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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.

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 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!

Happy Book Birthday to IF I WEREN’T WITH YOU

 HURRAY!

IT’S A BOOK BIRTHDAY!

cover if I were you

I caught up with author Rosie Pova to see if she would be willing to share her amazing writing journey…and she said YES!  And even though it is the birthday of her brand-new picture book, IF I WEREN’T WITH YOU, Rosie is giving the presents! She’s put together a wonderful SWAG bag AND a sweet TEDDY BEAR. One lucky person will win this. To be entered, please leave a comment below and connect with Rosie on Twitter (@RosiePOV).

bear giveaway

Here’s a little background on Rosie. She is a children’s author, poet, wife and a mama bear of three. Ever since childhood, Rosie has been fascinated with the power of words. Her passion for writing took her on a long journey of discovery, learning, and growth, through many ups and downs, but she is grateful for all her experiences.

With her books, Rosie dreams of inviting many readers into her make-believe worlds, hoping to touch them with her words.

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 Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Rosie!

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

 ROSIE:

I grew up in Bulgaria during the communist regime and as far as I remember, children’s literature was somewhat limited. We mostly read folktales. I did have one of those old-fashioned records of Cinderella, translated in Bulgarian, and I was obsessed with that tale. I listened to it over and over.

Other favorites, also translated in Bulgarian, were One Thousand and One Nights as well as the Brothers Grimm collection.

But, I am now slowly trying to catch up and read older picture books and classics–that people who grew up here are familiar with–while keeping up with the new releases.

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

ROSIE:

That I needed to read a lot more, learn about the market, and invest in my craft. I wish I knew about SCBWI sooner, what a critique group was, and how to find and join a good one. Those are some of the things that took me years to figure out the hard way!

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?

ROSIE:

I like to write both in a notebook with a pen or pencil and in bed on my laptop. I almost always carry a small notebook in my purse as well and have drafted stories in my car while waiting to pick up kids from school or activities. But I’d write any place, any way!

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?

ROSIE:

I am definitely not a morning person but in the past, I’ve forced myself to write very early in the day if that was the only quiet, uninterrupted time I could find. Having three kids and a day job. I would set my alarm for 5 a.m. and work on a project for a couple of hours.

Nowadays, I get on my laptop as soon as I send the kids out to school and work until it’s time to pick them up, then in the evening, continue late into the night. As I write this, it’s 11:10 p.m.

ME: Why do you write for children?

ROSIE:

First and foremost, I really enjoy it. And if I made a child laugh or feel something while reading my words miles and miles away, that’s awesome! But also, there’s something humbling and magical in the possibility of being able to–even for a brief moment–influence and help shape a person’s outlook  through their early experience with books.

ME: Rosie, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, and librarians might want to hear.

ROSIE:

For writers, my advice is to work hard but don’t be stubborn. Flexibility is important–learning how to let go, readjust and strategize are crucial in this business. But also, be open-minded, educate yourself enough to know when and how to apply the above. And the way to do that is by seeking help from peers and industry professionals, joining the community (SCBWI, 12 x 12, StoryStorm, ReFoReMo, Kidlit411 etc.), interacting and making connections. Read, attend conferences and workshops, write, write, write.

I used to think, oh, I’ll surely figure it all out on my own. Don’t make that mistake and waste years going in circles and learning the hard way. Today, do something new for your writing that you haven’t done yet.

I encourage parents to read to their kids and favor getting books in their hands over video game remotes.

Educators and librarians, the work you do is of such tremendous importance, it blows my mind! I applaud you and wish that great appreciation gets to you in every shape and form!

Rosie…I know everyone thanks you for your insights. And especially for the beautiful picture book that will become a favorite with young children.

Each time I do a Q&A with an author or an illustrator, I gain a valuable takeaway. Do you want to know what that is today?

“TODAY, DO SOMETHING NEW FOR YOUR WRITING THAT YOU HAVEN’T DONE YET.”

 To find out more about Rosie, please visit her at www.rosiejpova.com

IF I WEREN’T WITH YOU is available on Amazon or request a copy at your favorite Indie bookstore.

 

swag giveaway

Dear readers, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for the wonderful prize package!

 And guess what? There is another book birthday tomorrow! I hope you’ll all be back to meet author/illustrator Patricia Keeler and her new picture book, LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL.

Thank you for spending your precious time with us!

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