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A Talk With Tamera Will Wissinger

I’m delighted to interview Tamera Will Wissinger about her charming new children’s novel in verse, GONE FISHING. Already this sweet little story about a boy going fishing with his father and sister has garnered some wonderful reviews. Kirkus Reviews states that, “This tender, well-crafted sibling story should hook many readers.” Publishers Weekly declares, “this book is just the thing for readers with a burgeoning interest in poetry—or angling.” And the Junior Library Guild featured GONE FISHING in their spring catalogue.

Much of your story centers around the charming relationship between the little boy in the story and his sister. Did you have a little brother or sister who drove you crazy when you were young?

Actually, I’m the middle child of three. I have an older sister who is close in age and a brother who is several years younger. As a result, I have the advantage of being both an older and a younger sibling. I have to admit that I based many of the little sister behaviors in the story on my relationship with my older sister – looking back I know I drove her crazy by getting into her things and always wanting to tag along. When I was writing this story, I remembered those instances when my sister was so frustrated with me and I tried to put myself in her shoes – I probably owe her an apology, although I did get some good poems out of those memories.

Fishing is such a magical pastime for your young hero. Did you go fishing with your parents when you were little? Do you still like to fish?

I did go fishing with my parents when I was young, and I still do when our schedules allow it. I also like to go fishing with my husband. Several scenes from the book are taken straight from my family fishing experiences. We were a little bit competitive, and I was known to befriend my bait. I was also the most likely in my family to talk or want to move around when we were supposed to be still and quiet, so in this case as well, I was my own role model for what not to do on the boat.

How did you manage to capture that sense of anticipation that children can feel so intensely? Are there any hints you can share with your fellow writers on how to write and convey childhood emotions vividly and effectively.

There are probably two things at play: first, I’m naturally an enthusiastic person and I get excited about very little things, so I may have infused that eagerness into my writing. Second, I’m lucky enough to remember my own childhood and that glowing “night before Christmas” feeling that something wonderful is about to happen.
As authors, if we can tap into our own memories or emotions of childhood enthusiasm or excitement, we’re well on our way to writing vividly in a child-friendly way. If memories are elusive, put yourself into a situation where they can surface. If possible – get away from your desk and go do that cool, exciting, or wacky thing that you did with gusto as a kid: ride a bike, twirl a baton, blow bubbles, squash through the mud in your bare feet, drop a line in the water… chances are, as you’re goofing off, those memories and the accompanying emotions will surface. If recollection is still vague, pay attention to what you’re feeling in that moment. Then be ready to capture those feelings in your writing.

I think that’s fabulous advice! Is it easier for you to write in prose or poetry?
Both have their challenges and virtues, so it really boils down to finding the best way for each story to be told. Sometimes a story comes to me through a series of poems. When that happens, writing the story in poems is easier. When the story emerges as a prose narrative, that’s the easier way to write it. Whatever happens to come forth, I try to go with the flow of words and then gently shape from there.

Do you have any advice for writers and poets who are considering submitting a novel in verse?

First and foremost, focus on good storytelling. A story in verse is a format and structure choice, so it’s always secondary to the story. Writing a story in poems adds a layer of constraint that – unless you absolutely must tell your story this way – you might want to resist. If you can’t resist, then don’t. Go ahead! Just go into it understanding what will be necessary to do it well.
Second, know why you’re writing a story in verse – for younger children this format might be a lighthearted way to deliver a story. For older MG and YA verse novels, the format sometimes, but not always, has something to do with the story. In other words, the main character is actually writing or journaling in poetry as part of the story. Regardless, I suspect that verse novel authors have very specific reasons for writing their stories in a series of poems.
Third, read and study a lot of poetry stories and really understand what those authors are doing to make their stories verse novels. There are some stories that are called novels in verse, but may really be “broken prose,” as Nikki Grimes has said, meaning that they aren’t poetry in the true sense of the word. When you work on your verse novel, make sure that it lives up to the term by using rhythm (and rhyme if appropriate), poetry techniques, and/or poetic forms.

What other projects do you have in the works?

Right now I’m working on more poetry, a couple of quirky picture books, and a historical fiction novel. I just learned that one of my picture books, a counting concept book, will release with Sky Pony Press in 2014!

I think that’s a good place to reel in and finish up this interview. I hope that you readers out there are now well and truly hooked. GONE FISHING releases March 5, and this is one terrific catch of a story you don’t want to let get away!

tamera will wissinger 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!)

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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!

AND NOW – GIVEAWAY NEWS!!

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.

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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.

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