Author Tami Lewis Brown: Finding her Wings

TamiLewisBrownI met author Tami Lewis Brown at a Highlights Foundation Workshop, where she was a mentor and I was a mentee. Tami grew up in Kentucky and attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. She’s been a lawyer, and more recently, writer-in-residence and librarian at The Sheridan School in Washington, D.C. With a background like this, Tami makes the perfect subject for a Nerdy Chicks interview.

Aviator Elinor Smith’s story, which inspired Tami’s picture book Soar, Elinor!, motivated Tami to become a pilot and a lawyer. Tami says “Everyone in my family flew. Each time someone told me ‘it’s a man’s world,’ I thought of Elinor’s unquenchable drive to be herself and live her dreams. Where others built barriers, Elinor saw nothing but wide open horizons.”

Now, let’s get to know Tami.

Your picture book, Soar Elinor, is the biography of a remarkable aviator, Elinor Smith. At 16, she was the youngest person to get a pilots license. At 17,Soar-Elinor-Final-Cover she flew UNDER four bridges that spanned New York City’s East River in 1928. Why did you decide to write a book about this daredevil? I’m a children’s book writer and a pilot, so writing a book for kids about the youngest pilot in America was a natural. But when I learned about the passion and hard work Elinor put into achieving her dream to become a professional pilot, I couldn’t wait to share her story. When she was only six years old, Elinor decided her future was in the cockpit and she didn’t let anything stand in her way.

I got a kick out of your middle grade novel, The Map of Me, in which two sisters set out on a journey to bring home their missing mother. Your main character, 12-year-old Margie, is almost as daring as Elinor was, but with a car instead of a plane. How does writing fiction differ from writing non-fiction? It may seem obvious, but when writing fiction you get to make everything up, but with nonfiction you have to stick to the facts. The thing that surprised me is how similar writing nonfiction and fiction can be. A biography may be the story of someone’s life, but a biographer still has to think about theme, structure, tension, resolution—all the same elements present in a work of fiction.

map-rev-comp-2_1-18-jpeg-202x300Would you consider Margie and little sister Peep nerdy chicks? Does their nerdiness or lack of nerdiness affect their journey? Peep is the ultimate nerd. She’s super smart and absolutely proud of it—as she should be. Margie’s bold and bright, too, but she has to work to accept her true nerdiness. That’s the story of The Map Of Me, really—a journey to self acceptance.

That’s a journey we all have to go through. On your journey, what has been one of your favorite nerdy chick achievements? For me, nerdiness means finding your passion and sticking with it, through thick and thin, to achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter if your passion is cool or in fashion as long as it matters deeply to you. My favorite nerdy achievements are writing and publishing Soar, Elinor! and The Map of Me. Following those stories from the grain of an idea to book in print took way more determination, patience, hard work and passion than I ever expected. And I did it!

I could tell when I met you that you are a fun person. What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? Practically everything I do is nerdy, and hopefully most of what I do is at least a little bit fun. One special thing that comes to mind is Skyping with girl scout troops. I do free Skype visits with scout troops, book clubs, and classrooms. I LOVE talking about reading, writing, and being nerdy with actual kids. You can find out more about my Skype visits here.

I watched you Skype to a classroom in Prague and the kids had a blast.

Thanks so much, Tami, for spending time with our Nerdy Chicks! Elinor Smith will be our Quotable Nerdy Chick next week.

You may visit Tami at her website or her facebook page.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway

This contest is officially over. Winners announced on October 10. Thanks everyone! 🙂

Authors don’t design the covers of their books. Cover art is usually conceived by in-house book designers and I am very very lucky that the designer Scholastic assigned to my books is Whitney Lyle. Whitney has done an amazing job with both covers! And I love the way the second cover, the one you are about to see, compliments the first. I asked Whitney to share a little about how she came up with these cover designs.   Here is what she said:

I loved the cover creation process for both The Boy Project and The Boy Problem! The story reminded me so much of my crafty, boy-crazy, methodical self back at Robert Frost Middle School! I had notebooks with lists of boys, slam books that I shared with my best friends, and boxes full of ticket stubs, fortune cookie slips, and notes. 
 
Back when we started working on The Boy Project, we considered several directions that the cover could take, but in the end we decided to make the cover feel  like a journal because it would fit the story really well. I looked to my old notebooks as inspiration, making a collage of elements that fit the story. 
 
For The Boy Problem, we thought that some of the doodles should allude to the story, so I drew several pages of equations, Magic 8 Balls, fortune cookies, cupcakes, and shooting stars and narrowed them down to what looked best. I also looked for silhouettes of different boys to place on the sticky notes. We wanted to find different stereotypes (the jock, the romantic, the life of the party).

Thanks Whitney! It turned out great!

So… now time for the drumroll… here is the cover for THE BOY PROBLEM!  I’m so excited about it that I’m doing a giveaway. Make sure to scroll down to the end of the post for details.

boy problem cover

Isn’t that great? I especially like the way the post-it notes used here compliment the index card found on the cover of my first book.  You can see more of Whitney Lyle’s fabulous work HERE.

Now, those of you who’ve kept up with what’s going on with this book might notice a really big change on the cover that you weren’t expecting. See it? Yep, in the past two weeks we’ve undergone a title change!  So now The Boy Prediction is The Boy Problem! (But we managed to work the word prediction in anyway, so don’t worry, you’ll still get your fill of 8 balls, fortune cookies and the like).

Let’s go on to the contest, shall we?  Sudipta’s virtual visit giveaways were so popular last spring that I thought I’d try one too.

IN CELEBRATION OF THIS FABULOUS COVER, I will be giving away a free 30-minute Virtual Classroom Visit, where I would be happy to tell your chosen class all about how this book came together, and answer questions about being an author. (Don’t worry if you’re not a teacher — you can donate the Virtual Visit to any class you choose! Or  I’ll send you one of my new signed paperbacks of The Boy Project instead.)

Entries will be accepted until October 9, 2013.  The winner will be selected using the random number generator at random.org and announced  on October 10.

Here are the rules for this giveaway. It’s super-easy:

The ONLY thing that is Required is to enter your name and email address in the form below. This is so I can reach you. Email addresses will not be published.

If you want to enter multiple times, keep reading. This is optional!  You will get an extra entry for doing any of the following:

(1) leave me a comment here with your thoughts on the cover.

(2) follow me on Twitter – mention that in a comment below. (You can follow from the right sidebar too.)

(3) tweet this post to your own Twitter followers and tag me @kamikinard in the tweet.

(4) like fellow blogger Sudipta’s author page on Facebook – mention that in a comment below.

(5) follow this blog (right sidebar) — mention that in a comment below.

or (6) like my Facebook author page – mention that in a comment below.

Good Luck!