the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Erin Hagar and JULIA CHILD: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures!

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, May 22, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

Today we welcome Erin Hagar, debut author and VCFA alum extraorinaire, to the Launchpad.


Julia Child knew how to have fun, and she also knew how to whip up a delightful meal. After traveling around the world working for the U.S. government, Julia found her calling in the kitchen and devoted her life to learning, perfecting, and sharing the art of French cuisine. This delicious, illustrated middle-grade biography is a portrait of the remarkable woman, author, and TV personality who captured our hearts with her sparkling personality. “Bon appétit!”


First, let me tell you, Erin, I'm a complete nut about Julia Child- I even have a daughter named Julia. I can't think of a more deserving subject for a biography for kids. What was the spark that ignited this book?

The publisher had the great idea to adapt the visual format of Brian Selznick's amazing The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007) to a biography, depicting major moments in the subject's life in visual sequences. It's an amazing concept. We brainstormed possible subjects, and I suggested Gordon Ramsay because my family love Master Chef, Jr. After discussing it a bit, we thought, "Why not the television cook who started it all?" Voila--Julia it was!


What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

Most of the cuts my editor suggested I don't even remember, which tells you how necessary those cuts were. One exception, though, is this fantastic, long, convoluted story about how Julia actually flunked her final exam at Le Cordon Bleu. There's an evil villain, the director of the school named Madame Brassart, who resented Julia and didn't want her to enroll in the first place. But, word count got the best of us and it had to go. It'll make a good story for school visits, I think.


Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does your son or mom read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?

I can't write to music, but I love writing to white noise. The train track sound in the writing program Omm Writer is very relaxing, and I have a couple of apps that have different types of white noise. I've heard people talk about writing to film scores, and I think that could work for me, with the right project. 

I do share manuscripts back and forth with a few members of my graduating class, The Keepers of the Dancing Stars. Their feedback and support is something I wouldn't change for anything.


What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

I think you can plan your approach to your four semesters in a couple of ways. One I call the "main dish" approach, in which you work primarily on one project all four semesters. The other I call the "buffet" approach, where you try lots of different things, some of which might be out of your comfort zone. I was a "buffet" student, and really grew as a writer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but I'd advise being intentional about what you select.


What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

Soon into my first residency, I was already worried about the experience ending.  "What happens when I leave and lose all of this fantastic support?" (I'm a very good worrier about lots of things.) Well, I wish I'd known that the experience just changes after graduation, it doesn't end. And the community has your back, always. 


So true! Once a VCFA'er always a VCFA'er!

Erin's delicious new book, Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures, was published by Duopress and is available in bookstores everywhere. You can find out more about Erin and her book at

Topics: Creative nonfiction, 2015 release, Erin Hagar, Duopress

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