GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Tamera Will Wissinger, author of GONE FISHING

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Tamera Will Wissinger, whose debut novel GONE FISHING, hits the shelves this week.

GONE FISHING is about Sam, a boy who is so excited about his fishing trip with his dad that he can’t sleep the night before. When Sam’s little sister Lucy tags along at the last minute, though, Sam hopes she won’t ruin his fun. 

This book feels unconventional in that it’s a short novel in verse, aimed for younger readers, and it’s illustrated! I’d love to hear how you got the idea for this story.

The story idea came from my own childhood memories of night crawler hunting and fishing with my family. The first poem, “Night Crawlers,” is a direct reflection of those good memories. The idea for a story in poetry came after I had written several poems in a fishing poetry collection. I was lucky enough to see Nikki Grimes speak about how she writes stories in poetry, and her presentation helped me understand how to develop a story beyond a collection of poetry.

The book’s cover is so fun! It promises adventure and humor and the inside does not disappoint! Did you always envision it with illustrations or was that a later surprise in the publishing process? How did you feel when you first saw Matthew Cordell’s amazing artwork?

In my mind, the story always included artwork. In fact, I originally envisioned this as a picture book with full-color art. When my editor suggested including more poems to perhaps appeal to an older audience, she also suggested the idea of modifying the illustrations to black and white line drawings, and that made sense.

It sounds cliché, but I got butterflies in my stomach the first time I saw Matthew’s drawings and I walked around the house for a long time with a silly grin on my face. It was so fun to see how, based on my words, he had interpreted the characters and given them visual personalities.

My favorite thing about the book is that you use so many different forms of poetry.  You name the form under each poem’s title, and then feature a really great, concise guide for the reader at the back of the book. Were there any forms that you wanted to use that didn’t make it into the book?

Oh yes. I wrote a pantoum that wasn’t quite right, but it was an interesting challenge, and I toyed with several other forms that didn’t quite materialize in the way that I had hoped. One, a persona poem called WIGGLE JIGGLE SHAKE AND SQUIRM, is from the point of view of Harold the Worm, a worm that’s personified in another poem in the book. The persona poem was a little off-topic and didn’t really belong, so it’s not in the book. If readers are interested in reading it, I’m going to feature it on my blog this Friday as “the one that got away!”

My favorites poems have to be “A Fishy Spell” (It’s a curse poem! What’s not to love?!) and “Crossing the Lake” (The way you used the shape of that poem to compliment the words, really made me a little seasick.) Do you have a favorite poem in the book?

Sorry about your seasickness! I wanted to show the motion of water in that poem, and how waves can rock a boat. I don’t have a single favorite poem, no. I like how they all work together to tell the story, so it’s impossible to single one out. I had a lot of fun writing some of the poems where the main character becomes impatient with his little sister, and when she unknowingly gets under his skin.

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

When I was very young I loved OVER IN THE MEADOW by Olive A. Wadsworth, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. I loved the repetition, the rhythm and rhyme, the familiarity of mothers and babies, the counting… that one was my first inspiration.

And as a middle grade reader, PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a favorite. I just loved how she was naughty, but got away with everything, was rich and so strong and independent. And yet, she was vulnerable. Her papa was lost at sea, she lived alone with no one to help her. To me it’s a great example of how a flawed character can be crafted to still be loveable.

Since there’s room for a third, I’d have to say HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS by Thomas Rockwell. (Is that really a surprise?) I still haven’t gotten over the scene when the main character drops the worm into his mouth raw and whole to win the bet – it’s so amazingly over the top disgusting and funny and a great example of how middle grade literature can push boundaries to make us squirm, entertain, and give a message without seeming didactic.

Long live the worm in children’s literature! (And for the record, the only things eating worms in my story are the fish.)

Thank you for hosting me at OneFour KidLit today, Skila! I had a great time answering your questions.


Tamera Wissinger was inspired to write this novel-in-verse after writing “Night Crawlers,” a poem that stemmed from her fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with her dad before fishing trips. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Tamera shares her time between Chicago and Florida. This is her first book.

Online you can find Tamera on her WebsiteGoodreadsTwitter, or Facebook.

This interview was conducted by OneFour member Skila Brown, whose middle grade novel CAMINAR releases from Candlewick Press in Spring 2014. The interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.

Skila Brown has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut novel, CAMINAR, will be released in 2014 from Candlewick Press.

2 thoughts on “GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Tamera Will Wissinger, author of GONE FISHING

  1. Pingback: March Verse Novel Reviews etc: Week 1 | VERSENOVELS.COM

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