Rodgers had Hammerstein. French had Saunders. Lennon had McCartney. Astaire had Rogers. Ben had Jerry.
And Henry Winkler has Lin Oliver.
Collaborations are everything. They help us grow and thrive. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
Winkler and Oliver, are bestselling authors who have written together since 2003 and are releasing their 38th novel. This dynamic duo is the very vision of success times a million.
“I have learned everything I know about writing from Lin. I could not accomplish this without her,” says Winkler, who is dyslexic and struggles to read and write. In fact, their first series of books, about the adventures of a boy with learning differences, was inspired by Winkler’s undiagnosed dyslexia.
“I can’t spell nor type very well,” adds Winkler. “But I can talk. And Lin is a talker and a typer,” says the Barry star who also described their process. “I have an idea. Then Lin has an idea. Then Lin types away, reads it back to me and we argue over every word.” Even after all these decades Winkler is amazed to be part of this special writing team. “Outside my family it’s one of the proudest moments in my entire lifetime,” he adds.
Oliver and Winkler have such a deep connection and appreciation for one another, they like to finish each other’s sentences. When asked when she knew she had to be a writer Winkler answered with delight. “Both of us knew very early that this was a path we were going to follow,” says Winkler. “Lin tells the wonderful story about riding her tricycle up and down the street, saying to her neighbors ‘wanna know what happened in my house last night?’”
Meanwhile Oliver says that she is drawn to Winkler’s incredible enthusiasm for life. “It’s infectious,” says Oliver. “I have a little more of a black cloud over me sometimes. He sees the, the glass not only half full, but entirely full all the time. That’s very good for your spirit and creativity. He’s intuitively and naturally funny. And he’s empathetic.”
As Oliver explains Winkler, whose dyslexia was undiagnosed when he was in school, had difficult childhood. “He was so aware of not being acknowledged. So he’s thinking of the kid who is not being acknowledged. And that is, that’s on every page,” she says. “Also, he’s a lot of fun to be with. And we laugh. We tickle one another in the process.”
Detective Duck, their most recent funny and uplifting children’s book, centers on a very curious and smart little duck with big dreams named Willow Feathers. Willow lives in Dogwood Pond with her loving father who happens to be a beaver. Through her crime-solving adventures Willow and her band of animal pals discover the joy of taking care of one another and the planet.
“All the characters have their own traits, eccentricities and personalities. They are all individually funny but are funnier together and care about each other,” says Oliver. “I love this story so much,” shares Winkler. “I loved working on it every day. It’s just adorable. And this is the only duck to have a beaver for a dad.”
Now available for pre-order Winkler and Oliver are debuting Detective Duck with illustrations by famed and New York Times bestselling creator Dan Santat. The novel from Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, will be released October 17.
“Our illustrator is the bee’s knees,” says Winkler. “The artwork is beguiling. It’s not just, oh, isn’t it adorable? Dan has created a world where you not only feel the characters, you want to hug them.”
For Oliver and Winkler the real litmus test for a successful book is that it be entertaining. “We intend for our books to be fun reads. Not exactly easy reads, but, joyful reads. Combining joy with reading is a gift for kids and for parents,” says Oliver who is overjoyed when she hears from parents how much kids love and are moved by their books. “It’s a thrill,” she says. “It’s what every person who writes for children dreams of experiencing. That their books are in the hands of somebody who is experiencing joy.”
In addition to her collaboration with Winkler Oliver is also a prolific multi-hyphenate. She has written and produced many television series and films for kids and families including Harry and the Hendersons, Wayside, Corduroy and Trumpet of the Swan.
For over a decade Oliver was a senior vice president at MCA/Universal and she is the founder of the nonprofit Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), an organization of over 23,000 authors, illustrators, and publishers of children’s books. And if that’s not enough she founded a charitable and community service division called the SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund, which supports grants, programs and initiatives in the areas of equity and inclusion, freedom to read, and literacy.
Even after many years working together Winkler remains in awe of Oliver and what they have developed together. “It’s amazing that I am part of this team that has created so many different stories,” he says. They are both so grateful for the opportunity to share their excitement for their stories with so many young people.
“We have traveled all over the country. And our favorite thing is going to schools and talking to children. We make them laugh,” says Winkler who reflects on what he would tell kid that he once was who struggled in school “I would say, “you have no idea what you can accomplish because you are powerful. And how you learn has nothing to do with how brilliant you are.”