A Cafe Chat with Leslie Helakoski, by Lindsay Bandy

IDA Design

IDA Design

It’s spring, it’s warm, it’s sunny, and the lovely Leslie Helakoski is joining us for a chat this morning. Leslie will be offering both a picture book workshop and a keynote at the Pocono Retreat, so if you still need to sign up, go right ahead. And remember, TODAY is the deadline for the peer-to-peer CRITIQUE-A-THON, so send your submissions to Virginia Law Manning before the stroke of midnight! All righty, enough business, let’s have some fun with Leslie!

leslie

Lindsay: Hi there, Leslie, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! We are so excited to have you as a faculty member for our upcoming Pocono Retreat! As we settle into our cozy booth, what will you have to drink?
Leslie: Oooh, sparkling water with lemon please.

Lindsay: And something to snack on?
Leslie: I’m feeling healthy so I’ll say Mixed Berries. (In reality, if there is anything homemade with chocolate in it, I will likely succumb.)

Lindsay: Since this is mere virtual reality, I say we should both go for the double fudge, double-decker chocolate cake with a few berries on top. See? Virtually healthy.

chcolateandberries
So, I’ve gotta tell you, there was a real giggle-fest in the Bandy house
upon reading BIG CHICKENS! We love the surprising ending and all of the
wonderful alliteration and wordplay. I know that many of your book ideas
are pulled from your childhood, growing up in Louisiana. Where did those
hilariously “chicken” chickens get their start?

bigchicken

Leslie: Oh Lindsay, I will tell you more about those chickens in PA but let’s
just say they are definitely autobiographical.

Lindsay: Looking forward to it! I love your comments on your web site about determination and confidence! You said:

I heard how difficult it was to get published and chose not to listen. (Something else I’m good at). As a child, when I dreamed of doing something, I was told “Of course you can do it!” This quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass is on my desk: “Why
sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?
Leslie: I joined SCBWI in 1998 mainly because I wanted to be an illustrator.
Turns out there’s a big difference between illustrating and painting. I ended up writing 5 books before I illustrated one.

Lindsay: What are some of your favorite books to read with your kids?
Leslie: All the Roald Dahl’s books. And two of my all-time favorites are Millions of
Cats by Wanda Ga’g and The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman.

millions of cats  Hoberman-The-Seven-Silly-Eaters  The_Twits_first_edition

Lindsay: If you could jump into any book and live there for a day, what would you choose?
Leslie: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. Those beautiful watercolors of life underwater… I so wanted to be there. Still do.

Lindsay: What would be the theme song to your writing life? 

Leslie: Remember that song the fairy godmother sang in the TV version of Cinderella? “Impossible?” Half of the song said things were Impossible and the other half said, they were Possible. I go back and forth between these two every day.

Lindsay: Excellent choice. I think we can all identify with that, no matter where we are on the journey! 

Now, imagine that you go to a flea market and buy an interesting little lamp. You go home, polish it up, and POOF! A muscular, blue genie pops out and offers you a magic carpet ready to do your bidding. Where does it take you?
Leslie: France. I can’t wait to go back one day. C’est possible!

paris

Lindsay: Ooh, another excellent choice! Paris is calling my name for a return trip, too.
So, I know you’re planning on offering a picture book-focused workshop
AND a keynote at the Pocono Retreat! Can you give us a little teaser
about what you’re going to talk about?
Leslie: We will analyze picture books to see what is working and what is missing. Instead of dismissing titles we don’t like, we’ll try to figure out reasons they are selling. And we will play with words. I love to see what words can add besides just meaning.

Lindsay: Sounds splendid! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us, Leslie! We can’t wait to meet you in just a few weeks! Until then, you can all learn more about Leslie and her books on her web site.

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