Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the Author: Tamra Wight

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Author website/social media:
Website: http://www.tamrawight.com
Facebook: Tamra Wight – Children’s Author
Twitter: @TamraWight
Instagram: tamrawight

1. When you were my age, did you like to read?
Oh my goodness, yes! I read constantly. In the back seat of the car, high in the branches of our maple tree, by the brook in the woods behind our house and under the covers at night (I thought I was fooling my mom into thinking I was sleeping, turns out she knew better). We didn’t have a ton of money growing up, but my parents always allowed me to buy books from the Scholastic Book flyer. I just loved pouring over it to see what was new! I’d circle ten choices, Mom would tell me to narrow it down to two, and we’d settle on three or four.

When I needed something new to read, I’d walk a little more than a mile to Charlton Library in the middle of my hometown. There on the shelves, I found Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, just to name a few.
2. What was your favorite story? I had many favorites that I read more than two and three times. The characters I look back on most fondly though is a series called The Bobbsey Twins. I’m not sure if it’s because of the family themed stories, my fascination with twins (two sets in the family), or the story behind my getting them. Even though I was young, I can distinctly remember the day I received a big box from my Grandmother Piehl, given to her by her sister who was a teacher, I believe. Inside was the entire series! They were gently used, but I didn’t notice or care. To have so many books given to me all at once! I was in heaven! I read them over and over and over again. Sometimes, I would just stare at them in awe as they sat in perfect order on our bookshelf.

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3. How do you get your ideas? Like why a camp in Maine? My husband, daughter, son and I owned Poland Spring Campground here in Maine for 27 years. We just sold it this past Fall, as a matter of fact. Our home was steps from the camp office, with 132 campsites scattered over the property, and the lakefront of Lower Range Pond beyond that. We lived in the house, even when the rest of the campground closed for the winter.

So for the Cooper and Packrat series, I’m sure you can see how I drew inspiration from our experiences and our family dynamic of not only living, but working together, too. Family Day was a real thing for us, although how we decided in real life to take one full day off each week was a very different, not-quite-as-interesting story. Remember Chapter One in Mystery on Pine Lake? Where Cooper lifts that trash can lid to find a lobster’s beady eyes staring at him and maggots crawling in and out of the body and among the trash? How a bag exploded at his feet? All based on our trash pick up routine, in the early years of owning a campground.

I also spent many hours exploring the lake in my kayak and hiking or snowshoeing the trails along its edges. It was mostly there, where I’d research first hand and take photos of the animals I’d feature in each story. Nesting loons and eagles, beavers, muskrats, heron, otters, foxes and more . . . but not the bears! I went to the Maine Wildlife Park to do research on those.

Some authors use a notebook and pen to record their thoughts and notes, I use my 500mm camera lens. You can read all about my wildlife watching and see my photos on my website. I also like to post them on Instagram, Facebook and Pintrest so others can see the beauty of our Maine Wildlife.

All of Cooper’s adventures have bits from my family’s experiences woven in loosely. The box canyon setting in Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest is based on a geo-caching spot my family hiked to called The Jail. Mystery of the Missing Fox kit scenes come from my monitoring a fox den for three years in person and through a trail camera. And finding a very cool bottle dump while hiking a trail in Auburn, Maine, led to the beginning of Mystery of the Bear Cub. I never quite know when or where inspiration will strike!

4. Is it hard to write/illustrate a book? I wouldn’t say hard . . . more like needing stick-to-it-ness, perseverance. It takes several rewrites to get a manuscript just right. Authors have trusted readers who critique our work and give honest, tough-love feedback on how to make each draft better than the last. And authors need to have the strength to take suggestions when we know in our heart they’re right for the story, even if it means one more rewrite or starting over again from word one.

5. Do you have a favorite among the books you have written? That’s like asking who my favorite child is! I like them all equally for very different reasons. The Three Grumpies was my first published book, a picture book inspired by my son Ben and one very grumpy three-year-old day. My daughter Alex, who was eleven at the time and an avid reader and writer herself, helped brainstorm the main character’s problems with me.

The Cooper and Packrat series is near and dear to my heart too, because it was inspired by our love of living and working in a campground. My son, now twenty years old, put it best a few weeks ago when he thanked me for writing the books. “Whenever I’m missing my time growing up in a campground, I can always pick up one of Cooper’s stories and remember.”

6. What author do you really like right now? There are so very many! I’m going to admit that I haven’t had a lot of reading time these last couple years. Running a 132 site campground, being a middle school ed tech, and writing the series, took up most of my day. There was one consistent opportunity to explore new books though, and that was by reading aloud at school. The last few years I shared books by Cynthia Lord, Kate Messner, and Victoria Jamieson (these are the three that come quickly to mind, although there were many others). Right now, I’m reading Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde to my students, we’re all loving it!

Since we sold the campground, I find myself reading daily again. I just finished The Call, by Wendy Ulmer and illustrated by Sandra Salsbury. I adored it! Magic and dragons are two of my favorite things to read about! I’m just about to begin Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung, because a student recommended it. I also love light sci-fi and fantasy too, so I hope to catch up on Rick Riordan’s latest books. Lightening Thief was one of my all time favorites.

7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?Read as much as you can. And when you find yourself loving a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, go   back and read it again. Then one more time. What made it capture your attention? Why did it stand out? Was it the sentence structure? The hook? A cliff hanger? Perhaps it was the voice of the character. Try using that same strategy in your own writing with your own words.

Write often, and vary your writing until you find the style that fits you best. Try writing all the genres. Experiment with poetry. Nonfiction. Diary format.

And last but not least, take a break if you must, but never stop writing. After I sold The Three Grumpies, it took me ten years to sell another book. If I had given up, Cooper and Packrat would not be sitting on your shelf today.

Posted in Book Review

Cooper & Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake

By Tamra Wight

illustrated by Carl DiRocco

This book is about two boys names Cooper and Packrat. Cooper’s parents own the campground he lives at. Packrat comes to the camp and they become friends. Packrat is his real name – that is Peter. A man comes to the campground and doesn’t like the loons. Then the dam is blocked and the water rose. Cooper and Packrat have to solve the mystery of who and why! The higher water had flooded the loon nests.

I liked that this story is a mystery. I like that it had loons because I love birds. I heard loons at my family’s camp in Maine. Loons sound weird but it is nice. I also like that this is in Maine and it reminds me of camping in Maine. I spend part of my summers in Maine.

I would recommend this to people who like camping . Also people who would like to visit Maine.

There are other books in the series. I hope to get the others!

Posted in Places I visit, Reviews by Annoying Little Brother

Places to visit in Maine

By annoying little brother
I went to visit Belfast and rode on the Belfast Moosehead train. They took down the Waldo Train Station. The engineer had to turn the engine around to go back.
I also visited Rockport where Andre the Seal lived. They have a statue of  Andre. I watched the movie of Andre with my grampy.
I  also went to an  Animal Farm. My favorite animal was the Fisher. The animals were all from Maine. They didn’t have any giraffes.
Posted in Book Review, Reviews by Annoying Little Brother

Raising Readers: 5 Stories from Maine 

This is a multi author book that kids in Maine get when they are five. My great-grandmother found a copy for us. The authors are Toni Buzzeo, Scott Nash, Laura Rankin, Chris Van Dusen and Robert McCloskey.

Annoying Little Brother’s favorite story is Chris Van Dusen’s If I built a car. It is a boy sharing what his future car would look like. Mom  and Dad work at car companies and says the book is funny. He is going to review it below 

I like Fluffy and Baron by Laura Rankin. It is a story about a dog and a duckling becoming friends.
I think it is nice that kids can get books for free as they grow up.

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If I built a Car

By Chris Van Dusen

This book is about making a car with different pieces. The boy wants to put a pool, a driving robot that built right into the back of the seat. The car serves food and flies and goes underwater. It’s engine smoke smells nice like fresh-baked blueberry muffins. Yum!

I think this book is good. I like all the ideas for the new car. It makes me want to design a new car. Mine will have a gar fish design. I like gar fish. 

I think Moms should read this to kids. I want my mom to read it to my class soon.

Posted in The Illustrator Says

The Illustrator Says: Abigail Halpin

Today, I am adding a new interview series with the illustrator of children’s books. My first interviewee is Abigail Halpin. Her work is so good so after the review, go check out her portfolio.
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social media: Instagram: @abigailhalpin and Facebook: /abigailhalpin

Tell me a little about yourself: I’m an illustrator living in Southern Maine, a location that provides endless inspiration. When I’m not drawing, I can usually be found reading, sewing or baking.

How long have you been illustrating books? I’ve been illustrating books for eight years,  starting with Susan Patron’s middle grade novel, “Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe.”

How did you become a book illustrator?  Lots and lots of drawing! Illustrating books is something I’ve wanted to do since elementary school. As an adult, I began to send postcards with my artwork to publishers. I also went to events put on by the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a group for people who write and illustrate for children. At those events, I learned a lot about how to be a better illustrator and storyteller.
How do authors pick their illustrators? Usually, I get picked to work on a book by an art director or an editor at a publishing house.
How do you know how to illustrate an author’s story?  I read the story over and over, until I feel like I really know the characters and the story. From there, I begin to work on sketches, that then get shown to an art director. The art director will help strengthen the parts of my drawings that are good and suggest ways to improve the things that need work. Illustrating a story takes time to get right, and there’s plenty of mistakes along the way, but it’s really a supportive team process.
Do you have a favorite book you have illustrated? I like all of the books I’ve illustrated for different reasons. Each story gives me a chance to step into a new world and learn from it, so in a way I love them all equally for that opportunity.
Do you illustrate by hand or by computer? I illustrate both by hand and by the computer. I use watercolor, colored pencils, graphite and gouache in my illustrations, then I scan them into the computer and tweak them in Photoshop.
Posted in Places I visit

Gardening for good

While I am in Maine, I have volunteered at the Food Pantry and St Bridget’s Garden. I have picked and sold vegetables. It has been hard work. 

Here are photos of it.



Watermelon


Tomatoes

This is the food pantry. My grandparents donate vegetables from the garden here. This gets fresh food to people who need it. I have come help a couple times too.

And I have sold some vegetables in a stand. We save the money at the bank

(Bridget note: The church is not named after me and I am not named after the church. My mom’s last name meant Followers of Bridget, so she and Dad named me Bridget. My grandparents bought the church a few years ago. Memere says St Bridget told her to buy it.  Neat huh?)