We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela Henderson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Angela, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
This question takes me back to my perfectionistic personality in childhood all the way to my present “ish” adult mindset. There’s such freedom in being RISK-ish. I am a children’s book author. But I’m also a single mom of three kids, an English Language Arts teacher, and a type 7 in the Enneagram. That’s important. I’ve done art since I was six years old. My bunny rabbits needed to be perfect before I moved on to anything else. I started pottery. I did nothing else for my entire senior year. I went to college and earned scholarships and spent countless hours in the library to maintain that monetary award. Playing it safe? Probably. But then I had kids. I began reading children’s books with them. We dreamed together. Played together. Noticed nature together…and I realized some of the best moments were the imperfect ones. The ones where we took some risks. Little risks. Bigger risks. Some successes. More failures. Well, failure-ish, as often plan b, c, or d led us to better turns—possibly a more whimsical world. And isn’t that the storyline in children’s books? Risk is a necessary component. You don’t have a good book without something at stake for the character. Usually the higher the stakes, the more intriguing the story. The twists and turns are what make us turn the page. As an author, I have my own set of risks—time and emotion being the main ones. Lots of time invested with no immediate reward or guarantee of one, hence “risk.” Writing, writing, and more writing not knowing if anyone else will even read my work (or if I want anyone to read it.) Then there’s time editing. Ughh. Or is it Ugh? But there’s fun too…conferences, connections, and after many years, thankfully a contract. I just signed a contract for my third picture book in my Isaac series! So, risk? My mindset has evolved to believe that if achieving the final product encompasses one’s full definition of success, it’s not worth it. But if embracing who you are becoming along the way and enjoying community factors in your definition, it’s so worth it. Can one be successful-ish? This girl can. I value risk because I’m learning to value the process. I am shaped by encouragement and rejection, opportunities and disappointments, rainbows and storms… It. All. Counts. *Thank you Peter H. Reynolds for creating children’s books that help us see things “in a whole new way” and live “ishfully ever after.” (Ish by Peter H. Reynolds)

Alright, so let’s move on to what keeps you busy professionally?
Madeleine L’Engle writes, “Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.'” My “firstborn book” came to me through my firstborn son, Christian. When he was in Kindergarten, we would draw and paint together mindlessly to unwind after long school days. One afternoon he drew a scoop of ice cream on a tree. I commented, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful if ice cream could grow on trees?” Then I realized, in a children’s book, anything is possible! Thus began our journey. Christian and I teamed up on the first version of Isaac’s Ice Cream Tree. He wanted to in our church’s talent show but had the normal stage fright. So, we came up with an idea. He created a gigantic story board, big enough for him to hide behind on stage and for a week, did all the art to go with the story. As I read Isaac’s adventure with his magical Sugar Maple Tree to the kids in the audience, Christian peaked out and attached the correlating pieces on the board. His favorite part was covering the kids in confetti sprinkles at the end. You’ll have the read the book to picture it . . . and you can because eventually I edited the story and a publisher picked it up! It’s funny because I read that last sentence and it seems so insufficient, almost dishonoring to the process. It’s like when graduate says, “I got a diploma.” That piece of paper, or in my case a book contract, carries with it the years of work, risks, rejections, rewards…and best of all, relationships with wonderful, creative people including my illustrator, Rachael Koppendrayer, authors, librarians, teachers, and most importantly, children, especially my own trio. It’s been worth it. It is still worth it. My second book, Isaac & Izzy’s Tree House, released May 15th, 2020, and wow, launching it during Covid was a learning curve, but a good helpful one. This month I signed my contract for my third book in the series. I’m excited about this one as it will complete the seasons and continue a positive message: Isaac’s Ice Cream Tree—intentional optimism (winter & spring) Isaac & Izzy’s Tree House—unexpected friendships (summer) Isaac #3 (untitled)—unifying forgiveness (fall) The best way I can describe my “brand” is to share a personal text from a friend: “Dear Angela, I spent time this afternoon thinking of you. I slowly read both of your books. I stopped many times looking at the illustrations. Your work shares beautiful messages with young readers: the importance of friendship, of sharing with others, of facing obstacles with perseverance and hope. You live your life upon those beliefs. . . You bring your joyful energy and your positive attitude.” (Magda Widner) Her words are water to my thirty soul. Serving one’s work and others is success in the purest form. Madeleine L’Engle continues to say in her book Walking on Water, Reflections of Faith & Art, “When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work, and so he often wrote better than he could write; Bach composed more deeply, more truly, than he knew; Rembrandt’s brush put more of the human spirit on canvas than Rembrandt could comprehend. When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens. But before he can listen, paradoxically, he must work.” Although I’ll never touch these masters, my desire is to listen, create, and share. When I have the JOY of being with children and introducing them to Isaac, my hope is that they will be FILLED with hope in their individual circumstances while enjoying a magical story together. Don’t we all need that?

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Favorite spots in the city . . . My favorite question for sure! Any chance I get to introduce friends to The Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, I take it! Talk about a group of entrepreneurs, artists, and business owners coming together to create a place for every person. We always start at The Laughing Willow, a shop owned by Melody Ginn as her store is an experience. Then we head down the street to enjoy Society Candles, Urban Owl, Dude Sweet Chocolate, Ely, and other artisans, all the while enjoying live music at various venues. Then we close with a treat from Cretia’s Bakery and dinner or drinks at Paradiso.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thank you Dr. Sandra Glahn for being my writing mentor and friend these past eight years. You’ve journeyed with me from my first ideas to now my third book contract and all the way have validated my desires and efforts. Your think-outside-the-box insights are invaluable. Thank you also to SCBWI North Texas and the community you foster.

Website: angelahendersonauthor.com
Instagram: angelahendersonauthor
Twitter: @KidsbookFriends
Facebook: @angelahendersonauthor
Youtube: Angela Henderson

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