Zipzer Authors Open Up About Writing

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Reading for the Hank Zipzer audiobooks was “THE most difficult thing I have ever done in my career,” said Henry Winkler, co-author with Lin Oliver of the series about the “world&r

Reading for the Hank Zipzer audiobooks was “THE most difficult thing I have ever done in my career,” said Henry Winkler, co-author with Lin Oliver of the series about the “world’s greatest underachiever.” The series is based on Winkler’s experience as a kid with dyslexia, which made school difficult for him. Reading is still hard. But it hasn’t stopped him from being a successful writer, actor and director.

Winkler and Oliver were in Denver February 7-9 for the CCIRA 2014 Conference on Literacy. “We think that unless kids can read, in whatever way they learn how to read, it’s going to limit their life,” said Oliver. They were also on the road to promote their new series, “Here’s Hank,” the Hank Zipzer prequel, in which Hank is in second grade. The new books are printed using a special font that is easier for kids with dyslexia to read.

Some might wonder if it’s hard for someone like Winkler to write. “Some people aren’t very good at writing with a pen or pencil,” said Oliver. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t think creatively or organize your ideas like a writer. So that’s what Henry does.”

Both Winkler and Oliver come up with the ideas, and Oliver types them into an outline. So they think they know which way the story is going, but it sometimes ends up going another way. “You have to be flexible enough to leave the outline if your characters are telling you they don’t want to do what’s in the outline,” said Oliver.

That’s how it is when they write the Hank Zipzer books. They create the stories, but some of the characters are based on real people, like his teacher Mr. Rock. He was the one who believed the most in Winkler and said to him, “Winkler, you’re going to be OK.” It turns out he was right.