Category Archives: Uncategorized

Waiting in Chicago

So I’m on my way to the Norfolk Literary Festival in Norfolk, Nebraska.  The flight here from Chicago was nice and easy.  Now I’m waiting for the plane to Omaha.

My brother in law drove me to the Louisville airport and told me that I should check out Autohenge in Omaha.  Apparently somebody recreated Stonehenge, um, made out of old cars.  It sounds like something I would definitely love to see, but probably won’t have time.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing a writing workshop with kids and then talking with librarians and teachers about my book That Book Woman.

Speaking of Book Woman, I just received the latest foreign edition in Japanese!  It is so incredibly cool to see an Appalachian story translated into Japanese.  (Not that I can read it, but it looks terrific.)  Actually since David Small was inspired by Japanese drawing for his work on That Book Woman, it actually looks pretty natural.  My mom even asked me if they had redrawn the pictures because it looks like a totally different book in a way, like an original  Japanese publication.

Here’s the cover:

Back to the trip.  I unfortunately do not own a small digital camera.  (The one we own is massive, looks like a 35 mm camera from yesteryear.)  And I don’t have something as up to date as an Iphone.  So I’m hoping some of the folks in Norfolk will take pix and email to me so I can post.   In any case, I will keep ya’ll posted on my travels.  I’m sure it’ll be fun, even if I don’t get to see Autohenge. 🙂

Reading Poetry

I’ve been reading a lot of poetry since my last post.  Often poetry is what I go to when feeling contemplative about life and loss.  I guess what I like about reading poetry is that moment of recognition, when all the emotions and images come together and suddenly everything is illuminated.  I like how poets find the profound in the mundane, the sublime in the everyday.

James Still is one of my favorite writers.  He was a novelist, a short story writer, a poet.  He was a Kentuckian.  In fact he was the first Kentucky Poet Laureate.  I never got to meet James Still.   But his work has had a huge influence on my own writing.  He had a pitch perfect ear for how real people talk — especially people living in eastern Kentucky.  His stories, often about boys growing wild on the mountainside or getting into trouble in coal towns, seem simple, but each one is so finely layered with meaning and truth, each one is a masterpiece.

I was recently reading through The New and Collected Poems by James Still, which was published in 2001, and came upon a poem that really spoke to me as a writer about how truly tenuous the act of writing can be, how fragile the moment of creation.


There was a poem here yesterday,

But not now.

It sat for many an hour

Unwelcomed, unnoticed.

It went away for lack

Of ears to hear,

Eyes to see,

Hearts to open.

The poem went away

and did not look back.

I think the line I love the most is:  hearts to open.  Being a writer, or any kind of artist, means having to open yourself up.  To possibilities, to risks, to hope, to failure.

This is possibly a picture of James Still, who was one of the only male Pack Horse Librarians circa 1930.

Upcoming Event at one of my favorite places: the Boyle County Library

Theo & Lila climbing on the big READ

I’m going to be reading and talking about Dream of Night at the Boyle County Public Library on Thursday, May 20th at 7 pm.  This event will be in the Teen Room — yes, there is a Teen Room! (That’s the question everyone asks when I tell them where it is.)  No, there are no Teen Books in the Teen Room yet, but we (on the library board) are working on that.  There is a Teen Room, though, and it is very, very cool.  It is right at the top of the main stairs.  It looks like a cafe, except without any food.  There will be food there Thursday night.  Free pizza!  (Although Karl tells us it would be best to eat the pizza in the children’s library rather than the actual Teen Room :))  Wherever we actually eat the pizza, please come  and check out the book and the new Teen nook in Danville.  Books will be available through Centre College Bookstore for purchase and signing by yours truly.

The brand new Boyle County Library -- wow!

I’ve been coming to the Danville-Boyle County Library since my mom carried me there on her hip.  I may have learned to read there.  I know I did lots of research on countless school reports over the years.  When I moved back to Danville, it definitely was a highlight of my homecoming.

The library had gotten bigger, but it still looked and felt the same.  Those in charge of expanding it over the years had kept the original lovely old building, kept much of the charm, just added more rooms of books.  Another massive expansion was undertaken a few years ago, and finally after much anticipation, the new library opened in January.  Again, the powers that be had the wisdom to keep the integrity of the place, keep the original parts, so when you walk into the new library, you still have a powerful sense of the old.  I can still sit in the room where I poured over encyclopedias as a kid (can you imagine kids going to the library to look at an encyclopedia today?) but I can also walk into a huge new room of fiction and another gigantic nonfiction room, I can sit in a room with a giant map or a giant globe, I can bring my kids to an enormous new kids space with dinosaur bones hanging from the ceiling and more computers than they could ever use, I can stand on the glassed in second floor and gaze at a glass sculpture by a world-renowned glass artist, I can sit in the garden where my name and my husband’s name and my kids’ names are etched forever in one of the bricks for future Henson-Ungs to see.  Danville isn’t a very big town, but we have an amazing library.  How lucky is that?

I used to sit at this same place as a teenager...the library hasn't aged a bit!

A great night at Joseph-Beth

New fan Keye'lle at Joseph-Beth

Thanks to all the folks who showed up at Joseph-Beth Booksellers last night!  And thanks to Brooke Raby, who always makes my visit there so special.  It was a terrific event.  I was so happy to see Keye’lle there.  I’d met her earlier that day at Sandersville Elementary School in Lexington, where I talked to the 4th and 5th graders about Dream of Night and about what inspires me as a writer.  Keye’lle brought her mom to the event at JB, and she had some really great questions to ask after my reading, like “How many books do you want to write before you die?”  My answer:  a hundred!  Thanks for coming Keye’lle, and keep reading and asking questions!

Some of my good friends were there at the reading to support me.  Here’s a picture of some of my crazy crew of gals…one of which is my oldest friend, Fe.  We’ve known each other since second grade when I walked up to her at the playground and asked her to play.  We’ve never lost touch through many moves and many different phases of life, and now we’re back in the same state, nearly the same town we grew up in.

My crazy gals come out to support me
Wow! A stack of my books!

Joseph-Beth has always been so supportive, and like I said, Brooke Raby is just the best.  Thanks, Brooke for coming to the schools in Lex to sell books, and for making sure everything was just right at the reading!

Brooke Raby is always working!
Brooke is the best!

Again, many many thanks to all of you who came to the reading, especially my friends, Keye’lle, and the woman who loves horses (I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of you!) and who said that she demanded that they sell my book to her the day before it came out!  I hope you enjoy reading about Night, Shiloh, and Jess!  And please keep in touch with me via my blog!

Trying to tell jokes at the mike like my stand up comedian sister...I'm not that funny.

I come from a very artistic family.  My oldest brother is an artist/graphic design artist; my other brother is a filmmaker, and my sister is a stand-up comedian.  In our home town, people are always getting me and my sister confused.  So we’re always trying to explain that I write books and she writes jokes.  (Actually it’s pretty easy to tell the difference — I’m not the funny one! 🙂

Keye'lle getting her book signed.

Feature in Danville Advocate Messenger

Danville author writes book for middle-graders
May 2, 2010

An angry child in the foster care system. An angry horse, abused and sick. A tired caregiver, unsure of whether she can care for the two.

This is the trio of characters around whom “Dream of Night,” local author Heather Henson’s new novel for middle-graders, is spun.

Henson decided to take riding lessons when she moved back to Kentucky after living elsewhere for many years. She wanted to have horses and hadn’t ridden much when she was a kid.

She started taking lessons with Susanna Thomas, equine director at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Henson called Thomas an amazing horsewoman from whom she learned a lot.

Thomas’ organization, Henson explained, is to “find homes for Thoroughbreds who have been in the racing industry and maybe had an injury or haven’t been money winners.” If suitable candidates can’t adopt a horse, she added, they can foster a horse, if they can’t keep one long term. They even can sponsor a horse if they can’t afford to keep one. “I think what they do is really amazing,” Henson said.

She said riding lessons taught her how little she knows about horses. “It would take a lifetime to learn to be a good rider or horsewoman,” Henson noted, “but I love horses. Through the lessons I came to really admire horses and respect them in a way I never had. Growing up in Kentucky, I’d seen them in fields … but I’d never really had a chance to be with a horse.”

With Thomas’ help, she started spending more time with horses and now is interested in adopting equines when her farm is ready for them. Henson said many people don’t realize how many horses are out there who need to be adopted. She said 35,000 thoroughbreds are registered with the Jockey Club each year, yet only one wins the Kentucky Derby.

The Jockey Club is the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The organization is dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, and it fulfills that mandate by serving many segments of the industry through its subsidiary companies and by providing support to a wide range of industry initiatives.

Learning that led her to wonder what happens to the rest of the horses — the ones who don’t win the Derby, or maybe don’t win at all, who don’t win big purses for their owners.

“That where my story began,” Henson said of her inspiration for “Dream of Night,” which will be for sale Tuesday. “What does happen to all these horses? They are registered Thoroughbreds but not money winners. They get sold or go from owner to owner.

“The story idea for the book came from riding lessons, and I also, through riding lessons, through the books and Web sites Susanna suggested … started to realize there are a lot of programs across the country that use horses to reach kids with a wide range of disabilities, both physical and emotional. Horses are used for kids with physical disabilities, with autism, with emotional disabilities.”

Working with a horse gives in individual, whether adult or child, empathy for another living creature.

“So when kids work with horses they begin to build trust where there are trust issues. They care for them, feeding them and grooming them. They are taking care of another creature and it helps them understand how to reach out. … Horses speak to people in a way that’s really special,” Henson explained.

Answering the question of why racehorses need rescuing is what led to “Dream of Night.”

“As I sat down to write, as often happens (for me), the characters started speaking,” Henson noted. “The character of the horse started talking to me, so I started writing from the perspective of an abused ex-racehorse.

“I felt strongly — I felt like I knew their story: the 60-year-old woman, the younger girl who had been abused, and the horse. All three came to me.”

A lot of Thoroughbreds wind up with a happy ending. But, because there are so many, a lot of them end up on farms with people who can’t afford to keep them, Henson noted.

“You see a lot of articles in the newspaper about rescue operations where they’ve found horses and they’re basically starving,” she said. “Or they’ve been mistreated or abused.

“Another thing about Thoroughbreds is they are bred to be fast, which makes them temperamental and difficult to handle. They are trained to be aggressive … and sometimes people mistreat them because they are afraid of them.”

Thomas works with the horses to rehabilitate them, Henson said. She tries to gentle them before introducing them to an adoptive family. Some of these rehabilitated horses become eventor horses that participate in dressage events. They can have a second life, Henson noted, if they have a person who knows how to retrain them.

The author said she hopes, first and foremost, that the children who read it enjoy and connect with it.

“I want them to think about the bigger world — to get involved with an animal shelter, helping with dogs and cats, or getting active with the community. I hope it gives them inspiration to do that.

“And also, I’d like kids to think about maybe there’s a kid in their class who seems a little shy or inside a shell and maybe this book will make a kid empathize with someone else.”


“Dream of Night,” Heather Henson’s new novel for middle-graders, is available wherever books are sold beginning Tuesday. Henson will be signing books beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. She also will be signing books 4-6 p.m. Thursday at The Blue Marble in Cincinnati. Other events will be planned in the future to celebrate the publication of the book.

Copyright: 2010

here’s the link:

Back in Kentucky!

A friend of mine pointed out that I’m not blogging the way I said I would. I have gotten off to a sluggish start, and I’m sorry about that. Sadly, it has to do with a death in the family. My husband Tim’s father died last week at the age of 86. It was not completely unexpected, but still it’s always a shock when a loved one dies. As soon as we heard the news we piled the kids in the car and took off for Minneapolis (an 800 mile drive). The kids were great (for the most part) and it was a lovely funeral, lots of good friends and distant relatives telling stories. Jerry Ungs was a unique character and he will be missed.

So we arrived back in Kentucky last night to torrential rains and flash flooding. The rain was truly biblical. Many roads were washed out and we had to take a few detours just to make it home. Our front fields had turned into lakes. Luckily no drowned cows or chickens. Today is sunny and clear — a perfect day, the calm after the storm. We were missing our beloved Kit Kat, but found her high and dry in the barn, with 5 kittens hidden in the corn crib! Wow, what a great present to come home to!

So now I’m gearing up for my mini tour to celebrate Dream of Night coming out tomorrow! Yay! I heard there’s a nice feature in the Danville Advocate Messenger, so I’m going to check that out in a minute and post the link.

If you’ve been checking this and not seeing any new posts, I’m sorry. I promise this time I’m going to blog for real. Lots coming up this week, and so I will keep you posted as I travel to Lexington, Cincinnati, and Columbus in the coming days.

Regional book events — please check back for details…

The wonderful folks at Joseph Beth in Lexington, KY are hosting a signing for Dream of Night on May 4, publication day!  Two days later, I get to visit the Blue Marble Bookstore (in northern KY, near Cincinnati), one of my favorite places, and talk about Dream of Night.  Also, we’re working on planning an event at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s showcase adoption facility located at the KY Horse Park in Lexington, both to celebrate the book and to raise awareness about Thoroughbred adoption.  Please check back for specifics in the next coupla days…Thanks!

It’s a book! A real book!

Okay, picture this:  the package arrives, I glimpse the return address, I know it just might be first copies of my new book, hot off the presses, sent by my wonderful and thoughtful editor.  So, I rip the big padded envelope open…and….




Galloping into bookstores May 4, 2010!!!

I can’t believe it!

Dream of Night is a book.

Okay, I’m a mom.  I’ve held my newly born babies in my arms for the very first time, and of course holding a newly born book isn’t as mind and heart-blowing, but it’s heaven just the same.

More later….

Right now I have to just sit here and gaze silently for a moment at my little creation (which of course isn’t my creation alone at all but the final beautiful product of so many amazing talented people, including my lovely and hardworking editor and her terrific team of book superheroes at Atheneum.)

Dream of Night publishes officially May 4, 2010.

First review of Dream from Kirkus!

Yay!  I’m just thrilled to post a first review of Dream of Night which appears in this week’s Kirkus:

Henson, Heather


Once Dream of Night was a champion racehorse, but by the time Jess DiLima gets him he’s nearly dead from starvation and pneumonia, and his thin hide is covered in scars. Twelve-year-old Shiloh is scarred, too, both from physical abuse and from the emotional withering of years in foster care. Jess doesn’t feel up to the challenge of either one of them, but she knows that she may represent their last chance. Henson’s story unfolds in a tight, third-person, present-tense narration that shifts its focus among the three principals: Jess, Shiloh and Night. Her novel, like her characters, shimmers with anger and hope. She doesn’t pull her punches—the scenes and flashbacks of abuse are realistically graphic—but she also never lets the details overwhelm the narrative, always offering the possibility of redemption. The author understands, too, that victory is not necessarily a blue ribbon won or a family reunited—sometimes it’s just the quiet triumph of a girl confidently brushing a horse in a stall. Another impressive book by the author of Here’s How I See It—Here’s How It Is (2009). (Fiction. 8-14)

New book galloping into stores May 4, 2010!!!

I’m so excited about my new book that’s about to pub on May 4. It’s called Dream of Night, and it’s a middle grade novel told from 3 different points of view: an abused ex-racehorse, an abused foster child, and the foster mother who takes them both in. I was inspired to write this book after moving back to Kentucky and realizing how many ex-racehorses there are (thousands every year) and how many end up in abusive situations. I did a lot of research about people and organizations that work to rescue horses. I am especially grateful to the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at the Kentucky Horse Park. Will write more about this wonderful organization and what they do in my next post.

Please keep checking my blog for more information about the book and upcoming events in May 2010. I haven’t been the best blogger, but my 2010 New Year’s resolution: to keep up with my blog, to update it regularly, and to respond to posts. The last year was just so busy (twins turned 5!), I was kind of in a fog about blogging. But this is a new year, and away we go!

Here’s a picture of the gorgeous cover for Dream of Night:

Galloping into bookstores May 4, 2010!!!
Galloping into bookstores May 4, 2010!!!