VOICE OF THE STUDENT
WHERE FANTASY COMES TO LIFE: Hanging Out with Elves, Wizards, and Wookiees
By John B.B. Freeman Creativity comes from unlikely sources, says Henry Herz, who writes children’s books with his two young sons, Josh and Harrison. Together, Herz and his sons start with the familiar to create something new: They spin tales of science fiction and fantasy aimed at young readers whose fertile imaginations often run just as wild as theirs. Their first collaborative book of children’s literature, published in 2012, was titled Nimpentoad, the story of a tribe of small, clever, and fuzzy Niblings journeying to escape bullying by larger denizens of the forest. Their most current work, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, was published in early 2015. Those fanciful tomes and others are the collective works of Henry, Josh, and Harrison, with a nod to the UC San Diego Extension course, Writing Children’s Picture Books, as taught by Sarah Tomp and Andrea Zimmerman. Henry completed the course in 2013. “My motivation for writing these books is in knowing that I've planted or nurtured the spark of creativity in young people,” said Herz. “Who knows what great things their creativity will produce from reading our books?” Herz kiddingly concedes that his double duty as father and editor was abetted by “a combination of parental authority and bribery—always a winning tactic,” he said. “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.” Away from writing, Herz is a principal in Lean Business Solutions, a San Diego company that specializes in Lean Six Sigma process improvement training and consulting. He has more than twenty years with large system integration firms including SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) and Booz-Allen, along with smaller software development firms. A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, he also earned a master’s from George Washington University. In addition to their writing books together, Herz also teamed with his sons for a series of three entrepreneurial projects. “My goal was to teach them what it takes to run a business, along with the age-old lessons of decisionmaking, responsibility, handling finances, and interacting with new people,” he said.
“My motivation in writing these books is in knowing that I’ve planted the spark of creativity in young people.” —Henry Herz Their first enterprise sold customized 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. Their efforts were featured in various media outlets, including Young Entrepreneur magazine and CNN’s iReport, along with the Warner Bros' website for the movie, The Hobbit. Children’s literature references turn up easily in Herz’s everyday conversation. “For me, the appeal of SFF [Science Fiction Fantasy] is that it grants us the ability to be immersed in other worlds,” said Herz. “I love being able to hang out with elves, wizards, and wookiees—but orcs, less so.” As he looks back, his course on Writing Children’s Picture Books taught him one overriding lesson. “Mostly, it’s that there are rules to follow that will increase your chances of being traditionally published,” he said, “and that you can violate those rules, if you have a good reason.” A frequent speaker on self-publishing, Herz offers this cogent advice to aspiring writers, “Make sure you know why you are writing a story before deciding whether to pursue traditional publishing or selfpublishing,” he said.
Asked why he is so interested in children's literature,"Never growing up," Herz responds with a smile. More information about his books can be found at www.birchtreepub.com” n
Spring 2015 | extension.ucsd.edu | (858) 534-3400
Published on Feb 10, 2015
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