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Mike Malbrough: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

head shot

MIKE MALBROUGH

Hip, hip hooray for another incredible 2017 debut picture book author/illustrator. Please welcome our Will Write for Cookies guest of honor.

Mike Malbrough was a freelance graphic designer, comic book artist, performer and teacher with a career spanning two decades before beginning his career as a picture book author-illustrator. He is an active teacher and mentor for young artists in his community, and has received several awards and honors for his work with children and teens. Mike lives in Orange, New Jersey, with his wife, two adventurous kids, and a cat named Agnes who hates him.

cat on desk

Mike, I’m so excited to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar!

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

MIKE:

I was always enamored with the work of Mercer Mayer, especially how his creature characters crowded the pages in PROFESSOR WORMBOG IN SEARCH FOR THE ZIPPERUMP-A-ZOO. And of course Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Suess and Ludwig Bemelmans. I also remember the HENRY books by Mark Taylor and Graham Booth always being around.

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

MIKE:

That having terrible ideas and writing even worse sentences was just part of the path as opposed to a cosmic sign that you should never write. Putting that stuff down on the paper/ screen is important to getting somewhere as a storyteller.

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

MIKE:

I am constantly in flux, like I am trying to tune in a radio. I gravitate towards whatever gets me somewhere. As an author and illustrator, I interchange disciplines fluidly. Sometimes I can “write” quite a bit by designing a character’s clothes or setting, but there are times when just pounding the keyboard gets me there faster.

storyboard and illustration

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

MIKE:

Early morning at a coffee shop is the best time to plow through a first draft. I haven’t quite exited the world of dreams while having enough caffeine in me to work quickly.

ME: Why do you write for children?

MIKE:

I think of storytelling, and art in general, as a call and response, a dialogue. You “see” certain things in the world and then reflect those back through your creativity to a certain audience. The things that I find fascinating and fill me with a sense of love and wonder radiate strongest in the world of children, and I find that the work that I find most pleasing to do resonates with the hearts and minds of young people.

MarigoldBakesCake_interior_1

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

MIKE

My advice for writers: It’s never too early to take it seriously. Also, it’s never too late to take it seriously. And lastly, you should never take it too seriously.

MarigoldBakesCake_interior_2

I LOVE THAT ADVICE, Mike! We’ve got to buckle down and do the writing and rewriting, right? But we also have to find joy doing it and have fun with it…like kids. And it is NEVER too late. EVER!

If you’d like to find out more about Mike and his work:

www.mikemalbrough.com)

Twitter: @studiomalbrough.

Now dear friends, Mike has a very special treat recipe for us. Take it away, Mike.

Kourabiedes

A traditional Greek shortbread cookie, that is dense and delicious. The texture is amazing. Have some with tea!

Ingredients should be at room temperature.

Bake at 300 degrees for 22 minutes. Makes 2 ½ dozen.

 

2 ½ sticks of unsalted butter

1 cup superfine sugar

2 egg yolks

1 ½ tbsp. brandy

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

Whole Cloves (optional)

1 package 10x confectioners’ powdered sugar

 

Beat butter and superfine sugar in a large bowl with electric mixture at high speed for 15 MINUTES, or until light and fluffy. (Should have a white pearlescent look when ready.) Don’t skimp on the time it makes a difference. Scrape side of bowl with rubber spatula occasionally.

Add egg yolks, brandy and vanilla. Add flour, ½ cup at a time. If dough is too heavy, work it by hand. (Dough should be soft but firm.)

Break off walnut-sized pieces. Shape into crescents and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Insert a clove (optional) in each crescent.

 

Bake in slow oven (200 degrees) for 22 minutes or until pale brown. (Color should not change too much.) Remove cookies from oven and place on a platter. Cool. Remove cloves. Dust generously with confectioner’s sugar. (The cookies will look like a mound of sugar.) Store in a metal tin with a tight-fitting lid.

WOW! These look amazing! I think I am gaining a pound every week with all of these fabulous treat recipes. But it is worth it, right?

Please don’t forget to leave a comment today…it will give you an entry into the giveaway of a copy of MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE. And for another entry, make sure you comment on yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of the book.

Marigold_COVER

And, if you have a little extra time, why not hop over to Amazon and/or Goodreads and leave a review for Mike and all of your favorite authors and illustrators. It will mean the world to them!

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Will Write for Cookies: Chana Stiefel PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot 

CHANA STIEFEL

TA-DA!!! I’m so happy to roll out the red carpet for today’s Will Write for Cookies author. Chana is part of the debut picture book author/illustrator group, Picture the Books 2017.

 But although DADDY DEPOT is a debut picture book for her, it is NOT the first book she has written. Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 20 non-fiction books for kids about stinky castles, exploding volcanoes, and other wild stuff.  Chana is currently writing a book about creepy critters for National Geographic Kids (Fall 2018). WAKAWAKALOCH, Chana’s semi-autobiographical picture book about a cave girl who wants to change her unpronounceable name, will be coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. More great news coming soon! Visit Chana at http://www.chanastiefel.com and her blog for authors kidlittakeaways.com, which she writes with her critique partner, Donna Cangelosi.

 Welcome, Chana! We’re so glad you stopped by today!

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

 CHANA:

Robert McCloskey, BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL

P.D. Eastman, ARE YOU MY MOTHER? & GO DOG, GO! (Can you spot my wink to this book in DADDY DEPOT?)

Virginia Lee Burton, MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL

Patricia Lee Gauch, CHRISTINA KATERINA & THE BOX (I still have my original copy with my name spelled backwards)

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

CHANA:

The warmth and support of the kid-lit community is extraordinary! When I went to my first NJSCBWI conference in 2013, I was terrified that it would be very cutthroat, with everyone vying for the attention of agents and editors. I was worried that published authors would be pushing out the newbies. But it was the opposite. Everyone was warm, welcoming, and supportive. During a Round Table, I met Donna Cangelosi, who became my critique partner, co-blogger, and soul sister. I also met dozens of other authors who have become dear friends. And I met my awesome agent at a four-minute pitch! All that in two days! Since then, I’ve joined many online kid-lit groups, like Storystorm, 12 x 12, ReFoReMo, KidLit411, Picture The Books (go 2017s!), and many more. Day or night, whatever you need—writing advice, critiques, comp titles, shoulders to cry on, comic relief, and political support—these people are there for you! And I think everyone will agree that one of the most supportive authors out there is right here…. Thank you, dear Vivian, for all you do to lift up and encourage everyone around you. Read the rest of this entry

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

DSCN7064

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.

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