Happy Book Birthday: THE STARING CONTEST Plus Critique and Bookmark Giveaway

Happy Book Birthday to you! Happy Book Birthday to you!

Happy Book Birthday to THE STARING CONTEST

Happy Birthday to you!

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Diana Murray: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY


Plate of Cookies






You guys are always hearing me rave about this amazing kid lit community. But I hope you are not getting tired of listening, because that’s how I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest.

This past November, I participated in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, and for those of you who wait with anxious anticipation for her annual challenge, you know she offers a zillion prizes for those who comment on each post and complete the pledge. Well, I won a prize package from Diana Murray…awesome swag from her forthcoming picture books…and I was blown away with the quality of her stories and the number of new books she has coming down the pike. And when I asked if she’d do us the honor of an interview, SHE SAID YES!!!! And guess what???

Because I so fell in love with her picture books, I decided to offer a copy of City Shapes which is JUST LAUNCHING NEXT WEEK!!! So after you enjoy reading the interview, please leave a comment telling us which is your FAVORITE city. One lucky person will win a BRAND NEW copy of Diana’s new book! I reviewed the book on yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post, so you can check it out here.

In case you don’t know anything about Diana, I grabbed part of her bio from her website.

Diana Murray writes poetry and books for children. Her award-winning poems have appeared in magazines including Spider, Ladybug, Highlights, and High Five. Diana recently moved from the Bronx to a nearby suburb, where she lives with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. She is represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House literary agency.

So, without further ado, welcome Diana!!!

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


I wasn’t a big reader as a child. I don’t remember reading any picture books at all. When I was a bit older, my favorite books included ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and THE GOOD EARTH, by Pearl S. Buck. Those books transported me to another time and place and the characters stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. I was also a huge fan (and still am) of Gary Larson cartoons. It wasn’t until my first daughter was born that I became obsessed with picture books. We read maybe ten books a day.

city shapes cover

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


It’s important to learn and absorb as much as you can. Writing for children is an art form, but it’s also a business. Those are two disparate disciplines and both were relatively foreign to me.
I wish I knew that my first manuscript wouldn’t sell. I spent about a year or two revising it every which way before finally realizing that I needed to move on. I think it’s common for new writers to get attached to a project. But it’s likely that the first thing you ever write isn’t going to be your best work. You can always set it aside and come back to it later.

grimelda cover

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?


I love to write outside on the patio when the weather is nice.

outdoor paradise

 Or even when it’s not so nice. I love the sound of rain. I prefer my laptop to pen and paper because I’m a very fast typer.

I also have an indoor writing space in the basement. It’s still a work in progress and I haven’t finished hanging all the art.


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?


I don’t have a set schedule. I write whenever I can. Sometimes I even write in my head while waiting in line at the grocery store.

monster valentine cover

ME: Why do you write for children?


I studied child psychology in college and have always been interested in child development. Also, I discovered that reading picture books with my daughters was the most magical experience. Reading together creates a lovely moment of closeness. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being part of that experience or helping kids to become readers. Finally, kids have the most amazing imaginations. We tend to lose some of that when we get older, so I feel lucky that I still get to be part of that world.

ned cover

ME: Diana, 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, writers, librarians might want to hear.


My biggest advice to aspiring writers is to find some good critique partners or a critique group. When you critique other people’s work on a regular basis, you start to internalize that voice and you become better at revising your own work. Also, try not to be sensitive about criticism. Let it marinate for a while before you decide whether you agree or not.

WOW! Thank you so much, Diana. I know everyone is going to get so much out of this interview.

 To find out more about Diana’s awesome books or get in touch with her, she’s got an awesome website:


And now, for everyone who has patiently waited for the sweet treat recipe at the end, your wait is not in vain. Diana has outdone herself and provided something easy-peasy enough for kids to help with! That’s always a winning idea in my book!


EASY SUGAR COOKIES (My 10-year old makes these herself)


  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. of softened butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • Whip together butter and sugar.
  • Stir in the flour.
  • Form the cookies into balls and place on baking sheet. Flatten them into a disc shape if you’re topping with sprinkles before baking.
  • Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden.
  • After baking, you can mix some powdered sugar and a little milk with a drop of food coloring to make colored icing.
  • Decorate with sprinkles if you like.

Thank you so much for stopping by, everyone! Don’t forget to leave a comment telling us your favorite city. And have a wonderful weekend. To all the dads, grandads, and father-figures, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!