An Interview with Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet

Sep 5, 2014 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Patti and Keith–it seems Gannon and Wyatt are still exploring the world and this time, they find themselves in Greenland. How did this come about?

PATTI: To be honest, we pulled out an atlas and started making a list of locations that we’d like to explore. The Arctic had always been high on our list, Greenland especially. We had a copy of explorer Knud Rasmussen’s journals, and were captivated by his tales of Greenlandic culture and running dog sleds across the Arctic. The culture, wildlife, and environment of Greenland, it all fit perfectly into the Travels with Gannon & Wyatt series.

2) For those who are not aware, you have a series of books about Gannon and Wyatt – tell us about them, and their travels.

PATTI: I was a flight attendant for 15-years, so traveling has always been a big part of my life. When my husband and I had our twin boys, Gannon and Wyatt, we took them right along with us. We always felt so fortunate to be able to visit these far-away places with our children. To learn about the people, culture, and environment of a new place was fascinating to us, and I became determined to figure out a way to pass on all of this great knowledge to other children. The “ah-ha moment” came in the South Pacific when Gannon and Wyatt released a rehabilitated turtle into the ocean. The experience was so powerful it inspired me to get to work. Working with Keith, we decided a fictional adventure series, loosely based on our own travels, was the best way to reach our audience. The series, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt, is full of high-stakes adventure and introduces readers to exotic settings and the wonders of nature. Again, the series is fiction, but much of it is inspired by our own travel experiences.

3) Now, how green is Greenland, and what do Gannon and Wyatt find there?

KEITH: Funny you should ask. We open the book with Gannon’s thoughts on this exact topic. Greenland really isn’t green at all. In fact, 80 percent of the country is covered by ice. Legend has it, the name came from the Viking, Erik the Red. He was exiled to the island for a number of serious crimes, and cleverly came up with the name “Greenland” to pursued others to relocate there. Even without much greenery, the scenery in Greenland, with its steep fjords, towering icebergs, massive glaciers and jagged mountain peaks, is absolutely spectacular. The country has such a rich cultural history and the people are friendly and easygoing. It’s amazing to think that for thousands of years they have survived, and even thrived, in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth.

4) What age and grade is this book for?

PATTI: Travels with Gannon & Wyatt is for middle grade readers, ages 9-12.

5) What has Robert Kennedy Jr. said about the book?

PATTI: Having followed his work for years, it is an incredible honor to have his endorsement. He is a true champion of the environment, and one of the people who inspired our message of conservation.

“Each of us has the responsibility to protect and enrich our community, to ensure that future generations inherit a healthy and vibrant planet. In each action-packed book, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt communicates these values and inspires young people to do their part to help make the world a better place.” —Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

6)  The book is loaded with pictures- and also has a distinctive way of telling the story- can you explain?

KEITH: Before we write any of our books, we actually travel to each location. While there we explore the area with expert guides, take thousands of photographs and hours of video. We also journal every night, putting down on paper everything we’ve learned. When we return home, we compile all of our research material and create a fictional storyline that is inspired by our own adventure. Then we go to work and write the manuscript, inserting photographs throughout to help enhance the reading experience. In each book, the story is told through the journal entries of the main characters, Gannon and Wyatt, with each giving his thoughts on the adventure as it unfolds. When we speak at schools, I explain to the students that Patti and I both grew up journaling and were inspired by the journals of famous explores like Lewis and Clark, Dr. Livingstone, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and many others. Their journals are some of the greatest adventure tales ever told. They inspired me to read, write and learn about the world when I was young, and our hope is that Travels with Gannon & Wyatt will do the same for young people today.

7)  Is there a ” Gannonandwyatt” web page and what would be found there?

PATTI: Yes, www.gannonandwyatt.com. There you can find beautiful photography from all over the world and an award-winning web series filmed on location with Gannon and Wyatt. We also have Educator’s Resource Guides, a wonderful blog, and a link for those who wish to purchase the books.

8) What have I neglected to ask?

KEITH: To date, we’ve published three books in the Travels with Gannon & Wyatt series — Botswana, which won the National Outdoor Book Award, Great Bear Rainforest, and Egypt. Greenland will be released in October, and Ireland is scheduled for the spring of 2015. Following Ireland, we have Hawaii, Mexico, Australia, Iceland, the American West and more. Basically, as long as children keep reading and enjoying our books, we’ll keep writing them.

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