WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION
I met today’s guest in Picture the Books 2017. Debut picture book authors together, we really had no clue as to how the process of publication worked. As Robert Burns said in To a Mouse: “The best laid schemes o’mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” Which in plain English means, sometimes your plans don’t work out exactly as you thought they would. There can be all kinds of hold-ups in the publishing industry…that’s just how it is. So here it is 2018, and Kerri and I are part of Epic Eighteens, the group formed to give support and encouragement to debut picture book authors and illustrators with books coming out this year.
Now it looks like there is a chance Sweet Dreams, Sarah may be pushed back even further to 2019, but I’m thrilled to welcome Kerri and congratulate her on her exceedingly beautiful 2018 picture book debut!!!
Kerri’s writing features unique structures, playful language, humor, tension, tenderness, simple text, and complicated characters. She has a good vision for how text and art can work together to tell a complete story. Kerri credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. Kerri lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two children, and three dogs.
Hello, Kerri! Thanks so much for stopping by! We enjoyed finding out about SNOW SISTERS yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday and everyone is excited to hear a little bit more about you.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
KERRI: In my youngest reading memories I was a big fan of anything written by Shel Silverstein, James Marshall, Arnold Lobel, Judith Viorst, and William Steig. As I got a little older I liked books by Beverly Clearly, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Ann Martin. I still treasure these author’s books and expect that I’ll never outgrow them.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
KERRI: Hmm, I started to say that I wish I knew how long it was going to take me to get published, but then I realized that it was probably a good thing that I didn’t. (12 years!) I guess I would reframe that a little and say that I wish I knew that a career as an author doesn’t really come easy for anyone, even if it may look like it from the outside. I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of author friends through the years and everyone’s path to publication is different, but every one includes a lot of hard work, determination, grit, a little luck and some disappointment along the way. And as best as I call tell, this doesn’t change post publication either.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
KERRI: I can tell you the most unusual place I have even written- at the swimming pool while swimming laps. There was one particular manuscript I was working on that I kept getting ideas for while I was swimming. So I kept a waterproof notebook at the end of the pool and would jot down notes between laps. But more ordinarily, I have a nice space with my picture book collection set up in my basement but I usually prefer to just sit on my living room couch or at my kitchen table and write on my laptop. Occasionally, if I’m having a hard time staying focused I’ll go to the library or a coffee shop to work. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I often come up with my best ideas when I’m driving or falling asleep. So a surprising amount of my writing originates as notes taken on my phone or whatever scrap of paper happens to be nearby. I have learned the hard way that these pieces of inspiration are lost if I don’t record them immediately, so I know to pull the car over when I need to jot something down and that it’s worth it to turn on that bedside lamp at record my idea even if it’s tempting to just roll-pver and fall asleep.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
KERRI: I’m not very structured with my writing time (gasp!) and have never had much luck with the old butt in the chair technique. I’m more prone to just go about my day and write as the muse strikes. However, projects are ALWAYS stewing in my brain, even if I don’t have anything on paper to show for it. I take notes throughout the day and typically when enough of them build up I feel motivated to sit down and pull them together.
ME: Why do you write for children?
KERRI: Kids are my favorite kind of people!
ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share.
KERRI: I often hear beginning aspiring authors say that they can write better stories than what’s already out there. My advice here is that people’s tastes vary, and there is an audience for just about anything. So don’t compare your writing to books that are outside of your taste; compare it to the books that you most admire. Take your time striving to get your work the best that it can be.
ME: What awesome advice, Kerri. TAKE YOUR TIME STRIVING TO GET YOUR WORK THE BEST THAT IT CAN BE!!! That’s a great mantra for all of us!
I know we are want to thank Kerri for her insights, her generous picture book manuscript critique giveaway, and for spending this precious time with us. But we’re not done yet!
I guess Kerri is part seer…she must have known that here on the East Coast, we have been hit by a blizzard and record cold temperatures and we are in need of some warm beverages. So pull out some of those previous cookie recipes and bake up a hatch and then…
KERRI: How about some hot cocoa to go with all of those cookies?
Homemade Hot Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Cup milk
Dash of salt
Multiply by desired number of servings. Heat until warm. Snuggle up and enjoy!
YUM! And while you are sipping your hot chocolate, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of A PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE from the lovely and talented Kerri Kokias! And after you do that, choose one or more of the following to help your favorite author:
1. One of the best ways is to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book review sites.
2. Ask your local library to order the book…many libraries honor patron requests and some even have online request forms.
3. Buy a copy of the book.
4. And most importantly…TALK ABOUT THE BOOK…to friends, family, and anyone who will listen!
Amazingly, it is almost time to start talking about the #50PreciousWords writing challenge. The challenge opens March 2 – it celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss – last year we had 253 incredibly wonderful entries and 40 prizes! I’ve already got two kidlit powerhouses to help me. So, if you have a prize you’d like to donate (book, critique, original art, or anything a writer would love to have), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via FB or Twitter PM. This challenge brought out amazing talent…the 1st place winner in 2016 already has a contract for that story and a sequel to it! Many people who participated said it was the FIRST time they had ever submitted anything. That is a huge accomplishment for them right there! And the camaraderie and positivity that wove through the thread of over 2000 comments was a testament to what a beautiful kidlit world we are creating! The informational post will go up in mid February, but I just wanted to get the ball rolling.