We caught up with author Tim Weed to talk about his recently published young adult novel Will Poole’s Island. The book, a gripping coming-of-age story set in colonial New England, has garnered some great reviews. Kirkus Reviews describes Will Poole’s Island as an “immersive, riveting portrayal of early colonial New England.” Author Joseph Monniger called it “a superb novel, written with truth and daring at its core.” We couldn’t agree more, as evidenced by the fact that the staff copy has made it’s way through the Putney Barn like wildfire! Tim worked for many years in the Putney Barn, has led over a dozen Putney summer programs abroad, and most recently joined us as the guest writer on our Writing in Ireland program.During our conversation he shared his thoughts on the interrelated nature of travel, writing, reading, and the outdoors. His approach to all of the above has infused Putney Student Travel’s philosophy for years and we’re proud of his most recent accomplishments!
First off congratulations on the publication and great reception of Will Poole’s Island. Has it changed your day-to-day life?
Thank you! Actually, it hasn’t changed much. I write every morning, I travel quite a bit, and I do my best to get outside every day. What has changed is that I’m doing more book events: book talks, signings, literary festivals, classroom visits, that kind of thing. So I’m busier. But for the most part life goes on. I’m having fun.
How can members of the Putney Student Travel family get their hands on a copy?
All the major on-line retailers have the book in stock: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Indiebound, etc. You can also get it through your local bookstore: it’s carried by Ingram, the country’s largest book distributor, so it’s easy for stores to order copies.
Will Poole benefits from stepping out of the confines of his home and immersing himself in another culture, how important is this sort of experience – in your view – to a young person’s development?
Very important. If I look back at my own formation, it’s the experiences I had out in the world – both international travel and what you might call informal wilderness adventure – that had the greatest impact on who I am and the direction my life has taken. A few weeks of this kind of hands-on, fully immersive experience is worth a whole semester of academic education, in my view.
You create a very strong sense of place in Will Poole’s Island, specifically New England during colonial times. What sort of things help you to internalize a time and place, and help you cultivate that world in your writing?
When I was researching the book, I visited as many of the relevant historical sites as I could: churches, houses, burial grounds. I also spent a lot of time out in nature – in the forest, on rivers and mountains, out on the water, on the moors and beaches of Nantucket, and as far away as Cuba and the Yucatán. I did this because I figured out that natural landscapes, while they are changing, are the closest we have to a constant. In a very real way nature is a direct link to the distant past – and to the distant future too, hopefully. Spending a lot of hours in the places that became the setting for the book gave me everything I needed to imagine my way back to that time, and as a result of this sustained mental exercise, when it came time to write the novel, I began to get a feeling of accumulating energy, as if the story were telling itself.
In addition to Will Poole’s Island, you’ve had many works of travel writing published. How do writing and traveling go hand in hand for you?
For me, writing is an essential part of traveling. It’s a way to filter the experience, to interpret and record and bestow meaning. Travel allows you to see the world fresh; good writing does the same thing. This is why travel programs with a writing component, or writing programs with a travel component, are so consistently enriching. Travel lends itself naturally to writing. And all you need is a pen and a journal!
As a longtime program creator and writing instructor, and recent expert on Putney’s Writing in Ireland program, what advice do you have for young writers? How about for young travelers?
The best advice I can think of for both groups is to READ GOOD BOOKS. With so many electronic gadgets in our lives, it’s often difficult to find the undistracted time to immerse yourself in a sustained narrative. But it’s so important to do it! Every good book is a ticket to a new world, and by entering fully into these worlds we expand our consciousness immeasurably.
If you’re going somewhere, reading about that place before you go will enrich the travel experience by at least one hundred percent. If you bring a great novel along, you’ll never be lonely or bored. Books are our teachers, our metaphorical grandparents, the most direct contact we have with the wisdom of our elders in a society where such contacts are few and far between. Plus, in the long run, a good book is a lot more fun than a video game or yet another on-line conversation. I’m not knocking gaming or social media – they have their place – but you have to strike a balance. This is one of the biggest challenges encountered by young people in the modern age. But it’s a challenge that has to be faced. The good news is there are a lot of great books out there – you just have to find them, and structure every day so that reading is part of it.
What’s next for you?
More of the same. More writing, more travel. I’ve got two new novels in the works, and I hope to have time to finish a few shorter pieces as well. In the coming year I’ll be traveling to Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Cuba, Spain, and probably Ireland or Prague as well with Putney. I’ll also be setting up visits to schools, libraries, and other educational institutions to offer writing workshops, discuss Will Poole’s Island and the process of researching and writing it, and answering questions about what it’s like to be a writer in the current environment. So, please pass the word along to your teachers and librarians! Interested parties can read more about the book and/or contact me directly via my website: www.timweed.net.
Thanks for the questions. It’s great to be part of the extended Putney family, and I hope to run into some of you out there!