I contacted Tracey Fern after reading her amazingly beautiful Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud. I love interviewing authors who hadn’t previously been on my radar, especially ones who were dedicated Nancy Drew fans like me! So join me in learning about the talented Tracey Fern. First, here is an excerpt from this remarkable book:
“Ellen Prentiss had always felt the sea tug at her heart, strong as a full-moon tide. Her papa said that was because she was born with saltwater in her veins. While other girls spent their days stitching samplers and sweeping floors, Ellen spent her days at the shore in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She chased the waves. She raced the wind. She watched great sailing ships skim over wide endless water. And she dreamed of living her life at sea and catching her share of adventure.”
CAROL GORDON EKSTER: I was struck by the your beautiful language on the first page of Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud. (excerpt above). Can you tell us how you came to write this story and how you felt when you found out you were going to have the Caldecott medal illustrator, Emily Arnold McCully?
TRACEY FERN: I’m so glad you enjoyed the language and Ellen’s story! I decided to write about Ellen after reading about her in David Shaw’s book, Flying Cloud: The True Story of America’s Most Famous Clipper Ship and the Woman Who Guided Her. I knew instantly that Ellen was a woman I wanted to write about! I’m particularly drawn to stories about strong, adventurous women, history, and New England, so Ellen was a perfect fit. I was absolutely thrilled and honored to learn that Emily Arnold McCully had agreed to illustrate the book. I think her work perfectly captures the drama and movement of the story.
CGE: Can you tell us about your journey into becoming an author?
TF: My journey into writing was a bit circuitous! I had always dreamed of writing as a career. I have always been an avid reader and literally wrote my way through high school as editor of my high school newspaper. Like many of us, though, I felt I had to choose a more practical career path. That led me to law school and a career as a corporate real estate lawyer. I began writing part time after I had my first child, beginning with magazine articles in Cricket and Highlights for Children. I sold my first picture book, Pippo the Fool, to an editor I met during a critique at an SCBWI conference. Soon my dream career became my real career!
CGE: You have a new book coming out this month. Tell us about it.
TF: I’m so pleased that my new book, W is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary, just launched on November 10th. The book is illustrated by the amazing Boris Kulikov, who also illustrated my picture book, Barnum’s Bones. Webster is the story of a brilliant and eccentric man and his twenty-year quest to create American’s first comprehensive dictionary. Webster was a fun subject for a word-lover like me.
CGE: Tell us about your writing process and schedule.
TF: My writing process is a work in progress! I do try to write daily, usually in the mornings when my house is relatively quiet. I count thinking and researching as ‘writing.’ I often work on multiple projects simultaneously, so that if I become bogged down on one, I can turn to another. This obviously works particularly well with picture books, which is what I have primarily worked on in the past. Recently, I’ve started working on a longer fiction project that has required me to tweak my writing process a bit. I’m still trying to figure it out!
CGE: What does the future hold for Tracey Fern?
TF: I’m excited about two more picture books that will be published by Margaret Ferguson Books at Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, one of which will also be illustrated by Boris Kulikov. I continue to work on other picture books, as well as a middle grade historical mystery that is occupying lots of my time lately.
Connect with Tracey here: