Leslie Helakoski shares the story behind her story …
I think writers often put parts of themselves into their fictional works. My ‘fiction’ picture books are often somewhat autobiographical, especially the Big Chicken books. I know a lot about fear because when I was young, I was a really big chicken. I was afraid of all kinds of things. So when my son, who loved puns, was laughing one day about the idea of chicken chickens, I thought, what a fun idea! And when I sat down to write about fear, the first thing that came to mind was the memory of following my sisters into the woods. We jumped over a big muddy ditch that I was afraid I’d fall into. We walked through a cow pasture where I was sure the cows would give chase. We crossed a stream in a homemade boat I was sure would tip over and we encountered a big scary dog that made us run—fast. All of this comes to life in the book, Big Chickens (illustrated by Henry Cole).
Author Richard Peck says, “We write by the light of every book ever written.” Books encourage us to be writers and we never know what pieces of information will stay with us and surface in our writing. At the time I was playing with chicken ideas, I’d just finished reading Maryann Williamson’s Return to Love. She wrote about fear being the root of all negative emotions. Click. something fell into place and I knew these chickens were going to create all their problems through their fear.(Don’t worry, these chickens also save themselves as they are more powerful than they realize.)
The second Big Chicken book, Big Chickens Fly the Coop, is also from my life at the time. I was considering quitting my job and venturing out as a full time writer but, of course, I was afraid. Afraid to give up a regular paycheck and be dependent on myself. I ventured out as a writer while I kept my job but it was holding me back. I even made some progress, selling two books, but would always run back to the safety of the coop, er…job. Big Chickens Fly the Coop is about following a dream and in spite of the fact that we make some progress, often tend to head back to what is safe.
Fear still takes me over every now and then. I wrestle with it and funnel it into my writing. I suppose in some ways I will always be a recovering chicken. But I also know I can rely on my chicken guts to keep me going in the right direction.
Learn more about Leslie Helakoski
- Page 1 of 0