaven Howell portrait by Carina

TODAY’S GUESTS

CARINA POVARCHIK AND RAVEN HOWELL

(That’s Carina up top and Raven below – both portraits were created by Carina)

KABOOM! This is going to be an explosively awesome post, my friends! So much talent in one spot – I feel blessed to 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.