On Saturday, a dream of mine came true when I got to see Kevin Henkes as he finished his author tour in support of Waiting, his incredible new picture book. Not only did I get to see him speak about his process as writer, but I also got to thank him for doing anything with the Global Read Aloud. He says he thinks it is incredible to think of all the students that are reading The Year of Billy MIller right now.
So ore than 200 classrooms submitted questions from around the world and boy, it was hard to pick, there were so many good ones. I hope you like the ones I picked and even more, that you like the answers he gave. I know I did.
Niyati Best-Paudyal from The Miami Valley School asked, “What part of the writing process do you like the most?”
Before I begin to write, I think for a long time. I think about my main character and try to envision everything about him/her. For Billy Miller I thought about Billy’s family, his friends, his school life. I thought about where he would live. I thought about how old he would be. I thought about what he would look like. I do all this before I actually write. This is my favorite part of “writing,” because there is so much promise. Anything is possible.
Cohen in Mrs. Draper’s Class, from Oshawa,Ontario,Canada asked, “How did you find art in your heart?”
I think I was born with art in my heart. To find it, I sometimes need to be inspired. It might be a walk in the woods near my house, or a trip to a museum, or reading a book that unlocks the art and allows it to flow.
Elaine Blanton’s Grade 2 Class from Calgary, Alberta, Canada asked, “Are any of Billy’s adventures/experiences based on your personal second grade experiences in childhood?”
When I was writing Billy Miller I tried to remember my second grade self, but more than anything Billy’s experiences are based on my son’s and my daughter’s second grade lives. My wife and I volunteered in both our children’s first and second grade classrooms once a week. So I had four years of being with first and second graders on a regular basis. This was the real inspiration for The Year of Billy Miller.
Mrs. Trollop’s Team from Wausau, Wisconsin, USA asked; “Was it hard to become a writer? How did you get people to want to buy your books?”
I loved books when I was a boy, so it seemed natural to me to want to become a writer. I was lucky. When I was 19 years old I traveled to New York City from my home in Wisconsin looking for a publisher. Greenwillow Books offered me a contract for my first book, and I’ve been with the same publisher for 35 years. My publisher markets and promotes and distributes my books for me. My publisher gets people to want to buy my books.
Mrs. Bartlein’s Class from Erin, Wisconsin, USA, asked, “What are you hoping others will learn by reading The Year of Billy Miller? What’s your message?”
I don’t think about what people will learn from my books. I do hope that people will like my stories, that they will be entertained. I don’t try to teach anything. I try to write engaging stories with interesting characters. I try to write good sentences. It’s as simple and difficult as that.
Thank you so much, Mr. Henkes for answering some of our many questions.