WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT, INSPIRATION, INFORMATION
Hey, dear friends! How lucky are we…this is a double your pleasure and double your fun post…TWO INCREDIBLE CREATIVES!
Nancy Churnin is an old friend – Danny Popovici is a new one…and I’m thrilled their soon to be launched picture book MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN has brought them together and here to chat with us.
Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME (Albert Whitman & Company), which has been picked for the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids list, the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2X2 and Topaz lists and the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Association’s Monarch Award Master List. MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN (Creston Books), a Junior Library Guild fall selection, will be out later this month. Coming out in 2018: CHARLIE MAKES HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF (Albert Whitman) in January; IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING (Creston Books) in Spring and THE PRINCESS AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE (Albert Whitman) in September. A native New Yorker, she’s a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s from Columbia University School of Journalism, who is happy to call Dallas her home. She and her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, are raising four boys and two cats.
DANNY POPOVICI’s illustrations have appeared in many formats: animation, game, and comic art, but his favorite medium to tell stories is in the pages of magical picture books. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where there’s no shortage of mountains to hike, but he usually leaves his hammer and chisel at home.
Welcome to you both! Nancy, you are up first! I’ve noticed one thing about all the people you choose as your main characters…you become invested in their story. You become a passionate spokesperson for their accomplishments. And you strive to connect young kids with their inspiring tales. Please tell us how that happened.
NANCY: It was just last year, but it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago that I was sharing my debut book, THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME, on Vivian’s amazing, inspirational blog. That unexpected and joyful journey began as a gift from Steve Sandy, a Deaf man and friend of the Hoy family, who has become my friend. Steve has shared my joy as the book went into its 5th printing and racked up recognition, including being on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids; the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2X2 and Topaz lists; the 2017 Bank Street Books Best Books for Kids; and Illinois’ 2018 Monarch Awards Master List. Plus, one of Jez Tuya’s illustrations is featured in a traveling exhibit from the aMAZZAing Mazza Museum: International Art from Picture Books and it was translated into Japanese and is doing extremely well in Japan!
Knowing what it meant to Steve for kids to know the true story of this Deaf hero made we wonder about other untold stories of hidden heroes and heroines. I discovered the story of Dashrath Manjhi in an article about this ordinary man who did an extraordinary thing — he spent 22 years of his life chiseling a path through a 300-foot mountain so that the children in his poor village would have access to school and the sick could get to a doctor.
People in his village told Manjhi he was crazy and I identified with that, too. Writing a story about a man who spends 22 years chiseling a mountain seemed like a crazy idea, but like Manjhi I felt driven. It was something I just had to do! I am very grateful to my agent, Karen Grencik, who believed in this story from the beginning as did my wonderful publisher and editor Marissa Moss, who guided me through multiple revisions of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN and also to Danny Popovici, whose exquisite illustrations bring a symphonic majesty to the beating heart of the story. I am so grateful to the Junior Library Guild for putting MANJHI on its 2017 fall list and for wonderful early reviews, plus features and support from KitaabWorld, Flowering Minds, Asian Picture Books, A. Cole Books, Stephanie Bange, who was so kind to include MANJHI on her must-have list, Whats New in Children’s Books in the Content Areas?, and our own children’s literature treasure, Vivian Kirkfield!
It’s my dream that this story will encourage kids to be like Manjhi. When you read to the end of the book, you will learn about our MOVE YOUR OWN MOUNTAIN project. I am asking kids what they can do to make a positive difference in their schools and community. I look forward to parents and teachers to send me photographs and extended captions about the children’s projects that I can post on the Move Your Own Mountain page on my nancychurnin.com website. I am hoping that these good deeds will spread as kids give each other wonderful ideas of what they can do and the difference each of us can make.
Thank you so much Vivian for this opportunity to share the story of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN and for all you do, every day, to help children SOAR!
Here is the free curriculum guide: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/68b71d_515070a02f9b496e9281ed433fce05f1.pdf
ME: WOW…thank you so much, Nancy! This is fantastic…I loved hearing the back story of how William Hoy and Manjhi got their start. But I know you are not finished yet…you are offering a wonderful giveaway, plus a super authentic recipe for roti.
NANCY: Make your own roti, like the bread the villagers left for Manjhi (Printed with permission of Manjula Jain of manjulaskitchen.com) Roti also known as Chapati or Fulka, is Indian flat bread made with whole wheat flour. In North India, roti is part of the main meal. Roti is served with a variety of cooked vegetables, lentils, and yogurt.
Makes 4 Rotis.
Ingredients: • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour • 1/8 teaspoon salt • 1/4 cup lukewarm water (Use as needed) Also needed • 2 teaspoons ghee (clear butter) • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour for rolling
1. Mix flour, salt, and water to make sof dough, adding water as needed. Knead the dough for about one minute on a lightly greased surface to make it smooth and pliable. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and set aside at least ten minutes.
2. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Make smooth balls and press flat.
3. Before rolling the roti press both sides of the ball on a dry floured surface to make them easy to roll.
4. Roll to form a six-inch-diameter circle. Use just enough dry flour to roll the roti, as too much flour will make them dry. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin or rolling surface, lightly dust the rotis with dry flour.
5. Heat an iron or heavy skillet on medium high heat. To test, sprinkle a few drops of water on the skillet. If the water sizzles right away, the skillet is ready.
6. Place the one roti into the skillet. When the roti start to change color and start puffing flip it over. There will be some golden brown spots.
7. Flip again afer a few seconds. Using a flat spatula, press lightly on the puffed parts of the roti. This will help the roti puff up. Flip the roti again, until it has light golden-brown spots on both sides.
8. Repeat the same process for remaining roties. Butter the roti, the side that is facing the skillet.
9. Place the rotis in a container lined with a paper towel. Cover the container afer each roti.
10.Roti can be kept outside for up to 2 days wrapped in aluminum foil or in a closed container. For later use, roti can be refrigerated for 5-6 days. Re-heat in a skillet.
ME: Thank you so much, Nancy…we get several great takeaways…find your passion and then write about it…plus a yummy roti recipe. Indian food is my absolute favorite…I am definitely going to try this.
And now dear friends…please take a deep breath…maybe get up and stretch and grab a cup of tea or coffee…and then sit back down to enjoy ANOTHER RIVETING INTERVIEW !
Danny, welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar! I know you are sharing some of your process for MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN. We can’t wait…so take it away, Danny!
DANNY: I was sent a manuscript titled Manjhi Moves a Mountain written by Nancy Churnin, and after reading it, I knew I wanted to take this on this project. I neglected to read the author’s note and delved straight into the story. Like most people I know, I have never heard of Dashrath Manjhi. Initially, I thought this was a character Nancy had created. I was pleasantly surprised when I read author’s note; I was left in awe. Not only are Manjhi and his incredible feat a true story, but all took place within the last half a century. Dashrath Manjhi was born in 1934 and died Aug. 17, 2007 at the age of 73.
My production process is never linear, as I jump all over the place from quick sketches, setting up pagination templates, color design, and even testing out what the final product might look like. It’s a large, jumbled mess that over time, pieces come together and begin to form an actual, cohesive, illustrated story. For me, this is one of the most fun parts of illustrating a picture book.
I had a lot of help with research through Nancy, my art director and editor. They made sure I was on the right track and that I didn’t illustrate a specific building or article of clothing that is not common in Bihar, India. Since I have never been to India, I wanted to illustrate the culture with the most upmost respect I could muster. Research was absolutely important during the illustration process.
Once environment and character sketches are approved, I like to move forward to finalizing storyboards and page count. Here is where I begin to break up the text and organize the rhythm of page turns. It’s a long process with many drawings scattered throughout the studio. I like to dedicate a wall for storyboards so I can easily take things down and replace while having my visuals notes right there where I can easily access drawings and mix-match as I see fit.
I like to photograph the final art, but for MMAM, I had to scan the images on a large format scanner. I take the scanned images into Photoshop and here is where I bring everything together, clean up smudges, and do color corrections. I really enjoy this process because it’s setting up the final work that people are going to see. I have a hard time picturing the final project before it’s complete, and this part helps me envision everything together much clearer.
Like Manjhi, I chipped away little by little. Great things don’t happen overnight. Manjhi’s story is a beautiful reminder of the human spirit and dedication it takes to reach a goal. I don’t think there is one person on this beautiful planet that couldn’t learn a thing or two about Manjhi’s persistence and love for community.
ME: No, Danny…thank YOU!!! This was incredible to get a peek at a rough storyboard…and then how you work up the colored illustrations…and then, of course, the actual pages of the book! I can guarantee that this post is going to be bookmarked by many writers…and of course, illustrators!
To learn more about Danny and his books:
ME: And guess what? We are not finished yet. Danny is sharing a recipe for his favorite treat.
-½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening (room temp)
-1½ cups sugar
-1½ tsp cream of tartar
-1 tsp baking soda
-¼ tsp salt
– 2¾ cup flour
Beat shortening, sugar, and eggs together until creamy. Then Blend in cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Then add flour and mix well. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Topping – mix in a bowl 3 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon.
Drop dough balls into topping mixture and coat entire cookie. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Okay, dear friends. Take a deep breath. I know this was a mega long and chock full post. One more thing…please leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway from Nancy for a copy of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN and bookmarks designed by Danny.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. And I urge you to give the gift of a book review on Amazon and/or Goodreads to your favorite authors! It only takes a couple of minutes, but it helps other readers, it helps the author, and it helps spread the word about a book you love.
And with Hurricane Irma bearing down on so many after having caused so much destruction already, I add my prayers for those in her path.
WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
Most of you know how much I love critique groups. For me, they are one of the most important elements in a writer’s life. They support, encourage, inspire. They keep you sane…they keep you company…they keep you on track. I’m thrilled to spotlight one of my favorite critique buddies as today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor. Nancy’s got a lot of inspiring words for us today…and when the post is finished…we will announce the WINNERS of the #50PreciousWords Contest. By the way, I was overwhelmed by the amazing level of participation and enthusiasm for this little writing challenge. Thank you all!
Nancy is a native New Yorker (me, too!) and a lover of baseball who is happy to call Dallas her home. Go Rangers! She’s the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and a graduate of Harvard University, with a masters from Columbia University School of Journalism. (and now when I have a question, I know who to go to for the answer) She lives in North Texas with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry. Between shows and story deadlines, they’re raising four sweet boys and two crazy cats.
I was thrilled when Nancy’s book debuted and a couple of weeks ago, I did a Perfect Picture Book Friday post: https://viviankirkfield.com/2016/02/26/ppbf-the-william-hoy-story-plus-winners/
Welcome, Nancy! Thank you for joining us today.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
There are so many! I was enthralled with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and remember going on a hunt to track down hard to find titles like The Silver Chair. I read everything by Louisa May Alcott, I reread Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz numerous times. I also loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, all things Dickens (but especially A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist) and Mark Twain (particularly The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn). Also, I could never get enough mythology; I loved reading about Greek, Roman, Norse mythology, the King Arthur legends and any and all fairy tales.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
I wish I knew at the start what a wonderful, supportive writing community there is for children’s book writers if you will only reach out and make contact. In the early years I enjoyed my writing as my private escape. I had no idea that I could have both that wonderful escape into another world and friends with whom I could share the wonder of that work and get help in making it better and, ultimately, publishable!
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 like to write inside and with my trusty laptop any room will do. Sometimes I sit at my desk in my bedroom. Other times I will lie down in bed and write. Sometimes when I am stuck, pen and paper will help get me going. I can’t go on too long writing things longhand, however, because my penmanship can be too challenging for me to decipher, particularly if I’ve been thinking faster than my scribbles.
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 will write whenever I have time or inspiration, but my best time is usually the morning when my mind is fresh and free of distractions and deadlines that rain down during the day.
ME: Why do you write for children?
I love children. They are the purest form of humanity, the essence of what it is to be human. Children are honest and open to ideas. They are like the rich soil of Narnia at the beginning of its existence in The Magician’s Nephew, where a metal rod takes root and grows into a streetlamp. If you gift them with a book that introduces a fresh idea or way of looking at themselves and the world, you can feel, hear and see seeds taking root and flower in unexpected, beautiful ways.
ME: Nancy, do you have any other tips you’d like to share with aspiring writers? And thoughts for parents, educators, and librarians?
Dear Writers, always write the story you must tell, the story that you believe with all your being must be told, the story that fills a void or emptiness in the world. Books can be written to sell, but they probably won’t last or stir anyone’s soul. If you write what truly matters to you, it will matter to others.
Dear Parents, Educators, Teachers and Librarians, I will never forget that the only reason I even heard of Narnia was because once upon a time, a librarian recommended The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to me and I overcame my skepticism and turned the first page of a story with a long, odd title. That book was my wardrobe into a magical world. Yes, books can take us on incredible journeys of the heart and the mind, but without you wonderful guides, who knows if new generations of children will find their way to the wardrobe or have the courage to push open the door.
THANK YOU A MILLION! Nancy, this was terrific!
Dear Readers…if you would like to find out more about Nancy and her book:
Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books
Now I know you’ve all been waiting for the sweet treat ending to the Will Write for Cookies post…and you won’t be disappointed because Nancy’s brownies are to die for.
Melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) and cream with 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup whole wheat flour with 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix dry and wet ingredients together. Grease the bottom of a rectangular baking pan with oil. Pour in brownie mixture. Add 14 dark chocolate chips if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife in the brownies comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!
50 PRECIOUS WORDS CONTEST RESULTS
So now that you have your brownie and maybe a cup of hot chocolate, it’s time to announce…the winners of the #50 Precious Words Contest. I just want to say how amazing all of your stories were. I was honored to read and enjoy each one. I met so many new writers…and was happy to see entries from many old friends as well. Congratulations to all who participated…there were a total of 128 beautiful stories. You were on fire…some of you wrote several, just for the challenge and the fun of it. And that, my dear friends, is what this whole crazy journey is about!
I’m using some of the parameters I learned from all of the fabulous writing contests the lovely Susanna Hill has held. I take my hat off to her…and to every editor and agent who has to turn away a really good manuscript. Believe me, you guys did a FABULOUS job. Each story had something that made me want to keep it in the running, but in the end, I did have to make some decisions that I admit, are entirely subjective. So if you don’t see one of your favorites among the finalists, I apologize. THIS WAS TOUGH! I wanted to give out 128 prizes! These were the rules:
- Kept to the Word Count: For this contest – 50 words or less.
- Kid-friendly for kids 12 years old or younger.
- A story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- A well-written story that engages the reader.
- I added another requirement: a story that I enjoyed reading out loud over and over again.
The prizes will be awarded as follows…first place winner gets to choose first. It’s possible the first place winner already has an agent and has already taken Kristen’s class and might pick one of the books…you never know. Then second place picks next from the prizes that are left. And so on. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or PM me on Facebook if we are connected. I will then get in touch with each of the winners in turn to tell you what prizes remain.
Here are the prizes:
- A seat in Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archaeology Class…many thanks to Kristen for this generous prize!
- A critique of a manuscript by my fabulous agent, Essie White…many thanks to Essie…someone is going to be thrilled!
- A mini-critique from yours truly…picture book manuscript preferred, either rhyming or prose, fiction or nonfiction.
- A copy of Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough.
- A copy of The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin.
- A copy of Kissed by an Angel Anthology (11 middle grade stories edited by Robyn Campbell – one of my stories is in there).
- A copy of Lucky Draw Anthology (50 middle grade stories edited by Sally Odgers – one of my stories is in there).
- A copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking by Vivian Kirkfield.
- The Book Lover’s Journal – A Personal Reading Record to keep track of the books you read.
- Copy of Llama Llama Wakey-Wake by Anna Dewdney (board book).
- Copy of Get Crafty: Special Occasions by Vivienne Bolton (full color hardback – great crafts for various holidays).
- Mini book: Qi Gong – The Energy of Harmony and Healing.
- Mini book: The Embrace – A Treasury of Romance in Word and Image.
- Mini book: Love One Another – words and illustrations by Joan Walsh Anglund.
- Mini book: Silver Palate Desserts.
And now…DRUM ROLL PLEASE:
In FIRST PLACE: Little Tiger by Julie Abery
In SECOND PLACE: Stay or Go by Shari Schwarz
In THIRD PLACE: Catch a Bird by Maria Marshall
In FOURTH PLACE: I Did It! by Cathy Stenquist
In FIFTH PLACE: Anything But Broccoli by Jodi McKay
In SIXTH PLACE: Toes by Janet Smart
In SEVENTH PLACE: Kitchen Drawer Drama by Katelyn Aronson
In EIGHTH PLACE: Cat’s Revenge by Jean James
In NINTH PLACE: Rainbow Treasure by Sara Gentry
In TENTH PLACE: Honu Waits by Stephanie Shaw
In ELEVENTH PLACE: The Masterpiece by Shelley Kinder
In TWELFTH PLACE: Run Chippie Run by Debbie Vidovich
In THIRTEENTH PLACE: Doggie Delight by Janie Reinart
In FOURTEENTH PLACE: Bear’s First Spring by Jess Townes
In FIFTEENTH PLACE: A Ride in the Car by Lauri Fortino
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!!!
I hope this contest was as much fun for all of you as it was for me. I am absolutely positively without a doubt going to make this an annual event here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar. You all made my first real contest a BIG success…I couldn’t have done it without all of you, blogging about it, tweeting about it, posting it on Facebook…and entering your wonderful stories. THANK YOU!
Here is the link to the post with all of the contest entries: https://viviankirkfield.com/2016/03/04/ppbf-brave-girl-plus-50-precious-words-contest/
Have a wonderful weekend!
I looked at the calendar and realized that we are just about at the end of the month. Didn’t I promise a couple of giveaways would happen then?
You bet I did! I hope you all love jam…because this is going to be a jam-packed post. First I want to congratulate the winners of Susanna Hill’s First Annual Almost World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest. Did you vote? It was pretty hard to decide…I hope all of those wonderful writers will take their stories and turn them into picture books. Writing contests are a great way to exercise your writing muscle.
Talking about writing muscle, both of the books we are giving away are full of writing muscle…Dianna Aston’s An Egg is Quiet and Doris Burn’s Andrew Henry’s Meadow. Both are classics and are books that can be read over and over again…for the text, for the illustrations, for the messages that will constantly be uncovered each time you turn the pages.
We’ll get to announcing the winners shortly, but first we should talk about our Perfect Picture Book Friday pick. One of the really neat things about being in this kidlit community is that I get to connect with lots of writers. And those writers write books. And those books get published! How cool is it to hold a book in your hands that was written by a friend? Totally cool!
The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game
Written by Nancy Churnin
Illustrated by Jez Tuya Read the rest of this entry →