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Mystery in the Jungle

Dec 03, 2012

Helen Phillips always begins writing her stories by asking the burning question—What if? Then, Helen says, “I write my way toward the answer.”

In her debut young adult novel, Here Where the Sunbeams are Green, the question is, “What if Dad mysteriously disappeared into the jungle?” In the story, two sisters—12-year-old Madeline and 9-year-old Ruby—bravely trek to a spooky volcano in Central America to find their missing bird-tracking father. “The first time I left the United States was at the age of 14 on a family trip to central Mexico,” Helen explains. “Later I spent four summers living in Costa Rica, Brazil, and Argentina. I had some adventures, but nothing quite as dramatic as [the sisters’].”

Helen says that telling stories doesn’t feel like a choice, it’s more like something she has to do. So much so that when she was 13, she made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day, and did so for more than eight years!

Helen advises young writers to go on adventures, whether big or small. “Exercise your imagination every day,” she says. “Be courageous. Embrace challenges. Notice the things other people don’t notice. Develop your sense of compassion. Don’t be scared to be yourself.”

Find out more about Helen’s life and adventures on The Studio.