September 8, 2011

Author Interview: Tami Lewis Brown - Map of Me +GIVEAWAY

Today have the pleasure of welcoming Tami Lewis Brown author of the MG book The Map of Me - a great book about a young girl dealing with her mother leaving, believing in herself, and a road trip.

Please welcome Tami Lewis Brown to The O.W.L.
So, Tami tell us - for Map of Me what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
In the first chapter of my new book, THE MAP OF ME, sixth grader Margie Tempest’s teacher has assigned her class to draw a “map of me” that shows what they hold in their hearts—what they love, hate, believe in, or fear. Margie compares herself to her brilliant little sister, her super-salesman dad and her chicken collecting mom and she doesn’t want everyone to see the bad things inside her.

There are lots of other maps in the book, too. These are symbols of being lost, finding your way, and knowing where you stand—and probably other things readers will figure out for themselves! I visit lots of schools, scout troops, and reading groups, both live and via Skype. I can’t wait to draw our own maps of me and use what we find for some great writing projects. It’s going to be a blast!

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write The Map of Me from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!
I started writing THE MAP OF ME in 2005 when I was studying for a Master's degree in Writing for Children. The beginning of this novel was a school assignment. I turned in my work each month and my teacher, the Newbery Honor winning author Norma Fox Mazer, critiqued my work. She loved impulsive Margie and her big-brained sister Peep but she pushed me to get them in big trouble—then make their trouble worse. During that semester I did five major revisions of the first half of the novel. Then after I finished it and sold the book I worked with my editor to revise the entire thing again—twice. The maps didn’t show up until about the tenth draft! I wanted THE MAP OF ME to be the best book I could write and I was grateful that both these wonderful teachers led me through many revisions.

I'm always curious where authors get their ideas from, so with that, is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
In THE MAP OF ME twelve-year-old Margie steals a car to search for her missing mother. I promise I’ve never stolen a car! But many small moments in the story are based on real things or how I remember feeling when I was twelve or thirteen. Margie is the tallest girl in her class and she’s embarrassed when her class lines up in order of height. I was taller than most kids in middle school, too, and I remember how awkward that felt. Also the “unfortunate square dance incident” is based on my miserable memories of square dancing in seventh grade gym class. I guess there are dozens of other tiny “true” things in the book.

My students really look at book covers a lot. How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover.
I love the cover of THE MAP OF ME! The girl looks exactly like I imagined Margie. I also love the bright yellow car. I think it really pops!

Authors almost never get much say about their book covers. Art departments and marketing people are experts on what makes a great cover. They worked on the cover for several months but I didn’t know what it would look like until I saw the finished product. I’m so lucky they “got” the book, both with the way Margie looks and with her determined expression.

Now the question my students always want to know the answer to. They assume all authors were straight A students, especially in English. What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
I liked school but I didn’t get straight As. (See the part about me and daydreaming below!) Although I loved to read it didn’t come naturally. I had wonderful teachers and a mom who was determined to make me a reader so by third grade I always had a book in my hand. My favorite subject was history. History is a long, complicated story, with loads of characters, and I loved learning those stories. English scared me a bit because my school emphasized grammar and sentence structure. Diagramming sentences baffled me!

Unlike many writers, I didn’t always write. We didn’t do creative writing or journaling at my school, and no teacher ever suggested I could be a writer, so it never occurred to me. After college I became a lawyer because I liked research, writing, and speaking. (Now I get to do all those things, plus go to work in my PJs most days!) I was always a huge daydreamer. I spent most of my time—even at school—making up stories in my own mind. Now I realize I was training to be a writer all along, exercising my fearless imagination.

And, lastly,  because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
The writer I admire most is Kathi Appelt. The language in THE UNDERNEATH is lyrical and beautiful and the story is powerful, scary, and brave. Some adults have criticized THE UNDERNEATH, saying it’s too violent and too sophisticated for child readers. But Kathi knows that young people deserve the best stories a writer can tell, and age doesn’t have anything to do with being ready to read a wonderful book. I also admire Patricia MacLachlan, Deborah Wiles, and Katherine Paterson. I’ve read all their books a dozen times. SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL, LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, and THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS are powerful gems.

But none of these books had been written when I was growing up. Back then my favorite writers were Roald Dahl, especially CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and E. L. Konigsburg for FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. I’m sure Claudia inspired Margie to run away from home!

Thank you so much for answering these questions and visiting The O.W.L.  My daughter read The Underneath and loved it, so she'll be excited to see what you had to say about it.

To learn more about Tami Lewis Brown and download a free activity kit, visit her website at
The next stop on Tami's blog tour is Cracking the Cover at

Now that you know about the author and more about the book, how about a give away!

I have 3 copies of The Map of Me up for grabs! 
Must be US or Canadian resident
Must be at least 13
Must fill out THIS FORM
Ends 9/21

1 comment:

  1. I've been wanting to read this book (and I think my daughter would like it too). Thanks for this interview -- and the giveaway! It's neat seeing how parts of an author's life filter into the story.