NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY 3 – Meet Children’s Book Author Gwendolyn Hooks!

Beethoven wants you to write! Now!
Beethoven wants you to write! Now!

Welcome to DAY 3 of NAPIBOWRIWEE! How’s everyone doing? I have to say how impressed I am by everyone’s comments. I finally caught up on reading everyone’s posts. I was very moved by your enthusiasm, progress reports, and by some very lovely and personal anecdotes. A writer wrote about how the recent passing of her father inspired her to write 7 picture books in 7 days about his life to preserve his legacy. Another writer said her husband had tears in his eyes when she read him her completed Book #1. And one of you referred to the NAPIBOWRIWEE event as “crowdsourcing inspiration.” I LOVE that phrase! Thank you everyone, for your wonderful contributions. YOU inspire ME! 🙂

I had an easier day today so I was able to write Book #2. Since music is my theme and I am a professional freelance violinist, I decided to write an orchestra book. BUT… I know there are many famous orchestra picture books already out there, including such classics as MEET THE ORCHESTRA by Ann Hayes & illustrated by Karmen Thompson and THE PHILHARMONIC GETS DRESSED by Karla Kuskin & illustrated by Marc Simont. So I had to ask myself – what is a unique way to write about the orchestra that is different in theme and setting and character than these famous books? Because the same story often gets told from different viewpoints, what could make MY draft different? So that helped me figure out a unique perspective of the orchestra that I thought was a fun and solid idea. I was very happy with it.

Hence my Writing Tip: When you have an idea for a book, google the topic and see if other books are already published on it. If so, ask yourself if your angle on this topic is unique, different and necessary for people to read. If the answers are yes – go for it! Don’t let the fact that there’s already a published book out there with your same story or subject prevent you from writing YOUR VERSION. You never know!

As for the top photo of my other cat BEETHOVEN – that is sometimes how I write. I like to write standing up at my bookshelf, just like Hemingway did at his bookshelf. I do this for health… we writers can be too sedentary and it’s bad for our health. Just check out this article from the Washington Post on the Health Hazards of Sitting:

So here is what I try to do sometimes when I write…

Me trying to be like Hemingway! LOL!
Me trying to be like Hemingway! LOL!

I suggest everyone try writing AND standing today on Day 3. Please make sure your standing station is ergonomically correct (no hunching, no bent wrists)! Let’s stand while writing for our health! 🙂

Speaking of health… that fits in with the theme of the latest book by our Day 3 guest author GWENDOLYN HOOKS! She has graciously donated an autographed copy of her new book TINY STITCHES – THE LIFE OF MEDICAL PIONEER VIVIEN THOMAS by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Bootman (Lee & Low Books 2016) for our NAPIBOWRIWEE participants. I am collecting everyone’s names in the COMMENTS section each day and will choose a winner based on a random prize drawing! Please visit my blog on May 8, 2016 (9:00 AM EST/6 AM PST) to see who won her book!

So let’s meet the wonderful Gwendolyn Hooks for today’s inspiration! 🙂 BTW… today is also Gwendolyn’s BIRTHDAY! What a perfect way for her to celebrate with all of us! Let’s give her a big NAPIBOWRIWEE HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! 🙂

G Hooks Head Shot


Gwendolyn Hooks writes early readers and fiction and nonfiction chapter books. Her latest book Tiny Stitches – The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas (Lee & Low 2016) is a picture book biography illustrated by Colin Bootman. Her Leona Mitchell – Opera Star (Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing/Program of Oklahoma Hall of Fame 2015) is part of the I AM OKLAHOMA series.

Gwendolyn’s fiction books feature pets and friends, the two things everyone needs. Gwendolyn’s eight book Pet Club Stories (Stone Arch Books/Capstone 2011) combines both.

Constantly stretching her writing skills, she wrote three nonfiction science books about food webs. She has been awarded the Mom’s Choice Award for Bobbie’s Big Bear Hunt (Red Chair Press) and the SORMAG 2012 Reader’s Choice Award. She blogs on The Brown Bookshelf, an American Library Association Great Website for Kids. Gwendolyn also writes for Lee & Low’s Confetti Kids book series and has two upcoming books, Block Party and Music Time (2017) illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez.


TINY STITCHES – THE LIFE OF MEDICAL PIONEER VIVIEN THOMAS by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Bootman (Lee & Low Books 2016)

Vivien Thomas dreamed of attending college and studying medicine. But he lost his college savings in the stock market crash of 1929. Instead of college, he found a job at Vanderbilt University Medical School working as a laboratory assistant under Dr. Alfred Blalock. When Dr. Blalock transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Vivien moved with him. Vivien learned surgical techniques and used them to develop a procedure to help children born with the heart defect, tetralogy of Fallot or blue babies. His procedure was used successfully in 1944. Vivien was not acknowledged for his work until decades later. Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine—children’s heart surgery. This book is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.

EDITED ON MAY 5, 2016 TO ADD: Our Gwendolyn Hooks’ book TINY STITCHES just got a STARRED BOOK REVIEW from Booklist! Woo hoo! For more details, go here:


Q: Tell us about your first published book – what inspired the idea? 

A: My first published book was a pre-emergent reader—eight pages and 34 words. I thought about my children when I wrote Can I Have A Pet? (Lee & Low 2002). My kids were always asking for a horse. We were not getting a horse. But when one asked for a cat, I said yes. In the book, a little girl and her mother visit the zoo and the girl asks for every animal they see like lions and tigers. Of course, her mother says no. But like my kids, she learns that if she asks for just the right pet her mother may change her mind. When I received my author copies, my son flipped through it and said, “I don’t think this is a book. It hardly has any words on the page. I think it’s a poem.” I like to remind him that my poem-book is still in print.

Q: Where is the best place for you to write your books?

A: I have an office in my home and I write there, but sometimes, especially when I’m stuck, I will visit one of my favorite coffee shops to write. I think the different environment, people, coffee and food fuels my creative spirit.

Q: If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

A: Before I began writing, I was a middle school math teacher. I love teaching and now I teach a writing class in a senior center. Sometimes I teach in after school programs and at writer workshops. So if I wasn’t actively writing, I would be teaching.

Q: If you could give one piece of writing advice for our NaPiBoWriWee participants, what would it be?

A: My advice is learn your craft and never give up. Once I read that to be a successful writer you need two things. One is craft and the other is persistence. I figured persistence is easy, you just don’t give up. I could do that. Craft was something I had to learn. So I focused on learning how to write. I still take classes and attend conferences as often as I can.

Q: There’s been a growing demand for more diversity in children’s book publishing. What are your thoughts on that, if any?

A: At a recent school visit, a girl told her teacher, “I saw the author and she looks like me.”  While that is heartwarming, I wish she could expect the author to look like her. It’s depressing to read the statistics showing the tiny number of books written by diverse authors. That’s one reason my group blog, The Brown Bookshelf, was created. We highlight new African American authors and/or illustrators and celebrate the work of those who have come before us.

Q: There’s been increasing pressure for writers to be active on social media. Are you on social media? If so, where can your readers reach you? Has social media helped your writing journey and career? Any advice for writers who might feel overwhelmed by the social media “burden”?

A: I am terrible about social media. Every month I tell myself that I will post something every day. I don’t. But I am good at sharing other people’s good news. Someone needs to give me advice on how to handle social media. I admire my friends who seem to do it effortlessly.

Twitter: @Gwenthegweat




Thanks again, Gwendolyn, for being a part of our 2016 NAPIBOWRIWEE! I am part of your Team Craft & Persistence! She’s right – you can NEVER stop taking enough writing classes/studying writing books etc. I still take classes and read new books on writing craft issues because we are always learning and growing as writers.


Good luck to our participants – I wonder who will be the lucky winner of Gwendolyn’s book? (BTW I have put all your names from the comments into a hat for the drawing, and those of you who also are available for the writing class drawing have been including in that other hat, too. I can’t comment individually on everyone’s comments due to my schedule, but I am keeping track of everyone, rest assured!)

So today, remember to STAND AND WRITE for your health. Please make sure your standing station is ergonomically correct (no hunching, no bent wrists!)

A reminder: Our Day 4 blog posts on Wednesday May 4, 2016 at 9 AM EST/6 AM PST. It will feature an interview with guest author/artist SYLVIA LIU as part of her book blog tour (for more info, go here:

Until tomorrow, as always… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂


  1. Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! My family loves “Can I have a Pet?” – and your exchange with your son is priceless! Thanks for your advice to be persistent and to learn your craft. Will do!

  2. Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! Thank you for the gift of Vivien Thomas–someone who deserves to be known and added to the list of people whose accomplishments we celebrate! I will put the book in my shopping basket today!

    • Hi Glenda,
      I agree with you about Vivien Thomas. I hope everyone else does too. His story is so amazing. I try to remember him when I tackle something that’s not resonating with me. He didn’t give up and I won’t either.

  3. Lovely interview and post! It’s fascinating to learn from authors. Thanks for putting this week together for us!

    • Hi Angie,

      Thanks for the birthday wishes. I spent the day with a long, long time friend in Kansas City. We had a wonderful time. Since I was there for a conference, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up and eat cake!

      And I agree, Paula Yoo does an amazing job. I’m so happy she asked me to be a part of it.

  4. I already admired you Gwendolyn – but now knowing you were a middle school math teacher means now I have BIG time respect! 😉 And I love your “gweat” Twitter handle too. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

    • One of my friends/writer-friend called me Gwen the Gweat and I loved it. I never had a nickname before. So I made good use of it. I love sharing because that’s how we all learn. I had so many writers help me by sharing their expertise, that it’s only natural to give back.

  5. Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! I love what your son said about I Want a Pet!

    Being persistent is the name of the game… you begin by taking baby steps and putting one foot in front of the other. I believe it was Confucius who said, It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

  6. Thanks Gwendolyn. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one that is terrible with social media. Thanks for the reminder to be persistent – I’m going to need persistence for the rest of the week!

    • You are welcome, Nancy. I have seen manuscripts that were beautifully written, but after a few rejections, they hid it away in a drawer. I don’t paper my walls with rejections, but I could. Keep moving ahead!

  7. Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn! I’m glad that you shared the great accomplishments of Vivien Thomas. What a wonderful example of overcoming obstacles to reach one’s goal and doing good for humanity.

    • I took a quick peek at your blog. I’ll start following it as soon as I figure out how. We share similar tastes in great books! I hope you enjoy Vivien’s story.

  8. Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn. Thank you for your thought-provoking, informative interview. Craft + Persistence -Thank you for reminding us of this incredibly important combination! I can’t wait to read TINY STITCHES and your other wonderful books for that matter.

    On another note: I created a standing desk for myself in January using lots of reams of paper. I love it. Of course, I have to buy paper more frequently so that I don’t take away any of the reams from my set-up, but that is a small price to pay for a happier back. 🙂

    Happy writing!

  9. Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! I’m so excited to check out your books. Napibowriwee has been an amazing space to draw inspiration and “meet” new books :-). Thank you ,and Paula, for sharing!
    Paula–I don’t think I have any surface in my apartment that would allow for standing work . . . :-(. I’ll keep brainstorming. I admire you for finding such spaces in your home, and encouraging us to do the same.

    • I also admire Paula for finding space in her home. One of my goals is to become more organized. I would have tons of space if only I would organize my life and home. Thank you Caroline for checking out my books. I’m really proud of my latest Tiny Stitches!

  10. Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! I’m new to the group – great first post for me to read. Persistence is my middle name… I completed medical school in 1999 but ended up unable to practice due to a 7-year illness that almost cost me my life. I’ve put medicine in my past and am now pursuing my lifelong dream of writing children’s books. 🙂 Paula, I’ve considered changing my writing station to a standing one for a while now… just need to find a way to make it ergonomically feasible. Thank you both for the advice!

  11. Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! I agree that craft and persistence are key. I recently decided to go “all in” with my writing instead of just dabbling. That sense of commitment feels powerful. I look forward to reading TINY STITCHES.

  12. Happy Birthday Gwendolyn:)

    It has great meaning for me that such an accomplished writer still workers to improve her writing. Craft and persistence!!

    Yesterday, I met someone after I finished writing for the day. I said, “I am finished with my #2”. I didn’t realize what I had said. I only meant my rough draft. Well, everyone in ear shot—–and they were all card carrying adults— laughed or snickered. My friend thought it was hysterical. I think there is a children’s book in there somewhere.

    All of you have a good and safe day.


  13. Happy Birthday Gwendolyn, it’s lovely to hear about your books.
    I’m playing catch-up today so have drafted #2 and now challenged to stand up and write #3 before the day is out. Looks like my write-station will be the baby changing table…. maybe that should be inspiration for the story!

    • I hope the baby is past the baby changing stage. But you’re probably one of those who can change a diaper with one hand and type a complete award winning PB with the other. I admire you! Thank you for the birthday wishes.

  14. May you have a fabulous Birthday Gwendolyn! A few of your books are on my #mustread list. 🙂 Your book, ‘CAN I HAVE A PET?’ is one of my mentor texts for a PB I am writing.

    To help you with your social media prowess, check out Chuck Sambuchino’s ‘Create Your Writer Platform’ book. It helped me immensely as I started mine using social media.

    Keep the books coming!

    Traci Bold
    #justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting

    • Thank you for the tip, Traci. I will order Chuck’s book tomorrow, because I feel more than overwhelmed. I use mentor texts all the time. I hope mine is useful.

  15. Happy birthday Gwendolyn. I come from a family of surgeons and can’t wait to share your incredible book TINY STITCHES with them.

    • Hi Chana,

      I’d love to hear their feedback. I lucked up and found a heart surgeon, Dr. Elkins in OKC (where I live) who worked with Vivien as a surgical resident. He was able to give me insight into Vivien’s personality. Also, once I watched a video featuring another surgeon, Dr. Burkhart from the Mayo Clinic who explained tetralogy of Fallot. A few years later, he became director of the children’s heart department at a hospital in OKC. He was so gracious about answering my questions.

      I was very lucky!

  16. Happy, HAPPY Birthday, Gwendolyn! Thanks so much for your words of wisdom AND inspiration! Great stuff! I did get one draft done yesterday (my first) and plan to work on another shortly. This really is motivating!

  17. A very happy birthday to Gwendolyn! Funny enough, persistence/patience is what I lack. I have been learning the craft since 1990, so that’s not the issue for me. 🙂

    I have a standing desk! I always stand to write, actually. 🙂 You are tons cuter than Hemingway, Paula! 😀 XO

  18. Arin Wensley
    Happy Birthday Gwendolyn! Thank you for the wonderful writing advice; it really resonates with me. Thank you!

  19. I can’t wait to read this book!!
    I’ve been involved with heart kids and their families for many years now.

    Thanks so much for this blog post!


  20. Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn! Thank you so much for sharing your insight! I will be following you on Twitter effective immediately! Thank you also for mentioning The Brown Bookshelf, sounds like a brilliant blog. I will definitely check it out.

    Paula, you totally nailed writing like Hemingway!!!

  21. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Gwendolyn. I’m looking forward to reading your book, TINY STITCHES. It sounds like a wonderful story. Happy birthday!

  22. Happy Birthday Gwendolyn! Sometimes I “write” in my head while driving my kids to practice. It is amazing how a little location variance can help move the story forward.

  23. Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn! Thanks for reminding us not to give up!
    Persistence is key.

    Thanks, Paula for the reminder to stand up.
    Butt-in-chair is good but standing is better!

    I wrote my third first draft today so for now I’m right on time (so tempted to spell it “write” on time but I’ll spare you my corny puns!). Tomorrow I’m off from my day job so I’ll have more time (for research) so I just may attempt a non-fiction subject I’ve been wanting to play with.

  24. I can’t wait to read your book TINY STITCHES. Vivien’s story is so inspiring-talk about perseverance! I’m so glad children will get to learn about him through your book.

  25. Happy Birthday Gwendolyn Hooks! I love your inspirational words!Knowing our Craft is so viatl i agree with you and i think we do need constant update and reminders to go on with our writing adventures! Greetings to you from Greece!! Xronia Polla!

  26. Happy Birthday Gwendolyn Hooks! I love your inspirational words!Knowing our Craft is so vital i agree with you and i think we do need constant update and reminders to go on with our writing adventures! Greetings to you from Greece!! Xronia Polla!

    • Greece! The internet is amazing. Greetings to you from Oklahoma City in the heartland of the USA. I wonder how easy or hard it will be to get a copy of TINY STITCHES?

  27. Happy Birthday Gwendolyn! Thanks for your writerly advice. I’m looking forward to reading your book. I love stories like that. And thank you Paula for suggesting a standing desk. I’ll try that tomorrow.

  28. Paula: I LOVE your idea to write while standing — and I especially love the picture of you ATTEMPTING to do so! GREAT advice! I heard the AMAZING children’s author, Richard Peck, say that while he writes dialogue, he walks around his office. He says that speaking is active, and to write it, you must be in motion. And, you’re right — we writers sit too much. I am intrigued by the newer treadmill “desks”; they might be something to look into.

    HAPPY B-DAY, Gwendolyn! Thanks for spending it with us. I appreciate your advice and wisdom about continuing to hone our craft. That is one of the GREATEST things about writing: you never stop learning new techniques and skills, and you can ALWAYS become better. THANK YOU!

    As to my day: I woke up early (unusual for this certified night owl since birth!), and wrote a WHOLE manuscript! It was SO FREEING to get those words in my heart down on paper — to ACTUALLY see them there in black and white, to know they exist somewhere besides my head. I sent it to my sister, my friend in England, and my 14 year-old niece, and have already received a WONDERFUL response, feedback, and support. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHARE YOUR WRITING with a friend. The response and feedback are SO HELPFUL! And if you have young people in your life, their feedback is especially important since they are our main audience.

    THANK YOU for the space to contribute and comment. SORRY for my verbose nature!


  29. Draft 3 is done. It’s so bad, it’s good 🙂 Thank you, Gwendolyn, for reminding us that Craft & Persistence are the sisters of success!

  30. It seems to me the very best picture books are perfect poems … that will be my new aspirational standard for excellence. Happy birthday, and thanks for an inspiring post.

  31. Happy birthday, may all your writing wishes come true! Thank you for your inspirational comments! Happy writing!

  32. So sorry I wrote my 3rd 1st draft before I read the advice for the day. I will have to try #TheHemmingway tomorrow. I also find the social media dragon to be my nemesis. But I will direct my tenacity toward learning that aspect of our craft in the coming year. Thank you.

    • Hi, Seth, you can write books whenever! 🙂 Sorry, I meant to say that you can write Book 1 on Day 1, Book 2 on Day 2, etc. But if real life and schedule conflicts get in the way, you can play “catch up” on any day (or if you know you can’t write Book 4 on Day 4 and write it on Day 3, you’re fine)! LOL It gets confusing. Bottom line – try to get 7 books done by Day 7 on your schedule. And if you can only get one book done this week, or 7 words in 7 days, I’m still happy that everyone at least TRIED. 🙂 Happy Writing! PS. Oh I just realized you meant writing STANDING UP. LOL. Misunderstood. But yes, you can write standing up tomorrow then. LOL. Glad you are doing well. 🙂

  33. Love these daily posts! Keeps me going. I’m close on my third. I find that the best time for me to write is in the morning or at lunch when my energy level is at its highest. I too agree that standing up helps too!

  34. I really enjoyed this post for a number of reasons. First off, you answered a question I had earlier today on researching books – so thank you! Oh and by the way, LOVE Beethoven. 😀

    This was a lovely blog post and Happy birthday, Gwendolyn! Thank you for sharing a part of yourself, who you are and your journey with us. Inspiring! Best wishes in all you do.

    Happy day #3, everyone! 🙂

  35. Thank you so much for the encouragement and such a simple formula of success! So far I know I can be persistent! Draft #3 may be a close one – the day is ending soon!

  36. Thanks for the inspiration, Gwendolyn–and Happy Birthday! I’m going to check out your books after this crazy week is over 🙂 I didn’t try to write standing up today (not sure I could do that. Alas, another way that I am not like Hemingway! Standing would probably prevent me from falling asleep mid-draft, however.). But the good news is that Draft #3 came a heck of a lot easier than yesterday’s ms. It is another story is a beginning NF math series that I am working on–so I had a basic framework. We’ll see what happens tomorrow!

  37. So grateful for you, Paula! Your kindness and generosity in creating and managing this group inspires me. A big “thank you” and birthday blessings to Gwendolyn for taking the time to share with us.

    Done with draft #3. So far, I am struggling to feel inspired. However, I press on… pen to paper, pen to paper… capturing any story that is able to eke out.

    Paula, I don’t think I have mentioned it, but I would also like to be included in the drawing for Jodell’s writing course.

  38. Everything about today’s blog was awesome! First off, LOL, Paula: “Distraction,” “Procrastinator”!! Second, Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn!
    How coincidental that while writing my story #3, much due to my cat, Luna, trying to sit on me and putting my legs to sleep, I not only stood, but I paced my kitchen, smartphone in-hand! Then, I come here & read your encouragement to stand!
    Today’s draft felt like I didn’t even know where it came from, and I was surprised how it seemed to sequence itself out. I hope I still love it when next I read it.

  39. Thanks for sharing, Gwendolyn and Paula!
    I wrote my draft in the car today, on my phone. (A first for me to write an entire draft on my phone!) And man, was it ever a crappy draft! But it’s done. And now I can rewrite a better one later!

  40. Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn!!! Thank you for the inspiration on on-going learning with persistence.
    Paula, I will have to try writing standing tomorrow.

  41. Great interview. Thanks for sharing, Gwendolyn and Paula. I’m with you on Team Craft & Persistence!

  42. Happy Belated birthday! I am a day behind – I work for the American Heart Sssociation and was being certified in COR and First Aid yesterday. I must read your new book!! Thank you!

  43. Standing and writing! So timely, this post, because I was finishing #3 and my bottom was hurting from sitting. I often get up and stretch and sit back down. When I write for a while I get stiff. I will stand and write today for #4! I didn’t know Hemmingway did this.

  44. I was sure I replied yesterday but it seems not…
    Thank you Gwendoyln — for both your post and for your work on The Brown Bookshelf: it is an incredible resource.
    Hope you had a great (birth)day yesterday.

  45. Gwendolyn, hope you had a great birthday. I too shudder at social media and happily share other’s good news. Maybe a ripe topic for a master class or intensive at a conference some day. I can’t wait to read TINY STITCHES. Thanks for your encouragement.

  46. A belated Happy Birthday! I hope it was a great day. Thank you for the reminder to persist and keep learning.
    I love learning about all the “hidden, behind the scenes” people that help the famous ones. Vivien didn’t let the Depression get him down. He pursued his dream a different way and we’re the better for it. I cannot wait to get it.

  47. Happy belated birthday, Gwendolyn! Thanks for this inspiring interview.

    I love your advice, Paula! It’s hard to imagine being a writer without Google. It’s such a great resource. I can’t wait to hear more about your orchestra book!

    I had tried writing on a stationary bike that came with a foam piece on top that could be used as a desk, but it was too uncomfortable and the words wouldn’t flow. I’m spoiled by a large monitor and wireless keyboard hooked up to my laptop (which actually sits under my desk). It’s hard to relocate everything. I do try to stand up and walk around a bit every once in a while, but sometimes I lose track of time and can barely feel my feet by the time I stand up.