Waffles With Writers: Robin Newman (And A Giveaway!)


Welcome to the fifth installment of my bloggy interview show, Waffles with Writers, where I chat with a working writer over a nice, waffle-centric meal.

Today’s guest is the lovely and talented Robin Newman. Her first book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake (featuring intrepid mouse detectives Wilcox and Griswold) hit shelves last year to rave reviews and brisk sales. Her new (and similarly lauded) book, Hilde Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, is out now.

Robin also, apparently, likes hats.

Robin incognitoHi, Robin! Come on in. I just finished making breakfast. What do you like on your waffles?

Aside from the kitchen sink, Nutella. Everything is better with Nutella — pasta, pizza, artichokes, etc. you name it. At one point, I believe it was even being marketed as a breakfast health food. So one can eat Nutella guilt free!

Fine. Just stop saying Nutella. Also you can take off your comical hat now.

I don’t know what your issue is – among many, many other issues, I might add – with hats. I think it’s important to be one with you characters. Don’t you feel that way? I have photographic evidence that you do…

Sarah Josepha Hale
Sarah Josepha Hale
Michael Josepha Hale
Michael Josepha Hale


Where did you –

Listen, what I wear in the privacy of my home is none of your business!

Let’s get started. In addition to being a prolific children’s book writer, you’re also a lawyer. Which fictional movie lawyer would you consider to be your soulmate?

What an interesting question! It would be the feisty, bulldog of an attorney, Amanda Bonner, hands down. In the movie, Adam’s Rib, Katherine Hepburn (Amanda Bonner) and Spencer Tracy (Adam Bonner) play a happily married couple, who end up as opposing counsel in a highly controversial case. My husband is also  an attorney, and I could see the two of us on opposite sides of a case — which I would, of course, win.

Wilcox and Griswold are modeled after the greatest TV cops of all time: Dragnet’s Joe Friday and Frank Smith. What drew you to these characters as a source of inspiration?

Carrot cakeWhile I was writing Wilcox and Griswold, my critique group kept telling me that my characters needed to be more detective-y. They needed that deadpan monologue of “give me the facts and just the facts.” As a result, I spent a lot of time watching cop shows—not just Dragnet, although as you can tell, I am a huge fan of the show.

Which TV cop would be the worst inspiration for a children’s book?

I guess it would be the bumbling, corrupt Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Part of the reason I like Wilcox and Griswold is because I’m a big fan of rodents. Your dog, on the other hand, is not. Do you plan to send her to obedience school so you can get a few mice as pets?

doggieI think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding. My darling, Madeleine, doesn’t hate mice. Au contraire mon frère, she loves them to death! Nothing would make her happier than playing with a mouse, squirrel, or rabbit. But for some odd reason, they don’t seem to stick around when she’s in the neighborhood. Perhaps it’s the rodents who could benefit from a class on etiquette.

I beg your pardon! Rodents have perfect etiquette. Even Pizza Rat took dainty little bites.

Your new book, Hilde Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, is about a young witch who is forced to cope with a bunch of noisy fairy tale neighbors. Which fairy tale characters would you want to live next door to?

This is an easy one. I’ve been a bit obsessed with the big bad wolf and the three little pigs for as long as I can remember. I would love to have them as neighbors. We could grab cappuccinos and discuss how I could incorporate them into one of my stories. We could do a spin class together at the gym. Hey, I wonder if they do babysitting.

HildieCoverFINALAs a children’s book writer, I’m sure you peruse the shelves at Barnes and Noble to see what else is out there. Which picture book dazzled you to the point where you heard yourself say, “I wish I had written that!”

There are many, many books I wish I had written, but if I had to narrow it down to a recent selection, I would have to say, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. Hysterical.

For the past several years, you’ve used your blog to write open letters to Santa Claus. Has he given you what you wanted? What’s still on your Christmas list?

Santa has been very generous with me over the last few years. But like I always say to my husband, there’s room for improvement. This past Christmas I asked Santa for 10 publishing contracts, and he said I was asking for too many. Can you believe that? You don’t think that’s too many, do you?

Not at all.

It’s a nice even number. It’s not like I was greedy and asking for 100 contracts, although that too is a very nice even number. I also always ask him to help my friends find agents, get them publishing contracts, and I do my annual plug for world peace and an end to hunger, poverty, and disease. He seems to be working on all of those items. Maybe I should write him now to beat the end of the year letter rush?

Maybe I should put in a letter to Santa, too. Thanks again for visiting, Robin! Don’t forget your hat.

Mike, thanks for the invite and the reminder about my hat. By the way, does your bonnet come in different colors?

No. Only white. White makes me feel pretty.


Do you want to win a free copy of Hilde Bitterpickes Needs Her Sleep?

Of course you do.

Leave a comment before Monday, February 22, and you’ll be entered in the drawing! The winner will be announced on Tuesday, February 23.

Good luck and get commenting!

Waffles With Writers: Vanessa-Jane Chapman


Welcome to the fourth installment of my interview show, Waffles with Writers, where I chat with a working writer over a nice, waffle-centric meal.

Today’s guest is the lovely Vanessa-Jane Chapman. She loosely calls herself a writer and actress, although she is currently devoting virtually every spare moment of her life on earning a master’s degree in education while working at a university on a project to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Her first brush with writing fame was at nine years old when her poem about autumn was selected for publication in her school magazine. Since then she has been a runner-up in short story, screenwriting, and poetry contests, and has had several magazine articles published. She does a little bit of singing, a little bit of baking, and a little bit of stand-up comedy. She has also set the world on fire with her advice about fudge

Vanessa Pizza
She also likes pizza.

Vanessa! Welcome! You are my very first international brunch guest! You must be exhausted with the jet lag and all. Sit. Eat. What toppings would you like on your waffles?

Ooh, gosh, I don’t know, I’m terrible with food decisions. I always wish I’d picked what the person next to me picked. So you pick what you want, and I’ll have the same. No wait, I’ll have strawberries and whipped cream.

It seems only right that I begin our chat with an international-ish question. What is the most quintessentially English thing about you?

Probably the difficulty I have with complaining in restaurants. These blueberry and ice-cream topped waffles are delicious by the way, just what I asked for.

Good. ‘Cause you’re gonna eat it and like it. Let’s talk writing. You’re a regular contributor to The Canterbury Index and other magazines. What are you working on these days?

Well I was a regular magazine contributor, but other things have overtaken me of late and I haven’t sent them anything for ages. The only things I’m writing at the moment, aside from blog posts, are essays. Oh, there is a poetry competition coming up soon though that I have previously been shortlisted in, so I plan to write and submit something for that, you know, for old times’ sake.

Ah. Well, since this is Waffles With Writers, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. No that’s unfair. Let me finish my coffee; then I’ll show you the door. Tell me a bit about your day job.

I’m part of the central team for a partnership of universities and schools, which works with students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m a communications manager, so I deal with how we communicate across the partnership and beyond (yes, rather like Buzz Lightyear). So that includes maintaining our website and Twitter, writing a fortnightly newsletter, keeping abreast of relevant education news and disseminating appropriately, you know, stuff like that.

That’s fantastic! I also like how your use the word “fortnight.” How Britishy. Tell me a bit about the first time you tried stand-up. What prompted you to give it a try?

I had wanted to try it for a long time, so when my acting agent, who also manages stand-up comedians, offered some of us general actors the opportunity to each have a little five-minute stand-up slot at a comedy evening in a pub, I took it! I did this twice. It was very scary, but really great when everyone laughed a lot. I’m glad I did it, but I don’t really have any desire to do more of it.

On your blog you have spoken out on behalf of vermin such as head lice and seagulls. Have you ever considered expanding on this theme?

All the time, I can think of little else. In fact I’m going to do a post about cilantro.

Cilantro is vermin?

It’s vermin to me I’m afraid. I know that’s controversial, but I don’t mind being controversial in the herb department.

You are also a gifted actress. What was the worst part your have ever had to play?

Well I’ve never really had any horrible parts. However, I spent a few years living in Las Vegas in my late 20s/early 30s, and I was in a few murder mystery dinner theatre shows in casinos. It should have been fun, and doing the performance part was fun, but while the people were eating we had to mingle and interact with them in character, and being the introvert that I am I really struggled with that; having to interrupt people while they’re eating and chat to them. I was very uncomfortable with that. I’m not a good mingler at any time.

Can we expect another film role where you show off your uvula?

If the price is right, sure.

I have to ask this. Once upon a time you took a picture of a softball-sized spider egg sack hanging in your garden shed. It alarmed me to my very core. Did you burn the building down?

No I didn’t, but one day I went in there and the whole web had fallen to the ground, and there was nothing in it. The alien spider creature had vanished. Where it went, nobody knows.

It’s probably in your house, so I’m going to politely decline your invitation to visit. Well, thanks so much for stopping by, Vanessa! Now that you’re in New Jersey, is there any place you would like to visit before you begin your journey home?

Ah yes, could you take me to a few of those well-known New Jersey places that I know all about already without having to quickly search on Google… Hang on a second, OK? I just have to go and do something… OK, I’m back. I would like to visit Cape May please. Also, can we have lunch one of the many diners your state has to offer, I knew already that New Jersey is sometimes referred to as the diner capital of the world (who doesn’t know that right?). Also the Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari with its numerous rides, fun-packed events, and other entertainment options, the Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari stands out as one of the best family-friendly attractions in New Jersey (I knew that already).

Thanks Mike this has been a fun trip! NOW can I have one of your doodles?

No. But you can have another waffle. And the rest of these blueberries. I think they’ve gone bad.