Category Archives: Kentucky writers

Another great review for “Lift Your Light” at “Black History Channel”


The positive reviews keep coming in for Lift Your Light a Little Higher. Here is a lengthy excerpt from reviewer Rita Lorraine’s assessment of Heather Henson and Bryan Collier’s picture book:

In the quiet darkness, a slave leads a group of “customers” through an amazing cave, and when they write their names on the walls by the light of his lantern, he teaches himself to read.

This is the story line in author Heather Henson’s quiet new picture book, Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop, Slave Explorer. In the book, Stephen is purchased as a young boy and ordered by his owner to “”learn the ways of the cave well enough to lead paying folks around in the deep.” Stephen does just that. And he also does other amazing things: For example, he is “the first to lay eyes upon those eyeless fish” and “those craw dads white as bone,” both found only in the underground rivers of Mammoth Cave. He is also the “first to cross what even learned men have deemed un-crossable” (The “Bottomless Pit”). Yes, Stephen is a discoverer…though like most slaves, he doesn’t go down in history that way.

In Ms. Henson’s Author’s Note, she admits to knowing very little about Stephen Bishop’s life, yet she still manages to breathe beauty and nobility into Stephen’s personality. Her simple, straightforward prose loans a soft-spoken flavor to Stephen’s words, and a courage and resolve to his deeds.

Through Ms. Henson’s prose, readers understand that, slave though he was, Stephen attained a type of freedom in those caves. Readers will share his pride in the fact that he alone held his lantern high and led adventurers through the damp, dangerous, and patchy darkness–and then back again to safety.

Artist Bryan Collier delivers with poignant illustrations of sad, soulful eyes and quiet strength; of courage in the shady depths of the Mammoth Cave. In fact, it is easy to see that Mr. Collier somehow tapped into Stephen Bishop’s quiet courage and resolve and brought it to the canvas. Thanks for these lovely illustrations, Mr. Collier!

“Lift Your Light” to represent Kentucky at National Book Festival in Washington DC


Sharing this press release from the Kentucky Humanities Council!

Contact: Brooke Raby, Project Manager,

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer chosen to represent Kentucky at National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (August 16, 2016) – Kentucky native and award-winning children’s author Heather Henson’s forthcoming book, Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer, has been chosen to represent Kentucky in the Pavilion of the States at the 16th Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C in September.

The National Book Festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 24 and is sponsored by the Library of Congress, Center for the Book. The Festival includes a Pavilion of the States, at which every state highlights a children’s or young adult book that was written by an author from that state, or is about a subject relevant to the state, or in Kentucky’s case, both. For more information about the National Book Festival and the Pavilion of the States, please visit

Lift Your Light a Little Higher (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2016) tells the story of Stephen Bishop, the mid-19th century slave who explored and gave tours through Mammoth Cave. The book is illustrated by Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winner Bryan Collier.

A native of Danville, Heather Henson is the Managing Director of the Pioneer Playhouse, established in 1950 by her father, the late Col. Eben C. Henson. She is the Christopher Award-winning author of several children’s books, including That Book Woman, about the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky; Angel Coming, about the Frontier Nursing Service; and Dream of Night, a middle-grades novel. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and Film Studies from The New School University in New York City, and an MA in Creative Writing and Literature from City College/City University of New York. For many years, she was an Editor of books for young readers at HarperCollins Publishers in New York. For more information on Heather Henson, please visit

Henson will also be at the 35th Annual Kentucky Book Fair on November 5th at the Frankfort Convention Center.
The Kentucky Humanities Council is a non-profit Kentucky corporation affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. For information about the council’s programs and services, visit ###

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Frank X Walker Literary Festival…See You There!

Frank X Walker is the current Kentucky Poet Laureate.  He also happens to be a Danville native and a DHS grad (just like yours truly.)  So some literary types in Danville have organized the first ever literary fest in Frank’s honor.  Be sure to come to Danville and check it out.  Here’s the schedule:


The Frank X Walker Literary Festival

Thursday, September 18, 2014

“Turn Me Loose…. The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” Convocation

Newlin Hall/Norton Center/7:30 p.m.

Featuring Frank X Walker


Friday, September 19, 2014

  • Frank X Walker … School Presentations
  • Authors in our Schools (Danville/Boyle)

Writing Workshops/Oral Readings/Student Presentations

  • Boyle County Public Library:  Heather Henson/Marie Bradby: Reading & Talk 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Picturing Words Smithsonian Exhibit 9:00-5:30 p.m.


  • Frank X Walker Community Reception Danville High School 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Danville High School

10:00 a.m. ­­­­- 4:00 p.m.

  • Oral Presentations by Frank X Walker and Authors
  • Community Readings
  • Book Fair 10:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Frank X Walker “State Historical Marker” Project
  • Concessions : Dunn’s BBQ


Boyle County Public Library

  • Family Day of Literacy/ Readings/ Workshops 10:30-12:00 p.m.
  • Picturing Words Smithsonian Exhibit 9:00-5:00 p.m.


Frank X Walker                                            Rick Lee

Minnie Adkins                                              Maurice Manning

Amy Barkman                                              Marcia Mount Shoop

Wendell Berry                                             David Nahm

Marie Bradby                                              Ricardo Nazario-Colon’

Devine Carama                                           Guerney Norman

Hasan Davis                                                 Mike Norris

Mitchell Douglas                                         Yolantha Pace

Carolyn DuPont                                           Katheryn Ragle

Ruth Ann Fogle                                            Octavia Sexton

Thomas Freese                                            C.A. Shelley

Hazel “Sybil” Hall                                        Judy Sizemore

Louis Hatchett                                             Penny Smith

Heather Henson                                         Patsi Trollinger

Shayla Lawson                                             Crystal Wilkinson




Pioneer Playhouse 64th Season….Into Thin Air


It’s become a ritual to sign an “L” for the last night of the entire Playhouse season.  Here I am in front of an audience of 500 (!!), introducing the final show, thanking our regular patrons, bidding adieu until next year….

Pioneer Playhouse was started by my dad  in 1950, and my family has continued to run it since then.  Hard to believe we’re 64 years old…. and still going, still talking about the future…future plays, future actors, future programs.

We do 5 plays a summer.  One every two weeks.  Plus a 3 day comedy show to end out the season.  It’s a grueling schedule.  Rehearsing one play during the day while performing another at night.  Tearing down one set within a 36 hour period and putting up a completely new one.

About 15,000 people come through our doors over the summer.  Many have been coming for years.  We have patrons who first saw a play here 40 years ago.  We have some who haven’t missed a show in 20 years.

The theatre was my dad’s dream.  He wanted to be an actor, went to NYC, but had to return home to Kentucky, so he decided to bring “Broadway to the Bluegrass.”  After he died, almost 10 years ago now, my mom and sister took up the reigns.  Since I’d moved back to Kentucky to write, I’d help out when needed.

But when Holly died last year, I stepped in as Managing Director along with my brother Robby.  Maybe we could’ve just let the dream die, but it seems impossible to even contemplate.  So we work…we work really, really hard.  We don’t just put on plays.  We do an outreach program that teaches playwrighting to inmates at Northpoint prison here in Danville.  We started a similar program to teach playwrighting to seniors this year.  We were the force behind the hugely success first ever Danville Irish Festival, during which we mounted an original play set in Ireland, and organized Irish musicians, dancers, singers, and storytellers to come to Danville to give us a taste of Irish culture.

So much time!  My husband jokes that I work over 100 hours a week in the summer!  It’s certainly more than a “regular”  job.  It’s exhausting, overwhelming at times.  But it’s also  incredibly rewarding.

Night after night, I shake every hand that comes through the gates of the Playhouse.  I give hugs to familiar patrons, just as Holly did.  I ask them how they like the show after it’s over, and listen as they tell me “It’s the best we’ve seen yet!”  Or sometimes they’re honest and say, “I liked the last one better.”  But overall, they’re happy, happy to have escaped into another world for a couple of hours.  And that makes me feel good, makes me feel it’s worth all the work that goes into keeping a 64 year old theatre alive.

“See you next year!” I call out to the crowd as they pass by, and for the last few nights there have been tears in my eyes.  I’m running on fumes from the breakneck pace of the summer, am looking forward to staying home at night with my family, not having to deal with the million little things that pop up during the day.  But when it comes down to it, I’m sad to say goodbye to everyone — actors and patrons alike — I’ve come to know all summer.  This is the way my dad felt, I’m sure of it, and my sister too.  It’s one of the reasons we Hensons can’t really ever think about saying “goodbye,” but always… “see you next year!”

My dad used to quote Shakespeare at the end of the season, as the actors drove away, waving good bye from their car windows.  He’d say:

Our revels now are ended,

These actors as I foretold you,

Were all spirits

And are melted

Into thin air, into thin air.”

In my book about a tween growing up at a theatre a lot like the Playhouse (Here’s How I See It/Here’s How It Is), I have Junebug, the main character quoting the words because her dad can’t just then.  But it’s ritual for her, a tradition, and so it must be done.  The show must go on.


Me and my dad on the Playhouse stage circa 1977


Celebrating MLK Day in KY

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided to take my kids to the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.  The Ali center is jewel of a structure outside; inside it is a beautiful and moving tribute to the boxer, the humanitarian, the man who has spent his life fighting racism in this country and around the world.  Through the interactive exhibits my kids learned about what it means to stand up for your rights and put your convictions on the line.  I felt like it was a fitting way to celebrate MLK Day, as well as the day the first African-American president of the US was sworn in for a second term.  Above is a picture of my sons sporting their hats from the center with a couple of Ali’s trademark phrases on the front.

At the center, during a film giving the highlights of Ali’s life, the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling is often quoted.  Here is part of it below:


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


When you go to the center, or if you visit the website (, you’ll see a list of Ali’s core beliefs.  Here they are:

Confidence Belief  in oneself, one’s abilities, and one’s future.
Conviction A firm belief that gives one the courage to stand behind that belief, despite pressure to do otherwise.
Dedication The act of devoting all of one’s energy, effort, and abilities to a certain task.
Giving To present voluntarily without expecting something in return.
Respect Esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, oneself and others.
Spirituality A sense of awe, reverence, and inner peace inspired by a connection to all of creation and/or that which is greater than oneself.

Happy MLK Day!


Speaking at NKU Bookfest 2012!

I’m heading up to Northern Kentucky University tomorrow to participate in their annual Bookfest on Friday, May 4.  It’s a really incredible day long program in which about 500 middle grade students from around the state come to the NKU campus in Highland Heights to talk about books and reading.

Here is a link to NKU’s webpage about it, with a really terrific video showing highlights of years past:

Last year, Silas House was the featured speaker, so I’m just thrilled and honored to have been asked to follow in his footsteps.

Will post pictures from the event soon!  Hope to see you there!

A Visit to NKU and the Blue Marble!

I will be speaking at NKU’s Book Fest this year, talking to 5-8th graders about reading and writing.  This annual event is on Friday, May 4th.  Following that, I will be at my favorite bookstore signing books: the Blue Marble in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.  Below is a clip from their newsletter about the event.  Hope to see you there!



April 27, 2012


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Spring tends to be a busy time as more people are out enjoying the beautiful weather, groups schedule more activities and schools are entering their final month of the academic year.

We’ve been keeping busy with author visits at the store and local schools, a literature conference and professional lecture, a reading celebration and ordering new books for the summer and fall seasons.  It’s been great seeing familiar faces and meeting new people.

We hope you can join us for our author events over the next month.  We’re honored to be hosting Will Hillenbrand,Heather Henson and Debbie Dadey in the next few weeks.  Even if you’re not able to visit the store for an event, we’d be happy to have books signed and personalized for you.  Autographed books make such wonderful gifts; we have two special sections of books signed by the authors and illustrators who have visited our store.

Currently, we’re showcasing our new poetry and baseball books and have special displays of books relating to theTitanicKentucky Derby and horses.  We also have books that would make perfect gifts for moms, high school and college graduates and your favorite educators.

We’d love to see you and catch up if you can spare some time to swing by the store.  We hope to see you soon!

Peter & Tina Moore, manager and owner
Chris, Nancy, Tish, Betsy, Dave, Marilyn & Tanya, staff

BookFest Author Heather Henson Plans Visit
Friday, May 4, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
dreamofnightKentucky author Heather Henson has graciously agreed to visit our store immediately after NKU’s BookFest event.  BookFest is a celebration of reading and writing for Kentucky students in grades 5-8.  She’ll be signing her picture books and novels including Dream of Night [Atheneum, $15.99 hc] and Here’s How I See It, Here’s How It Is [Atheneum, $16.99 hc & $6.99 pb].  Reading Dream of Night is especially fitting at this time of year as it presents the story of a former racehorse.  Ms. Henson is also the author of the award-winning That Book Woman [Atheneum, $16.99 hc] which was illustrated by David Small.


Great Readers/Great Writers!

As a writer, I’m often asked to come to speak to schools or to groups of young people, and it’s always an honor, and often very inspiring for me.  A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Lancaster, Kentucky and spoke to three different groups of young writers from several different counties:

The Fire Writers

Writer’s Express

The Clark Moores Middle School Pencil Breakers

Wow!  What cool names.  And what cool kids!  They all sat and listened intensely as I read the first chapter of Dream of Night, and then they had some truly terrific questions ready for me.  Obviously these three different groups were serious about books and reading and writing, and that’s something that’s just so awe-inspiring to see in this day and age when  there are so many distractions.

Thanks to Beth Dotson Brown for inviting me to speak, and thanks to those awesome girls for being who they are.  Keep reading, keep writing — and as I noted in your books — keep dreaming, because once upon a time I dreamed about being a writer, and I’m here to tell you that dreams really can come true!