Tag Archives: chapter books

Sweet Treats to Celebrate JASMINE TOGUCHI—Plus A Giveaway!

To celebrate the arrival of the first two volumes of Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI chapter book series, I asked the EMUs to tell me about their earliest kitchen experiences. From batter-covered beaters to Easy Bake ovens, it was a sweet trip down memory lane.

Sarvinder Naberhaus recalls, “I did learn to bake as a child, motivated by (and still motivated by) the objective —  to eat the sweet treats! Cooking was a chore but baking was fun! And who wouldn’t want to use Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook for Boys and Girls with all their fun presentations of food? 

Although I’m torn between sharing our Betty Crocker recipe for Carrot Cake and the cookie dough recipe from childhood, I think I’ll stick with my mentor, Betty.

BETTY CROCKER’S (AND SARVINDER’S) CARROT CAKE

Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350. 

Ingredients:
4 eggs, beaten
2 c flour
2 c sugar
1 1/4 Crisco oil or a bit less
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 c chopped nuts, if desired
2 c grated raw carrots

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, & salt to combine. In a medium bowl, blend together sugar and oil, then add beaten eggs. Stir dry and wet mixtures together gently. Fold in nuts and carrots last.
Bake 350 for 1/2 hour or so until the middle bounces to touch. When cool, adorn with:

Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
Beat all ingredients together thoroughly until whitish and fluffy. Frost cake and serve.

“I started learning how to bake at my mom’s elbow when I was four,” recalls recent EMU Fledgling Andrea Y. Wang. Mom was a nurse-midwife and worked a lot, so baking was my special time with her. My favorite thing to bake was chocolate chip cookies, because…CHOCOLATE, but I also loved making banana bread. It was so easy and mashing up the bananas was really fun—and way easier than pounding mochi rice! I still have the Betty Crocker cookbook that we used when I was little, and you can see all the stains on the banana bread page.
I even wrote the smaller amount of milk needed (only 3/4 cup) right on the recipe, because the mashed bananas added the extra liquid. Now that my mom is gone, using her cookbook and her mixing bowls keeps her close to me.

Katie Slivensky enjoyed annual baking bonanzas as a kid. “My childhood baking was cookie-related. Classic chocolate chip cookies throughout the year, or ALL THE COOKIES
at Christmas-time. My mom would have my sister and I help out with the mixing and measuring (and in the case of Christmas—decorating!) I mostly liked to help because that meant I’d get to eat the extra batter off the beaters. I also took decorating the frosted cookies for the holidays VERY seriously.

Here’s my mom’s Frosted Cookie recipe:

KATIE’S MOM’S CREAM CHEESE COOKIES

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together:

1 cup shortening
3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Then add:
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Roll dough out will lots of additional flour. Dip cookie cutters into flour before cutting so dough won’t stick.
Bake cookies 9-12 minutes or until edges start to get light brown.

Cool completely before decorating with:

Frosting (3 batches of frosting to 2 batches of cookies)
1 1/2 confectioners sugar
2 TBL butter (margarine) softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 TBL warm water

Blend ingredients until smooth. Divide frosting into smaller glass bowls and use food coloring to tint. Have fun! After decorating, allow cookies to rest overnight so frosting sets up.

Jason Gallaher says, “My mom is a marvelous baker, and I remember sitting with her in the kitchen while she made a whole slew of goodies. Turtle brownies, chocolate chip banana bread, and oatmeal butterscotch cookies were my absolute fave. I wish I had a recipe to share with you, but I can’t recall any of the *actual* steps in how to make these treats, because the only steps I ever participated in were Dipping Fingers Inside the Batter, and Licking Serving Spoons Clean. But those are steps that I highly recommend in any recipe!”

POM BROKAW THINKS JASON IS SUPER SWEET! >>>>>>>>>>>

Judging from this adorable picture, Terry Pierce was a baking prodigy. Her fondest early childhood memory was baking cupcakes with her mom. “I loved to help pour, mix and my favorite part, licking the leftover batter. My brother and I had to alternate so that one of us got the bowl and the other got the beaters. When I was around five, I got my first Easy Bake oven. I found it fascinating that a light bulb could bake those small cakes! I loved the coveted chocolate cake mix. The vanilla tasted like cardboard!

I still love to bake. In fact, just this morning, I made a chocolate- cream-filled-ganache birthday cake for my family. Yum!

Christina Uss remembers, “Early baking experiences were all about my mom and me and cookies. Her Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies were, in my opinion, far superior to all others. My best friend Karen and I started asking to cook them on our own when we were eleven, and to make sure we got the perfect results, we followed everything my mom did exactly, down to using the same mixing bowls and measuring spoons. It worked! Why? I figured my mom passed on some sort of cooking magic to us. It took meeting my husband who loves to bake but uses his grandma’s old Sunbeam electric mixer for every recipe to realize the real secret to my mom’s awesome cookies wasn’t specific mixing bowls, measuring spoons, or magic, but creaming the butter and sugar by hand with a wooden spoon. It’s hard work (especially if you forget to leave the butter out to soften until you start mixing everything else, which I always did), but gives the cookies this satisfyingly chewy texture that can’t be beat. So here’s my recipe – with two caveats.

 

My thanks to the EMUs for these scrumptious stories. I think I’ll go bake some cookies now and tuck in with my copy of JASMINE TOGUCHI.


I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. It will be illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Families, Happiness, Launch, middle grade, Middle Grade, series, Uncategorized

Pinch Me

My new puppy, Kiku, is joining in on the celebration!

Today, my debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi launches with the first two books: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. This is the culmination of over 15 years of writing, learning, growing, revising, querying, submitting, and collecting rejections. Having my chapter books published is a dream come true.

I’ve talked about my journey on this blog and elsewhere so I won’t rehash it except to say, for Jasmine, it’s been seven years from the spark of an idea to book release. And it’s been a little over two years since my wonderful editor, Grace Kendall, made the offer to publish Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, not as a stand-alone, but as a series. It’s been a truly wonderful experience working with my editor Grace, my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and the FSG team. I feel so fortunate.

I’ve revised, copyedited, and proofread (with the help of the sharp eyes of professional copyeditors and proofreaders). I’ve reviewed and loved the art. Jasmine Toguchi is part of a Macmillan bookseller campaign called “Got Character?” that features six series. Jasmine is on a poster! The reviews (all good, thankfully) are in. Mochi Queen is a Junior Library Guild fall selection and a pick for Amazon’s Summer Book Club – New Favorite Series for Kids. I’ve been interviewed by some awesome bloggers. I’ve stumbled upon Twitter conversations and Instagram posts about Jasmine. And I’ve held the actual books in my hands. I’m giddy!

So when does it feel real? This still feels like a dream. A very wonderful dream but, still, a dream. I can’t believe that a book I wrote with characters I conceived is really going to find its way into the hands of readers. Perhaps that is when it will feel real – when a child reads my books.

Pre-launch, so much energy and focus is on getting the words and the art just right, on waiting for the reviews to come in, on planning events, on promotion and marketing. All of this is, of course, relevant and important and fun. But during all that, sometimes it’s easy to forget why I wrote the story in the first place, for whom I wrote the story – for a child. When I started my writing career over 15 years ago, I didn’t know about Kirkus or School Library Journal, or the effect of sales numbers or earning out, or how important it was to get parents and educators on board. All I thought about was the child who might pick up my book, read the story, connect to the character, and fall in love. And today, I’m remembering that. I can’t wait for readers to meet Jasmine and, I hope, fall in love with her.

Art copyright Elizabet Vukovic

Maybe that’s when it will feel real. When a child reader says, “I read and loved your book.” That is the review I’m holding my breath for.

In the meantime, I am celebrating this dream come true. I’m pinching myself to make sure this is really happening. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey, who has believed in me, who has talked up my books, and who has helped make Jasmine and her stories come alive. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And extra special thanks to my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, to my amazing editor Grace Kendall, and to my husband B0b and daughter Caitlin!

————————————

Enter to win Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

 

 

38 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Thankfulness

Celebrate….EVERYTHING!

In honor of today, Independence Day, I would like to recommend that you take this opportunity and every opportunity to celebrate your writing/illustrating progress.

imgres

 

I recently had two things to celebrate. First, I found out my release date for the first two books of my chapter book series! JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN (book 1) and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (book 2) will be available from FSG on July 11, 2017. Yes, it’s a long way off, but I’m so excited to have an actual date! Second, I finished a novel and sent it off to my awesome agent. I celebrated both with a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of Prosecco.

It’s easy to focus on the “big prize” — the agent offering representation or an editor offering a contract. But, at least for me, the road to both of those was long and bumpy. If I had waited to celebrate until those two wonderful things happened, I would have spent many many years NOT celebrating. So, instead, I made sure to celebrate any and all accomplishments.

Some things I’ve celebrated:

  1. Sending off queries.
  2. Receiving an encouraging response (request for full, a kind/personal rejection).
  3. Finishing a SFD (shitty first draft).
  4. Applying for/getting accepted into a workshop or retreat.
  5. Coming up with a new story idea.

Ways I’ve celebrated:

  1. Buying a new book/journal/pen.
  2. Taking myself out on an “artist’s date” to a museum, garden, hike.
  3. Going to coffee/tea/lunch with a friend.
  4. Champagne/dessert.
  5. Taking a break – to smell the flowers, walk the dog, watch the birds, sing a song, dance in the kitchen.

Take time to focus on your accomplishments, bask in the joy that you’ve completed something, that you’re moving forward on the road, that you’re following your passion. Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself! I’d love to hear what and how you celebrate.

So, go ahead – celebrate. The road can be long, so you might was well sprinkle some joy along the pathway. You know you have things to celebrate – the new idea, joining a writing group, sending out a query, finishing a chapter. You deserve a treat! Happy Celebrating! And happy 4th of July!

 

10 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations

Here Comes The Pitch!

Today more than ever authors are like small business owners, needing to pitch and sell their products. I can easily talk about someone else’s book, but it’s hard for me to talk about my own. I can share my good news with friends and family, but when it comes to selling my work to strangers, I feel uncomfortable and a little shy.

Mochi Queen and book 2 of the Jasmine Toguchi series will be coming out in May of next year. It kind of feels like it’s too early to start talking about my books, so I haven’t had much practice. A few months ago, at a friend’s book launch I was caught unprepared. The friend introduced me to a family member and told him that I had a children’s book coming out. The family member kindly asked me what my book was about. I froze. Then, I babbled incoherently. Epic fail.

For years I’ve kept a reading list, writing up every book I read with a short synopsis. When I read 75 – 100 books a year, it’s hard to remember what every single book is about, especially after a year or more has passed. I’ve had good practice summarizing a book into a paragraph, but not a lot of practice winnowing book summaries down to a succinct 1 – 2 sentence pitch. So, last year, I made myself write up 1 – 2 sentence pitches of every book I read and I posted them on my reading blog. A couple of examples:

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon – Housebound teen “bubble girl” falls in love with neighbor boy.

Princess Juniper of the Hourglass by Ammi-Joan Paquette – On her 13th nameday, Princess Juniper asks her father for her own (small) kingdom of kids to rule for practice.

This was very good practice. But writing a pitch, even my own, was not too difficult. I am a writer. Talking about my book is so much harder. Plus, just reciting my written pitch to someone felt rehearsed and stiff.

The next step was practicing talking about Mochi Queen to my friends and family. The more I practiced, the more comfortable I became. But, would I be able to talk about my book to a stranger?

The test came sooner than I expected.

A few weeks ago I was at an independent bookstore. A bookseller approached me and asked if she could help me with anything. I told her I was just checking out the new chapter books. She told me she wanted to expand the section and find new and exciting chapter books to add to the shelves. I hesitated. Normally, I would just smile and nod and say nothing. But, it was as if the Universe was giving me an opportunity.

I took a deep breath for courage and told her, somewhat hesitantly, that I had a chapter book series coming out next year. She asked me what it was about. And it rolled right off my tongue – “Mochi Queen is about a third grade Japanese-American girl named Jasmine who lives in Los Angeles. She wants to take part in a Japanese tradition of making mochi.” Pause. “Do you know what mochi is?” She shook her head. “It’s a sweet Japanese dessert. Jasmine not only wants to make mochi with her family, even though she’s too young, but she wants to do the boy job instead of the one reserved for the girls in her family. And there will be three more books about Jasmine.” Whew. Right, not exactly 1 – 2 sentences, but it felt natural, like I was having a conversation, rather than trying to “sell” my work.

The bookseller reacted with enthusiasm. She told me to have my publicist contact the store when the books were closer to coming out and they would love to have an author event and arrange school visits. She was excited about a new chapter book series and said she was on the look-out for more diversity. YAY!

The lesson here? It’s never too early to practice your pitch. Even if you don’t have a book coming out soon, an editor, an agent, a colleague might ask, “What’s your book about?” And won’t you be happy when you’re able to answer? You can do it! Practice makes “perfect”!

——————————————————————————

author

Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books and an upcoming early reader chapter book series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/Oct. 2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under Advice, Promotion