Author Guest Post: “Creativity, Collaboration, and Cookies” by Tracy Badua and Alechia Dow, Author of The Cookie Crumbles


“Creativity, Collaboration, and Cookies”

When you mention group projects, how many of your students groan?

With grades at stake, there’s so much potential for conflict: some people may battle for control, some may disagree about what the overall project should look like, and some might not even complete their assigned tasks. To some students, having to partner up often feels like extra work.

But group projects get a bad rap. Collaboration doesn’t have to mean more conflict or more work: it can be an opportunity to excel together. Learning how to work well in a team proved to be a vital skill when we embarked on our own group project: writing a middle grade murder mystery. In The Cookie Crumbles, two best friends must solve the mystery behind a celebrity judge’s collapse at a kids baking competition.

  • Why did you choose to co-write THE COOKIE CRUMBLES?

Alechia: The Cookie Crumbles, in my mind, was the type of story that would be a blast with dual perspectives and voices. Add that I’ve been friends with Tracy for nearly eight years, and it made the project that much easier to develop together. Tracy and I have similar styles, we have the same work ethic, and we complement each other. Knowing that she will find the things I forget (descriptions are tough), and I’ll think of the things she might’ve missed, means we’re a good team. A lot of communication and establishing an order of operation made collaboration seamless.

  • What do you think you each brought to the process?

Alechia: Food is a huge part of my life and is absolutely in my element. So bringing that to a story that features food heavily meant I could rely on the skills I learned in pastry school––creating fancy desserts, sure, yet also food writing. I have to add that when Tracy and I work together, we tend to laugh a lot. Many of our jokes ended up making it into the final version of this book. How much you enjoy the process seeps into the story and I think (I hope) the reader feels that too.

Tracy: I brought in my intense love of organization. I took notes on all of our brainstorming conversations and had spreadsheets mapping out everything from what happens in each chapter, what they’re baking, and who wins which baking competition round. Collaborating on a project requires a lot of clear communication, and I tried my best to use whatever tools we had handy to make the process run smoothly.

  • How do your characters work together as a team?

Laila is a talented kid chef, and she’s invited to compete at the Golden Cookie Competition at the prestigious Sunderland boarding school. Her best friend, newscaster-hopeful Lucy, comes too, hoping to write a strong piece that will wow the Sunderland scholarship committee. But when one of the celebrity judges collapses after eating one of Laila’s cookies, there are whispers that Laila had something to do with it.

Together, Laila and Lucy work to not only clear Laila’s name, but to also figure out the real culprit. This means poking around for clues, tag-teaming interviews with the judges and other competitors, and covering for each other so they can thoroughly investigate. They do hit some stumbling blocks along the way, and you’ll have to read the book to see if this friendship can weather all the storms!

  • What other co-written middle grade works do you recommend?

Alechia: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan is adorable! Time After Time (Best Wishes #3) by Sarah Mlynowski & Christina Soontornvat is one of my daughter’s favorite series. Camp Sylvania: Moon Madness by Julie Murphy & Crystal Maldonado is going to be a blast, no doubt!

Tracy: I love The Secret of the Dragon Gems by Rajani LaRocca and Chris Baron and You Are Here: Connecting Flights, an anthology edited by Ellen Oh.

Published June 11th, 2024 by Quill Tree Books

About the Book: Best friend duo works to solve baking competition puzzle in charming story.

The Great British Bake Off meets a tween-friendly Knives Out in this fun and propulsive middle grade novel following two best friends who must solve the mystery behind a baking competition gone awry.

This sweet treat early readers are calling “completely sublime” comes from author buddies and Middle Grade favorites Alechia Dow, an American Library Association notable and Indie Next Kids pick novelist, and Tracy Badua, a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ multi-award winner.

Laila gave Lucy a cupcake on the second day of kindergarten, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. But the summer before eighth grade, they find out that since they live on opposite sides of town, they’ll go to different high schools. Yuck!

Then Laila’s invited to compete at the Golden Cookie competition, which awards its winner admission and a full ride to the prestigious Sunderland boarding school, and it’s the perfect opportunity. Sunderland doesn’t just have an elite culinary program;
it’s also home to an elite journalism track, if only newscaster-hopeful Lucy could build up a strong enough portfolio to impress the scholarship committee.

But when one of the celebrity judges collapses after sampling Laila’s showpiece, rumors of foul play swirl, with Laila rising to the top of the suspect list. Even worse, a major storm has effectively cut off all access to the outside world. Can the girls find the real culprit and clear Laila’s name before it’s too late?

About the Authors: 

Tracy Badua is an award-winning Filipino American author of books about young people with sunny hearts in a sometimes stormy world. By day, she is an attorney who works in national housing policy, and by night, she squeezes in writing, family time, and bites of her secret candy stash. She lives in San Diego, California, with her family.

TikTok: @tracybwrites | Instagram: @tracybaduawrites | Facebook: U | Twitter: @tracybwrites

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, a librarian, and an award-winning author of acclaimed young adult sci-fi fantasies, several short anthology pieces, and magical (sometimes mysterious) middle grade stories. When not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her family, baking, reading, taking teeny adventures, and exploring her local food scene.

Instagram: @alechiadow |

Thank you for sharing this fun interview and an inside look at The Cookie Crumbles!

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