Helen loves to write for kids. Her books for children’s publisher Sleeping Bear Press include M is for Meow: A Cat Alphabet, Z is for Zeus: A Greek Mythology Alphabet, Lily’s The Victory Garden and Little New York, E is for Eiffel Tower: A France Alphabet, F is for Friendship: A Quilt Alphabet, T is for Twin Cities: A Minneapolis/St. Paul Alphabet, Finnegan and Fox: The Ten Foot Cop and B is for Beacon: A Great Lakes Lighthouse Alphabet.
Helen L. Wilbur has been a librarian, run a catering business, acted, taught school, and worked in the electronic side of the publishing world. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago and an M. L. S. from Columbia University.
Some questions we asked Helen…
Where do you live?
I recently moved from one island to another – Manhattan to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. I spend the summers in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, on a lake but not on an island.
You left New York City?
Yup. For many years I lived just two blocks from Times Square. There’s no place more exciting than New York City but I was ready for someplace quieter.
Here on the island I can walk the wide beach, ride my bike on the shady paths, and enjoy the sunset (and the resident alligator) on the lake in back of our home. Osprey soar over the water and egrets and herons fish the shoreline. Our yard is filled with live oak, Spanish moss and birds. I love it.
What were your favorite books when you were a child?
Millions of Cats, The Tall Book of Make Believe, Ballet Shoes ( and all the ‘shoes” series by Noel Streatfeild), and The Secret Garden. I was lucky to have a mother and aunt who constantly read to me and bought me books.
Do you have pets?
Bartleby was waiting for us last fall at the Humane Society Shelter. He approved of his new home right away and set about chasing chameleons from window to window and greeting guests. He has velvet fur and a calm and contemplative disposition. He loves watching all the outdoor animals. His particular friend is Milkshake the squirrel who visits with him through the kitchen window.
Your books cover very different topics. Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are the easy part, they are everywhere. The difficulty is making an idea into a book or story that will appeal to readers.
My editor really likes horse books and suggested I write a book about a horse. But living in midtown Manhattan I didn’t have much horse experience. One morning I was haveing my coffee by my apartment window looking down 42nd Street. I saw a mounted police officer riding down the street on his beautiful horse and that was the beginning of Finnegan and Fox.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to read, walk, swim, cook, travel and ride my red bicycle. Hilton Head Island and New Hampshire are perfect places to for walking and biking. I love to explore new places. Just in the past few years, I have been to France, Russia, Turkey, Finland, Greece, Morocco, Hungary, Austria, The Czech Republic and Cambodia as well as lots of places in the United States and Canada.
Do you write every day?
I try to write every day even if it is just a journal entry. My full-time job requires a lot of travel. Writing is a very portable occupation – all you need is imagination, a pen and a piece of paper.
How can I be a writer when I grow up?
Read, read, read and write. Writing is a skill like any other that requires practice. You might be a natural athlete but you wouldn’t compete without lots of training.