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Maria Gianferrari: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

unnamed

MARIA GIANFERRARI

I’m so excited to introduce everyone to our Will Write for Cookies guest today, although many of you may already know Maria. And I’m jumping for joy because she has a book signing event in Keene, New Hampshire on August 20th…that’s only an hour away from me and some of my local critique buddies and I are going to take a picture book field trip and attend! Woo-hoo!

I grabbed a bit of info from Maria’s website:

 I write both fiction and nonfiction picture books, usually while my faithful companion, Becca, snores at my feet. I love nature and animals, especially dogs!

Most of my nonfiction picture books are about creatures in the natural world. I’m also fascinated by the subject of urban ecology, and the different ways in which wild animals have adapted to life and co-existence with humans.

Most of my fiction picture books contain dogs as main characters, and some cats too! I am most intrigued by the human-animal bond, so this is a topic that I like to explore in my fiction.

Welcome, Maria…I’m so excited to welcome you!

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

MARIA:

I had two favorite picture books that I read and read and re-read again: Scuttle the Stowaway Mouse by Jean & Nancy Soule, with illustrations by Barbara Remington, and Miss Twiggley’s Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox.

scuttle book cover

inside page of scuttle

Both stories are rollicking, rhyming read alouds. I love the whimsical illustrations for Scuttle, the wayward mouse who finds a home. And I still wish I could live in a tree, like Miss Twiggley, with a dog and some bears. That is my introvert dream come true. I still have my childhood copies!

 

twiggle book cover

inside cover of twiggle

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

 MARIA:

I’m not sure—I knew it was going to be hard, since there is so much rejection involved, but I didn’t know the extent of the joy it would bring, especially upon seeing life breathed into my words by the talented illustrators with whom I’ve been matched. That was and is beyond my wildest dreams!

coyote moon

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

MARIA:

Most of the time I write in my home office on my laptop while my dog, Becca snores on her nearby dog bed. I have a keyboard and a large monitor so it’s easy to see what I’m working on. I also like to write drafts by hand, especially when I get stuck, and I can do that pretty much anywhere. 

houdini

ME: When do you write? Set schedule? When the muse strikes?

MARIA:

Every day starts with walking Becca, rain or shine, cold or heat (though I much prefer cooler temperatures). Then I usually write late morning, followed by a nap, and more writing and/or reading in the afternoon. I try to write every day, Monday through Friday, and take the weekends off to do things with my family.

ME: Why do you write for children?

MARIA:

I love their wonder and curiosity and ability to be present in the moment, something I continually strive for in life and in my writing. I write because kids are our hope, and our future. I also write for my inner child—the child who I was, and still am.

penny and jelly

ME: Maria, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?

MARIE:

I don’t have any new advice—it’s the same basic advice that everyone gives: read, read, read, and write, write, write! Don’t give up—it’s a marathon, not a sprint, full of ups and downs. And find a good critique group for support during the downs as well as the ups. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my wonderful critique partners: Andrea Wang, Lois Sepahban, Lisa Robinson, Sheri Dillard and Abby Calkins Aguirre!

Thanks for letting me stop by, Vivian!!

WOW…it is me who is thanking you, Maria! And so is everyone else! I love that you shared those favorite books from your childhood…I think we had similar tastes! I also wanted to thank you for your generous giveaways this weekend…heads up, dear friends…leave a comment on yesterdays Perfect Picture Book Friday post and you are entered into the giveaway for a copy of HELLO GOODBYE DOG.

hello goodbye dog cover

And then leave a comment on today’s blog and get an entry into the giveaway for a PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE from Maria!

For more information about Maria and her books: http://mariagianferrari.com/

And the fun doesn’t stop here, folks! Maria is sharing something yummy!

brownie photo

BUTTERSCOTCH BROWNIES:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Grease 11×14” baking pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of butter (2 sticks), melted
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chocolate covered heath toffee pieces

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in microwave-safe glass bowl.
  2. Mix in brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Add in dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips and heath pieces
  5. Pour into baking pan
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes

Enjoy!!

 

Before we say goodbye, I wanted to let you know that Maria will be heading out on a whirlwind BOOK BLOG TOUR in less than two weeks. There will be PRIZES EVERY DAY on the tour, so you don’t want to miss a single stop!

HELLO GOODBYE DOG BLOG TOUR!

GIVEAWAYS EVERY DAY!!

 

*Monday, July 24th:                                  Pragmatic Mom + THREE book giveaway!

*Two for Tuesday, July 25th:              Librarian’s Quest

Reading for Research

*Wednesday, July 26th:                         Homemade City

*Thursday, July 27th:                               Kid Lit Frenzy

*Friday, July 28th:                                      Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook

*Monday, July 31st:                                   Picture Books Help Kids Soar

*Tuesday, August 1st:                              Bildebok

*Wednesday, August 2nd:                      The Loud Library Lady

*Thursday, August 3rd:                           DEBtastic Reads!

*Friday, August 4th:                                  Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love

*Monday, August 7th:                               Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

EXTRA: August 25th:                                Kidlit411—Interview with Patrice Barton

 

Thank you all for stopping by to visit. I know we all appreciate the beautiful books Maria and our other authors write. And we can help our favorite authors by leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I hope you will do that for the books you love!

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Ellen Leventhal: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

ellen me linda

ELLEN LEVENTHAL

Most of you know I am a great fan of critique groups. They help us in so many ways…not just with their suggestions and feedback on manuscripts, but also with support and encouragement regarding all aspects of our lives. I’m blessed to be a member of several amazing critique groups and I’m always thrilled to meet my critique partners at conferences and retreats. Last July, at the WOW Retreat in Georgia, I got to hug two of my favorite writing buddies, Linda Hofke (on the right) and Ellen Leventhal (in the middle). And you guessed it…Ellen is our guest today!

 While growing up in New Jersey. Ellen Leventhal didn’t dream of bluebonnet fields, but she did dream of writing books. Ellen has a master’s degree in education and has been writing for and with her students for many years. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and is the proud mother of two grown sons, and three grandchildren who love bluebonnets, Longhorns, and just about anything Texan.

I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Ellen!

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

 ELLEN:

 I can’t remember all the authors’ names, but I sure do remember the stories. A few of the many picture books that stick in my mind are all the Curious George books (especially the hospital one, for some reason), Babar, Madeline, and Caps for Sale. I can remember trying to balance a bunch of hats on my head like the man in Caps for Sale. As I got a little older, I read all the Nancy Drew books as well as the Cherry Ames series. Some people may not be familiar with Cherry Ames, but she was a nursing student and then a nurse. I lived close to a hospital, and I really wanted to be a nurse, just like Cherry Ames. Hmm…as I re-read this, I see I had kind of a “hospital thing” going on when I was a kid. That couldn’t be farther from who I am now.

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

ELLEN:

I wish I knew how difficult it is to write a good picture book! Or maybe I’m glad I didn’t know. If I had known, I wonder if I would have forged ahead. I had been writing poetry and even wrote an MG story with Ellen Rothberg (who is my coauthor on a few books), but when our first picture book was accepted, the revision process was crazy!! A very nice editor told me that I was a good writer, but didn’t know how to write picture books. Many years, classes, tears, and chocolate later, I still struggle, but I love it.

The other thing I wish I knew is the value of critique groups. My next picture book, Lola Can’t Leap, will be out in March 2018, and if it were not for all my critique buddies (including the wonderful Vivian Kirkfield), it would be sitting in a drawer. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but having good critique buddies is absolutely the best thing about this business.

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

ELLEN:

My initial brainstorm is usually scribbled in a spiral, legal pad, or whatever scrap of paper I have handy. That can happen anywhere, including the dark lobby of a Chinese restaurant waiting for my take-out order. (Yes, that just happened.) When I get to the actual writing part, I usually write in my home office on my desk top computer. But sometimes I need a change of scenery, and I bring my lap top to a coffee shop. That only works if I’m totally “in the zone.”  If I’m not, I tend to get distracted. Sometimes that’s a good thing because I’ve gotten story ideas from watching people.

 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?

ELLEN:

My goal is to set a real schedule to write, but I am not there yet. I am trying very hard to make writing time a priority. I try to write every day, but it’s not always for as long as I’d like. I can’t say if I’m more productive during the day or in the evening because it depends on so many different factors. To be honest, I’m more of a muse seeker, and when that muse visits, I immediately stop when I’m doing and indulge her.

cover1

 ME: Why do you write for children?

ELLEN:

The first answer that pops into my head is “Why not?” But of course, it’s more complicated than that. I’ve always loved literacy and being with children. So, writing for kids felt right.

Children need to feel like they belong. They need to feel that they are not alone in their fears, dreams, and idiosyncrasies. If I can at least try to add to a child’s sense of self while making them smile, it’s something I need to do.

And of course, the bonus of writing for children is getting to share my stories with them. I never get tired of that.

 ME: Ellen, if you have any special tips or thoughts for writers, teachers, parents…please share.

ELLEN:

Here’s something funny about stories. One day I was teaching a creative writing class, and a book that Ellen Rothberg and I wrote was on the shelf. A child said, “I love that book! I read it almost every night. The lady who wrote it came to my school.” It took a while for the child to realize that I was that lady, but I thought it was great. I don’t need to be remembered, but I hope my stories are.

As I said, a new book is coming out in March, but I’m also very excited about a “re-boot” of an older one that is out now. Several years ago, Ellen Rothberg and I wrote the book, Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, but unfortunately, it went out of print. However, we loved the book and didn’t want it to die a slow death. We wanted a new generation of children to read it, but we knew the picture book market had changed. We took a leap of faith and embraced an opportunity most people don’t get. Instead of giving up, we updated. We cut down the word count, illustrator, Joel Cook, took the art in a new direction, and I am happy to say, Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, Ten Year Anniversary Edition hit bookstores this past spring.

ME: Hurray!!! I’m so thrilled that BLUEBONNETS is back, bigger and better than ever. If any of you missed the Perfect Picture Book Review I did yesterday, please go here. https://viviankirkfield.com/2017/06/09/perfect-picture-book-friday-dont-eat-the-bluebonnets-plus-critique-giveaway/

 For information on Ellen’s other books and her availability for school visits, please check out her website at www.EllenLeventhal.com

Amazon

Clear Fork Publishing

Barnes and Noble

Now, before we say goodbye, Ellen has a fabulous recipe to share with us. It’s something with chocolate so I am smiling already. Take it away, Ellen!!!

ELLLEN:

I must admit that I did not come up with this on my own, but I make it whenever dessert is called for. It’s from www.allrecipes.com, and it’s yummy!

Chocolate Trifle Recipe

 cake

Ingredients:

I package brownie mix

I package instant chocolate pudding

½ C water

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (8oz)  container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (12 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

 

Directions:

Prepare brownie mix according to package and cool. Cut into 1 inch squares.

In a large bowl combine pudding mix, water, and condensed milk. Mix until smooth.

Fold in 8 ounces whipped topping until no streaks remain.

In a trifle bowl or glass serving dish, place half of the brownies, half of the pudding mix, and half of the 12 ounce container of whipped topping. Repeat layers.

Garnish any way you’d like.

Refrigerate 8 hours before serving.

WOW…this looks amazing, Ellen! If I make it, I will eat it. And if I eat it, I will have to hide the scale. 😉

I know everyone is clapping, Ellen. Thank you for participating.

Dear friends, if you’d like to be entered in the giveaway for a picture book manuscript critique from Ellen (and I can tell you from experience that she give wonderful feedback), please make sure you leave a comment.

And if you’d like to thank Ellen for her insights, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Book reviews are so very important in this business.

Thank you all for stopping by…I love visiting with friends!

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