Betty According To Humphrey
I'm unsqueakably interested in this person called Betty G. Birney and I've learned quite a bit about her.

Birthday: April 26

Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Grew up in: Affton, Missouri (suburb of St. Louis)

Schools: Reavis School, Affton High School, Webster College (now Webster University)

Now lives: Los Angeles, California, USA – for over half of her life

Husband Frank is an actor. Son Walshe graduated from Boston College and the French Culinary Institute. He is buyer for Murray's Cheese in NY and is engaged to a wonderful woman! Stepdaughters Rebecca and Anna are both fabulous artists and designers and are both married (hi, Gary and Toby!). Multi-talented granddaughter Remy is ten and lives in L.A. Betty has one sister, Janet. She worked most of her life at the St. Louis Zoo so I guess she likes animals, too!

Betty is close friends with many hamsters, but she tends to keep dogs as pet. Growing up she had a beautiful dog named Mitzi and a parakeet named Ricky Ricardo. Her long-time family pet, Desi, went to dog heaven after a long and happy life. Betty says she was the smartest dog she ever knew. Betty loves all animals except the stinging, biting kind. She doesn't have a hamster ... but I (Humphrey) live in her heart. Currently, she doesn't have a pet but she has two granddogs, Bodhi and Flash.

Favorite subject:
English, of course!

Other Jobs:
Worked in advertising, worked at Disneyland in advertising, the Disney Studios in advertising and wrote over 300 episodes of children's television shows.

Reading (of course), playing piano, cooking, travelling, hanging out with family and friends

Childhood hobbies:
Reading, playing piano, roller skating, bike riding, swimming, hanging out with friends

Favorite place to visit:
England and Scotland

Favorite foods:
Pasta, salads, raw veggies (really – just like a hamster), salty, crunchy things

The Princess and the Peabodys, which is available in the UK; The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, which is popular in the US. She previously wrote a lot of Disney books and two picture books, Tyrannosaurus Tex and Pie's in the Oven. She's written over 50 books in all. See the list.

At age seven, Betty knew that she wanted to write books. She wrote a story called Teddy Bear in the Woods, made chapters, drew pictures, stapled it together and gave it to her parents and announced, "I'm going to be a writer." She never changed her mind.

Betty's son was in a science classroom with a lot of classroom pets - even a boa constrictor named Lumpy. She was visiting one day and wondered what all those animals thought about what they saw and heard in the classroom. She thought it would be fun to write a book from the point of view of a classroom pet. It took a while for her to narrow it down to a hamster, but I think she made an excellent choice!

Betty had a little trouble coming up with a name for this wonderful hamster (me!), and then she looked at a baby naming book, under H for Hamster. She saw Harry and Henry and a lot of names and then saw: Humphrey. She knew that had to be my name because her parents grew up in St. Louis two houses away from each other. So all of her grandparents and aunts and uncle grew up on this street. And her parents were best friends from the age of nine. The name of the street was Humphrey Street! As a child, Betty and her sister loved to visit her grandparents on Humphrey Street and her grandmother's stories inspired three of her books so far! Just the name Humphrey Street gives Betty a warm feeling and she and I are both HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY with the name she gave me.

Betty wanted to capture the flavor of the wonderful stories her grandmother told her about growing up on a farm in Lonedell, Missouri. One of her stories is in the book and there are many other details that came from her grandmother. When she first thought about writing a book about this place called Sassafras Springs, Betty's young son was reading about the Seven Wonders of the World and told her that he wanted to see the whole world when he grew up. That was her inspiration for Eben.

Will there ever be a Humphrey movie or TV show?
Not sure, but Betty has an agent who is working on that. However, things like that sometimes take a long time.

Why not write a book looking at the world through Og's eyes?
Betty has thought about it for years. She's still thinking about it. I'm not sure.

If you could be something other than a writer, what would it be?
Betty says it's difficult to imagine not writing but if she were younger, she might enjoy something involving food and cooking (her son now does that). She also says she would have enjoyed directing stage and film, or producing a radio show.

Does Betty know any famous writers?
Yes, she's friends with lots of famous and fabulous authors. Writers like to hang out with other writers.

Is it fun being a writer?
YES-YES-YES, but it's also hard work.

She enjoyed acting when she was growing up and starred in a lot of school plays. She also directed.

She also loved singing in school choirs and competitions.

She works in a wonderful office (shed) in the back of her garden that's just for her writing. The walls are lined with bookshelves, like a library. She also has her desk and a couch there.

She talks to wild animals such as birds and squirrels (I'm not sure if they answer her back.)

She spends more time working at her computer than you can possibly imagine!