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PIRATE QUEEN: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao, an Interview with Author Helaine Becker
March 18th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

Interview with Award-winning Author, Helaine Becker

Pub date: March 1, 2020 Groundwood Books

Buying Links: IndieBound | Powell’s |Book Depository | Amazon | Audible | B & N

Interview:

Question: Why did you want to write about Zheng Yi Sao? Answer: When I first learned her story, I was gobsmacked. WHY DON’T WE KNOW ABOUT HER??? How could I NOT write about her after learning this incredible story? 

Question: What kind of research went into this book? Answer: The amount of research and fact-checking that went into this book was enormous. This is often the case with kids’ nonfiction – it tends to be better fact checked than most adult books. I had to leave out some of the good stuff though – – like her ‘unconventional’ love triangle with her husband and his adopted son. Who later became her second husband. Ahem.

Question: Anything else you would like to share? Answer: I did not write this book to inspire girls, although I sure would have liked to know about Zheng Yi Sao when I was a kid. This is a book for all of us, so we stop perpetuating and reperpetuating the myth that women “can’t” and women “didn’t” do cool and daring and brilliant and groundbreaking stuff. We did, and we can, and we need to make sure everybody knows so they stop holding us back.  I’ve written four+ biographies about amazing women lately, and I’m getting tired of writing the same crappy “but they wouldn’t let her, even though she was clearly head and shoulders more capable than…” lines over and over again. 

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Socks or no socks? Socks are for suckers.

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? Espresso. I would bathe in it if I could.

Cat, dog, bird or no pets? Dogs. We recently lost our doggo and I am feeling bereft. 

Sport you would enjoy watching: football, basketball, soccer, tennis, ice-skating, gymnastics? I did ice dancing for several years and still like to watch a good ice skating show. In terms of team sports, I went to Duke so I’m a huge Basketball fan, but only in March (And I hate the pro leagues). I have always loved baseball but am beyond fed up with the greed and corruption of all major sports. So I’ll stick to watching kids play t ball at the local park from now on. And dog agility competitions – those the great fun.

Books: fantasy, memoir, historical fiction, sci-fi, romance, fiction? Of course you had me at “books.” But right now I’m deep into fantasy, since I’m writing one;  and historical fiction, and funny stuff, and art, since I’m big into painting and honing my own drawing skills now.

About Helaine Becker:

Helaine Becker is an award-winning writer of books for children. She has written over 90 books, including the best-selling picture books, A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, Deck the Halls, and Dashing Through the SnowYou Can ReadandSloth at the Zoompopular non-fiction, including Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13, Megabugs,Worms for BreakfastHubotsZoobotsMonster Science and Don’t Stress!; and novels including GottikaDirk Daring, Secret Agent, and How to Survive Absolutely Anything.

She also writes for children’s magazines and for kids television. She has written four seasons of Dr. Greenie’s Mad Lab, a segment on Planet Echo, an environmental science show, and is hard at work on several other projects.

Helaine is a popular presenter and performer at schools internationally. She was selected  to tour four times for Canadian Children’s Book Week (Yukon in 2006, Nunavut in 2008, and Manitoba in 2014 and Montreal in 2019). She has presented at Vancouver Writers Fest, Tucson Festival of Book, IFOA, the Orange County (California) Children’s Festival, the Festival of Women Writers, Frye Fest, Weaving Words, and other major venues. She has also been the keynote speaker at SCBWI Canada East’s regional conference in 2016. She presents to kids AND to writers, teaching writing skills re: fiction, non-fiction, verse and the business side of writing. 

Both an American and Canadian citizen, Ms. Becker attended high school in New York and graduated cum laude from Duke University in another century. She is married, with two sons, and is an active swimmer, runner, cyclist, and compulsive read-aholic.  She has an orange belt in karate and is contemplating going for her grapefruit belt. 

Helaine loves bright shiny colorful things, especially happy faces and flowers. She is crazy about fluffy dogs, coral reefs,  ice cream and color-changing nailpolish.

Connect with Helaine Becker on Social Media: Website | Twitter


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