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An author’s flights of fantasy: 'Nurturing the spark of creativity in young people'

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Henry Herz, with sons Josh (left) and Harrison: "Parental authority and bribery — always a winning combination."


Henry Herz has two writing partners — his young sons Josh and Harrison. Together, they spin fanciful tales of science fiction and fantasy aimed at children whose fertile imaginations run just as wild as theirs.

Their first collaboration, a fantasy early chapter book, was published in 2012 and titled "Nimpentoad," which he describes below. Herz polished his craft by taking the UC San Diego Extension course Writing Children’s Picture Books, taught by Sarah Tomp and Andrea Zimmerman.

Away from writing, Herz is a principal in Lean Business Solutions, a San Diego company that specializes in process improvement training and consulting. He has more than 20 years of experience working with large system integration firms including SAIC and Booz-Allen, along with smaller software development firms.

A graduate of Cornell (Operations Research and Industrial Engineering), he also earned master’s degrees from George Washington University and Georgetown University.

The Herz trio’s next picture book is scheduled for publication in January 2015. "Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes" replaces the original characters with mythological creatures.

Q: First, how did you get your two sons involved in writing with you?
A: Parental authority and bribery -- always a winning combination.

Q: How does that process work?
A: The writing or the bribery? I draft the initial version of the story, and then they review it and provide feedback. They are like a mini-critique group or an adolescent focus group.

Q: As a frequent speaker on self-publishing, what’s the best advice you can give to aspiring writers?
A: Make sure you know why you are writing a story before deciding whether to pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Q: Why are you so fascinated by fantasy and science fiction?
A: For me, the appeal of what we call “SFF” is being immersed in other worlds. I love hanging out with elves, wizards, and wookies. Orcs, less so.

Q: When you took the Children Literature course, what was the best lesson you learned?
A: That there are rules to follow that will increase your chances of being traditionally published. And you can violate those rules. Drew Daywalt's "The Day the Crayons Quit" is a great example of that.

10-14-14-nimpentoad-graphic.jpgQ: What are some of the entrepreneurial projects you’ve done together?
A: My goal was to teach my sons about running a business, responsibility, handling money, and interacting with new people. Our first business sold custom LEGO vehicles as gifts or party favors. The second sold custom cast terrain and bases for use in the fantasy Warhammer tabletop miniatures game. The third sold custom cast and painted concrete YardCritterz -- animal and insect versions of garden gnomes.

Q: Where do you think your stories and your creativity come from?
A: Too much dietary sugar? Certainly never growing up, plus reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. There's a saying: A lion is the product of all the zebras it's eaten.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing children’s books?
A: Knowing that I've planted or nurtured the spark of creativity in young people. Who knows what great things their creativity will produce?

Q: Who or what exactly is Nimpentoad?
A: Nimpentoad, protagonist of the eponymous book, is a nibling -- a small, clever, and fuzzy woodland creature.

Q: What’s the story line of your soon-to-be-published book?
A: "Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes" is a collection of classic rhymes, each given a monstrous twist. So, it has no overarching story line. See the aforementioned "rules, violations thereof."

Writing Children's Picture Books is part of the UC San Diego Extension certificates in Children's Book Illustration and Children's Book Writing. For more information, visit our website or contact us at ahl@ucsd.edu or 858-534-5760.

Posted: 10/20/2014 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


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