photo by Beth Kephart

Here are some things I believe:
We are all in this together.
We’re more alike than we sometimes think.
It’s a good idea to find something to be grateful for, and focus on it.
Find out what you love and do it – even if it means hard work,
making mistakes and not getting it right
the first time…or the fifth time…or the fiftieth time.
Especially if it means all of that.
Be patient.
Take a deep breath.
Find a friend. Ask her or him to tell you that you can do it. And then try again.

about Tamara Ellis Smith - Vermont children's book author

I grew up in a bunch of different states – New York, California, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Vermont – and am the oldest of four kids. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid. When I was about 8 years old, my best friend and I invented a religion that was all about nature. We wrote a prayer about the sacredness of animals and trees, and held services in the woods between our houses. I remember two things about those services: dressing up and throwing pennies for the animals. Did the trees really care if we looked fancy? What did the squirrels and snakes and sparrows need money for? Your guesses are as good as mine.

I also spent a lot of time reading in the woods. The smell of a book and the smell of a tree are very intertwined in my sensory memory, and sometimes I can’t tell them apart. And then, often, I would act out scenes from the books I read. I was Jo from Little Women for many months out in those woods. I wonder if the trees and animals liked my acting more than the pennies?

I was a creative kid. I wrote in journals, I wrote poems, I wrote plays, I made clothes, I cooked. But I was not patient. In fact, I was almost allergic to patience. Truly. If something took more than a minute to do, then I got all itchy and breathed heavy like a dog on a hot day. If I couldn’t figure something out quickly, then I believed it wasn’t worth doing.

Boy was I wrong.
bird

I had to work a long time to become a writer. I did a lot of other kinds of jobs, especially teaching. I became a mom. I went to Vermont College of Fine Arts. I read a lot of books. And I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.

Now I live in Vermont again. With my own family – four kids and my husband. My favorite things to do are running on the trails by my house with my friends and our dogs, making soup and chocolate desserts, writing stories for kids, and – still – reading.

Oh, and practicing my patience.