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Author Archives: Tamera Will Wissinger


It’s December 30 and The Class of 2k13’s debut year is coming to a close. While I’m elated at the experiences that this debut year has afforded me, I’m also slightly wistful and a bit weary. Mostly, though, I’m grateful. My gratitude is to everyone who supported us through this debut year – from those in the publishing and book selling worlds to teachers, librarians, parents, readers, our families, and of course fellow authors.

fireworksSpeaking of which – I am in awe of the talent encompassed by the members of The Class of 2k13 – both in writing and in navigating through the uncertainties of a debut year. Our shared efforts reached far beyond what I could have imagined achieving on my own. Throughout the year we have worked together to deploy a variety of marketing approaches, attended conferences, shared ups and downs, and of course – celebrated each of our twenty debut books as they released into the world.

One of the most enduring lessons that I’ve learned as a member of The Class of 2k13: while we may write alone, we don’t have to be alone. And even though our debut year is winding down, our relationships aren’t – after all, our children’s writing careers are just getting started. Many of us are fortunate to have books slated to release in 2014 and/or 2015. There is definitely more to come from us and in the New Year we’ll be working on ways to stay connected with each other and with you. So instead of thinking of this as THE END, I’ve taken to thinking of this as THE END OF THE BEGINNING.

Here’s to The Class of 2k13 at the end of the beginning! It’s been an honor to debut with you and as we move beyond our debut year I look forward to seeing where your wonderful writing talents take you.

Season’s Greetings to everyone and all good wishes for a Happy New Year and a spectacular 2014!


Tamera Wissinger is the author of GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse, which arrived last March from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Two of her picture books: THIS OLD BAND and THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO GOBBLED A SKINK from Sky Pony Press will arrive in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Portions of this post appeared at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog on 12/14/2013. Online you can connect with Tamera through Facebook, Twitter, and her Website.


I have loved the Vero Beach Book Center ever since I discovered them several years ago when I first came to town. There are many reasons for me to be grateful for this wonderful store. Here are a few:

Their home is in this beautiful pink building:


A Sea Turtle greets patrons at the Vero Beach Book Center.

The Children’s Store is within the main store:


A reading dolphin is the logo of the Children’s Store!

Inside, there is lovely writing on the walls:


The writing on the wall rhymes!

The entire second floor is devoted to children and young adults:


Isn’t this a cheerful spot?

They have a stage that looks like the ocean and is decorated with bright fish:


I do love the combo of books and fish!

This time of year there is an Angel Tree in the Children’s Store; patrons can shop for books and the Vero Beach Book Center will coordinate giving the books to children:


That’s Santa behind the tree!

They have a fabulous staff of committed professionals. This is lovely Suzann Pezzetti, Manager of the Children’s Store with the display that she and her team put together before my first-ever book event last April:


This display was a surprise that I discovered when I visited the Children’s Store just after GONE FISHING released.

Promotions coordinator Cynthia Callendar invited me to participate in celebrating the Environmental Learning Center’s 25th anniversary. Here is the event posted on the Book Center’s marquis:


This was another surprise – a friend told me she had seen this sign and I had to drive by to see for myself.

This is what the GONE FISHING book display looked like the night of our event:


I love the old-fashioned trunk used in this book display. It reminds me of a treasure chest.

Each week, staff from the Vero Beach Book Center lists coming authors and their best sellers in the local newspaper. Because of their enthusiasm for GONE FISHING, I’ve opened the paper many times during the past several months to see something like this:


Vero Beach Book Center is responsible for me knowing what it feels like to have a best selling book.

From my days as a pre-published author scouting new releases to my first book events, the team at the Vero Beach Book Center has consistently delighted and surprised me with their warmth, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to books and reading. It’s a real honor to work with them.

If you are ever in the neighborhood, I encourage you to stop by. If you like bookstores, (and I’m guessing that you do) I think you’ll love the Vero Beach Book Center!

Vero Beach Book Center is located at:

392 Miracle Mile (21st Street)

Vero Beach, FL 32960

They are open Monday through Friday: 9am – 7pm

Saturday: 9am – 6pm

Sunday: 10am – 5pm


CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn releases this coming Tuesday, June 11, 2013! To kick off her celebration, today we are featuring a summary, several nice blurbs, a great teen review from School Library Journal, ways to learn more about Stephanie AND a sneak peek at Chapter One!

CHARM AND STRANGE, St. Martin’s Griffin arriving 6/11/2013

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.


“Twisted, and twisting. Relentlessly compelling. Lush storytelling. A must-read.”— Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of Triangles, Fallout and Tricks

“…haunting…Charm & Strange is a shocker of a page-turner that unravels brilliantly from both
ends.”—Lisa McMann, New York Times Bestselling author of Dead to You

“Charm and Strange is a story of blood and family and the animal inside—and it’s ferociously real.”— Blythe Woolston, author of Catch & Release


“Andrew Winston Winters knows there’s a wolf living inside him, and it is a pure manifestation of evil…” CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW


Interview at Teenage Writeland

Interview with YAvengers

Blog tour info from Itching for Books



Chapter One


I don’t feel the presence of… CLICK HERE FOR FULL CHAPTER


CHARM AND STRANGE releases from St. Martin’s Griffin this coming Tuesday, 6/11/2013, but you can order it now!

ISBN-13: 9781250021946 | ISBN-10: 1250021944

Pre-order from Indiebound; Barnes and Noble; iTunes;  Amazon; Powell’s

Add on goodreads

Congratulations, Steph! All best wishes to you and your debut YA novel, CHARM AND STRANGE!

Interview With THE NEPTUNE PROJECT Author Polly Holyoke

Polly Holyoke’s debut novel, THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, Disney Hyperion, releases tomorrow, May 21, 2013! Congratulations, Polly! I had a chance to read an advance copy of Polly’s book and I greatly admire the skill and thought that she put into creating this futuristic world and all the details she used to make it seem so realistic. (I’m hoping for a movie so that I can see these amazing details come to life on the big screen!) Of THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, Kirkus Reviews recently said: Holyoke keeps her prose well-pitched to her audience…She creates an interesting and diverse set of characters, including the dolphins. (Oh, the dolphins! Read below for more on the dolphins, and then read the book to see how Polly engagingly includes these wonderful creatures in her story.) It is my honor to now interview Polly Holyoke, a fellow member of The Class of 2k13.

Interview With THE NEPTUNE PROJECT Author Polly Holyoke:

I find the premise of THE NEPTUNE PROJECT – “genetic altering to successfully live in the ocean” – fascinating. Can you talk about how the idea came to you and how it evolved as you developed your story?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of people living in the sea, and I’ve been equally fascinated by our rapid and rather terrifying progress in gene manipulation. I’m not sure everyone realizes that we are already to the point we can clone our pets and design our children to be smarter and stronger. It just seemed logical to me that someday we may try to give humans the ability to breathe sea water. After all, 7/10ths of our planet is covered by oceans!

One of my favorite aspects of your book is the authenticity and richness of details in your story. Can you share how you were able to achieve that high level of realism in THE NEPTUNE PROJECT?

It helped that I’ve done quite a bit of scuba diving over the years. They say write what you know. I’ve certainly never lived in the sea, but I have spent enough time under the waves to be able to describe some of the basics—like light, visibility and currents. The terrain of ocean floor, especially near the Channel Islands, can be quite rugged and beautiful. I also spent hours and hours reading books on oceanography and articles by avid divers. I was delighted when a young beta reader recently said to me, “I had no idea all that cool stuff was down there!”

I also love the dolphins in your story – how they have names, distinct personalities, and how they are partnered with the human children, some almost acting as family. How did the dolphins become a part of THE NEPTUNE PROJECT?

I knew from the start that dolphins would play crucial roles in this book. I’ve always been intrigued by stories of dolphins helping sailors in distress. So many of these stories exist, it’s hard to believe there isn’t some kernel of truth there. But I wanted to make sure my dolphins, for all their incredible ability to communicate with humans, behaved like real dolphins. So I talked with the staff at dolphin centers and read tons of research on wild dolphins. On a recent trip to Hawaii I went snorkeling with wild spinner dolphins, and I truly could have given a much more thorough and interesting talk on dolphins than our guide did!

I was so happy when my dolphins became vivid characters in their own right. Just like well-developed human characters in a story, occasionally Sokya and Densil would say and do things that surprised me!

Although set in the future, the catalyst for THE NEPTUNE PROJECT raises intriguing questions about how we are treating our world now. How did you decide to weave environmental concerns into your science fiction story?

I tried not to preach, and I’m grateful that my editor helped me when my prose veered in that direction. Instead I hope we matter-of-factly present my heroine trying to cope in a world devastated by environmental and human disasters. Whatever your beliefs on the causes of climate change, certain things are absolute fact. The world IS getting hotter, and the oceans ARE rising. If we can’t find ways to reverse these trends, the costs in terms of human misery and suffering are going to be staggering.

The ocean is a tough environment and there are several scenes where your main characters are in danger. Sometimes it’s a little scary, and sometimes the characters even have to face death. I admire how you found a way to deliver these scenes so that they are not too edgy for a middle grade reader. Can you describe how you were able to find that balance in those more anxious scenes?

I tried not to be too graphic, and so much happens in this first book that my characters just don’t have much time to mourn the friends they’ve lost. I think in real life, kids would have thought about those deaths more. At the same time, my characters grew up in a bleak and dangerous world, and they are already more accustomed to death and loss than kids are today. I often think about “the good old days” just a century ago. Kids back then would have lost many brothers, sisters and friends to childhood illness and accidents. Our children grow up knowing remarkably few peers who have died.

What was both frustrating and kind of funny for me as a writer was trying to come up with visceral ways to depict the fear my characters feel in their dangerous new environment. My heroine Nere is scared A LOT, but her mouth can’t go dry and her palms can’t sweat because she doesn’t sweat any more. I had to fall back on the typical fear reactions of a tightened stomach and pumping heart again and again, so poor Nere has indigestion and heart palpitations on and off for 350 pages!

What advice or tips would you give to authors who might be interested in writing science fiction or fantasy?

World building is all in the details. If you throw in too many or invent too many exotic new terms, you risk overwhelming the reader. Remember kids are the same, and they react the same, no matter how strange or different their surroundings. One carefully chosen detail can convey so much. I’m proud of a scene in The Neptune Project in which one of my characters misses fresh-baked bread. I hope that detail helps to convey just how much her life has changed and the personal cost she is paying for being a part of the Neptune Project.

Can you talk about what you’re working on now or what’s next for you?

I’ve already written a second Neptune book, and I hope that Disney Hyperion and Puffin UK will want me to finish the trilogy. I’m also working on a MG fantasy/time travel story I LOVE about an enchanted carousel.

Here are links to Polly online: WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterestGoodreadsAmazon

RUMP Author Liesl Shurtliff on Why Fairy Tales Matter


by Liesl Shurtliff

A common misconception people have about fairy tales is that they are somehow irrelevant because they’re not realistic reflections of our life experience. Fantasy and the fairy-tale are purely escapism, a way to ignore reality and it’s inconvenient laws of nature. “Life is not a fairy-tale,” people often say, but I couldn’t disagree more. I think what they mean to say is, “Life is not a Disney animation film.”

Despite my love for Disney and the joy they bring to my life, they have butchered the integrity of fairy-tales for generations. The real fairy tales, the ones written and collected by the Brothers Grimm, Perrault, Andersen and others, are generally brutal and often tragic. Take a look at the original tales of The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, or various origins of Little Red Riding Hood. They are not pretty, friends. Tragic love, cannibalism, and pecked out eyes. Some of them don’t even end well, and a few of them do not live happily ever after. They don’t even live. Why then do we say that life is not a fairy-tale as though we have somehow been duped? Consider the following statement made by a man who penned some of the most tragic fairy tales.

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale.”

-Hans Christian Andersen

Was this man delusional? I don’t think so. He didn’t mean that life is all butterflies and fairy dust and happily ever afters. There’s a sprinkling of that in real life. Of course there is great joy in this life, but many will suffer betrayal, heartache, and tragedy, and children are no exception. Fairy-tales, I believe, are great metaphors for real life. It’s beautiful, but it’s also ugly. It’s happy, but it’s also sad. It’s sweet, but it’s also bitter. Sometimes there is no explanation for why things happen.

It is all wonderful.

So I implore you, whenever someone says “Life is not a Fairytale,” you should yell “YES IT IS YOU IDIOT!”


RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN, by Liesl Shurtliff (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers) releases tomorrow, April 9, 2013!

In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.

Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.

His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.

There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.

An inventive fairytale retelling, perfect for fans of Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale.

liesl shurtliff nameplate

GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse – An Unconventional Crossroad of Children’s Literature

This past October I wrote a post comparing titles to GONE FISHING. It turned out to be a more challenging assignment than I had expected – I couldn’t find a book that was a direct match. I finally settled on four books that I could compare to different aspects of my book. The reason I couldn’t find one exact comparison: it turns out that a humorous fishing adventure sibling rivalry middle grade novel in verse for children ages six and up that includes poetry info isn’t all that common. I’d have to say it’s downright unusual.

I didn’t write GONE FISHING with the goal of being different. It began as a single poem called “Night Crawlers,” based on my good childhood memories. That one poem was soon joined by other poems about a father and son fishing. Poems that included a little sister surfaced. A story started to develop. The poetry began to take shape both literally and figuratively. A wise friend suggested naming those poems. My editor liked the named poem aspect and encouraged me to expand the story and poetry further and add poetry definitions. The final shape of GONE FISHING began to emerge and included these elements of poetry, story, and poetry writing tips.

As serendipity would have it, GONE FISHING lives at the whimsical, unconventional crossroad of Middle Grade Fiction, Middle Grade Novels in Verse, and The Study of Poetry for Any Age. I honestly don’t know of another book that resides at this specific intersection. Do you? If you feel like hanging out at this unique literary spot, come March 5, wander over to GONE FISHING for a read. The kids are on a fine adventure with Dad, the fish and the poetry are lively, and you don’t have to study a thing about poetry if you don’t want to. (Although, you may just want to!)


GONE FISHING: A Novel In Verse, by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell, arrives March 5 from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children and is now available for preorder. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA Writing for Children program, Tamera and her husband share their time between Chicago and Florida. Online you can find Tamera on her Website, Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse – An Apples to (Caramel) Apples Comparison

Hello dear readers;

It isn’t every day that a writer has the opportunity to compare her work to some of the finest in our industry, but that’s exactly what I have the good fortune of doing today. Before going into my apples to (caramel) apples comparison, I’d like to introduce you to my book – GONE FISHING: A Novel In Verse:

Nine-year-old Sam loves fishing with his dad. So when his pesky little sister, Lucy, horns in on their fishing trip, he’s none too pleased: “Where’s my stringer? / Something’s wrong! / This princess doll does not belong!” All ends well in this winsome book of poems—each labeled with its proper poetic form, from quatrain to tercet. Together the poems build a dawn-to-dusk story of a father-son bond, of sibling harmony lost and found—and most of all, of delicious anticipation. Charming line drawings animate the poetry with humor and drama, and the extensive Poet’s Tackle Box at the end makes this the perfect primer to hook aspiring poets of all ages.

So why apples to (caramel) apples?

As I researched comparative titles for this article, I set out to provide an apples to apples comparison, but I came up with more than apples to apples. You see, GONE FISHING is a novel that, at a humble 128 pages, covers a lot of ground. First and foremost, it is a fishing adventure with an outdoorsy spirit that may feel a bit like scenes from THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER by Mark Twain. It has a sibling rivalry that may remind readers of parts of the sister/brother feud in THE LEMONADE WAR by Jacqueline Davies. It is a novel in verse with some poetry forms that are similar to those in LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech. And it has a section written for those who love teaching, learning about, or writing poetry, a little bit like what Paul B. Janeczko offered at the end of A KICK IN THE HEAD: AN EVERYDAY GUIDE TO POETIC FORMS. As surprising as it sounds, each of these four wonderful and diverse books have attributes that allow me to draw comparisons to my book. If you love one or more of the qualities mentioned here, then there is a good chance that you will love something about GONE FISHING.

These four elements  – outdoor adventure, novel in verse, sibling rivalry, and poetry forms and techniques – make up my metaphorical caramel apple: sweet gooey caramel, crunchy pecans, and colorful sprinkles layered over a fresh apple. It’s a combo that I hope strikes a balance between tasty and sensible. I haven’t decided which ingredient represents each element in the book; I’ll leave that to you, the readers.

Thank you for spending time with me today.

Best wishes, Tamera

P.S. Matthew Cordell’s delightful black and white line drawings accompany each poem – think Shel Silverstein or Quentin Blake!


This week I am honored to be giving away a copy of The MAPMAKER and the GHOST by Sarvenaz Tash, a talented Class of 2k12 author and my mentor! And that’s not all – Justina Ireland is giving away her mentor’s book: VELVETEEN by Daniel Marks, another talented Class of 2k12 author! Click here to enter our raffle to become the lucky winner of BOTH of these books: BOOK GIVEAWAY.

GONE FISHING: A Novel In Verse, by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell arrives March 5, 2013 from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Tamera was inspired to write GONE FISHING after writing “Night Crawlers,” a poem that stemmed from her fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with her family before fishing trips. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA Writing for Children program, Tamera and her husband share their time between Chicago and Florida. Tamera is represented by Michelle Humphrey of The Martha Kaplan Agency. Online you can find her on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. In real life you may just find her fishing.

Tamera Wissinger & the Inspiration For GONE FISHING

GONE FISHING began as a single poem called “Night Crawlers,” which stemmed from my fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with my parents before fishing trips. When I realized that I had more to say about fishing I added several more poems and from there the poetry began to form a story. During the writing process I returned again and again to memories of those days on the water with my family.

Tamera Will Wissinger


For fishing tomorrow

it’s just us two.

Not Mom, not Grandpa,

not Lucy.

It’ll be like playing catch or

Painting the garage.

Just Dad and Me.


Using a wide variety of poetic forms – quatrains, ballads, iambic meter, rhyming lists, concrete poetry, tercets and free verse – this debut author tells the story of a nine-year-old boy’s day of fishing. Sibling rivalry, the bond between father and son, the excitement – and difficulty – of fishing all add up to a day of adventure any child would want to experience.

Matthew Cordell illuminates this novel-in-verse throughout with his energetic black-and-white line drawings.

While each poem can be read and enjoyed on its own, the poems work together to create a story arc with conflict, crisis, resolution and character growth.

The back matter of this book equips the reader with a Poet’s Tackle Box of tools and definitions for understanding the various poetic forms the author uses in this story.


Tamera Wissinger was inspired to write this novel-in-verse after writing “Night Crawlers,” a poem that stemmed from her fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with her dad before fishing trips. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA Writing for Children program, Tamera Wissinger shares her time between Chicago and Florida. This is her first book.

Online you can find Tamera on her websiteGoodreadsTwitter, or Facebook.

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