Helaine Becker is an award-winning writer of books for children. She has written over 50 books, including the best-selling picture book, 'A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, the 'Looney Bay All-Stars' series; popular non-fiction, including 'Magic Up Your Sleeve', 'Secret Agent Y.O.U.' and 'The Quiz Book for Girls'; and young adult novels including 'Trouble in the Hills' and 'How to Survive Absolutely Anything'.
She also writes for children's magazines and for kids television. She has written three seasons of Dr. Greeny's Mad Lab, a segment on Planet Echo, an environmental science show airing on APTN , and is hard at work on several other TV projects.
For what age audience do you write?
I write everything from picture books to young adult novels. Fiction and nonfiction. Prose and verse.
Henry: Helaine also is a trained surgeon, master chef, constitutional law attorney, and astronaut.
Tell us about your latest book.
'Little Jack Horner, Live from the Corner' is a humorous picture book that riffs on Old MacDonald, Bingo the Dog, and lots of popular nursery rhymes. It’s fun for kids to try and find their favorite characters in the illustrations (by Mike Boldt), and try to figure out where all the animals on Old MacDonald’s Farm have disappeared to.
Coming out shortly is a nonfiction book called 'Zoobots' (Kids Can Press) that describes recent innovations in the field of robotics. Animal-inspired robots, like bat bots and octopus bots are coming…and they are both cool and creepy.
Henry: Great minds think alike. I've rewritten nursery rhymes, substituting mythological creatures for the human characters.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Lots of belly laughs! I’m all about having fun.
Henry: I tweet with Helaine, and can confirm that she is a barrel full of fun.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The sitting down and working part. Because writing IS work, no matter how tra-la it might look from the outside. And since I’m like most people, I really like to avoid hard work. But if you don’t follow that old rule for writing success, BIC (Butt in Chair), you don’t eat. I find hunger to be both bracing and motivating.
Henry: In short: tra-la = hungry, BIC = full belly. Got it.
What is a powerful lesson you've learned from being a writer?
Persistence and resilience are more important qualities in life than talent. No matter what we strive for, we always have two choices – quit, or forge ahead. The first guarantees failure. The second can feel like failure, but it isn’t. I prefer to think of it as victory in slow motion. The ability to keep going when you’d rather walk away and blame someone else for your woes is what sets apart those who succeed from the rest of us.
Henry: I have this mental image of reaching the summit of a hill (success) by gradually building a ramp made of failures or rejections.
Click to read the rest of the interview at Henry Herz's blog on fantasy and science fiction books for kids.