Pam Torres was born in Logan, Utah and spent most of her childhood in Prairie Village, Kansas. Besides playing Dorothy during tornado weather and digging Peter Pan-like underground forts she also played piano and ran cross-country.
She started her family early, had five energetic and creative children, and returned to school when the last one was four. She has fond memories of reading to and playing with her children in between hefty amounts of volunteering at church and their schools. Several of her favorite activities were doing Writer's Workshop, updating the art docent program, recruiting volunteers, working as the parent liaison for the curriculum team, publishing articles in the newsletter and directing a very popular after-school art club.
About this time she met and married her current husband, who had a four-year-old son of his own, making them a lopsided Brady Bunch. In college she majored in communication with an emphasis on journalism and writing. As managing editor of the UWT's literary magazine she learned to format, work with editors and produce a quality product. Working as an advertising and contributing editor for Walk About Magazine, she quickly learned that in order to move up in the public relations and advertising fields she was up against stiff competition: twenty-somethings willing to work 80 hours a week. Pam's children were all blessed with huge teeth for their small mouths so her job search priority became finding the best orthodontia coverage. After researching several companies she took sales management position in downtown Seattle.
Writing was the one constant in her life through all the struggles of single parenthood, step-parent issues and bringing a large family together. She continued to write her brains out in hopes of writing full time one day. After five years in sales, she quit her well-paying job to devote herself to her writing. Her supportive husband is her biggest cheerleader and she frequently acknowledges that she couldn't have done it without him.
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH PAM TORRES:
Joining LitPick today for a little Extra Credit is author Pam Torres! Pam is the author of the middle-grade books If Dogs Could Blog and It’s Not Just a Dog.
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
I use several methods to get going. Usually, I see scenes in my mind with characters that I’ve been imagining for awhile. I begin by writing several scenes; it keeps my motivation going. Once I have several ideas for scenes I begin forming a story arch and then I put up the scene board with all three acts. With 3x5 cards I begin plotting. Each card has what the character’s emotion is coming into the scene and how it is at the end and a gist of what happens in the scene. Then I begin ordering them. Once I have my board completed I begin writing my scenes in more detail. Up until this point it can be difficult sometimes to keep up the energy, so I usually have several projects going.
Once I finish writing the rough draft, the fun part begins. REVISION. For me this is where the magic really happens. The characters get really dimensional, the scenes gain in tension and if they don’t, they get dropped or combined. I have had some of my best writing during this stage. By this point, I’m free to focus on each scene and flesh out details and character.
Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
Definitely, my main character, Madison is modeled after my granddaughter who loves dogs and plans to be a veterinarian.
What do you do when you get writer's block?
Writer’s block is a myth. Just because you don't have a pen to paper doesn’t mean you’re not writing. Sometimes you have to get space and work another part of your brain. Walking, exercising and painting usually allow my brain to work on my writing from another part of my brain. Forcing yourself is silly and not how creatives are wired.
If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?
Wow, that’s a difficult question. I have so many worlds that would be cool to live in and even more to simply visit. As a child I spent hours imagining flying off to the world of Peter Pan. I think I’d like to visit the world of Harry Potter and fly on a broom…just once.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
I would have to say Harry Potter is probably truer to the book than most book-to-movie adaptations.
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
That is another tough one to narrow down. I think I’d probably like to sit down with Stephen King and talk about his characters. He's amazing with developing quirky and interesting characters.
Wild Card question:
10% of the proceeds of your Project Madison series go to the ASPCA®, animal shelters and other programs to benefit homeless or abused animals. Do you have a four-legged friend in your life?
I did, but unfortunately, we lost Tasha, our Samoyed, a few years back and haven't really been able to replace her. It takes a lot of work to give a dog a good life, and we don't have the time to spend each day training and playing, so until we feel ready to dedicate the time and work it takes to parent a dog, we will wait. Each year I donate at least $50, whether I sell that many books or not.
Pam, thank you very much for visiting LitPick and for your support of homeless and abused animals!
SIX MINUTES WITH PAM TORRES:
Today Pam Torres joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! Pam is the author of If Dogs Could Blog and It’s NOT Just a Dog! She is the mother of six children and has taken care of numerous pets and other animals. In addition to being an author, Pam has taught reading, writing, art, outdoor skills, and has taught piano to children for over twenty years. She is also an active member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA).
How did you get started writing?
I've always been a writer. As a small child I loved to tell stories and would create my own books using pictures from greeting cards and magazines. I think I started doing it because at that time, reading was taught with "readers" that were very boring to me. Jane said run and Dick said go, didn't keep my interest. Unfortunately, my active imagination didn't help my reading skills and I soon fell behind. The negative feedback I received left a horrible taste in my mouth, so reading became a chore, and it would be many years later before I learned to read for enjoyment. During all that time I filled notebooks and journals with my words, stories and poems. Writing has always been how I figure my world out and I'm still doing that.
Who influenced you?
To be honest, there isn't an author that doesn't inspire me. Anyone who takes the time to write their ideas into a form that others can read has something to say. Sure I have favorites, writers who resonate with me strongly and styles I admire, but that changes as fast as I find a new voice. In terms of middle grade writers, I find I'm intrigued by writers that create worlds, like J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins and currently Jen Reese. I love writers who weave a tale that stays with you long after the book is finished. Authors like R.J. Palacio, Katherine Patterson, Jack Gantos, Sharon Creech, John Green, Wendy Wan-Long Shang, their words still haunt my brain, in a good way.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
My tastes are very eclectic, meaning I have found that if a book has a compelling plot, complex characters, settings that become like characters in the story, I will enjoy reading it. In terms of writing, I’m interested in characters that find themselves in a transition, a liminal state where depending on their personalities and influences they are ultimately faced with a choice. The hero’s journey. Why? Because we all are on our very own hero’s journey as we grow and change and make choices.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Own Your Journey. There is no right way to publish, especially now. What's important is that you stay true to yourself and do what is right for you. If you aren't enjoying the journey, it's time to switch the road. I'm not talking about easy street. When you are truly immersed in what you love, you'll push through anything, climb any obstacle and embrace the unknown, all because if you didn't, you wouldn't be whole. I live so I can write, it is as much a part of me as my brown eyes.
Where is your favorite place to write?
It depends. Journaling and free writing, I prefer to be out in nature, even if it’s just the back yard. If I’m working, I have to be at my desk, doors closed and silence. I know it sounds boring, but I’m easily distracted, so I have to really concentrate. Once I’m in my zone, an earthquake could happen and I wouldn’t know it. I’m weird like that.
What else would you like to tell us?
Try new things. Read genres you haven’t tried and read everything you can get your hands on. If it doesn’t resonate with you, try something else. Life is about discovering what brings you joy. Yes, there are some things that thanks to those that have gone before we know aren’t worth trying: drugs, bullying, breaking the law. But it’s a big world out there with unique points of view and it’s in our best interest to learn about them. What better way to learn than by taking an adventure between the covers of a book.
Pam, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick! Your answer to the first question will likely be an “Ah, ha!” moment for some parents of reluctant readers.