Author Julia Cook Shares Creative Process with CG Elementary

Cook introduces her dogs, Jake and Angus, to CG second grader Paige Brooks

Children’s author Julia Cook spoke to all students at Clarion-Goldfield Elementary School during her visit April 22, with special encouragement for “kids who are verbs” – the active kind.

As a kid herself, Cook didn’t like to read –she once invented stories to make book reports on rather than review published literature. She is presently the author of 63 children’s books, with eight more coming. Most run 32 pages and are written in the voice of children or objects, often offering gently instructional advice on difficult topics like tattling, bullying, cliques, and divorce.

“I write to get better,” she noted of her prolific output. “If I write a book that’s not as good as the ones I’ve written, then it’s time to stop.”

“I have 20 of her books,” said Sarah Kakacek, CG elementary school guidance counselor. “When she was a guidance counselor herself, she was looking for resources that weren’t there. A lot of her books bring up those issues in a non-threatening way. Kids are hooked on them.”

Cook was invited to CG Elementary after Kakacek and several parents in the Teacher and Parents group (TAP) heard her speak at education conferences. TAP raised funds to support Cook’s visit from its own members, First State Bank, Town & Country Insurance, and the CG school district. A Wright County Charitable Foundation grant gave the group $1,000 to purchase her books.

The author met with elementary school students throughout the day and their parents in the evening. In the morning, she read her poetic text in rapid-fire delivery. In the afternoon, she discussed the writing process with the young readers.

“Love and acceptance for some / until it’s for all, our work’s not done” she read to the students from her work-in-progress, “I’m Your Flag, Please Treat Me Right.”

Discussing the creative process, Cook said she chose the topic because she thought the flag was an important topic and fit with her writing style, noting she had encouraged proper treatment of a much less glamorous topic in her first book, “I’m a Booger, Treat Me with Respect.”  She told of changing a line about not flying the flag upside down because an upside-down flag is used to signify distress, a fact which she discovered during her “lengthy research period.” The books themselves take “a couple of days to write” and a few minutes to read. When publishing with Scholastic, a book typically takes three years from idea to shelf.

Cook also noted that she insists on reading her text to potential illustrations before they read it themselves.  “I don’t want anybody reading my stories [to my illustrator] except me,” she said, encouraging kids to take authorial ownership. “You know how your characters sound and don’t sound – they’re your characters.”

Read more in the May 1 issue of the Wright County Monitor!