Author ANDI HOUDEK Chat

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AUTHOR ANDI (ANDREA) HOUDEK SEATED WITH A FURRY FRIEND.
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ANDI HOUDEK

Each season, "Author Chat" will feature an interview with a writer or author Kevin has worked with as an illustrator. For Summer 2006, Kevin chats with Andi Houdek, the creator/author of "Mice in My Tummy" and "J.P.'s Halloween Parade," published by New World Publishing.



What were some of the children's books you enjoyed when you were young?

My favorite books growing up were horse stories.  I loved the Black Beauty series.  My own children grew up reading the same books I read (yes, they are still intact; I’m not that old).  Two more of my favorite children’s stories are "Mr. Pines Mixed Up Signs" and "The Just Alike Princes."

What kind of kid were you while growing up?

My childhood was unusual.  I grew up in Philadelphia and was a tomboy.  My favorite memories are of playing flashlight tag and manhunt with the neighborhood boys.    

I was born in New Jersey and at the tender age of six weeks, I was flown to Dachau, Germany where my grandparents raised me.  I actually lived in the Dachau concentration camp for the first year of my life.  It was used as immigrant housing after the war.  My first language is German.  I returned to the United States when I was five and entered kindergarten.  It was there that I learned to speak English.  By second grade, I was semi-fluent. 

I was always trying to fit in.  No one else I knew spoke a different language until 6th grade when my friend Rosie arrived from Brazil.  I loved to read and I spent each summer inhaling books.  I think this influenced my grasp of the English language and my love for the written word. 
 
When did you become interested it writing, and why?

Writing was an important outlet for me in my teen years.  I still have some of the poetry I wrote.  I kept a sporadic journal that reflected important events in my life.  It wasn’t until my children were born that writing became an important part of my life.  I’ve kept journals for them of milestones in their lives. 

I do come from a long line of writers.  My Tante Sibylle (Aunt) has been journaling since she could hold a pencil.  She has volumes of journals in her house.  When I was living with my grandparents, my grandmother kept a daily journal for me until the day I left for America.  As my children grew, I began having free time on my hands (amazing but true!).  I seriously began writing children’s stories about 5 years ago.



THE MOUSE FROM "MICE IN MY TUMMY." ILLUSTRATED BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER. ©2006 ANDI HOUDEK.
How did the idea for "Mice in My Tummy" come about?

My daughter Samantha came home from kindergarten one day and told me she had a family of mice living in her tummy. When I asked her if she was sure it was a whole family, she said, “Oh yes, and they keep running all over the place.” Apparently, her teacher had asked her to recite the alphabet and Sam was so nervous that she forgot a letter. It really made her mad. I wrote this event in her journal. When I began looking for topics for my stories, I started with my children’s journals and this story captured my imagination. This isn’t the first story I wrote but it is the first one to be published!


SAMMI RAE DANCES WITH A FRIEND IN "MICE IN MY TUMMY," ILLUSTRATED BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER. ©2006 ANDI HOUDEK.

What lesson does the book target, and what can children learn from "Mice"?

When I began writing the story, I had already been working with young children for about six years.  One of the things I noticed while working with them was the limited vocabulary they had for things they were experiencing. I chose one important feeling to write about.  My goal was to help them realize that being nervous was a normal feeling and to give them words for the feeling. I used children their age in the story so they could relate and tried to use events that were important to their lives.

I hope that children who read my book realize that it is normal to feel nervous as they go through life. I had Sami’s friend Sarah also feeling nervous to show that other people feel that way too.



BOOK COVERS FOR "MICE IN MY TUMMY" AND J.P.'S HALLOWEEN PARADE," ILLUSTRATED BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER. ©2006 ANDI HOUDEK.
How has being a published author changed your outlook?

Being a published author is very exciting for me.  For many years, in the back of my mind, I would think about the possibility of becoming a published author.  When I held my book in my hand for the first time, it was overwhelming. This is definitely a dream come true.  It is empowering. We always tell our children they can do anything they put their minds to.  I am living proof that this does work!  
 
Being a published author has also encouraged me to continue writing and to step out of my box. I am a private person and don’t willingly share the strange thoughts I have floating around in my head. My own insecurities (will anyone like the book?) also kick in every now and then. When my book was published, I felt as if I had placed a very private part of myself out into the public eye. Once I stepped beyond that anxiety, I found I was able to write without worrying if anyone liked my stories.  
 
I have had many people say to me “Well it can’t be that hard to write a picture book.”  I laugh and shake my head. They couldn’t be more wrong. It was agonizing working the book after I had written the first draft. I have a great respect for critique groups everywhere and feel very blessed that I now have a critique group who will honestly critique my stories.


SAMMI RAE REAPPEARS IN "J.P.'S HALLOWEEN PARADE," ILLUSTRATED BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER. © 2006 ANDI HOUDEK.
What inspired the story for the upcoming "JP's Halloween Parade"?

This past year, I worked as a kindergarten aide. The class was having a Halloween party and hallway parade. One boy showed up without his costume and it made me very sad. I was so moved by his attempts to not cry and the attempts his classmates made at making him feel better that the story just wrote itself. 
 
I write my stories through out the day in my mind.  After about two weeks of mind writing, I went to my favorite breakfast restaurant and put the story on paper in about one and a half hours. I get so many great ideas from working with young children. Their outlook on life is fresh, honest, and full of wonderful stories.


J.P. MARCHES IN "J.P.'S HALLOWEEN PARADE," ILLUSTRATED BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER. © 2006 ANDI HOUDEK.

What advice would you give new writers who want to get into the children's book business?

My best advice is to put on your jeans and t-shirt and get on the floor to play with children.  You need to step into their world to understand how they think and react to events going on around them.   Young children still believe in magic and the Easter Bunny.  If you can tap into their imaginations for just a moment, it triggers the child in you to surface.  This is where all of your great stories will come from!   Love what you do and your stories will unfold before your eyes. 


NEW WORLD PUBLISHING WEBSITE
EMAIL ANDI HOUDEK


INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

  • Read an interview with RONALD HARVIE, author of "Peter Potato and Friends"
  • Read an interview with MRS. MOUSE , author of "If You're Gonna Be A Monster..."
  • Read an interview with LINDA RONDEAU , author of "According to Daisy: Abundant Living For Moms."
  • Read an interview with DONNA J. SHEPHERD , author of "Topsy Turvy Land."
  • Read an interview with CATHERINE JAMES, author of "Bobby Cottontail's Gift."