Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hey, Readers! Today we are coming to you with a heart-felt interview with Mom’s Choice Award-winning author Pamela Tuck, author of Mother of Many. Pamela is here to share more about the exciting life she leads with her 11 (that’s right! 11!) children and what life has been like after losing her beloved husband and children’s father. Keep reading for the full interview!
MCA: Hi Pamela! Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. We’re so excited to share you and your book with our audience! Can you introduce yourself by telling everyone a little bit about yourself?
Pamela: I am an award-winning author and mother of 11 children. I’ve been writing poems and stories since I was a child growing up in Greenville, North Carolina. I am the author of Mother of Many, As Fast As Words Could Fly, the 2007 Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner, Color Struckand The Adventures of Sheldon, the Mushroom. I credit my writing to my upbringing surrounded by southern storytellers who were also civil rights activists. My family inspires many of my stories. Although I grew up as an only child, I enjoy the excitement of having a large family. I also enjoy spending time with my family, picnicking, bike riding, camping, reading and writing.
MCA: So storytelling is a part of your legacy! I’m sure with 11 children you could write just as many books- the stories are probably numerous. We know everyone else is just as interested as we are in your family and what your home life looks like with so many children!
Pamela: I have 11 beautiful children, 6 boys and 5 girls! All of their first names begin with the letter “J” and all of their middle names begin with the letter “M”. I have one set of twins, although the others range between 1 and 2 years apart.
I am a former homeschooling mother, so I had to establish some level of structure for our day. Of course, things didn’t always go according to plan, but at least the schedule served as a guide for how I hoped my day would go, and it was proof that I attempted to retain a sense of order. Most of the time the four older children would buddy-up with a younger sibling to make sure everyone was taken care of. As outlined in the book, Mother of Many, chores played a huge role in keeping things in order and keeping Mommy happy. My motto is/was: If we work together, we can play together. I am not a “happy camper” when I’m stuck with all the work while others get to play. “We all have to suffer together” was a saying my husband often used.
As a mother of 11 children, I was often asked, “How do you do it?” and told, “You should write a book.” The thought was amusing, but I honestly didn’t think a story about my family would be very interesting. At least not until I joined a 30-day picture book idea challenge in November 2013. I sat in the high school parking lot, waiting for one of my sons (just one of my many tasks for that day). I told my husband, Joel, that I felt like the old woman who lived in a shoe. He replied, “Why don’t you write about the young woman who lives in a shoe.” I really think he was being sarcastic, but I jotted the idea down for day #12 in my journal. At the end of my challenge, I had 30 story ideas, but not one single story written.
As another attempt to spark my writing inspiration, I joined a rhyming picture book group on April 1, 2014. What a challenge! Not only did I have to come up with a story, but now it had to rhyme. As I skimmed through the story ideas in my journal, entry #12 was the best choice. I’d simply have to write a spin-off to the nursery rhyme. Easy, right? Wrong! The first draft I submitted to my group was a sweet little rhyme, displaying a perfect little family. It was ripped apart by one of my critique group members. It hurt, but it certainly sparked my writing fire. I read over the comments and said to myself, “You want reality? I’ll give you reality.” My next draft held the raw truths of a day in the life of the Tuck family, and Mother of Many was born.
MCA: Wow. That is fascinating! I’m sure it was hard to get negative feedback, but we love your resilience in coming back stronger, with material that speaks to the truth of your family’s life. We’re so glad we’ve had the opportunity to experience your story! So we’ve heard small snippets of how you came to writing, but can you tell us a little more about that journey?
Pamela: I grew up as an only child, so books were more than just a source of entertainment. They became my companions. Before learning to read, I would climb into a loved one’s lap while they read to me and I’d ask them to read the story over and over again until I memorized it and was able to recite it back to them. As I became older, I read almost anything I could get my hands on. I just loved a good story. Fortunately for me, my grandfather was the master storyteller in our family. I often imitated his storytelling style by making up silly stories and recording myself on a tape recorder. When I shared those recordings with my grandfather and my dad, they’d double over with laughter. I knew then that I, too, had the storytelling gene.
Once I was in second grade, my school offered a poetry contest. I wrote a poem about my grandmother and won first place! That’s what inspired me to keep writing. I believed I was a poet at 8 years old. I continued to write poetry, and then later I branched out into short stories and plays. Once I became a mother, I enjoyed watching my children’s faces as they sat around my dad’s feet and listened to his eye-popping, jaw-dropping stories. It was a night of storytelling that prompted my interest in writing for children.
I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to learn more about writing for children. I attended my first conference in June 2007, and left feeling like I couldn’t be a writer because the keynote speaker mentioned how she wrote for hours every day. I didn’t have that kind of time. My husband told me, “You are a writer. You don’t have to write on someone else’s time, you can write on your OWN time.” He found the New Voices Award Contest sponsored by Lee & Low Books and encouraged me to write my dad’s story of desegregating the school system in 1960s Greenville, NC. I submitted my manuscript in September 2007 and in December 2007, I received a call that I had won the award.
MCA: Wow. We wish we could hear your dad’s stories, too. We love how your husband’s encouragement was such a confidence booster for you to pursue writing. You’ve shared before that you lost your husband: we are so sorry for that great loss. How has writing Mother of Many helped to preserve his memory and your family life when he was still alive?
Pamela: Little did I know that I would lose my dear husband and friend on November 11, 2014, only 1 day from being exactly 1 year from the day he suggested to write the story. We were a close-knit family who enjoyed spending time together by camping, bike riding or talking. Of course, we have memorable vacations and celebrations, but just being a family who communicated and worked together was something I wanted to resonate in this book. So, in essence, this story of our simple daily activities and antics preserves the wonderful memories we shared as a happy family of 13.
MCA: How special. We know he would be so proud of you! It must feel slightly therapeutic to share your continued journey of learning and growing through motherhood by putting it on paper for others to read.
Pamela: Writing has always been an outlet for me, even as a child, so it is definitely therapeutic in dealing with the challenges life offers. I’ve grown so much as a writer as I recount different parts of my motherhood. My children inspire me in so many ways. They were my audience before I began writing for them. They listened to me intensely as I made up silly stories or read to them. Once I began penning my stories, they became my critique group who provided the helpful feedback of what worked and what didn’t work in my writing. But the thing I cherish the most is their loving support and enthusiasm about me being an author. They beam with pride when I share news about my writing. Whether it’s good or bad, they always find a way to push me to continue my journey because they believe in me just as their father did. My husband was the “fire behind my writing” and now, I think my children are carrying the torch to keep me blazing. I love them dearly!
MCA: It is so obvious what an amazing mother you are! You are carrying on your family’s legacy of storytelling and pursuing your dreams. So, if you could make sure your readers take in one thing from reading Mother of Many, what would that be?
Pamela: My desire as a writer is to enlighten and inspire young people with the art of words. My aim is to allow readers to escape into another character’s world and discover unique traits that will help them understand someone or someplace they may have never thought to explore. In Mother of Many, I hope readers realize the importance of responsibility and consideration, and how that helps things run smoothly, not only in the home, but wherever it’s needed. I think people, children especially, grow into better citizens when they can empathize with a character and decide to be the one who is courageous enough to make a positive difference.
MCA: We believe that, too. Thank you for teaching others these important traits through your family’s example. We are thrilled that you and Mother of Many are part of the Mom’s Choice family, and we can’t wait to follow your journey as you continue writing! Thank you, Pamela!
Thanks to Pamela for taking the time to chat with us! You can check out Mother of Many and her other work at her website!