Blog Archives

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. 

Jen Goldfinger: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

DSCN7064

INSIGHT, INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

head shot

JEN GOLDFINGER

Earlier this year, I went to lunch with one of my local critique buddies. We drove to a lovely restuarant in Massachusetts and met with two other author/illustrators. I really connected with Jen and, when I found out she wrote and illustrated picture books, I knew I’d want to have her on Will Write for Cookies.

Jen is a sweetheart and this past May, when I held the 2nd Annual #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge, she offered to donate a copy of her newest picture book, HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER.

Jen lives in a town a quick drive away from Boston and Cambridge, with her husband and two daughters. She has a studio in an old Mill that’s on a bike path. It takes her 5 minutes to bike there, but it’s downhill from her house, so it takes twice as long to get home. She usually drives to the studio so she can bring her dog Lila. Sometimes they take breaks to go rollerblading.

I’m so glad Jen took a break to visit with us.
ME: Welcome, Jen! It’s so good to have you here. I know everyone is anxious to hear about you.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

JEN: I lived on a farm as a young girl and it was a big outing to go to the library to get books. We’d come home with stacks and stacks to hold us over until the next long drive to the library. I have such a strong memory of reading THE PLANT SITTER and HARRY THE DIRTY DOG by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham. In the PLANT SITTER, I was so taken by the visuals of plants taking over a whole house that the walls fell down revealing a house shaped plant. I also loved HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON, THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, WINNIE THE POOH and CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

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

JEN: I know how to break down a story now to see if it has the elements that makes it have tension and resolve, how flaws in the protagonist and their failed attempts can make the story progress. Before I would write and cross my fingers that it worked.

I’m also getting better at showing not telling in my longer books. The use of words can make a sentence much more dynamic if you don’t describe too much. I don’t have as much trouble with this in picture books since I’m an illustrator. I tend to picture what I’m going to illustrate at the same time I’m writing it, so the illustrations pull a lot of weight.

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

JEN: When I’m stuck on an issue an a book, I “write” when I first wake up in the morning and my eyes are still shut, I also “write” when I’m scrubbing my hair in the shower and even when I’m walking my dog. This is when ideas pop into my head, or problems are worked out.

workspace for art

The physical part of writing, I do in a couple of places. Inside, I write on a laptop, on a big brown fuzzy couch in my living room next to a giant window looking out a the treetops. Because I’m also an illustrator and fine artist, I also have a studio in an old mill where I do my artwork and sometimes write, although I do many first sketches on that couch too.

meditation chair

I also have what I call a “meditation chair” hanging on my porch. I go out there to think, solve problems and pound on my keyboard.

with tea

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

JEN: It varies… I write when I have any free moment.  As I said earlier, I’m also an illustrator and a fine artist, so I toggle between writing, illustrating and painting.  I can work from 2 to 16 hours a day depending on other commitments and deadlines. If I have the time I can work for hours on end, I’m so immersed, it still feels like only a few hours. As a fine artist I sell my paintings in a gallery in Provincetown, MA called the Rice Polak Gallery.

DROPPING DAISIESDropping Daisies, 36″x 48″ Wax, oil stick, pastel

ME: Why do you write for children?

JEN: I’ve noticed when casually talking to other author friends that we tend to write for an age that we had strong memories and emotions. I lived on the farm from ages 6-12. I remember so many stories, feelings and hardships from those ages. I think my super power is seeing the world like a 6 year old.

bored 2Bored, gouache, colored pencil, watercolor.

bear bird 3BEAR BIRD, antique and colored paper, colored pencil, gouche

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. 🙂

 

JEN: Many people want to be children’s book authors and/or illustrators. One of the most important things to do is keep pushing yourself by writing and rewriting, go to conferences, show your work around, write it again, get knocked down, cry a little and take a deep breath and do it all over again. The people I know who are successful in this field did what I mentioned above, again, again and again.

ME: Thank you so much, Jen! This has been fabulous. I love hearing about how others have taken journey…and it’s especially helpful to hear it from the double perspective of an author/illustrator.

Dear friends, if you’d like to find out more about Jen, her artwork, and her wonderful books:

Children’s book website

Fine art

And I know you are waiting anxiously (just like the little boy in HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER) for the sweet treat at the end of the post. So please take it away, Jen!

JEN: My favorite cookie is a fresh baked variation on the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. It’s one of the only things I bake and I’ve memorized the recipe when I was a child. I tend to put in less flour, and bake a little less than the recipe because I like gooey cookies. Recently I’ve changed up the recipe even more because my daughter is vegan.

I’ve discovered that replacing the butter with coconut oil, I like the cookies even better than before. It has a slight coconut taste and it lasts longer than the butter version. I don’t think substituting the egg makes a difference in the quality of the cookie, so choose your preference.

In the picture below I also substituted 2 cups of almond flour for one of the cups of flour (because I ran out of flour and I was curious how it would come out, delicious and extra nutty, btw).

cookies

INGREDIENTS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 cup coconut oil

¾ cup of brown sugar

¾ cup of white sugar

2 eggs or egg substitute for vegan cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour

1 cup vegan chocolate chips (trader joes’ chocolate chips happen to be vegan)

1 cup broken walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

I only like to use one bowl, so I mix the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients and mix well. Put tablespoons worth of batter on a cookie sheet with room around the blobs and cook for around 8-9 minutes. Watch carefully so the base is slightly brown and the rest is slightly soft.

ME: Oh dear…this sounds just too tempting. I may have to try these when my grandson comes for Grammy Camp next week.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway of a copy of HELLO, MY NAME IS TIGER.

And for those of you in the path of the Texas storm, we are praying for you.

 

Polilla Writes

reading, writing, celebrating the written word

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Michelle Eastman Books

Kid Lit Author and Advocate

Hmmmmm

about reading, writing & thinking children's books

Laura Boffa: Write of Way

Giving the way of writing the right of way

PICTURE the BOOKS

A Gallery of New Picture Book Talent

EMU's Debuts

From Deal to Debut: the Path to Publication

Wander, Ponder, Write

A KidLit Journey...

Picture Book House

reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

Pernille Ripp

Teacher. Author. Creator. Speaker. Mom.

Norah Colvin

Live Love Laugh Learn . . . Create the possibilities

Gathering Books

Singapore | United States of America | Philippines

Beth Anderson, Children's Writer

Reader, Writer, Miner of Moments

Susanna Leonard Hill

Children's Author

The Stinky Backpack

Traveling the Everyday World

The Runaway Palate

Food. Travel. Cooking. Random musings. Maybe some historical stuff.

The Reader and the Book

"O Day of days when we can read! The reader and the book, either without the other is naught." Ralph Waldo Emerson

WRITERS' RUMPUS

Authors & Illustrators Wild About Kidlit!

Teresa Robeson

thoughts on kidlit nonfiction, diversity, and food

Tracy Campbell

Heart for Ewe Publishing

kidsbook friends

Check out this blog featuring kids' books with correlating questions & activities!

Mary Jo Beswick

Artist - Author & Illustrator - Teacher

Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

Children's Writer

READ to KIDS

READING: like dancing in your brain

Friendly Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales and Poetry Celebrating Magic and Nature for Kids of all Ages

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Sharing and Celebrating Picture Books Since 2009

Stacy S. Jensen

Reader | Writer | List Maker

Reading With Rhythm

book reviews from Rhythm the Library Dog

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

Nerdy Chicks Write

Get it Write this Summer!

Laura Sassi Tales

Celebrating writing, reading, and life.

Erika Wassall here... The Jersey Farm Scribe

Author, Freelance Writer, Entreprenur... LIVER of life

Angie Karcher

Writing Children's Books

Chapter Book Chat

A Writer Reviews Chapter Books, by Marty Mokler Banks

The Blabbermouth Blog

Literary Agent Linda Epstein's Yakkety Yakking

The Waiting

Turns out, it's not the hardest part.

%d bloggers like this: