Tuesday, March 5, 2013

GONE FISHING: An Interview About Poetry with Tamera Wissinger + Giveaway!

Today the Lucky 13s are ecstatic to celebrate the release of Tamera Will Wissinger’s debut GONE FISHING, an adorable and witty middle-grade novel in verse!

"Just the thing for readers with a burgeoning interest in poetry—or angling."
—Publishers Weekly
"A playful verse narrative of the joys and perils of a family fishing trip. . . . This tender, well-crafted sibling story should hook many readers."
"Engaging verse that's just the right depth and length for chapter-book readers. . . A solid, entertaining story to hook children on poetry."

I’ve had the marvelous privilege to interview Tamera all about poetry, the rhyme and reason, the literary tools, and the virtues of poetry and novels-in-verse. If you’ve never been a big poetry fan, you're about to get hooked like a wiggly worm at the end of fishing pole. 

What are good reasons to write a novel in verse versus straight prose?

These are some of the best reasons that I can think of to write stories in verse for children and young adults (more than one may apply to any given poetry novel): 

·       The subject matter is demanding and the economy of a poetry text may make the story more palatable. (Example: My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt 

·       The subject matter may or may not be taxing, but a story element may lend itself to the techniques and structure choices that a poetry novel requires. (Examples: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, May B. by Caroline Starr Rose)

·       The subject matter may or may not be difficult, but it is directly related to poetry or writing (the main character may be journaling), so the verse novel format draws attention to poetry writing and/or reading. (Example: Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge)

·       For the youngest readers, regardless of the degree of subject difficulty for the child’s age, stories in poetry offer an inviting way to engage children in the story and in the poetry itself. (Examples: Emma Dilemma by Kristine O’Connell George; the Danitra Brown books by Nikki Grimes) This is where GONE FISHING would fall.

Some less poetically inclined persons see poetry as just rhythm and rhyme, but what other literary techniques are used in effective poetry?

Rhythm, rhyme, stanza patterns, and poetic forms are the structural aspects of verse that often are associated with poetry. Poetry techniques include figures of speech and use of sounds to help elevate the words from the literal to the figurative or emphasize meaning and include metaphor, simile, personification, imagery, hyperbole, and alliteration. (If you don’t know all those things, go look them up!)

Do you see value in writers studying and practicing poetry, even if they never intend to be poets themselves? If so, why? 

Yes. I think poetry and prose are simply two different ways to tell stories; it would never occur to me to avoid reading or studying traditional novels because I happen to write poetry. As the poet John Hollander said in his introduction to Rhyme’s Reason, “The building blocks of poetry itself are elements of fiction – fable, “image,” metaphor – all the material of the nonliteral.” 

Good writers – whatever their chosen form – are regularly using these elements to advance their stories. If authors read and study excellent work that resonates with them, whether it’s poetry or prose, their own writing will become stronger as they try to emulate that work. In addition, studying those verse structures: rhyme, rhythm, stanza patterns, poetry forms, can help writers tune their ear to the ebb and flow of words, which can aid in their own careful word choice and strong sentence structure for any type of writing.  

One of the best examples of poetic writing in prose that I’ve come across is Natalie Babbitt’s opening to Chapter 12 in TUCK EVERLASTING: “The sky was a ragged blaze of red and pink and orange, and its double trembled on the surface of the pond like color spilled from a paintbox.” I don’t know if Babbitt studied poetry before writing this sentence; if I were to guess, I’d say yes, of course she did. What I do know: this is beautiful language with a purpose, making it not only a pleasure to read, but drawing us into that scene. In this 28-word setting description she has included imagery, personification, metaphor, simile, and strong rhythm. Working together, these techniques elevate beyond the simplicity of a setting sun; the scene comes alive. Who among us have stories that couldn’t benefit from a sentence or two written with such care?

Do you have a favorite rhyme or rhythm pattern?

I love them all and enjoy what each offers to storytelling and to the joy of reading poetry. There are four basic rhythm patterns and a variety of line lengths which give poets numerous combinations to work with. For example, a trochaic tetrameter with the emphasis on the first syllable feels like it’s bursting with energy. Here’s a two line sample from William Shakespeare’s Song of the Witches: Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble…) 

Something a little more serious might call for a slower iambic pentameter as in these two lines from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Dactylic and Anapestic rhythm patterns also help convey different moods or meanings. With rhyme patterns it would be difficult to choose a favorite as well – I love the anticipation of rhyming words and discovering rhyme patterns in poetry that I didn’t expect. (Both when I read and write.)

Can you give an example of imagery from GONE FISHING? 

“Rainbows flicker and fade.”

Best example of a simile? 

“I’ll be quiet as a worm.” (Also counts as hyperbole, I think.)

What is your favorite interjection from the book? 

“Yee-haw, Wham!” is one of my favorites.

Most thrilling use of alliteration? 

“Torpedo Tough”(which is also a metaphor because it refers to a fish.)

Most creative use of personification?

One unusual example is when little sister Lucy sings, “Heeere, fishy, fishy, fishy.”(A technique called apostrophe – talking to someone or something that can’t talk back.)

Will you share one of your favorite poems with us?

I’d love to. This is a poem by former Canadian Poet Laureate Bliss Carman that I discovered several years ago and that I’ve since committed to memory. I love the rhymes and the A B A B rhyme pattern, the strong dactylic tetrameter rhythm, the wonderful images and metaphors, and the timelessness of the message.


By Bliss Carman

Over the shoulders and slopes of the dune
I saw the white daisies go down to the sea,
A host in the sunshine, an army in June,
The people God sends us to set our hearts free.

The bobolinks rallied them up from the dell,
The orioles whistled them out of the wood;
And all of their singing was, “Earth, it is well!”
And all of their dancing was, “Life, thou art good!”

Tamera Will Wissinger earned her B.A. degree in English from Sioux Falls College, and her M.F.A. degree in Writing from Hamline University. Visit Tamera at her WebsiteGoodreadsTwitter, or Facebook.

You can buy a copy of GONE FISHING today in lots of places, including B&N, Amazon, IndieBound, and Books-A-Million, but you could also get lucky and win a SIGNED COPY + plus other neat stuff right here! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Terrific interview. This is a form about which I know little except that I really enjoy reading it. Thanks for the chance to win Gone Fishing.

  2. Wow, loved this interview! Daisies...what a great poem to read on a rainy, cold Boston morning.