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Interview with Portland based writer Tamra Orr

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Tamra Orr is a Portland based writer who has written hundreds of books for young people on every subject from jazz music to career choices. Interested readers can buy Ms. Orr’s work on Amazon.

Eliza: What made you interested in writing for young people?

Tamra: I have loved writing since I was a young child. I always found it the best way to express myself. I tended to be shy when I was young (not now!), and it gave me an outlet. I wrote stories, poems, and letters. As an adult, I still loved writing and wanted to make it my career, even though I was repeatedly told it wasn’t really possible. I began writing whatever I could, and eventually, my first book assignment came through. It was for young people—an audience I hadn’t really considered before. Since then it has only grown. Now I write for all ages, from preschool through adults.

Eliza: You've written a lot of career and collage guide books for young people. What sets your guide books apart from the competition?

Tamra: Well, I think that sets them aside, first, is that they are really focused on the audience. So much of the material out there is either dry, boring or both. I try to infuse my books with humor and create a rapport with the young people. Also, I have four children which has certainly given me insight into career and educational choices. Finally, I’m a strong advocate of alternative education options, and so I think my books reflect more thinking “outside the box” than some do.

Eliza: You have several books on jazz musicians; what is your own personal background in music?

Tamra: Ha, personal background . . . well, years and years in choirs of all kinds, and a passion for listening to music would be about it. To be honest, my skill is in writing WHATEVER I’m asked to write, whether or not I have personal experience in it or not. Just see how many books I’ve written about countries I’ve never been to!

Eliza: Which of your books required the most research?

That is a GREAT question that I have never been asked before, so thanks! I wrote a book about the country of Qatar and finding enough information for it was challenging. I also wrote a biography of a 10 year old celebrity—and it’s challenging to find enough material for someone so young. The hardest research I ever did was for a book on eating disorders. I interviewed some amazing people who broke my heart.

Eliza: What is the key to making history interesting for young people?

Tamra: Staying away from dates and numbers, and remembering your audience at all times. Too many times, textbooks focus so much on the facts that they lose the fascination. I try to put my readers in the “shoes” of someone during the time period. I recently wrote a book about the Spanish Inquisition and portrayed what it was like through the life of a young Jewish girl. History is about people and not dates, and it’s important to show that to young people.

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