Wait, Lea 1946–
Wait, Lea 1946–
PERSONAL: Born May 26, 1946, in Boston, MA; daughter of George (an accountant) and Sally (an artist and antiques dealer; maiden name, Smart) Wait; children: Caroline Wait Childs, Alicia Wait Gutschenritter, Rebecca Wait Wynne, Elizabeth Wait. Education: Chatham College, B.A., 1968; New York University, M.A., 1974, doctoral studies, 1974–77.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 225, Edgecomb, ME 04556; fax: 207-882-7446. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Author and antiques dealer. A.T. & T., New York, NY, and New Jersey, public relations manager, 1968–98; M.A.H. Antiques, owner, 1977–. Adoptive Single Parents of New Jersey, president, 1978–92.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Council for Single Adoptive Parents (member of board of trustees), Crime Writers International, Novelists, Inc., American Historical Print Collectors Society, Maine Antique Dealers Association (member of board), Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance (formerly member of board of trustees).
AWARDS, HONORS: Notable Children's Book designation, Smithsonian magazine, and Best Children's Books selection, Bank Street College of Education, both 2001, both for Stopping to Home; Best Children's Books selection, Bank Street College of Education, Seaward Born, 2003, and Wintering Well, 2004.
Stopping to Home, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Seaward Born, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Wintering Well, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
"ANTIQUE PRINT MYSTERY" SERIES
Shadows at the Fair: An Antique Print Mystery, Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.
Shadows on the Coast of Maine: An Antique Print Mystery, Scribner (New York, NY), 2003.
Shadows on the Ivy: An Antique Print Mystery, Scribner (New York, NY), 2004.
Shadows at the Spring Show: An Antique Print Mystery, Scribner (New York, NY), 2005.
Finest Kind, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Lea Wait has managed to establish herself as a writer in two distinctive genres: young adult historical fiction and mystery. Her diverse life experiences provide the fodder for her writing. Of Wait's writing, a contributor to Mystery Scene magazine observed: "It's hard to praise too highly Wait's skill at plotting, her ability at building suspense, and her ability to make so many diverse characters come alive."
Wait has drawn on her love of New England and its history to author a number of books for young readers. In novels such as Stopping to Home and Seaward Born, she focuses on self-reliant young people living in the early nineteenth century who overcome difficult circumstances to gain knowledge and maturity. A search for family and security runs through each of Wait's novels, as well as a strong sense of the past. Reviewing Stopping to Home in Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised Wait for "effectively" evoking the past by weaving in the "customs …, language and geography that capture" life in a coastal town in Maine.
As a girl, Wait spent summers in Maine with her grandparents. "My grandmother was the first person to take me to a library, or encourage me to read," Wait once told CA. "She had me read Shakespeare's plays out loud to her and encouraged me to read and talk about adult books when I was just in grade school. Many of the books she suggested I read were nineteenth-century novels about brave women or girls, many of them without families, who succeeded through hard work and gumption. She taught me that possibilities were unlimited and that books could lead you to them."
Wait's grandmother was an antiques dealer as well as an avid reader; as Wait grew up she decided that she wanted to follow the same path and be a writer too. "I did start an antique print business," she noted, "but my mother ran it, since my life quickly became very busy." Wait had decided to adopt several children; as she noted: "Ever since I had read those nineteenth-century novels about abandoned children, I had planned to adopt, and when I was in my late twenties I decided it was the right time." She soon found herself the single mother of four older girls, and her experiences as a single adoptive parent prompted her involvement in adoption advocacy.
In the late 1990s, Wait moved to Maine, where she became active in her antique print business and started writing. Her first published book for young readers was Stopping to Home, published in 2001. Taking place in Wiscasset, Maine, during the first decade of the nineteenth century, the novel finds eleven-year-old Abigail Chambers taking care of her four-year-old brother after her mother dies of smallpox. With her father, a sailor, believed to be lost at sea, Abigail must bring in enough money to keep the children out of the orphanage. As the smallpox epidemic lingers on, work becomes more difficult to find. Fortunately, a pregnant teen widow opens her home to the two Chambers children, and a bond develops that creates a new family. Horn Book contributor Martha V. Parravano termed the novel to be "quietly compelling," while Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman called Stopping to Home "a moving first novel that finds drama in ordinary life."
Other novels for young readers include Seaward Born, which finds thirteen-year-old slave Michael Lautrec working on the docks in Charleston and dreaming of freedom. The year is 1805, and when the opportunity to take the chance and run away comes, Michael bravely takes flight, realizing that it is a risk worth taking. Carolyn Phelan of Booklist called the character a "sympathetic young hero," and noted that "young readers will enjoy following his journey." Wait's Wintering Well returns readers to Maine, as Will Ames must deal with life as a cripple after he loses a leg in a farming accident. With dreams of a future as a farmer now dashed, the young man and his younger sister Cassie determine to deal with life on their own rather than stay in the care of their parents. When they move in with their older sister, both Will and Cassie struggle to overcome their limitations as well as the restrictions placed upon them by society. Peter D. Sieruta of Horn Book called Wintering Well "an unusually strong historical novel," noting that the "well-drawn setting" was one reason for the book's success.
In addition to her works for children, Wait is the author of a series of adult mystery novels called the "Antique Print Mysteries." In Shadows on the Coast of Maine: An Antique Print Mystery, schoolteacher/antique-print dealer Maggie Summer visits friends in Maine who are renovating an eighteenth-century house. A series of curious disturbances plague the characters, and townspeople begin circulating stories to explain the weird events. Maggie and a local named Will investigate. Rex Klett of the Library Journal commented on the book's "solid prose," but a Publishers Weekly contributor felt that Shadows on the Coast of Maine is "more loosely plotted and reliant on coincidence than its predecessor," Shadows at the Fair: An Antique Print Mystery, which also focuses on Maggie Summer.
In Shadows on the Ivy: An Antique Print Mystery, Maggie is a professor at a junior college and an advisor to a house of single parents on campus. When crime strikes the home, the college president worries about bad publicity. While GraceAnne DeCandido of Booklist felt that "the plot regularly veers into melodrama," Klett considered the book to be "pleasantly entertaining."
Maggie Summer appears again in Shadows at the Spring Show: An Antique Print Mystery, in which she is busy planning an antique show to benefit adopted children. Maggie also frets over whether or not she should adopt children. When a letter arrives at the adoption agency threatening violence if the benefit is not canceled, Maggie investigates. Although one Kirkus Reviews contributor said the book was "an excellent primer on how to organize an antique show, but a damp squib in the mystery department," a reviewer for Publishers Weekly gave credit to Wait for examining the social issue of adoption. The contributor said that Wait "just might inspire some readers to think about opening their homes to children in need."
Wait told CA: "In my writing for both children and adults I try to show that issues we deal with today (death, disability, career choices, moral decisions) are the same issues people have dealt with, in different environments, for centuries. I have chosen nineteenth-century America as the setting for many of my books because I want to illustrate how we, as a culture, have changed in our ways of accepting (or not accepting) situations, and in dealing with those issues.
"In the nineteenth century, children aged eleven to fourteen were making decisions about their lives that people today often do not have to make until their mid-twenties. By putting my young characters in positions where they have to choose their own destinies, I am able to share a lot about their worlds. I love talking with students about those worlds, so different and yet so similar to the world they live in today."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, March-April, 2001, review of Stopping to Home, p. 81.
Booklist, November 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Stopping to Home, p. 567; June 1, 2002, Sue O'Brien, review of Shadows at the Fair: An Antique Print Mystery, p. 1692; February 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Seaward Born, p. 1082; August, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Shadows on the Ivy: An Antique Print Mystery, p. 1907.
Horn Book, January-February, 2002, Martha V. Parravano, review of Stopping to Home, p. 85; November-December, 2003, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Wintering Well, p. 8.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2001, review of Stopping to Home, p. 1371; May 1, 2002, review of Shadows at the Fair, p. 623; June 1, 2005, review of Shadows at the Spring Show: An Antique Print Mystery, p. 616.
Library Journal, June 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of Shadows at the Fair, p. 200; August, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Shadows on the Coast of Maine: An Antique Print Mystery, p. 139; August, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Shadows on the Ivy, p. 60.
Publishers Weekly, November 5, 2001, review of Stopping to Home, p. 69; June 24, 2002, review of Shadows at the Fair, p. 42; July 14, 2003, review of Shadows on the Coast of Maine, p. 60; June 13, 2005, review of Shadows at the Spring Show, p. 616.
Reading Teacher, November, 2004, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Seaward Born, p. 291.
School Library Journal, October, 2001, Sue Sherif, review of Stopping to Home, p. 174; November, 2004, Kristen Oravec, review of Wintering Well, p. 156.
Lea Wait Home Page, http://www.leawait.com (January 3, 2006).