Meet Billie Sue Greenlee, Author The Bee-Hive Vegetables and The Bee-Hive Fruits
What inspired you to become a children's author? As a single child growing up in an isolated log cabin, I learned to use my imagination to create my own toys and to write poetry. The dream of writing books began during those early years, and my golden years have given me the opportunity to make this dream a reality. I became especially interested in writing for children while recording my memoirs for my grandchildren.
How did you come up with the idea for The Bee-Hive Nutrition Books? I spent many hours in a hospital waiting room after my husband was diagnosed with diabetes, required vascular surgery, and had to receive extensive hyperbaric treatment at the wound center. During this time, I observed numerous health problems caused by diabetes including missing limbs. The children’s issues especially touched my heart, and I hoped that I could do something to prevent more children from becoming victims of this debilitating disease. I believe the idea for The Bee Hive series was born in that waiting room.
Because my husband and I grew up on southern fried food, nutrition counseling was recommended so that we could change our eating habits to a healthier regimen. Thus, another seed for the book was born, and I began writing little poems on note cards. I shared a couple of the verses with two nutritionists who encouraged me to put them into a book for children. I realized this was a way to teach young children that nutrition could be fun. Knowing that retention of lessons learned as children affects decisions made as adults. I hoped my efforts would aid in preventing obesity and its subsequent health issues.
I gave considerable thought to the names for the books and their characters. I visualized children as busy little bees gathering at the beehive where they could share the latest “buzz” about nutrition. Bee-Bee comes from the special name given to me by my grandchildren and Buz-Zee is my eight-year-old grandson who helped illustrate the books. Buz-Zee excitedly flies across the bottom of each page to show the readers the next verses.
What was the experience of getting your books published like for you? The Bee Hive books were my first books and were self-published. Because my publisher was local, I could communicate my many queries in person. The whole process was a learning experience, and each day I faced new decisions. The business and marketing areas have definitely taken me down new paths. During this process, many wonderful people have provided guidance. In retrospect, I am thankful for both the challenges and for the helping hands.
What do you hope children will learn from The Bee-Hive Nutrition Books? I hope that children will learn that nutrition can be fun and that they should try new vegetables and fruits. Children who never try new things will miss out on much life has to offer. Young children are receptive to learning about people, ideas, and games, as well as about vegetables and fruits. It will be great to see them join the “helper bees” and receive a bee-hi-five award card when they complete each book. Then they can spread the “nutrition buzz” to all their family and friends. Bee-Bee has an activity page for all bees to enjoy. Buz-Zee has a collector’s card nook in each book with some vegetable or fruit cards for our “Bee” collectors. Nutrition is fun with the Bee Hive series!
Children's authors don't always get to choose who illustrates their books. Are you happy with how your illustrations turned out? Are the characters as you imagined them? Having illustrators who were willing to use some of my ideas was a blessing. We worked together on all the vegetables and fruits. Sometimes they used my ideas and at other times, their ideas were much more creative than mine were. The visual concept of the characters was accurate and appealing.
Ashley Spears is a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, and artist. Harrison Lee Givens, my grandson, was the inspiration for Buz-Zee and enjoyed contributing some of the illustrations as well. Jill Smith is a freelance commercial artist whose work is incorporated in the first book. The artwork provided by all was excellent. The experience of working with the artists was a pleasure, and I know their illustrations will bring smiles to many faces.
Are you currently working on any other books? Yes, I am working on book number three of The Bee Hive series, which will focus on proteins. I have completed most of the verses and plan to have it published in the fall of 2012. This book will be filled with surprises about the many sources of protein (not just meat!).