Hey guys! We’re in for a treat today, I get to introduce you this wonderful lady- Becky Benishek.
Hi Becky! Tell us a bit about yourself.
This is the year I became an author, self-publishing two children’s books after a few too many years of just thinking about doing it. Finding the Navigating IndieWorld group on Goodreads was one of the best things I could have done.
I love singing and listening to music, playing with our guinea pig, Teddy, building Lego structures, going to Renaissance Faires, exploring bookstores, playing video games, trying new restaurants, and just plain hanging out with my husband and all of our friends.
When I’m not doing all that, I’m working to support all of these habits! I’m the social media & community manager at the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). One of my key roles is managing Yammer communities for our customers to share training strategies and success stories with each other. I absolutely love it. And it’s because of CPI and Yammer that I am now a second-year Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP)! It’s both humbling and awesome at the same time.
I’ve looked through your portfolio on your website and you have a lot going on! Tell us about some of the other projects you work on.
I am currently pursuing plans to get my third children’s book illustrated and out the door by this fall; this one is about a dragon with a very special, coveted gift that backfires completely! I’m also supposed to be rewriting a fourth children’s book. That one is a true picture book and when it went through the editing stage, I ended up with fewer words than the recommended maximum. The storyline supports putting in more, so I just have to do it now.
I was happy to have an article published in The Journal of Crisis Prevention, which our company puts out—not that that made it any easier for me to get an article accepted! I wrote about an aunt on my husband’s side who has never known him, because of a disease she was born with. It’s reprinted on my blog: Rosemary’s Face: The Legacy of Rh Hemolytic Disease
As I write this, for the past few months I’ve been occupied with fun yet busy things at work. In March, we had a huge social media campaign called #MarchMindfulness. Plus because of being an MVP, I have to do things to justify keeping that title, so I’ve been speaking at events, doing videos, and mentoring people. I also just submitted my speaker proposals for Microsoft Ignite 2017.
You’re obviously a huge guinea-pig fan, when did you first fall in love with them and what is it about them that grabbed your heart? If you could have any other type of animal for a pet, what would you choose?
The legacy of guinea pigs is long: I grew up with white rats, but my dad would just get too sad when they died because their lifespan (as far as we’re concerned) is so short. Then there was an ad in the newspaper: Someone had a guinea pig with an unexpected litter—this happens often with guinea pigs—and needed to give away the kids. When we showed up, the pig family was out in a safe space on the lawn. One of the little pigs detached itself from its pile of siblings and trundled over to us as if to say, “Get me out of here!” That pig became Chucky. I’ve loved guinea pigs ever since.
Every year we learn more about guinea pigs: How much space they really need (store-bought cages are NOT big enough), the interaction they crave, and that their lifespans can be up to 10 years old and probably beyond by now. They are intelligent, engaging animals and will find a home in your heart. /PSA
I was always fascinated by African Greys, though hearing how they can go into deep mourning when they outlive their owners deters me from getting one. I have, however, been named the godparent of my illustrator Kelly’s conure, Kiwi, in case anything happens to my friend!
I also hear you have a vast Lego collection, what’s the most impressive thing you’ve ever built? Do you have any pictures of your creations?
I still have the King’s Castle set from the 80s, which I think is the best ever, and I really loved the Harry Potter sets. I have a thing for Cream City brick, and the “sand” color brick used in a lot of the Potterverse sets easily reminded me of that.
I have since added a Lego bank/laundromat combination building (I suspect money laundering) and am working on the latest Creator set, Assembly Square, but here is a decent picture of my collection:
That is impressive! The castles are my favourites 😀
I have another tiny (and dusty) set from the 80s that has become a scene of a future crime, because before the flexible and enterprising Lego minifigs came around, we had a different kind of Lego person, to wit:
“The new neighbors were having a lovely time outside until the Sinister People showed up…”
“…they were invited to have a drink and sit down, but that’s when things really got ugly.”
As an author of children’s books, how do you find matching the words and the pictures? Do you envision the images as you write? How did you go about finding the right illustrator?
I do envision the images, but as my own personal illustration style lends itself to everything looking like guinea pigs, I don’t hold a firm image in my head so that I won’t get in the way of my illustrator. If I tie myself down too firmly to something that I can’t even draw myself, I would risk stemming the creative process and not having a final product that appeals outside of my head.
I was very lucky that one of my good friends loves to draw! Kelly Cline is a biology teacher during the school year, and one of her many talents is bringing animals and objects to life through her illustrations. She captured both Sidney Snail and Guinea Pig George perfectly.
A lot of authors write things they would like to read, do you find it a challenge to write for a younger audience?
I’m wholeheartedly glad my books do appeal to the audience I’m writing for!
I actually find it quite easy to tell children’s stories, though the biggest thing I try to watch for is what’s appropriate for the age group. That’s the more difficult part, for I do believe children will absorb and learn from words and concepts considered over their heads; I also don’t believe in keeping everyone to a low common denominator just because of an average or census. Much depends on the parents or guardians reading with the child as well. Yet I also want to be fair and appeal to a wide audience.
Do your book ideas come fully-formed, or do you get little bits and pieces that you fit together as you go?
Both! “What’s At the End of Your Nose?” came fully-formed after I’d seen some unusual photographs about snails, and underwent only a slight storyline tweak after I’d written it out in a morning (and I don’t often do that, but this time that’s how it happened); Dr Guinea Pig George sprung fully-fledged into my head as well.
My other children’s stories waiting in the wings for their turn to shine also came in fully-formed—and none of this is to say that editing doesn’t happen and things get changed–but the adult fiction I’ve been working on lends itself more to the bits and pieces kind, which I find very interesting.
I also have years’ worth of notebooks and scraps of paper with ideas that I always intend to do something about. . . .
You’ve said that you enjoy computer games (one of my favourite subjects!) tell us about some that you love and if they’ve influenced other areas of your life or work.
I grew up with my own Commodore 64, which had the best graphics at the time. I learned to program BASIC with Gortek & the Microchips. Beyond that, I had tons of games. “Riddle of the Redstone” is still my favorite from that era, a combination graphics, sound, and text-based game with a slightly sinister tone. You type your name in at the beginning, and ever after the prompts will read like: “A strange singing voice is coming from the basement. Do you investigate, Becky, or head out to the rose garden? Remember, time is running out to get the deed!”
Another fun one was “Montezuma’s Revenge,” which despite the colloquial expression was a super fun, ever-perilous warren of a multi-level game, with your little dude collecting jewels and of course killing enemies. Lots of jumping, climbing chains, sliding down poles, and having to collect the right keys.
I do have a working C64, but I also have a DOS emulator and just about every game I had back in the day so I can play on my PC.
Currently I play Fallout 3, Skyrim, and Elder Scrolls Online. I love world-building and hack’n’slash at the same time.
Has all this influenced me? I’m not sure! It might be the other way around; certainly growing up, I envisioned a wonderful fantasy world that combined nature with high-tech, and having the C64 was a fun supplement to that.
Where’s your favourite place to visit? And if you could travel anywhere in the world (or outside of it) where would you go?
I love Venice (Italy). Purely love it. I’ve visited twice and want to go back. But I also love Prairie du Chien right here in Wisconsin, which is home to Villa Louis, the most marvellous Cream-City brick Italianate Victorian house ever. The house itself feels so warm and welcoming—it’s been loved!
I would like to travel to Australia, but I confess I’ve always been rather curious about what’s in the Andromeda Galaxy…
Tell us about your latest release! (Or an upcoming one if you have a release soon)
All the upcomings are still nebulous, so I’ll just wax eloquent about “Dr Guinea Pig George,” which did after all get released after “What’s At the End of Your Nose?” even though I wrote it first—in 1999!
George is not based on any guinea pig I’ve ever known, but he definitely has their curiosity and “I think I can so therefore I can” mentality (some would call that bull-headedness) that is a hallmark of every guinea pig I’ve ever known. Besides hopefully enjoying the story for its own sake, what I hope to show children and adults is that you shouldn’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of what you think you can do.
What interview question do you wish someone would ask you?
“What do you think most characterizes your writing?”
I’d like to think I have my own unique or relatively unique whimsical style, especially when it comes to anthropomorphizing: I try to tap into what the animal is feeling and interpret that to the world at large.
Or so I believe. 🙂
Becky Benishek studied English and Environmental Science at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, and always hoped to turn her lifelong loves of writing, animals, and trees into something wonderful.
Becky writes both children’s books and adult fiction, has more than a few notebooks stuffed with poetry, and occasionally tries her hand (and ear) at songwriting. She is grateful for the support and unwavering belief of her family and friends.
Becky lives with her husband, Dave, and their guinea pig, Teddy.
Dr. Guinea Pig George really does think he’s a doctor–and it never occurs to him that he might be wrong!
Follow clever George through a very unexpected day as he navigates potential peril, takes advantage of a peculiar situation, and comes out on top.
These days, it’s more important than ever for all of us, children and adults, to believe in ourselves, even if what we aspire to seems out of reach at first glance. If you don’t take a chance, you’ll never know what might have been.
Sidney Snail is so sick of Slipperyville that he wants to go on an adventure-any adventure-anywhere but here! A timely word from mysterious Old Samuel Snail convinces Sidney to give Slipperyville one last chance before he snails out of town. Experience a snail’s-eye view as Sidney awakens the world around him.
Sidney will help show children (and adults!) that they can find magic, mindfulness, and meaningfulness in even the simplest things. All you need is a change of perspective.