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. 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY plus Picture Book Manuscript Critique Giveaway Plus Book Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! I’m continuing on my journey through the fabulous debut picture books of 2018. And today, you are in for a treat.  I think most of you know how much I LOVE non-fiction picture book stories. And here is one that is going to go to the top of the charts!

book cover

THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: The Creations of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall

Written by Hannah Holt

Illustrated by Jay Fleck

Published by Balzer & Bray (October 2018)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Inventors, curiosity, bullying

Opening lines: “A ROCK named graphite. A BOY named Tracy.

Synopsis: From Amazon: 

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.

Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.

From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.”

Why I like this book:

  • Based on the life of her grandfather, the author had access to fabulous research resources…and it shows. The book has an authenticity that you don’t often find, even in nonfiction.
  • I love that there are so many layers in this story…the life of the diamond, the life of H. Tracy Hall, bullying, staying true to who you are, following your dream.F
  • The talented Jay Fleck brings the story to life with vivid colors and fabulous illustrations.

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

Diamond Shaped Craft for Kids

diamond-shape-activity-for-preschool-childrencourtesy: http://cleverlearner.com/shapes/diamond-shape-activity.html

For detailed instructions and other crafts: http://cleverlearner.com/shapes/diamond-shape-activity.html

Diamond facts for kids: http://www.scienceforkidsclub.com/diamond.html

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a picture book manuscript critique from Hannah Holt. It will be a priceless gift to one lucky winner!

PLUS…I’m adding another giveaway…a brand new copy of THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY. Here’s the back story: I ordered a copy from Amazon months and months ago. And then, for some reason, I forgot (life has been a bit busy and distracting for me this year)…and so I ordered one from my local indie bookstore. And I picked that one up  a few weeks ago…and then the other day, I got a message from Amazon saying my book order would arrive on Thursday. So, now I have two copies and I want to share the joy! I’ll choose one winner for the critique and a different winner for the book. Make sure you comment on today’s post and tomorrow’s and Tuesday’s Book Birthday post. That way you will have three chances. 

And I want to thank everyone who shared and/or commented on my Facebook post about the new cover and corrected launch date for Sweet Dreams, Sarah…I’m getting really excited about 2019…I’ve received the hard copy of Pippa’s Passover Plate and I can’t wait to share the cover of Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book…I think it will be ready to reveal in the next month or so!

For more wonderful picture book reviews and activities, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday link up.

Enjoy your weekend, dear friends! The autumn leaf colors are deepening. If you are driving or traveling, please be safe.

 

Happy Book Birthday to THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY plus PB Manuscript Critique Giveaway

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! 

I’m definitely singing at the top of my lungs because THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: The Creation of Diamonds & the Life of H. Tracy Hall launches today! And this is the debut picture book of one of my critique buddies from the VERY FIRST CRITIQUE GROUP I EVER JOINED! (and we are all still going strong!) I saw this story as a rough draft and watched as it grew more and more polished…until it became a shining gem of a book.

CONGRATULATIONS, dear Hannah Holt!

book cover

Make sure you come back on Friday for a Perfect Picture Book Friday review and craft ideas for kids. PLUS, on Saturday, Hannah will be stopping by to chat and share some of her writing journey with us. And don’t forget to leave a comment here and on the other THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY posts…BECAUSE…Hannah has graciously and generously agreed to give away a PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE…and I can tell you from many years experience, this talented author knows how to give unbelievable feedback!

Meanwhile, what can you do? Well, you can head over to pick up a copy of her book on Amazon or at your local indie bookstore. You can write a review on Amazon or Goodreads or some other book review sites. You can go to your library and ask them to purchase a copy or two for their collection, if it isn’t already available there. And you can share this post on your social media channels so the whole world will find out about this fabulous book. It’s going to be such a great #STEM addition to every elementary school and library. And if your kiddos are curious, inventive, lovers of anything science, or have ever been bullied, you definitely want to read this with them.

CONGRATULATIONS, Hannah! This is the first of many more book birthdays to come for you!!!!

 

 

Christy Mihaly: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Picture Book Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

 

PHOTO_ChristyMihaly

CHRISTY MIHALY

I usually reduce the size of the headshot for my Will Write for Cookies guests…but I just couldn’t take away one inch of this glorious scene. It looks so much like a photo I have of my grandson and me at a lake in New Hampshire which figures because Christy is right next door in Vermont. 

Christy Mihaly lives and writes in Vermont, overlooking the hayfield that inspired her picture book, Hey, Hey, Hay! She has published a half-dozen books in the educational market, on topics from California’s redwood forest to cosplay to elephants and moose. She writes for children’s magazines about science, nature, and history. Her poetry has appeared in publications including Imperfect: Poems about Mistakes, an Anthology for Middle Schoolers; Highlights; and the SCBWI Bulletin. Christy also co-wrote a nonfiction book for YA readers, Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought, to be published October 1 by Lerner/TFCB. Christy loves walking in the woods and playing the cello (though not simultaneously). She is represented by Erzsi Deak, of Hen&ink Literary Studio.

You can connect with Christy on any of these platforms:

Blogging at GROG

Instagram: @christymihaly

Twitter: @CMwriter4kids

Facebook Author page

But right now, we are going to connect with Christy right here. 

Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Christy! We are so happy to have you hear!

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

CHRISTY: As a kid, I read all the time, but for the most part I didn’t think much about the people writing the books. I loved classics like The Borrowers and The Secret Garden. I also read and re-read Harriet the Spy and A Wrinkle in Time. And I guess the exception to my ignorance about authors was Beverly Cleary – if I saw her name on a book, I picked it up!

kid with book

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

CHRISTY: I wish I had appreciated the importance of meeting others who are doing this work. In the beginning, I didn’t understand that you’re not fully a children’s writer until you engage with the community of writers and illustrators. Even more than publishing my first magazine pieces, what made me feel like a real writer was meeting with others who were also writing for kids—and joining a critique group!

WOW July 2015

Conferences and writing retreats are a great place to connect with others in your field. This is from the 2015 WOW retreat in Helen, Georgia. I see a bunch of familiar faces there. (Vivian left early that morning with Ann Magee and a couple of others because they had an early plane to catch out of Atlanta so they missed the photo).

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

CHRISTY: Everywhere! I write on scraps of paper in the car, on my phone in the middle of the night, and in a notebook I keep in my purse. I write in my head when those words come in the middle of a walk in the woods. Still, most of my writing is on my trusty laptop, which I move around a lot – kitchen, porch, desk, seeking different views of trees and fields … As a writer, I am peripatetic.

Note from Vivian: I had to look that word up…peripatetic: traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.

beautiful rows

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

CHRISTY: I’m lucky right now to be writing for a living. So – I write all the time. I spend more time writing, in fact, than some people around me might prefer … [What, we’re out of dog food again?]

dog bale

Sometimes I sit down first thing in the morning and write a poem. Other times, I’m facing a book deadline and writing all day and at 4:00 I realize I forgot lunch. I do some of my best work after dinner and into the wee hours, but that can’t happen too often or I get sleep-deprived and cranky.

ME: Why do you write for children?

CHRISTY: Because I keep having new ideas that I want to write about and I love doing it! And because I believe that our best hope for the future is raising a generation of people who love to read. My wish is that by giving kids books that are engaging and fun, we can spark their love of learning, and also foster the critical thinking skills that this generation is going to need.

HeyHay_intr_tractor

ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. 

CHRISTY: Vivian, you didn’t ask me about the many rejections I’ve received. I do love sharing about my published pieces – but the manuscripts that don’t find (or haven’t yet found) a home are equally important. Each one that gets a “pass” from an editor can help in my writing journey, because I learn from it: What works and what doesn’t work? What grabs an editor’s attention and what leaves her cold? How might I better address a subject I really want to tackle? How can I make this story sparkle? Or … which editor might like this story better? Rejections are never easy, but they’re inevitable, and they feel less awful if I remember that each one is a step forward.

Thanks, again, Vivian, for all you do to support children’s books and writers and illustrators. This has been fun.

ME: Christy, I love that you talked about rejections…and your attitude towards them is spot on! And it’s my honor and pleasure to feature authors and illustrators and to review all of their wonderful books! And hosting the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge is something I am truly passionate about…providing a safe and encouraging platform for fellow writers.

I know you aren’t finished here, Christy…there’s a VERY special recipe you’ve got in store for us!

CHRISTY: Yes…for a summer change of pace, how about a little switchel?

Switchel—or ginger water—is the traditional haymaker’s drink. In one of her books, Laura Ingalls Wilder refers to Ma’s zesty ginger-water, declaring that after a blazing hot summer day working in the fields, nothing could quench the thirst quite so well. Or, as my narrator reports with delight in Hey, Hey, Hay!,

“Mom calls out, ‘Let’s take a break … for switchel and a piece of cake!’”

There are many regional variations, and you can make your own adjustments to taste. This simplified recipe (included in the back of HAY) is based on the Vermont version of the drink. And yes, they’re bottling this stuff now – but why not make your own?

quart-jar-switchelPhoto courtesy: The Vermont Switchel  Company

Make Your Own Switchel

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

4 cups water (plain or sparkling)

Combine the ingredients in a large jar with a lid, and shake. Pour the mixture over ice cubes to serve right away, or chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Stir well before pouring it into your glass. Makes about a quart.

Variations:

You can add mint leaves, lemon, or cucumber – why not experiment? Try some switchel with ginger cookies!

Thank you so much, Christy! This has been so much fun. And I want to remind everyone that Christy has generously offered to do a picture book manuscript critique…so make sure you leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Stay safe and be happy!

I’m In Texas Today…Well, Almost!

Hello dear friends!

Author Melissa Stoller invited me to her blog today and I hope you’ll pop over there and join the chat as she asks me THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT STORIES, CREATIVITY, AND CONNECTION.

And guess what? Leave a comment on her blog and you might win a picture book critique from yours truly.

Hope to see you there!!

Please don’t forget that the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge post will go live on March 2…that is only FOUR DAYS AWAY…have you sharpened your pencils?

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: YOU KNOW WHAT? PLUS Critique Giveaway

Hello dear friends! 

Somehow, the day has almost gotten away from me. But it’s Perfect Picture Book Friday and I wanted to make sure that I shared a picture book that will be a wonderful addition to every young child’s library. Plus, author Carol Gordon Ekster has offered to donate a picture book manuscript critique as a giveaway! Woo-hoo! So please make sure you leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win it!

You Know What

YOU KNOW WHAT?

Written by Carol Gordon Ekster

Illustrated by Nynke Talsma

Published by Clavis Group (2017)

Ages: 3-7

Themes: Bedtime, Procrastination, Curiosity

Synopsis: 

From Amazon: Oliver should go to sleep. But there is so much he wants to tell his mother about: what happened that day at school, the things he read in books, everything he sees around him.
A touching and familiar picture book about (postponing) the ritual of going to sleep.

Why I like this book:

  • I have three children and I remember the words, “You know what?” because they were the words my kids used to put off their bedtime. They all knew their mommy loved to engage in conversation (yup…I haven’t changed) and they knew I would never cut off their curiosity. This is a book that will strike a chord with every parent and every child.
  • Great illustrations that show Oliver in all of his bedtime preparations…kids will identify with his routine.
  • Filled with heart and humor.

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

Make a bedtime routine chart

Bedtime-Routine-side-by-side

Photo courtesy: https://bitzngiggles.com

I think if you surveyed parents, one of the most difficult tasks for them is getting the kids to bed. One thing that helps is to put routines in place. And here’s a super cool chart that you can make with your kiddos. For detailed instructions, please go to: https://bitzngiggles.com/printable-bedtime-routine-charts/

Thank you for spending some of your precious time here, dear friends. I hope you’ll hop over to author Melissa Stoller’s blog on Monday because I’ll be stopping by there to chat about my writing process and more. Here is a link to her website, but my post won’t be up until the 26th. https://www.melissastoller.com/

I’m kind of sad to say goodbye to February…but I am so looking forward to the beginning of March because that will mean it is time for the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge.  Please come back on Friday, March 2nd when we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with our 50-word stories. I’m excited to read all of your precious words!

And don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win the picture book manuscript critique from Carol.

 

 

Julie Segal Walters : Will Write for Cookies PLUS Picture Book Manuscript Critique Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INFORMATION – INSPIRATION – INSIGHT

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Julie Segal Walters headshot (1)

JULIE SEGAL WALTERS

This kidlit community is teeming with incredible people and it’s been my honor to get to know many of them. Today’s guest is one of the founders of PicturetheBooks2017, a group of authors and illustrators whose debut picture books are launching this year. 

Julie Segal Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. In those days, she was a frequent writer, public speaker, and commentator on NPR, Court TV, and C-Span on civic engagement and religious liberty. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. This Is Not A Normal Animal Book (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) . 

Welcome, Julie! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat!

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

JULIE: My favorite author as a child was Judy Blume. Like many kids my age, I read and re-read every book she wrote, and grew up along side her characters and their increasingly complex problems. From Sheila to Sally to Margaret to Deenie to Katherine, in my mind, Judy Blume was more friend than admired author. Through her books, she was always there for me. In her writing, she seemed to truly understand me. I’ve carried the appreciation for Judy Blume’s “friendship” with me FOREVER (Ha, ha! See what I did there?). In fact, a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to slip her a little thank you note during a book signing event in D.C. Sometimes you just need tell complete strangers how much their work has meant to your life.

ME: Where do you like to write?

JULIE: My absolute most favorite place to write is on an airplane. I don’t know what it is but I have written more — both quantity and quality — on airplanes than in any other single location. I love it! I don’t know whether it’s the white noise, or the lack of internet, or the butt in chair that makes airplanes such a perfect place for me to write. If I could fly somewhere every day (or even every week), I would have many more polished manuscripts indeed! The same is not true for trains, however. Who knows why these things are the way they are.

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

JULIE: The “when” of writing for me remains frustratingly unroutinized. For the most part, though, I write during the middle of the day when my son is in school. Although I do love my productivity when I write early in the morning!

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

JULIE: Among the many things I know now that I wish I had known when I first started writing is, when starting out, don’t write with an eye toward publication.

Like so many picture book writers I know, I first began writing picture book texts when my son was young and I yearned to create and memorialize stories for him. The problem was, before I wrote all the stories for my son — the playful food experiences we shared, the book about always loving himself, and all the other “lesson-forward” tales, — I began researching everything I needed to know about writing and publishing for children. I joined SCBWI and attended a conference. I read blogs about page turns and querying agents and editors and leaving room for the illustrator. I got my writing critiqued.

The result? I took the business of writing for children seriously and learned a ton about both the craft of writing and the picture book market. I understood that writing picture books is not a hobby, that first drafts of 2,000 word stories about my young son will not sell, and that writing really means revising — over and over and over. I wrote a marketable story, and sold it relatively quickly. (Note: an experience I have not been able to repeat for subsequent books!) I was extremely fortunate to write and sell my first book, and am thrilled about my upcoming debut.

The other result, though, is that it’s five years later I still haven’t written those important-to-me lesson-forward stories for my son. I still haven’t figured out how to memorialize the playful food experiences we shared that remain an important-to-me memory of our time together, but that he doesn’t remember at all. I haven’t brought myself to take the time to write fiction stories that are not for publication (hopefully). I focused on my publishing pipeline and not on my reason for writing in the first place.

I wish I had known that would happen when I first started writing for children. I wish I had first just written for my child.

ME: Why do you write for children?

JULIE: The books that were important to me as a child remain the most important books in my life, and I’ve rarely if ever had a relationship with a book the same way as an adult. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to create something with the goal that it will find a special place in a child’s life. Whether it’s sharing fun facts, or making kids laugh, or helping them feel connected or seen in the world, everything I write is with an eye toward whether the story will be important to a child. It’s an honor to write for children, and I take my responsibility very serioiusly.

ME: Oh my goodness, Julie. I would love to take your answers and send them to every newbie/wannabe writer…it would save them so much meandering and going around in circles…you’ve laid out a perfect plan of action steps to becoming a serious kidlit writer! And I know you have some thoughts about your book that you’d like to share as well.

JULIE: Thank you, Vivian! It’s a privilege to share my book with you and your readers.

Animal Book cover

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK begins as a stroll through different types of animals, but quickly evolves into a disagreement between the author and illustrator over how to draw them, — in particular, the blobfish. Based on a Yiddish proverb, the book is a behind the scenes look at the picture book creation process, the importance of collaboration and compromise in the face of different opinions, and the beauty of both words and art. With a sprinkle of snark. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a commercial story that breaks the fourth wall, while remaining appropriate for classroom use. (It even includes nonfiction back matter!). You can read a review of Julie’s book from PW, and you can pre-order SIGNED books from Politics and Prose, buy it on Amazon, or request it from your favorite bookseller!

(Special note for educators: Visit my website on or after October 31st for a fun and informational teacher’s guide to the book!)

ME: And I’ll add another note for everyone…please please please…go to Amazon or Goodreads or other book sites and let the world know how much you love your favorite books by leaving a review.

And guess what…we are not done yet. Even though Julie says she is not a baker, she is sharing a super recipe for…well, I’ll let her tell you. Take it away, Julie!

Julie’s favorite cookie recipe:

The “Signature Cookie”

signature cookie 2

About 20 years ago, I was invited to a “bring a special dessert” party. I decided to tackle lemon squares, because I love the combination of sweet and tangy — in food and in life. I spent an entire day cutting butter into flour for the shortbread crust, zesting and squeezing lemons, slowly heating a lemon juice and egg mixture until it was curd but not curdled, and generally becoming irritated by the number rules to follow that caused too many dirty measuring implements and bowls in my apartment kitchen.

About 15 minutes before leaving for the party, I looked at my plate of elegant and delicious lemon squares and felt completely underwhelmed. How could something so high maintenance to bake be so paltry to look at? I decided that I couldn’t show up at the party without something more.

Luckily, I happened to always have a roll of chocolate chip slice-and-bake cookies in the fridge. I quickly grabbed a mini muffin tin, dropped a quartered slice-and-bake cookie into each cup, and popped the tray in the oven. During the 10 minutes it took for the cookies to bake, I peeled the wrappers off 12 mini Reese’s peanut butter cups. When the cookies were done, I pressed a peanut butter cup into each cookie, forming a crust around the candy. Five minutes later, a dozen chocolate glazed peanut butter cookies in a chocolate chip cookie crust sat alongside my divine lemon bars on my lap on the metro.

 

Do I need to tell what happened next?

My friends flipped for the peanut butter cup cookies! The precious lemon bars sat untouched and alone like me in my lemon chiffon dress at homecoming, while 15 people pleaded for the recipe for the chocolate peanut butter cookies.

I vowed that day that I would never bake anything other than those cookies for the rest of my life, and the signature cookie was born.

The Signature Cookie

Ingredients:

Mini muffin tin

Slice-and-Bake chocolate chip cookie (any brand)

Mini peanut butter cups

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the cookie dough loaf into rounds (about 1/2 inch thick), and quarter each round.

Place one quartered dough chunk into each mini muffin tin cup, and put the tin in the oven for 8-12 minutes (checking for cookies to puff up, fill the cup, and brown slightly).

While the cookies bake, unwrap the peanut butter cups.

When the cookies are lightly browned on top, remove from oven.

Immediately insert one peanut butter cup into each cookie, pressing down gently so that cookie forms a crust around the candy.

signature cookie

Allow to cool slightly. Lift cookies out with a knife and cool completely on cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Total active time: 15 minutes.

WOW! I can’t wait to try this recipe, Julie! Thank you so very much…for the recipe, for your insights into the writing life, and also, for your VERY generous giveaway of a PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE. Dear readers, we ALL love getting feedback from a pro…so please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…the leaves are coming into their glory in our little corner of New England…and the weather has been quite mild. Indian Summer is one of my favorite times of the year! I’m actually at a Picture Book Writing Intensive led by Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss at the Writer’s Loft in Sherbourne, Massachusetts. Next week, I’ll share a bit of what I learned!