Today I am excited to be interviewing Tamera Will Wissinger, author of Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse! I loved Gone Fishing, especially because it makes one of my favorite genres, the verse novel, really accessible for younger readers.
Tamera thinks she’s very lucky to be able to read and write as part of her job. When she’s not working she might be fishing or boating, watching the interesting wildlife around her neighborhood, or noticing how each day is so beautiful and unique. She also likes to spend time with her family and friends, golf, watch good movies, listen to music, and crochet, (her mom recently taught her how!) Tamera lives with her husband in Vero Beach, Florida. She is the author of Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) and This Old Band (Sky Pony Press).
And now, on to the questions!
Rebecca: What inspired you to write Gone Fishing?
Tamera: When I was young, my family went fishing together. I remember loving the whole experience, from catching night crawlers in the dark the night before, to being on the boat in the water. It didn't matter to me if we caught fish or not, I just loved being with my family outside in that environment.
Rebecca: Oh, I loved going nightcrawler hunting with my family as a kid. I even have my own poem about doing just that!
One of my favorite things about your book is the various forms of poetry used to tell the story. Why did you write it that way?
Tamera: Thank you! I love rhyme and rhythm and poetry forms, and Gone Fishing emerged that way - as a single poem. As I wrote more poems I started to play with varying the forms and received feedback on where it was working and what could be tweaked.
Rebecca: What was the most challenging part of writing Gone Fishing?
Tamera: The combination of sustaining the story arc while maintaining the quality and variety of poems.
Rebecca: What was Gone Fishing's journey to publication like?
Tamera: From start to finish it took about six years. As I mentioned, the story began as a single
poem, Night Crawlers, and I added more fishing poems from there. While I was studying writing for
children at Hamline University, Nikki Grimes visited and spoke about writing stories in poetry. After that I understood the difference between a poetry collection and a story in poems, so I went back to work on my fishing poems to develop a stronger story. Once I had enough of a story, I began to submit Gone Fishing as a picture book story in poems. In 2011 my editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt accepted the story which, at the time, was 19 poems. She asked if it might be possible to increase the poetry count and hear more from little sister Lucy, so I went back to work and we more than doubled the poetry count and expanded the story. We also added The Poet's Tackle Box which gives information on the different poetry forms. Also in 2011 Matthew Cordell signed on to draw the illustrations and Gone Fishing arrived in March of 2013.
Rebecca: Do you have a favorite poem from the book?
Tamera: No. What I like best about the poems is that they work together to tell the story. I also like that they let children laugh, think, or react in some way.
Rebecca: Rhyming or non-rhyming? Do you have a preference?
Tamera: Oh, I do love reading and writing a well-constructed poem that has a solid rhythm and rhyme and reaches beyond light verse into true poetry, but the truth is, I'm glad we have both because they each play an important role in engaging young people in reading and writing.
Rebecca: What is your favorite verse novel? Your favorite poet?
Tamera: I have enjoyed reading many wonderfully written verse novels in a variety of genres and I admire the authors and their work a great deal, so it's impossible to choose a single favorite. I think it's one of the toughest formats to write well and is maybe misunderstood because, to some readers, it can look simple. It's a classic case of simple not being easy, so I salute anyone who is writing or attempting to write verse novels or stories in poetry.
Rebecca: Advice for aspiring poets and/or verse novelists?
Tamera: Read a great deal of the type of work you love to write and also read other formats and genres, both contemporary and from poets of the past. Write what you are inspired to write and find compassionate, knowledgable, trustworthy colleagues who will help you make your work stronger. If you want to write in rhyme, go ahead. Just make sure it's excellent before you begin to submit to editors. Bottom line: story is more important than perfectly-rhymed and rhythmic couplets.
Rebecca: What are you working on now? Any other verse novels in your future?
Tamera: I'm working on a couple new projects. Up next is a rhyming picture book called THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO GOBBLED A SKINK. It's my take on the folk song about the old lady who swallowed a fly and is scheduled to arrive from Sky Pony Press on 2/02/2016. And I recently learned that GONE FISHING will have a companion novel called GONE CAMPING: A Novel in Verse. Sam and Lucy are back for a family camping adventure in this story, and Lucy takes the spotlight when she struggles to overcome her fear of sleeping away from home in the tent. It's scheduled for a 2017 release from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers and will again be illustrated by Matthew Cordell.
Thank you for hosting me today, Becky! I enjoyed chatting with you.
Rebecca: You're welcome, Tamera! Congratulations on your upcoming books. I especially look forward to reading Gone Camping!
If you would like to know more about Tamera and her books, visit her website, tamerawillwissinger.com. You can also follow her on twitter.
If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of Gone Fishing, you can find it at the following online retailers (or ask for it at your library or local indie book store):
Barnes & Noble