Category Archives: heather henson

First Skype Book Chat!

First of all, Happy 2011!  Okay, I know I’m starting to sound old, but I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by.  It seems like only yesterday it was the ’90’s…and then the ’00’s and now the 10’s…when I was a kid we all thought we’d be zooming around in flying cars by 2011 because it sounded so space age.  Oh well.

Anyway, Christmas and New Year’s was a whirlwind as usual.  I’ve definitely been in my hectic mommy mode for a while now, not in my quiet, thoughtful writer mode, so it was fun to get my feet wet again by sending my own kids away for the morning so I could spend some time with a cool bunch of girls and their cool moms in Brooklyn, New York for a mother/daughter book club a couple of weeks ago.

The subject was Here’s How I See It/Here’s How It Is, my middle grade novel published a couple of years ago, now in paperback (handy for book clubs!)

It’s the first time I’ve Skyped for a book club.  Everything went really well.  I could see the girls right there on my computer and they could see me, and so it felt intimate even though we were at least 700 miles away from one another.  We talked about why I wrote the book and how I became a writer.  They had some great questions like, who is my favorite character in my book (a tie:  Junebug & Simon), and why I chose the plays I did for the book (they all had themes that were relevant to the story), and what other children’s books writers I admire (Patricia MacLachlan, Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, Laurie Halse Anderson.)

There were lots of laughs, lots of smiles, lots of talk, lots of fun!

Here’s a picture of the group, and their email response after we’d said goodbye.

Heather, Thanks for talking to us. That was great. We loved your book!

Love,
Lola, Caitlin, Hannah Lola, Jesse, Juliana

Thank you, my cool Brooklyn girls and moms for reading my book and for making my first Skype book chat so much fun!  Have fun with the club, read lots of good books, and remember, always follow your heart and your dreams!

Kentucky Book Fair a Huge Success

I’ve been participating in the Kentucky Book Fair for almost ten years now, since my first book (YA novel, Making the Run) was published in 2001.  It’s always been a lovely event, with local school visits the day before, and a reception for authors the night before, and finally the event itself.  I always see it as a time to get to know new writers or become reacquainted with writers I don’t see very often.  It’s a great opportunity to talk to Kentucky writers whose work has deeply influenced my own, like Bobbie Ann Mason, Wendell Berry, Gurney Norman, George Ella Lyon.

This year, I met Heather Clay, who grew up in Kentucky and now lives in New York City (we have a lot in common!).  Her first novel is called Losing Charlotte (published by Knopf), and I’ve just started reading it, and the writing is lyrical and lovely, and the story is starting to grab me so that I know I’ll have trouble putting it down very soon.

I also got to see my old friend Maurice Manning, a guy I grew up with/made it through those crazy high school years with.  It’s interesting that we’ve both become writers, having grown up in a pretty small town.  Maurice is an amazing poet, and very prolific.  His latest book of poems is The Common Man, published by Houghton Mifflin.  I haven’t started to read it yet, but it’s on my bedside table — can’t wait to dive in!

A couple of other writers/books that really grabbed my attention this year:  I Wonder as I Wander:  The Life of John Jacob Niles by Ron Penn and How Kentucky Became Southern:  A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders by MaryJean Wall, who was a turf writer for the Lexington paper for years.

I have a personal connection with John Jacob Niles.  He used to come visit my parents and hang out at the Pioneer Playhouse when I was little.  He once told my mother that she had one of the purest voices he had ever heard.  And he would often bring his dulcimer and sit with my mother and they would sing together, entertaining the dinner guests before the night’s show. For those of you who don’t know, John Jacob Niles is considered one of the most influential songwriters and balladeers of the American folk music tradition.  He is particularly known for collecting and documenting songs of Appalachia.

So…I probably ended up buying more books than what I “earned” selling books.  But that’s what often happens anyway when I’m surrounded by books and writers.  Have to support my fellow artists!

Sadly, it was a smaller turn out than usual.  The economy is definitely still hard hit.  People aren’t rushing out to buy books, let me tell you.  But the people who did come out to the Kentucky Book Fair this year — as is the case every year — were passionate about books and reading.  There are always a lot of parents who bring their kids, and that’s always so heartwarming.  Every parent I talked to during the fair said that they want to instill a love of books in their kids, and it’s obvious that they have already — and that makes it all worth while!

Here’s a picture of me at my table, taken by photographer James Sullivan.  Thanks James, for letting me use this!

And thanks, as always to Connie Crowe, who does SO very much.  Thanks to the folks at Joseph-Beth, especially my gals, Brooke and Rachel — you two rock!

Kentucky Book Fair

I will be at the Kentucky Book Fair on Saturday, November 13 from 9-5, selling and signing books along with 150 other authors — both from KY and from elsewhere around the country.  It’s a very cool event, one of the oldest book fairs in the country.  Please come to downtown Frankfort on Saturday and check it out.

Here are the facts, from the Kentucky Book Fair website:

The central purpose of the Kentucky Book Fair, Inc. is to bring writers and patrons together in celebration of their mutual interest and to promote awareness of the importance of writing and reading within the general public.  The Book Fair supports and encourages writers of all genres and uses proceeds from the Fair to benefit other causes associated with the promotion of reading and writing, especially libraries.

The Book Fair, now in its 29th year, is a one-day event, held this year, on the second Saturday in November (November 13, 2010).  The event takes place in Frankfort, the state’s Capitol City.  The Book Fair is operated by a non-profit independent board of volunteers, with co-sponsorship from the State Journal, Frankfort’s daily newspaper; the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, a state government entity; the University Press of Kentucky and Joseph Beth Book Sellers, Lexington, Kentucky.  Several businesses and organizations in the state provide cash donations which are used for operating expenses.  This year’s event will be held at the Frankfort Convention Center.  Several symposiums are planned throughout the day as well.

Okay, it’s been a while!

This past month has just flown by.  It’s been a blur of school trips and homework and Halloween costumes and way too much candy and runny noses and strep throat and birthdays.  My twins just turned 6!  Hard to believe.  Yesterday they were tiny babies; today they are highly opinionated kindergartners.

I have also been trying to finish a novel in between the everyday stuff.  Not an easy feat.  But I am glad to say that I am down to the finish line, and hope to have something to show for my efforts by Thanksgiving. (Yipeeee!)

In the meantime I will be at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort on Saturday, November 13.  This is one of the oldest book fairs in the country, and I’ve been going for about 6 years now.  I’ll give more info about the fair and the folks who run it in my next post, which will be in the next coupla days, I promise, not in the next century!

Before then…this is where I’ll be tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow….until my novel is done….:)

This is where I sit everyday....

Just back from San Antonio

Arrived in San Antonio last Tuesday (October 12), and was met by Virginia Walsh, librarian of Wilshire Elementary, and my hostess for this trip.  Was treated to a spicy Tex Mex dinner by Virginia and other district librarians, Susan Staffier, Sherry Phillipus, and Marisa Crippen.  What a great group of gals!  On Wednesday I began my round of school visits.  Went to Oak Grove Elementary and Northwood Elementary.  Then on to Wilshire Elementary and East Terrell Hills.  What a terrific group of kids.  Most of them are from the city, so I think they were fascinated by some of “old timey country ways” I talk about in That Book Woman. The district I visited always tries to get an author of a Texas Bluebonnet Book Award nominee to come talk to their kids, and so it was truly an honor to be a part of this tradition.  I got to see the poster of the Bluebonnet nominees, with my very own Book Woman included.  It just gave me such a thrill!

Virginia Walsh welcomes me to Wilshire Elementary

It was a long day of flying back to Kentucky, since I had to go through Detroit.  But there were no delays, and I was thrilled to get back home since I hadn’t seen the kids or husband in 4 days.  It’s been kind of a whirlwind few weeks, what with WEG and Books by the Banks, and the San Antonio trip.  Lucky for me, I’m home for a while.  So I’ll have some time to spend with my family, and I’ll also reflect a little on the whole WEG experience and do some posts on that.  The next big event will be the Kentucky Book Fair on November 13, in Frankfort, KY.  Will write more on that later as well.

Books, books, books!

Crazy day last Friday, trying to get to my son’s school for an awards ceremony, and then leave on time to get to Cinci for the author’s reception for Books by the Banks.  Had just enough time — if there hadn’t been a Reds game going on downtown, and the traffic was sluggish, and it was impossible to find the entrance to my hotel, and once I did find the entrance, I had to circle downwards through several levels of the earth to finally find a parking space.  BUT the reception (when I finally made it) was wonderful.  I’d never been in the Mercantile Library before.  A gorgeous old room with old books so that I felt like I was in a movie set back in time.  Had dinner with my writer friend Linda Sanders after the reception.  Her book Maggie’s Monkeys is on the Bluegrass Awards masterlist this year — congrats!

Next day — Saturday — headed over to the Duke Energy Center to find out where I’d be sitting.  Lucky for me, they put me next to the one-and-only Sharon Draper, who is kind of like a rock star in the kids book world.  Sharon and I share the same editor, and while we’ve met and talked briefly over the past couple of years, we’d never spent all day together.  And it was just so much fun.  I basked in her rock star glow all day, and we traded stories over the tortures our (beloved) editor puts us both through.  It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one dearest C tortures! 🙂

Seriously, it was awe-inspiring to get to know Sharon a little better, and to be able to talk to her about her most recent book, Out of My Mind, which is stupendous, and which is sure to be on many a Newbery prediction list.

After Cinci, I rushed back home to see my kiddos, and then it was back to the KY Horse Park for a couple of WEG signings.  I will report on that in my next post.  But for now, here’s a pic of me and Sharon together at Books by the Banks.

Oh, and one more thing — thanks to all the folks at BBTB, Cinci 2010, for being such terrific hosts.  And many thanks to Janice for being my gopher for the day!

Me & Sharon at BBTB, Cinci 2010

Cincinnati, Here I Come!

Yesterday was WEG, tomorrow is Books by the Banks.  I’m headed up to Cinci (one of my fav little cities) for the Books by the Banks book festival, sponsored by one of my fav bookstores, Joseph-Beth.  This is my second year attending, and I’m really excited.  Love getting a chance to spend some time in Cinci.  Love getting the chance to hang out with other writers and be surrounded by books, books, books.  If you live anywhere near Cinci, come on down to the Duke Energy Center on Saturday from 10-4.  Check out their website:  www.booksbythebanks.org for a schedule of events and authors.

Yesterday signing books at the TRF booth at WEG was lots of fun.  The proceeds of sales from Dream of Night went directly to the horses at TRF’s Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, to feeding them, keeping them groomed and healthy.  It was a GORGEOUS day in Lexington, perfect for strolling around the lovely fair grounds, observing lovely horses.  WEG goes for one more week, and I will be back at the TRF booth on Tuesday, October 5 from 11-1 to sign more copies of my book.

Here are a coupla pictures my friend, Fe, snapped at WEG:

I’m a celebrity!

Me and copies of Dream of Night

I’ve been asked to be a “guest celebrity” at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation/Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center Booth at the Altech/FEI World Equestrian Games next week.  Yippeeee!

While being a celebrity is not really one of my goals in life (writing good books is!), I’m extra excited to have the chance to promote my book Dream of Night at this international horse event.  People from all over the world will be there.  I’m hoping that signing books at the TRF booth will not only help promote Dream of Night, but will also help raise awareness about Thoroughbred adoption cause.

Each year thousands of Thoroughbreds end up in abusive situations, mainly because it costs so much and takes so much time to care for these gorgeous but sometimes temperamental creatures.  The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is a national, non-profit organization that helps rescue ex-racehorses and give them a second chance at a wonderful life.   The Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center (see my last post) is the flagship facility of the TRF located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

The people at TRF/MMSC work soooooo hard to give Thoroughbreds a chance at a new life.  I’m thrilled to help in whatever way I can — right now, by being a “guest celebrity” and signing books.  Thanks to Susanna Thomas, Director of MMSC, for inviting me to WEG.

My book signing schedule at the TRF/MMMSC booth in the Main Pavilion at WEG:

Tuesday, September 28, 11-1

Thursday, September 30, 1-3

Keep checking back for more about WEG, as well as details about my upcoming trip to San Antonio for school visits!

Nebraska!

Wow, Nebraska is gorgeous!  I had no idea it would be so green and rolling.  I flew into Omaha and was met at the airport by the lovely Karen Drevo of the Norfolk Public Library.  From there we drove north and east, criss-crossing the wide Missouri, dipping into Iowa and South Dakota, eventually wending our way to Norfolk, home town of Johnny Carson.

I was not the only author invited to the Norfolk Literary Festival.  My partners in crime were Deborah Hopkinson and Tony Varrato.  It was fun sharing a car and a weekend with these two wonderful writers.  Deborah’s Apples to Oregon is one of my all-time favorite picture books.  Her new book, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek is a new favorite.

Deborah and I share the back seat

Tony Varrato (who kindly provided all the photos for this post) is the author of the young adult novel, Fakie, a gritty story, boldly told.  He’s the kind of energetic, funny, inspirational English teacher I wish I’d had in high school.  Not only is he a good writer, he can juggle!

My amazing writer gals

One of the reasons for our visit to Norfolk was to give a writing workshop for kids.  I was thrilled to have three unique and talented young women in my class:  Krista, Aeriel, and Mattie.  We did some writing, some giggling, some sharing, some reading, some more writing, some more giggling.  I was really impressed with the love of books, the interest in writing, the observations, the immediate connection these three girls had.  Thanks, girls, for helping to make my day so special!  And remember what I said:  keep writing, keep writing, keep writing!  And also:  keep being you, keep asking questions, keep dreaming!  I know you all will go far!

Talking to folks at the Norfolk Literary Festival

After the workshop I talked to a great group of folks about how I came to write That Book Woman, which celebrates the work of the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky.  Many in the crowd were librarians themselves, and I always love talking to librarians about librarians, sharing the stories and photos of those early book women.

Norfolk Literary Festival attendees plus myself, Deborah, and Tony (on the end)

People came from far and wide for this annual festival (above are some of the attendees along with me, Deborah, and Tony on the end).  The librarians of Norfolk are great organizers and motivators.

The staff of the Norfolk Public Library (pictured above) are real book lovers and troopers.  (I hope you get some air conditioning soon!!!!)

Alas, at the end of the day, it was time to bid Nebraska adieu.  I really enjoyed my visit.  Thanks to everyone, including the Norfolk librarians and especially Karen Drevo (I’m so sorry I don’t have a pic of you by yourself because you, lady, are one stylish librarian!).  Thanks to Deborah and Tony too for making it such a memorable trip.

Please check back soon because I’m going to add Deborah’s and Tony’s website to my list of fav websites  (but first I have to ask my helpful husband and web monkey, Tim, how to do it 🙂