August 11, 2013

Books Q&A: Tamra Wight and her scrappy campers

In Wight's new book, outdoorsy duo Cooper and Packrat team up to solve a mystery against the backdrop of a lakeside campground.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Some adults have to reach back into their own childhood to write books for children.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Tamra Wight

MEET THE AUTHOR

WHO: Tamra Wight

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 18

WHERE: Poland Spring Campground, 128 Connor Lane, Poland

WHAT: Book launch event for "Cooper & Packrat: Mystery at Pine Lake" (Islandport Press). Wight will read from her book, and illustrator Carl DiRocco will talk about the art. There will also be a raffle, a book signing and s'mores.

INFO: Islandportpress.com; Polandspringcamp.com

Tamra Wight has had kids giving her great book material -- as well as frogs and other creatures -- for 22 years.

That's how long Wight and her husband have been running Poland Spring Campground in Poland. Wight combined her experiences at the family campground with her own childhood experiences to write a children's chapter book, "Cooper & Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake" (Islandport Press, $16.95).

The book came out earlier this month, and is aimed at middle-grade readers. It focuses on Cooper, who lives at a campground with his parents, and his friend, Packrat, as they investigate mysteries on the lake. The book was illustrated by Carl DiRocco, an artist who lives in Reading, Mass.

Wight, 49, lives in Poland year-round. Besides running the campground, she works as a teaching assistant at Whittier Middle School in Poland. She is also the author of a children's picture book, "The Three Grumpies." 

Q: How did you start writing books?

A: Writing is something I've always done. It became something I really wanted to do after my daughter was born (24 years ago). When she was born, I rediscovered my love of picture books. When I was growing up (in Charlton, Mass.), I lived at the library. I remember climbing trees so I could get away from my brothers and sisters and read books. So when my daughter was born, something clicked and I wanted to do my own (picture book). When I finally had the time, I did one called "The Three Grumpies."

Q: How did you get the idea to do this book, which is aimed at older children than the picture book was?

A: It started with the loon problem. In the book, Cooper is trying to save the loons on the lake. In the late '90s, there was a loon nest (in the area) that was flooded. I did research on loons, and found them to be extraordinary birds. So I started a picture book, but somebody suggested that if I added a little more, I'd have a great middle-grade book.

So I added Cooper, who lives at a campground, and it's not everything he thought it would be. He thought he'd be out on the lake all the time, but his mom is a worrywart, and he has a lot of chores to do. 

Q: What were the main challenges of writing while in the campground and of writing a young boy character?

A: Being in the campground, I constantly have kids bringing me frogs and turtles and fish. They just haul them into my office. So that helped get me in touch with what kids do. Plus my own son, who is now 16, has grown up in the campground. And Cooper is really me; the geeky, nature-loving part of him is me. I just felt the book called for a male character. 

Q: Why is it a mystery and not just a kids' adventure tale?

A: When I was young, I read the Nancy Drew series, the Bobbsey Twins. I've always loved mystery books. And I just thought I could do that in the campground setting. So the idea is somebody's out to get the loons, but who could it be? 

Q: Will this be a series? And who is Packrat?

A: I've done research for a second book with the same characters. Packrat is Cooper's only friend; he shows up at the campground seasonally. He's got this great coat filled with all sorts of stuff. 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

 

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