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September 12, 2011

Tami Lewis Brown: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by Anonymous


Tami Lewis Brown photo_credit Jill Smith.jpegThe Map of Me cover.jpgTami Lewis Brown's novel, THE MAP OF ME, tells the tale of a 12-year-old girl who navigates the back roads of Kentucky hoping to understand her Mom --- and herself. Here, Tami discusses the one question she cannot completely answer...and the beauty of making up stories that still contain threads of personal truth.
The first time I was interviewed about my new novel THE MAP OF ME I was asked, “How much of the story is based on real life?” What an obvious question --- but it stopped me in my tracks. I’m not a memoirist. THE MAP OF ME is fiction, not autobiography. The answer to how much is “real?” Nothing --- and everything.
THE MAP OF ME is a novel about two girls, an awkward 12-year-old and her brainy little sister, who steal a car to bring their chicken obsessed momma back home. Truth --- I’ve never stolen a car. I don’t even like to drive much. My mother certainly never abandoned our family, and she didn’t collect chicken figurines, or anything else for that matter. In real life (and this seems to surprise those who’ve read the novel most of all) my father was gentle and kind. Unlike Daddy in THE MAP OF ME he had no trouble saying “I love you” or telling me or my sister he was proud of us.
Tami Lewis Brown_FirstCar-300x225.jpegHmmm. So maybe THE MAP OF ME is a great big wildly fabricated lie. And that’s kind of comforting, really, the idea that there’s nothing of me on those pages. The novel is just make-believe, and I’m safe.
But hold on a minute . . . I may have never stolen a car but I’ve done tons of things I wasn’t supposed to, even though they seemed like a good idea at the time. I know exactly how it is to feel I’ll never measure up (isn’t that the chronic novelists’ lament?). And in a spirit of completely honest, soul-baring confession, I know what it’s like to be a mother who wants to escape. Maybe I didn’t scoop up an armload of Little Red Hen Canisters and write a note that said “I Have To Go,” but I did leave my family behind to head off to Vermont College, starting my journey as a writer.
Chicken picture.jpgOne of my wisest teachers at VCFA said “write what haunts you.” At first I didn’t believe I was haunted. But stories that ring true always come from that genuine, raw place deep inside a writer. It’s not writing from the heart, at least not for me. My heart feels safe and secure. It’s deeper inside, where middle of the night worries and unquenchable fears lurk. It’s that vulnerable place, scarred over, that adults learn to conceal. It’s a spot teens wear on their sleeves.
Maybe that’s why I write for young people. Conventional wisdom says YA and middle grade readers respond to ACTION. I agree that novels for young readers should actually tell a story, but that’s only part of it. Young readers speak the language of raw, honest emotion and they’re drawn to writing that explores that precarious place. They respond to “real” stories because they are so busy discovering what’s real to them. I love them for that. So I spin lies for young readers, telling nothing but the truth.

To learn more about Tami Lewis Brown and download a free activity kit, visit her website at

The next stop on Tami's blog tour is The Hate-Mongering Tart at

(photo above is of Tami's first car!)