Friend Friday

It’s a thrill to introduce you to Genny Heikka, a blogger, speaker and friend from Northern California. Most important, however, is that Genny is a writer and today we get to share in the joy of her new books! 
When I opened the package I got in the mail a couple weeks ago and saw my latest children’s books, I was excited.

I wrote the books in 2011 and was seeing them for the first time, two years later.

Even though my kids weren’t jumping up and down shouting, “Mommy! Your books!” like they used to (they’re 12 and 14 now and barely noticed when I got the package), I still had that feeling of joy that comes from seeing your ideas and hard work turn into something you can actually touch and feel.

Something you can read.

To be honest, as I sat there leafing through the pages, I felt like I was reading my own words for the first time. Of course I remembered the stories, but because I’d written these books two years ago, reading the words again (and seeing the illustrations for the first time) was a fun process of discovery.

I wrote both of these picture books–Where’s the Mouse? and Birthdays Around the World–for Tun Tun, a publisher in Korea that creates books to help children learn English as a second language. Both books were work-for-hire assignments and were  rewarding projects to work on. Where’s the Mouse? was written not only to help Korean children learn to speak English, but also to help them with geography. In the story, the main character (a mouse) travels to different countries eating cheese and avoiding capture, only to end up in a bakery, eating cheesecake.

Birthdays Around the World started as a whole different idea years ago that I had for a picture book. I wanted to call it Hugs Around the World and wrote the story to share different ways people greet each other in different countries. I remember bringing it to my critique group, getting feedback on it, making revisions, and then having sudden inspiration to totally change the story so that it showed birthdays around the world, instead of hugs. I was excited about the idea, and my critique group was too, but after rewriting it, I didn’t do much with it, and it sat in my files. Then, when I was working with Tuntun on Where’s the Mouse?, I submitted my idea for Birthdays Around the World since that tied into geography. They liked it, we worked together to refine the story to meet their requirements, and the end result is this second book.

I love how when you write, nothing is waste!

I typically don’t hold on to things for a long time (I’m one of those people who likes to clean out closets and drawers!), but I save every story I’ve written, and every revision. Because you never know when one of your stories may end up becoming a book, or when you might be able to use an old idea in a fresh way.
Thank you, Genny — this is a good reminder that nothing we write is ever wasted. And that some stories find homes we’d never imagined possible! Congratulations on your new books.

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