W.H. Beck is the author of humorous middle grade mysteries, like Malcolm at Midnight and
Malcolm Under the Stars, and nonfiction picture books, like Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights. She likes her books with a dose of mystery and a dash of adventure.
A long-time elementary school media specialist (that’s a librarian), she now teaches in a library and information services program at a technical college in Wisconsin. When she’s not writing, she like to read, draw, travel, and hang out with her husband, teen sons, and dog.
Her writing is represented by Linda Pratt at the Wernick & Pratt Agency.
Follow me on social media to see what I’m reading, writing, drawing, and thinking about:
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a frequently asked questions section, not a plug for social media followers?
Yes, here goes . . .
What does the W.H. stand for?
No, not really. But it’s fun to come up with possibilities for those initials!
The truth is “W.H. Beck” is a pseudonym, or pen name. My real name Rebecca Hogue Wojahn, which is long and kind of hard to pronounce (go ahead, try it), and hard to remember. Furthermore, I’ve never – not once! – attended an event where my full name was spelled correctly. There’s just something about all those vowels and silent letters. So, as an elementary school librarian, I knew kid readers would have a hard time with it. So, I took the “W” and “H” from my last and middle names and shortened “Rebecca.” Voila! W.H. Beck.
Why do you use a pen name?
See the answer above ^.
So, what should I call you?
My students used to call me Mrs. Wojahn, my kids call me Mom, my own mom calls me by my sister’s name, but most people call me Becky.
Do you have a pet rat?
Nope! Malcolm was the result of reading and research. Rats do sound like wonderful pets, though. However, I have a dog that does not get along with small mammals.
What happened to Snip at the end of MALCOLM AT MIDNIGHT?
I’m a school librarian at heart. DO YOU THINK I’M JUST GOING TO ANSWER THAT? No, I’m going to suggest that you read MALCOLM UNDER THE STARS, in which we learn a little more about Snip’s story. Hope you enjoy it!
How did you get those photos for GLOW?
I wish I could say I took them, but there are very few people in the world who have seen those creatures in person. My editor and I did a lot of photo research to find the images – including reaching out to a scientist who was at sea without internet access for several months. Most were taken by scientists studying bioluminescence or the ocean. My publisher contracted with them to use them in the book.
Have you ever drawn anything for your books?
In fact, yes, I have. In the back matter of GLOW, there are tiny thumbnail drawings. I made those.
When do you have time to write?
I don’t really, is the true answer. But if you like to do something, you find time for it (see: Netflix, going out to eat, scrolling through Facebook, watching sports, etc.). I try to fit in 30-60 minutes before work on weekdays and a couple hours on the weekends. You’d be surprised how a page or two here or there adds up.
Where do you get your ideas?
Well, everywhere! But mostly in my reading and interactions throughout my days. I like to keep my ears, eyes, nose, and whiskers open for the unique and unusual in the world. If something makes me go “wow!,” then I know it’s something I want to spend time writing about. It helps to have a notebook handy at all times to jot down what I’m noticing – I’m bad at remembering things. Eventually, those “wow!” moments clump together in my brain into an idea for a story.
How can I get published?
This is a really long answer – whole books are written about this! – but generally, the steps are:
- Read. A LOT. All sorts of stuff, but especially recent books in genre in which you’d like to publish. Children’s books, for example, are way different than when I was a kid.
- Write. A LOT. Experiment. Don’t expect to be good right away. But just keep writing anyway.
- As you write, study the craft of writing. (Some of my favorite writing books.)
- Understand that publication is a business. The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators is a great place to start learning the business. Your local library is also a fabulous resource. You can check out books on writing craft, the business of publication, and new books in the genre in which you want to publish – for FREE.
- Have fun!