Beanie Baby Interview
Posted on 19 March 2008. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Jillian Henderson-Long, aka Beanie Baby
Tell us all about your writing background- what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing
I can't remember a time that I wasn't creating stories and I began to write them down when I was seven or so. My first 'book' was called The Little Actress and I reckon it ran to around 2000 words, which is a lot when you are only seven! I drew the front cover and bound it up and proudly showed it off to everyone. As I grew up, I tried everything including Mills and Boon, writing stand-up comedy, novels, full length plays and musicals. I seem to have settled down now to poetry and children's books and I am currenly drafting the third in the Yucketypoo series for Lollypop.
I ran Creative Writing courses for adults for a few years and I thoroughly enjoyed that. I have also run Creative Writing workshops for children and I would love to do some more because I found them hugely satisfying. I took a proof reading course a couple of years back and got a diploma which was great and eventually, I'd like to put it to better use and maybe earn some money from it. At the moment I do have a day job as a PA,which does get in the way of the writing a lot, but I am just stuck with it for now.
How did you start writing?
I honestly can't remember what made me want to be a writer. I have often told people that as I was drifting through time and space on my way to being born, I passed through a number of doors marked 'teacher', 'nurse', 'actress' etc - then I got to one labelled 'writer' and just stopped. It is the only thing I have ever wanted to do; the only thing I have ever really known and I grow more passionate about it by the second.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
I could read by the time I was three and for a very long time I would read everything I could lay my hands on. The first little book I actually remember owning was for "The Tufty Club" which was a road-safety scheme published by RoSPA. The first writer I can remember being really influenced by was Pamela Brown who wrote the Blue Door series and several other theatre-themed books and I was very excited when I learned she wrote it when she was still very young - fifteen or so - and it made me realise that children can be writers whereas before, I'd always thought of it as being something only grown-ups did. That had a big effect on my future aspiraions.
How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?
With sheer dogged determination, I think. I was sending out dozens of manuscripts a week from the age of about twelve and my first article was accepted by a mainstream magazine called Fate & Horoscope Magazine, who then commissioned a second article. I was sixteen at the time and thought I'd really made it.
What's the worst thing about writing?
The worst thing is that my thoughts never ever leave it and I find that incredibly frustrating when I know I have to go to the office every day. It is all-consuming and 24 hour - even my sleep is disturbed by it. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
And the best?
Being able to pick up a pen and go to a fresh blank page, prferably in a beautiful new writing book; the very act of writing is for me the most rewarding thing in the entire world. Consequently, I write everything in longhand to begin with.
Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.
It never ceases to amaze and surprise me how intently children or adults listen whenever I do a talk or class; they seem to cling to every word, no matter what their age. I think it is because my writing is heart and soul driven; I speak from my own experiences and what I have learned in this endless quest. Whenever I do a talk I come away feeling really fired up and inspired.
What was your breakthrough moment?
Meeting Norman Wisdom and having him tell me "Never, ever give up and keep everything that you write." I recognised a passion in him that I thought I was the only person feeling and it spurs me on to this day
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