readilearn: Introducing Pamela S. Wight, author of Birds of Paradise

  • Published on October 20, 2017

Pamela S. Wight

In the author spotlight this month is Pamela S. Wight, a fellow blogger, writer, and teacher of creative writing. I enjoy the stories of life Pamela shares on her blog Rough Wighting, and also enjoyed reading her adult novels. But it was the story of how this picture book Birds of Paradise came to be, a picture book 35 years in the making, that really captivated me. I knew I wanted to share it with you. Before we start talking about the book, though, let me introduce you to Pamela.

yellow bird

Pamela Wight has joined the ranks of authors who are, as she calls it humorously “bi-genre” or “ambi-writers.” Think of Ian Fleming, who yes, wrote the James Bond books, but also switched genres and wrote the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Before A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh books, he penned a popular whodunit entitled The Red House Mystery.

Wight wrote two books of romantic suspense, The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires, before fulfilling her lifelong dream of publishing her children’s story Birds of Paradise about two special sparrows.

About the story:

 Birds of Paradise cover

Sweet sparrows Bessie and Bert grow up as differently as night and day. Bessie is fearful of the dangers inherent in being a bird. She’s scared to leave her cozy branch. But Bert relishes flying in the sky and pecking delicious seeds on the ground, until he loses half a tail.

Bessie and Bert uncover each other’s fears and, through a newfound friendship, re-discover the delight in being birds. Charming, lustrous illustrations and light, lilting verse delight children and adults alike as they gain a new appreciation for the joyous birds in their own backyard.

Welcome to readilearn, Pamela. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

Pamela, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 I remember when I was around 3 years old, sitting in front of a bookshelf with picture books stacked side by side.  Because I couldn’t read yet, I opened each one and told a story from my imagination using the pictures as my guide. That’s when I began my life as a writer.

Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

 I write from my upstairs home office in front of a large window that overlooks trees and the sky. I listen to the birds sing as well as soft classical music in the background.

What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?

 Both. Many times, I write a story in my writer’s notebook and then type the second draft on my computer.

When do you write?

 Before I became a full-time writer, I wrote in the late afternoon after work. Now, I’m on my computer/ notebook by 5:30 a.m. and write for three or four hours. Several days a week I teach creative writing classes in the late morning or early afternoon. The days I don’t, I take a break with an exercise or yoga class, then return to writing for a few hours in the afternoon.

When do you get your ideas?

 My ideas seem to never stop: in the shower, at the dentist’s office, in the middle of a Down Dog! I have file drawers of stories, and three half-written novels. I will never run out of ideas and characters and settings.

Do you think of the story in your head before you write it?

 Never.  In my creative writing classes. I stress the importance of not thinking too much in writing, so we can feel. I believe in letting go of the editor inside us, and instead letting out the inspirational creative “stuff” that’s often hidden.

What gave you the idea for Birds of Paradise?

I attended a creative writing class when I was a young mother. The professor dictated a prompt in which we were to write a story in 20 minutes: Write a love story. I began, “Bessie and Bert are birds – sparrows, humans call them. They just call themselves birds,” and the story took off. The professor called me the next day: “You have an excellent children’s story here,” he said, “you should get it published.”

What do you like best about your story?

 I like the theme that friendship between two unlikely people (or in this case birds) can steer us away from trouble and instead toward joy and fulfilment.

Do you like the illustrations?

 I adore Shelley Steinle’s illustrations. In fact, many publishing companies do not allow the author to choose an illustrator for his or her book. I insisted on supplying my own illustrator – Shelley – because (1) she understood Bert and Bessie and showed the importance of compassion and companionship in her drawings, (2) Shelley uses the “old-fashioned” way of drawing each line herself, never using computer technology to enhance her work.

red bird Shelley Steinle's illustrations

How did you feel when you wrote this story?

 Startled and thankful. I had no idea where Bessie and Bert came from, and I was so grateful that they arrived as I wrote.

How do you hope readers will feel?

 Hopeful. Happy. Adult readers tell me they get a sweet tug in their heart when they read this book. Kids tell me excitedly that they think they’ve seen Bert and Bessie in their back yard.

How would you like teachers to present your book to children?

First and foremost, as a fun and interesting story about the world of birds. Children are fascinated with how birds thrive as babies with the help of their parents, and then the task of learning how to fly and “leave the nest.”

 feeding birds

Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?

I’ve read this story to children in elementary schools and during Storytime in many libraries. The younger children (3-4 year olds) focus on the pictures as they listen, mouths open, to the story. They love pointing at the ladybug that is found “hidden” on every page. Kids 5 and older are wide-eyed during the scene where Bert escapes the clutches of the cat, and then is bullied by others. The teachers and I smile as the kids all chime in about how their own cats chase birds. A great teachable moment arrives as the kids talk about the “bully birds” and how to find courage and believe in themselves despite taunting from others.

Pamela Wight reading to children

Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?

First and foremost, I believe that children must enjoy what they read (or what is read to them). If they have fun with a book, then they’ll want to write one. Also, I understand the need to teach writing rules, but children should also be allowed to just write without worrying about spelling and grammar (that can come in their second draft). They should at first be allowed to just have FUN with their story.

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

During my visits to elementary schools, after reading my book, I take questions & answers. The kids view authors as “celebrities,” which is surprising and rewarding. (They keep asking for my “autograph”!)  I explain to them that there are four rules to learning to write well: “Read, Read, Read, Read.” The teachers love that rule!

read read read

What is your favourite picture book?

I don’t have a favourite – there are so many great ones. I like picture books in which the illustrations and the story allow the child’s own imagination to go wild. Examples? Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat, Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies, and Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue. But then, of course, my grandsons love I’m Dirty by Kate and Jim McMullan.

Thank you, Pamela Wight, for sharing these insights about your book Birds of Paradise and your writing process. We wish you success.

Thank you, and thanks for having me!

Pamela Wight is a successful author of the children’s picture book Birds of Paradise as well as two novels of romantic suspense, The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires.

Pamela earned her MA in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in the Boston and San Francisco Bay areas.

She lives in Boston with her “right man.” She speaks at elementary schools, town and school libraries, as well as book clubs, in both locations. Many readers enjoy her “weekly blog on daily living” called Roughwighting. (www.roughwighting.net)

Connect with Pamela on Social media:

FacebookLinkedIn Goodreads  Twitter

Pamela Wight books

          Pamela’s books can be purchased from

Amazon:

UKUSACAAUS

Author spotlight Pamela Wight

A shortened version of this interview is available in Author Spotlight Literacy Resources Author Spotlight: Pamela Wight. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.

readilearn resources are more than worksheets;

they are lessons made by teachers for teachers, designed to lighten your workload.

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Comments

    Ever since I read “The Right Wrong Man,” I’ve been glued to Pam’s blog. I’m a recently published author and blogger, and I thank you for showing me even more about Pam’s versatility and persistence. She is truly an ambi-writer and an example to the rest of us that we should pull out those pages in our storerooms. Maybe all we need to do is start working on them at 5 a.m!

    Thanks for popping over to read and comment, Paula. Oh, if only it were as easy as pulling out those pages and working on them at 5 a.m.! We’d all have best sellers. :)

    Hi Gerlinde, Thank you for popping over to read my interview with Pam. She is indeed a talented writer. I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview.

    Oh yes it is Norah. And no worries about wonky WP, I always find a way around it, lol. :) (Like this time again, I had to come back here and start a new comment to reply :( )

    I’m lovin’ the 3-way conversation (or ‘convo’ as the younger set say) between Norah, you Debby, and me. You are such a stick-to-itness woman!! STRONG. I know that about you via your blog and books, but then to thumb your nose at WP and find a way to get your comment in here anyway, I’m laughing with delight. And I’m with what you and Norah say. No boxes needed to be checked when we write our books. They’re just …. OUR BOOKS. However, the big publishers definitely want boxes checked. One of these days they’ll pay more attention to the Indie authors and how well we’ve done being independent and DOING IT OUR WAY (to music, here, please.)

    Oh yes, sing those songs out loud and strong, let the voices be heard. That’s what it’s all about – doing it in a way that makes sense to the writer and sense to the reader; communication between minds and hearts. What wonderful opportunities exist for writers today; and today’s pioneers are opening it up for future generations. There’s much to be admired in this first generation of Indie authors.

    Lol Pam, I do already use that word ‘convo’, what does that make me? LOL. Yes, love the 3-way between us, just sad that I’m unable to reply directly to a comment and must send you two on a fishing expedition to find my comments in new boxes that don’t continue the dialogue thread. And thanks for your kudos Pam, I don’t give up very easily, LOL. :) :)

    I’ll have to see if I can find out how to improve the conversation threads, Debby. I won’t promise success, but I’ll see what I can do. Thank you for your determination in keeping the conversation going and in alerting me to this issue.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Barbara. Pam’s blog is a delight to read, isn’t it? Birds of Paradise is too!

    Norah knows how to brighten the lights and create a beautiful spotlight to us authors. I agree. Thanks so much for coming over here and reading about my writing and Birds of Paradise. So much fun for (normally shy) me to be …. in the spotlight.

    It’s my pleasure to include you in my author spotlights, Pam. Thanks for so generously joining in.

    So nice to see Pam here today Norah. I enjoyed learning more about her ‘ambi’ side of writing, lol. And you know, it never dawned on me that Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! :)

    Thank you for you words of support, Debby. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the interview with Pam. How exciting to learn something new about Ian Fleming. We writers don’t need to limit ourselves, do we? You have written in a range of genres though, also. :)

    WP isn’t allowing me to respond to your comments for some reason. After 3 tries here I managed to get one reply box to open so I’m responding to both you and Pam, Norah.

    I love it Pam!

    OH and this is in reply to Norah’s comment, because WP wouldn’t accept my reply. – Actually Norah, I’m a memoir/nonfiction writer. I kind of write in a cross genre between the two, lol. I love going against the grain. :)

    I’m sorry you experienced difficulty with replying, Debby. It may be something to do with the way the site is set up. I had to beg for comments to be allowed at all! So now we have ambi-writers and cross-genre writers. I like it. Why put anyone in a box. It’s not how creativity works, is it.

    I’ve just started getting to know Pam, and after this interview I learned so much more about her. What an amazing woman! I can’t wait to read this lovely children’s book and I love her positive message about writing and creativity. I want to take one of her creative writing classes! I also have a children’s book in mind I’d like to write, and Pam’s Birds of Paradise is an inspiration!

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed the interview. Thanks for popping over to read and comment, and be inspired. Pam is inspirational, isn’t she. I’m certain you’ll enjoy her lovely story Birds of Paradise with its beautiful illustrations by Shelley Steinle.

    Oh, we’d have such a good time writing creatively together in my classes! I’m not sure where you live but it would be a joy if you live close enough that you could join me. It’s not a critique class though. It’s a class where we don’t cross out and we don’t edit ourselves; we just right for fun!

    Wonderful interview. Fun to learn more about you, Pamela. It’s great you get so much writing done early in the morning. Must make for such a sense of accomplishment the rest of the day.

    It’s a great time for writers. Some writers! I’m not one either. Unless I can’t sleep for the ideas buzzing. :)

    Mike, Mike, Mike. We’ve gone over this before. I can put the “wash on the line feed the kids get dressed pass out the kisses and write from 5 to 9” before you’ve even had your 1st cup of coffee. 🍮📚

    Excellent interview, Pamela. was started to see that your photo and gravitar are similar. I don’t know why but I thought your gravatar was of Jane Meadows. Silly me. Thank you, Norah for bringing this interview to life.

    Oh my gosh, John, I got the biggest kick out of your comment. (I did, though, first have to look up who Jayne Meadows is). I think she and I both have the same ’tilt-of-the-head’ thing going, anyway. :-)
    Many thanks for reading my interview with Norah. She did an excellent job of getting me all revved up talking about my passion: writing.

    Thank you dear ladies for this interview, I enjoyed reading it. Pam is such a darling as she has the best of tools under her armour, hooking the readers with them. It was fun knowing more about you Pam. Bertie and Bessie are my favorite birds…I love them! :)

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed the interview. Pam does like to hook the readers in with her stories. Bert and Bessie are a lovely pair of birds. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    You always have a way of saying things that softly twist my heart in the most delightful ways. Yes, I do love to hook my readers in – hook, line, and sinker. Life is full of twists and turns, so should fiction, is my motto. :-) Many thanks for your wonderful support.

    I’m sure you and your grandchildren will enjoy Birds of Paradise, Elizabeth. You are right: it does provide many opportunities for discussion and learning. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    I’m so grateful to Karen Sanderson for getting us all together as “Comrades of the Keyboard,” Elizabeth. As always, THANK YOU for your friendship and support. xo

    I’ve known Pam from our mutual blog visits – and from this storybook. I bought it for my grand-daughter Jenna but of course I had to read it first. A budding artist, she enjoyed the illustrations too. I really dig the interview style of book reviews, combining the personal and the factual. I especially love the story of Pam’s “birth” as a reader/writer.

    Hi Marian, Thank you for reading and commenting. We share a mutual admiration for Pam’s work. This is a lovely story so beautifully illustrated by Shelley Steinle. I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview. I always enjoy getting to know those “personal” tidbits about authors, learning what inspires them and supports their writing process. It’s great to know that others enjoy it too.

    Marian, I just found the greatest quote from Willa Cather: “Every artist makes herself born. It is very much harder than the other time, and longer.” Isn’t that the truth? I do feel like I ‘gave’ birth to each of my books, too. ;-0

    I’m in labor now – just made major memoir revisions to give to another volunteer reader. I’ve always loved Willa’s Wisdom. Now I appreciate her even more – thank you! 😍

    I love the look of this book and the story that goes with it sounds wonderful. I feel hopeful just reading this interview. I adore the writing advice for children. Works for adults, too.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Ally. I’m pleased the interview encouraged a hopeful outlook. Pam’s book Birds of Paradise does that too. I’m sure you will enjoy it. Pam’s advice does work for any age! :)

    I must admit, being able to just WRITE makes me hopeful. That, and sharing our stories through this blogging community. Gives me a tremendous appreciation of the wonderful caring giving people who are in this world. See? Hopeful. And joyful.

    I’m so pleased you were able to learn something new, Patricia. It’s important to never stop learning, isn’t it. Shelley Steinle’s illustrations are gorgeous and perfectly complement Pam’s lovely story. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Your praise means SO MUCH to me, Patricia, considering all of the children’s literature you review. My illustrator really shows the hurt expression on Bert’s face when he’s bullied, and conversely, the joy in his eyes and in his little bird body at discovering a friend. I think we can all relate to those feelings.

    Pam, it was my absolute pleasure to interview you and introduce my readers to you and your lovely picture book Birds of Paradise. Seems you’d been keeping the book a secret from many of them. Just as well I found out about it. :) Your responses to my questions certainly made for interesting reading.

    Great interview, ladies. I loved learning more about one of my favorite WP buddies. Like Pam, I like to write my first drafts using a special pen and a spiral notebook. Thanks for hosting Pam, Norah!

    I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview, Jill, and found out some things about Pam you didn’t already know. Maybe there’s something about writing with special pens in spiral notebooks, eh? Perhaps I should try it. I tend to write on the computer now. The fingers need to be tapping to get the brain into gear. :) Jill, it was my pleasure to interview, Pam. I thoroughly enjoyed her responses to my questions. The process was a delight.Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Hmmm, Jill – maybe we should have a little business on the side, selling magic writing pens and sparkling spiral notebooks. :-) Just kidding. But yes, I think there’s something to the idea that the thoughts from our heart translate much easier from our fingers holding pen onto paper, then from a cold keyboard to screen. Just sayin’….

    Many many thanks, Merril, for jumping over here (via TWO links) to read my interview with Norah. Did your ears burn this morning? I talked about you and your poems to my writing class – I bet you’ll have a few more visitors soon…

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed the interview with Pam, Darlene. She is indeed a special person. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    I’m learning so much from YOU, Darlene, about following the dream (writing the books within us) and then getting ‘out’ there to promote. But I’m a bit too shy. I bow down to Norah for helping me toot my author horn. Thanks to her, I seem in tune. :-)

    Lovely to ‘meet’ Pam here. The book sounds great. I love the advice to children to not worry too much about grammar and spelling in the first draft. It’s really good advice for adults who want to write as well!

    Thanks so much for popping over to read the interview with Pam here, Victoria. Pam does have very sage advice for writers of all ages. Get the ideas down first, worry about polishing later!

    Absolutely, Victoria. How many of us were ‘blocked’ when we were in grammar school and told we “couldn’t write” because of (fill in the blank) spelling, mixing up tenses, misusing the comma, etc. I love the correct use of language, but my first love is writing creatively. THEN, in the second draft, I can make the needed grammar corrections.
    P.S. one of my writing students today wrote a poem about her love of Venice. I gave her a copy of your book The Return of the Courtesan. I know she will fall in love with it, as I did.

    Love the story concept, the illustrations and the messages/ lessons about acceptance and friendship, which come from it.And I really enjoyed the interview which gives some insight into the author ( whose blog I really enjoy!) and how and where and when she creates. I particularly like the advice about nt thinking too much when writing.

    I used to be a pre school teacher and I have a love of well illustrated childrens books. This one looks like a beaut!

    Peta

    Thanks so much for reading, Peta, and for your lovely comment. Pam has a wonderful blog. I’m pleased you enjoy it too. It’s funny that she seems to have kept this picture book a secret. No longer! I’m sure you’ll enjoy Pam’s lovely story Birds of Paradise, so beautifully illustrated by Shelley Steinle.

    Thanks so much for your lovely thoughts, Peta. Hmmmm, I wonder if you have sparrows in the beautiful part of the world you’re inhabiting now. I have a feeling that my Bert and Bessie explore every corner of Earth.

    My writing students laugh at me when I bring out my ‘invisible’ wand to make them stop thinking when they write in my class. How do I know they’re thinking? They begin to cross out their words after I give an in-class prompt. “Nooooo! No thinking!” I implore. :-) But it’s true. Write from the heart, not the mind.

    Wonderful to read a bit more about Pam – and her children’s book and dedication to children’s literacy. Lovely illustrations – especially learning that there is a ladybug “hidden” in every one.

    Great interview, both of you. Thank you.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Hi Madelyn. Yes, the ladybug is a big hit with the kids. And my 92-year-old mom! She couldn’t follow much of the story (she has dementia) but she delighted in searching for the ladybug in each page. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that matter the most.

    Ladybugs are rather mystical beings to me anyway. They appear out of nowhere, and seem to be sending a message. Just this weekend, a friend brushed away a ladybug in my hair. No one else saw any. She flew around me then settled on my arm for a time. I think that’s how my mom saw the book ladybug. A small reminder of the wonder in life.

    Interesting. Just this weekend I watched a movie that used ladybugs in a similar fashion, “Mr. Church.” Eddie Murphy plays the lead role marvelously in this quiet, hopeful little film. To my mind, some of his best work. It’s currently available on Amazon Prime.
    xx,
    mgh

    That’s a wonderful story, Pamela. We need many reminders to enjoy the small wonders of life. They are there if we choose to see.

    How wonderful for your Mum to still be able to share in the joy of your writing in this way. Sometimes we need to rejoice in the smallest of positives. I love that a tiny ladybug should provide just that opportunity.

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Ben. Yes, Pam’s advice is good for children and adults as well.

    I didn’t realize Pamela had a children’s book and it’s design and story are both captivating. Of course, I’m fond of Pamela’s use of Rough Wighting! A fine interview, Norah.

    Hi Charli. Pam’s book Birds of Paradise is a delight. I rather like her use of Rough Wighting too. It’s very clever. I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview.

    Hi Charli! This is why I’m so grateful to Norah for spotlighting me in an interview. I can shout out about my books without feeling embarrassed. I love being a Rough’wighter’ and an ‘ambi’ writer, just writing out my stories for adults AND kids. Thanks SO much for visiting here.

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