Mom Muse | Tracey Hecht
Author and entrepreneur Tracey Hecht grew up with a love of books and storytelling. It was only natural that she turned this passion into a career and, at the risk of sounding cliché, she truly loves her work. As a writer, Tracey has written, directed and produced for film. She’s also the creative director of Fabled Films Press, a children’s entertainment company in New York City. Her first critically-acclaimed middle grade series, The Nocturnals, was launched in 2016 with The Mysterious Abductions and chosen by the American Booksellers Association as a “Kids’ Indie Next List” pick. The second book, The Ominous Eye, came out last year, and the third book, The Fallen Star, was released this year. Tracey shared with us that the fourth addition to the series, The Hidden Kingdom, will be out in February 2018.
Tracey ready for her book signing at Barnes & Noble in New York City.
A mom of four, Tracey told us that one of the main reasons she writes is to encourage families to incorporate reading together into their routines. As we know, reading aloud is not only vital for a child’s critical thinking and development, but it’s fun and a great opportunity for family bonding. Most of us read to our kids every night when they’re little, but as they get older and become good readers themselves, it’s easy to let this activity go by the wayside… don’t! It’s such a great opportunity to talk about ideas in books and help your kids think more deeply about what they’re reading.
In early 2017, Tracey and her team expanded The Nocturnals to include a new early reader book, The Moonlight Meeting, for younger audiences so families could share in the adventures. She tells us, “The book mixes humor and just the right amount of silliness for children ages 5 – 7. It has gorgeous illustrations to help early readers understand the story about friendship and sharing.” To broader the impact and reach of the book, Tracey created the Grow and Read program. The website features free printable storytime activities, including coloring pages, animal masks, crafts, bookmarks, story and character maps, science cards, and more. Love this!
Visiting a school in Denver.
Sharing The Nocturnals with school kids.
Another inspired element of The Nocturnals, includes a partnership with the New York Public Library. Tracey and her team created a Read Aloud Writing Program in 10 schools around New York City for the first book’s launch. Since that time, they have conducted the program in over fifty schools, libraries and bookstores across the country. Wow! And, in 2017, they launched a new partnership with the Ryan Seacrest Foundation to bring The Nocturnals program to broadcast media centers within pediatric hospitals for children and their families in Nashville, Charlotte and Washington, D.C. The Nocturals is not your average book series for kids… the books are actively making a difference in the lives of children.
Darling in denim at a book signing.
When Tracey’s not writing, she loves to hike, read (natch!), travel and spend time with her beautiful family. She splits her time between New York City and idyllic Oquossoc, Maine with her husband, four children — Claire (27), Nina (26), Katie (22), Leo (9) — and their dog, Pennie.
We can’t wait to see where Tracey takes The Nocturnals and her mission to uplevel the reading experience for kids next!
MSL: Describe your style in five words or less.
Jeans, whenever possible. Independent designers.
MSL: Tell us more about the inspiration behind your books.
When I started writing The Nocturnals, I had just finished writing for film and television. At the time, I was inspired to write a dialogue-based book series in a kind of cinematic vernacular as I thought kids would find it fun to read. I write the three main characters of The Nocturnals in a 3-2-1 staccato. For every three words from Bismark, the chatty sugar glider, there are two words from Tobin, the gentle pangolin, and one word from Dawn, the authoritative red fox. It’s not literal but rather a guideline I use to craft the stories. It gives the books a distinct and rhythmic ‘voice’ that makes for compelling stories when reading aloud, which I love!
When I was a kid, I remember dangling my arms over the station wagon front seat to get closer to my mom’s voice as she read my favorite books on road trips. My kids and I do it now — of course we now know better and use seat belts! Although The Nocturnals is a good series to read independently, I wrote it hoping it would be enjoyed as a read-aloud story as well.
Tracey and her son Leo enjoying some downtime.
MSL: What do you enjoy most about writing children’s books? The biggest challenge?
The most rewarding part of writing this series is by far my team. I love our team. We borrow on each other’s strengths and support each other through it all. Working together is the best part of what we do. More specifically, one thing I love most about writing The Nocturnals is the research involved with each book. I love using the physiologies of the animals and their unique characteristics to inform and develop characters, and enhance plot and story dynamic. The details I learn about the nocturnal world are constantly inspiring and engaging for me.
MSL: What are your long-term plans for the series and brand?
Great characters exist everywhere — print, film, television, etc. The Nocturnals, written in a cinematic vernacular, could be easily adapted for other media. I would love to see the characters’ stories continue in books and other formats.
Writing by the lake.
Horseback riding is another favorite pastime.
MSL: As a working mom, any secrets you can share for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
I wish! As any working parent will attest, it can be a struggle to achieve a healthy balance, but it’s not unattainable. For me, my most productive hours are first thing in the morning between 5 – 7 am. It’s the only time I get to be all alone and get some serious work and writing done. I use the rest of the day for business issues and editing as I need less focused solitude for those functions.
I pay attention to myself too. It’s not hard for me to wake up early to write, as I love my work. However, when I need a break, I observe it. I think that’s an important part of being an entrepreneur, a creator, and frankly a mom, regardless of your profession. Your schedule needs to have some fluidity even if you are a Type A like me.
MSL: What’s the one item in your closet you can’t live without?
My jeans. All of them.
MSL: Top three clothing items or accessories you’re buying for winter?
I always dip into Rachel Comey’s collections. I’m really in love with my new Mayle bag. And currently, I’m obsessed with Alternative’s luxe cap-sleeve jersey crews!
MSL: Tell us about a few of your favorite holiday traditions and/or activities.
How much time do you have? I love the holidays and traditions, old and new. The season kicks off with Thanksgiving — a traditional turkey dinner Thursday night, a fancy sushi meal on Friday, and a Rangers game on Saturday. Then, we move into Hannukah and Christmas when my husband and I always book a shopping day and night at a hotel, an evening at the theatre with family, Hannukah latkas with sour cream and caviar, and ultimately the 24-hour string of traditions relished from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day. Stockings and Santa Mouse (pajamas under the tree Christmas Eve) are my favorites, but I love watching old movies and eating lasagna on Christmas night too.
MSL: What’s your best style advice for other moms out there?
Wear what makes you comfortable. That will lead to you feeling confident. If you’re the only person wearing jeans, who cares? Want to take your child to the park in stilettos, go for it! Wear what you love, and let others do the same.