Author Jamey Long is author of A Possum’s Holiday and History series. He is a dedicated, industrious individual who is currently employed at George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College. He was nominated for the 2008-2009 NVCC Alumni Federation Faculty of the Year Award.
Jamey is very active within the educational community. He remains busy as a volunteer for Junior Achievement and other activities with local schools and churches in the Northern Virginia area. He has also worked as a teacher at Holy Cross Academy, teaching children in grades K-8, and taught first grade Bible school at Grace Baptist Church. He has a passion to support, volunteer, and help children learn so their dreams can be made possible.
MO: What was your inspiration for using a possum as your main character?
Jamey: I grew up in Olathe, Kansas where I went to Elementary school. When I was in Kindergarten, I went out to go to school. It was dark but I saw something moving across the step. Being young it scared me. My parents got a trap. When I was at school, they called me to tell me they caught the animal. When I got home, I saw that it was a hungry possum. Ever since then, I have been fascinated with them. Since living in Kansas, I have moved to Michigan and Virginia. Wherever I have lived, a possum (or several) has shown up at my house. When I wrote my first book, A Possum’s Christmas Tale, the little girl I wrote it for loved animals. I decided to use a possum as my main character since they are very unique and quite curious little animals.
My possum’s name is Opie. He was given this name for two main reasons. First, the first two letters in opossum are OP. Second, and more personal, is when I was growing up everyone always called me Opie Taylor from the Andy Griffith show. I had red hair and everyone would always whistle the Andy Griffith song wherever I went. This still happens to this day. It used to bother me as a child but now it makes me laugh and I whistle right along. Opie turned out to be a good nickname for me, but was an even better name for a curious little possum.
MO: You’ve published over 20 books so far. Is there any specific one that you’re most proud of or that receives more feedback than the others?
Jamey: I have written 28 books so far and they are all published by Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC. I am proud of all of my books. Each one is very special to me. A Possum’s Christmas Tale is particularly special to me since it was my first book and I wrote it for one of my kindergarten students who had lost her father during the holidays. It was meant to give her happy memories and I was able to get it dedicated to her and she received the very first copy that was printed.
I also am proud of A Possum’s Night on the Titanic. That was my first book in my history series. I donate $1 of every book sold to the Titanic Historical Society. I also sent a copy to Dr. Robert Ballard who found Titanic in 1985 and received an autographed photo of him. A Possum’s Night on the Titanic has also been reviewed in an issue of the Titanic Commutator that is sent out quarterly around the globe. I also wrote A Possum’s Pirate Tale and His Pieces of Eight. Being a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I sent copies of my book to Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and Ian McShane. All were kind enough to send me autographed photos in their pirate costumes. I just wrote my latest book, A Possum’s Renaissance Man: Leonardo da Vinci and am proud of that one being able to teach children about the arts and how a little imagination can change the world. Who thought a curious little possum would ever get to witness such great works of art such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper! Every book is very special to me when I see a child learn and history becomes alive to them. Too often history seems like something that happened a long time ago and is not really important anymore except when taking a test. It is rewarding when I go to a museum and the children remember something they read in my book. They will say “Here is where Opie was…”
MO: How long have you been writing? Was your interested manifested during your childhood or did it emerge later in life?
Jamey: I began writing in 2005. I was a business major and never had any interest in being published. However, I have been teaching and have done a lot with education for elementary and middle school children. The reason I became a writer was for one of my kindergarten students. Her father injured around Christmas and passed away on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to give her good memories and I wrote A Possum’s Christmas Tale for her. When the book came out, it was so well received by children everywhere that they asked me to write more. I began writing a book to explain the importance of holidays and then moved into teaching children the real importance of historical events. I recently started a Bible series for churches and home school groups.
MO: What was your favorite book as a child?
Jamey: My favorite books were The Giving Tree and Where the Wild Things Are. I remember reading them as a child and being fascinated by their stories. My parents read them to me several times. I own copies of the books today and still enjoy reading them. They remind me of the importance of giving back to others and what a wonderful thing a vivid imagination can be.
MO: You offer speaking engagements and school visits. Are there any specific themes that you find the children most responsive to?
Jamey: I started my own company, A Possum’s Company, LLC, to offer speaking engagements for schools, churches, homeschool, and businesses. My speaking engagements range from business topics to education and writing. When visiting schools, I focus on teaching the children how to read and the importance of never giving up on their dreams. I also talk to children about the importance of education. I have taught K-8th grade and at several universities and colleges the past 10 years. The theme that children seem to like the most is that they enjoy seeing a “live” author. I remember reading books in school and most of the authors were not alive anymore. Writers always seemed like people from the past. I think it is important for the children to see that real “live” people still write books and that they too can do the same no matter how old they are. They also enjoy hearing that they can be anything they want to in life.
MO: What topics are you looking forward to exploring in future books? Do you have any interest in expanding outside of the children’s market?
Jamey: Right now I am working on a few more history topics. I just completed books about the Star Spangled Banner, Robin Hood, Johnny Appleseed, and Leonardo da Vinci. I am also working on a Bible series for churches. I have written A Possum’s Bible Story: Noah’s Ark and A Possum’s Bible Story: The Gospel According to John. Teaching Sunday school has been a very rewarding experience and has shown me that there is a market for books to help children learn about their faith. I have thought about writing a business book but am not sure when I will get around to it. Since I just started my company, I think that will provide me with lots of good materials for a Do’s and Don’ts of a possum in business.
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