This week the Motown Writers Network features Ms. Hen. Ms. Hen has been writing all her life, but has been writing children’s books since 2011 when she began to annually attend the Iowa Writers’ Summer Festival.
She began writing the Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist books when she worked as an elementary library supervisor and was disappointed in the offerings for girls and boys. She — and her students — wanted to read books that featured a smart, spunky, principled, and interesting protagonist. Ms. Hen says, “Girls can be anything: scientists, mathematicians, astronauts. Girls are so much more than glittery princesses; they are self-reliant problem-solvers.”
John Ball is a biography of the man who donated the land to establish the Grand Rapids, Michigan park and zoo that bears his name. His life was amazing — he had Christmas dinner with a king, traveled across the United States, and walked unannounced into the White House to have a chat with the U.S. President.
Mackinac Island is a place that many wish to visit. Even those who have been there may not know how it’s history helped to shape the United States. The book includes a walking tour, travel tips, and a bit of a scavenger hunt as well as historical and current information that will prove interesting and helpful for visitors as well as students who are writing a report on the special island.
Ms. Hen lives in Michigan, the Mitten State. She has two grown children, two grandchildren, and two kitties. Her favorite color is orange and she loves to travel.
Where are you from?
I just published “Let’s Explore Mackinac Island,” and will be speaking at the Michigan Reading Assoc. Conference in Detroit — March 2016
When and why did you begin writing?
I was an English major in college and taught English for a couple of years. I also did some proofreading and editing. I had never written creatively but always wanted to, so in 2010, I went to the University of Iowa for the Summer Writing Festival and have been writing creatively ever since.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my first book, Lucky Lottie, was published in 2012 and my library (KDL Grandville) hosted a book-signing party.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Originally, I thought I wanted to write Memoir, but found that I have a knack for writing for children. As all authors do, I incorporated some of my own story into the character of Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I enjoy writing fiction and poetry, but I think my forte is researching and distilling information in non-fiction.
How did you come up with the title?
The Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist books are a series of 4 books with rhyming(ish) titles that give a hint of the story: Lucky Lottie, Spotty Lottie, Rocky Lottie, and Lakey Lottie. My great aunt’s name was Lottie and I loved her to pieces. My writing group helped with the series title.
Is there a message?
Each book has not only some nuggets about science, but also information about Michigan and some character lessons, delivered in a light-hearted way.
How much is realistic?
The Lottie stories could happen to any curious child.
Experiences based on someone or events?
I believe every author inserts some of him- or herself in all of their fiction writing. I would say that Lottie is the girl I wish I had been.
What books have influenced your life most?
The Bible, My Antonia, Pippi Longstocking, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Blessing, The Gifts of Imperfection, To Kill a Mockingbird, Whistling in the Dark, One True Thing
Which writer would you consider a mentor?
What are you reading now?
Sapphira and the Slave Girl; The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up; The Torah
New authors who have grasped my interest?
Katie Van Ark, Wendy Booydegraaf
Just published “Let’s Explore Mackinac Island.”
Entity that supported you outside of family members?
My writing group: FLAG (Four Ladies and a Gent)
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but not a dependable financial path
Would you change anything in your latest book?
No — but it’s fresh. I’m sure I’ll see/think of something as time goes on.
How did my interest in writing originate?
I loved books and reading for as long as I can remember. I’m sure that influenced my interest in writing.
Share a little of current work?
I’m revising a novel that has been in the works for a few years. It’s a project close to my heart. That’s all I can say about that right now.
Anything particularly challenging in my writing?
I get impatient to publish, but I find if I let the manuscript simmer a bit, the revisions are better.
I would have to say that Frederick Buechner is my favorite author. He writes beautifully with great candor about life, faith, doubt, and hope.
Do you travel much concerning your books?
I have traveled in West Michigan to promote my books at various author events and libraries. I traveled to Mackinac Island to research and take photos for my latest book.
Who designed the covers?
I illustrated the books and took the photos, but my daughter, Abby Bedford, is a graphic designer and she professionally formats the covers.
What was the hardest part?
Ignoring distractions of life to hunker down and get ‘er done.
What did you learn from writing your book?
I learned to trust my “muse.” The stories unfold and characters appear and sometimes I’m surprised to see what I’ve written. That’s the best!
Any advise for other writers?
Write as much as you can, keep a notebook for ideas (you never know when something will inspire you), join a writing group, engage in social media, be an extrovert about your writing, read, be a constant observer/listener, don’t quit.
Anything specific to say to readers?
In my work in elementary libraries, I found that many books for children are pretty silly or fluffy. That’s okay in small doses, but in the Lottie books, I wanted to portray a girl who wasn’t a princess or a fairy, but spunky, real, and full of curiosity. Science is not only interesting, it’s important. Kids can enjoy reading fun stories that also teach.
Name of Author: Amy Henrickson (aka Ms. Hen)