Leah Henderson is the author of the middle grade novel One Shadow on the Wall (Athenuem/Simon & Schuster), which was listed as a Bank Street “Best Book of 2017” receiving a star for outstanding merit. Her short story “Warning: Color May Fade” is forthcoming in the YA anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray). Leah mentors at-risk teens in self-empowerment, business, and writing. Her volunteer work has roots in Mali, West Africa and as an avid traveler, she has explored over 40 countries. She attended Callaloo Writing Workshop at Oxford University, is on the Highlights Foundation faculty, and helps with conference planning for Kweli Journal and a We Need Diverse Books event. Leah graduated from Phillips Andover Academy and received her MFA from Spalding University. She currently calls Washington, D.C. home.
You ask, I answer . . .
Do you have a favorite book?
It’s hard to use the word “favorite” to describe how I feel about things. Favorites with an ‘s’ is probably a better question to ask. J There are so many books I love, and run to depending on my mood. But there are definitely some that have stuck with me.
When I was young, COURDEROY definitely left an impression. It featured someone that looked like my mom and me! More recently I have loved AMAZING GRACE, for similar reasons. But I also really enjoyed FISH IN A TREE, CIRCUS MIRANDUS, ECHO and BOYS IN THE BOAT. But I come back to SULA and CHARLOTTE’S WEB again and again.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Again, I need the ‘s’. Favorite is too limiting. Some I never get tired of watching are: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (either the animated or new version), NOTTING HILL, FINDING FORRESTER, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, and LOVE ACTUALLY just to name a few.
What are a few things about you people may or may not know?
I’m an All-NewEngland soccer player, I’m a National Champion rower, and I have a sever case of wanderlust (I start to fidget if I can’t explore).
As an avid traveler, where is your happy place? Where were your most unforgettable adventures?
Amalfi Coast in Italy is definitely my happy place! It is also the place of one of my most unforgettable adventures, which involves the rain, an angel, a dog and a dark, dark night. Timbuktu and Oman come in a close second and third though.
Travel seems to be very important to you, where have you been?
I’ve been to more than 40 countries, and they all opened my eyes to something new and often unexpected. Some of the most memorable trips include: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Senegal, Seychelles, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, China, India, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, parts of the US, Saudi Arabia, Mali, Haiti, and the United Arab Emirates (and of course each has a story).
What are some quotes you love?
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~Roald Dahl
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~Anton Chekhov
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” ~Maya Angelou
What made you set ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL in Senegal?
I was on a trip to Senegal and saw a boy on a beach wall that truly captivated me. He became the inspiration for my main character, Mor.
What’s something you love to do that is a silly way to pass the time?
Online personality quizzes. “What’s Your Secret Power?”, “Which City You Belong In?”, “Which Country Should Be Your Second Home?”, “What Would You Be In A Fantasy World?” etc. I love these! Even when the results are iffy, there is always a kernel of me in there somewhere.
Hamburger or pizza?
Pizza. Probably always pizza.
Ice cream or chips?
Does gelato count? Mint chip or stracciatella gelato any day, any time and you’ll see me smile.
Water or Woods?
Both. I love water—lakes, ponds, rivers, oceans, and seas. But I’m also up for a walk in the woods with my dog and a can of bug spray. Mosquitoes think I’m their best friend . . . trust me, I don’t want to be!
Letting someone down
What can’t you believe?
That I get to make stuff up for a living . . . though there are definitely unicorns, mermaids, and spirits out there somewhere, don’t you think?
What’s happiness to you?
My mom’s laugh or a child’s giggle
I love, love, love playing soccer with my dog at midnight.