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Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

with crayon

GRETCHEN BRANDENBURG MCLELLAN

Gretchen is another writer I met in the Picture the Books 2017 group. Hurray for all of these wonderful stories that wonderful authors like Gretchen are bringing to life.  As a teacher and reading specialist, she delights in welcoming children into the magical world of reading.  As a book fairy, she enjoys slipping books under the pillows of readers that remind them of where they have been and take them to places they didn’t know they needed to go.   As a writer, she is excited about the coming publication of her picture books with Beach Lane and Peachtree. 

 Gretchen has lived on three continents and is an advocate for TCKs, Third Culture Kids, who grew up as global nomads, especially military brats like herself.  Children yearning for a home will find they belong in her picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. Gretchen has settled in Washington State, where she lives with her husband, cat and dog and celebrates when her three children come home.

 book cover 1

Dear friends…you are in for a treat with this Q&A! Please leave a comment at the end to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3.

 Welcome, Gretchen! Thank you so much for stopping by to visit with us.

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

 GRETCHEN:

I loved A.A. Milne in all the adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, and E.B.White’s Charlotte’s Web. I was a big-time Nancy Drew fan and had my own library with check out cards!

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

GRETCHEN:

I wish I had known that there is a writing Cupid.

So many factors need to fall into place to ultimately publish—factors that are out of a writer’s control. Rejection doesn’t mean that a story is unpublishable. It means that fickle Cupid was busy doing other matchmaking when the submission was read. Cupid needs to pierce the heart of the right editor at the right time with the right space on her list in the right company that will be so smitten with the story that they’ll find it a worthwhile investment. It’s all about love. And money. The publisher must believe that Cupid will strike the heart of the reading public and that they will put up cash to possess the book. 

Those are a lot of variables that a writer has no control over. All a writer can do is write, improve her craft, write, read, and write and read some more, and strive to get her work in Cupid’s quiver by going to conferences to make connections with agents and editors who are open to submissions. This involves a lot that is out of the comfort zone of most of us introverts. Cupid may strike during your open mike reading! All in all, the writer must persevere.

book event

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?

GRETCHEN:

I started writing for children when my own children were young  and continued while I worked full time as a reading specialist during their school years. I learned to snatch writing time wherever I could–in the car, in barns, on sports fields, even in the bathtub! Now that I am not multitasking so much, I really enjoy working in coffee shops with the happy hum of people around me. I’m not a picky superstitious  writer. I’ll write on anything, with any instrument, at any time. I’m messy and so is my process.   

kids in hard hats

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?

GRETCHEN:

I don’t follow a schedule. Maybe when I get organized….

ME: Why do you write for children?

GRETCHEN:

Writing for kids is one pure, unquestionable YES in my life. 

When I became a mother, one of the unexpected gifts was my reentry into the world of children’s literature. First, I fell totally in love with beauty and power and form of the picture book.  As a young mother and as a teacher, I was overwhelmed by what I and my children discovered in the experience of sharing picture books together.  We cherished our reading time. We bonded through laughter and tears and wonder. Reading was at the heart of how we lived and grew.

Frost wrote of poems that they begin in delight, but end in wisdom. So do most picture books. If the book is of any importance it will end in wisdom—often so profound that I am moved to tears.  The delight of a picture book is not just in the reading, but in the writing as well.  When a picture book idea arrives, it often comes with a shiver of excitement—a delight so surprising and vital that it carries me along on the magic carpet ride of creation from the beginning to the middle to the end—to story.

As my children grew, so did my love of easy readers and middle grade fiction and YA. Each genre gave me glimpses of myself and literary experiences I wish I had had as a child. Each genre gave me a bit of home I never had, and a sense of belonging I craved. In my own work, I hope I can give children and their adult readers opportunities to see themselves and their lives in my stories, to find a home too. I am particularly committed to making a room for children who have grown up as Third Culture Kids, especially military kids such as myself.

with kids

ME: Gretchen…this is fabulous. I love your focus on Third Culture Kids. And I love all that you shared with us, especially about how Cupid must pierce the heart of the editor who looks at our manuscript. I believe that is true!

And now for one of the sweetest parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

GRETCHEN:

The book birthday party for Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, I wanted the treats to be thematically related to my story—about the bittersweet. Mrs. McBee helps the kids in her classroom label their mixed emotions about the end of the school year. “Children, this is called a bittersweet moment. It’s like swirly ice cream with happy and sad twisted together. We’re sad about saying good-bye, but we’re happy about what’s ahead.” So my cookies are twisty ice cream cones, of course!\

cookie pic1

Basic Sugar Cookies—you can use your favorite. This is mine:

Whisk or sift in a bowl and set aside:

         2 and 3/4 cups unbleached flour

         1 teaspoon baking powder

         ½ teaspoon salt

In a mixer bowl beat:

         ¾ cup soft butter

And add:

         1 cup sugar

         2 eggs

         1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat until fluffy, then add the flour mixture

Chill for at least 1 hour

Roll on floured board to desired thickness

Cut into your favorite shapes. I used a pastry cutter to make the diagonal lines on my cones before baking.

Bake on parchment paper for easy cleanup or on a greased cookie sheet  for 8-10 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven, until a pale brown.

Cool and frost with your favorite frosting.

I used Butter Cream Frosting for my swirls:

¼ cup butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

4-6 tablespoons scalded cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Powdered sugar

Beat until creamy. For a two-toned effect, divide frosting into two equal parts. Add 2 tablespoons cocoa for chocolate—or more.  Add the same quantity of powdered sugar to the vanilla to have equal consistency for swirling. You could use food coloring and other flavors as well!

Use a split pastry bag designed for swirls to decorate your ice cream cones! Enjoy!

cookie pic 2

WOW! These would be perfect for any kid’s party! Thanks so much, Gretchen.

Thanks to all of you for stopping by today. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend…don’t sit on any of those eggs the Easter bunny has left.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Review and Craft Activity: Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 PLUS Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. This is a very special time of year, when two of the world’s major religions celebrate important holidays…I wish everyone who celebrates a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter. If only the people of the world could come together like our incredible kid lit community does.

To add to the celebrations, we have books to give away. THREE OF THEM!

Last week, Linda Whalen offered to give away a copy of her wonderful debut picture book, LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY.book cover

AND THE WINNER IS

SHERRY ALEXANDER

Congratulations, Sherry! Please contact me so I can get your mailing information to Linda.

We also have a copy of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL to award thanks to author/illustrator Patricia Keeler. lizzie-and-lou-seal-cover

AND THE WINNER IS

VIRGINIA FRAZIER

Splish-splash! What fun. Congrats, Virginia! Let’s connect so Patricia can send you your prize.

And last, but certainly not least, author Rosie Pova is gifting a teddy bear and swag package to celebrate the book birthday of IF I WEREN’T WITH YOU. swag giveaway

AND THE WINNER IS

ZARA

Hurray! Zara, we will connect so that Rosie can send your prize.

I also wanted to ask everyone to continue to spread the word about the #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenge. logoHand the flyer to teachers you know – post it on homeschool forums – we want to enable as many children as possible to participate because Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday also has a giveaway…so don’t forget to leave a comment. And shout outs on social media are always appreciated by the author!

book cover 1

MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3

Written by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan

Illustrated by Grace Zong

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (2017)

Ages: Preschool – Grade 3

Themes:

Saying goodbye, dealing with change, working together, diversity

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

Join the children of Room 3 and Mrs. McBee as they find their own ways of helping each other get ready to leave and say good-bye. It’s not just the end of the school year at Mayflower Elementary. It’s time to say goodbye to Mrs. McBee, who is leaving the school. Jamaika, William, and the other kids in Room 3 have to figure out a special way to celebrate their beloved teacher. But everyone has a different idea. How can they arrive at an agreement? Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan brings readers an amusing and touching story about transitions and the importance of observing them. With Grace Zong’s charming illustrations, the distinct cast of lively characters comes to life on the page.

Why I like this book:

  • As a former teacher, what’s not to love about a book that tells how kids are trying to do something nice for their teacher?
  • I also love seeing how the diverse characters and personalities find their own ways to say goodbye…and especially how Mrs. McBee helps each of them feel special. The author did a masterful job showing us this.
  • Great illustrations…full of color and emotion…they really help us connect with the characters.

One of the best ways we can help authors, other than buying a copy of their receives a certain number of reviews (30 or perhaps 50), Amazon gives a bit of marketing/promotion help. Click here for the Amazon link to today’s Perfect Picture Book.

I know that Gretchen appreciates every review the book receives.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

Make a School or Classroom Craft

cardboard-crafts-for-kidsPhoto courtesy: http://mollymoocrafts.com/back-school-crafts-shoebox-school/

Young kids really love doing crafts. And the time they spend with a parent, cutting, coloring, creating…that is time that is well spent! It’s why I included 100 quick and easy craft activities in the parent-teacher book I wrote years ago. Why not grab an old shoe box or small shipping carton and build a school with your kids?

You will need: 1 box (shoe box, USPS priority box, even a large cereal box), construction paper or gift wrap or any paper that will cover the box OR you can paint it OR you can cover it with brown shipping tape, scissors, markers, glue.

  1. Cover the box as you and your child desire.
  2. Cut windows and doors
  3. Use markers or crayons to add details.

You can also create a classroom using a shoebox turned on its side. Line the ‘walls’ with wrapping paper as wallpaper. Cut pictures of furniture and people from magazines to glue in place.

For more great online crafts: http://mollymoocrafts.com/back-school-crafts-shoebox-school/

Another activity: Teachers work so hard for our children. Why not sit down with your child to write a thank you note to include with the end of year gift. I can guarantee the teacher will treasure that note long after the flowers die or the candy is eaten. I know I still have notes from the children I taught.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends…don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3…and please come back tomorrow for:

 

Will Write for Cookies

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan

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This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

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