By Susan Jacobson
Pam Britt comes from a long line of creative women. Like her grandmother, mother, aunts, cousins and daughter, Pam uses many mediums to share artistic talent. It was her creative writing—and a story of a mischievous beagle—that launched the children’s author into publishing.
As a child, Pam moved back and forth between the Orofino area and towns in Washington state before settling in Weippe.
She spent her time enjoying her natural surroundings and horses. Her love of nature is present in many of her paintings and the materials in her dreamcatchers. It also gives life to pages of stories and poems inspired by nature, animals and real-life experiences.
It was a real-life experience—a mishap in a neighboring rock pit—that sparked Pam’s first prose. Frustrated by an explosion in the pit that sent rocks flying into her pasture, Pam called her mother to explain.
Pam’s description of the event happened to rhyme. Her mom pointed it out, prompting Pam to write it down as her first poem, appropriately titled “Rocks.”
“That was so much fun, I wrote more,” Pam says.
Before she knew it, she had a book of 50 to 60 poems written.
“It was that thing you didn’t know about yourself—that you never knew and wish you had learned sooner,” she says.
Beginning at an early age as an only child, Pam was an avid
“My favorite books were ‘The Black Stallion’ series by Walter Farley and ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E. B. White,” she says. “As I got into my teens, I branched out to science fiction, fantasy and gothic romance.”
As an adult, she reads dystopian, apocalyptic fiction and some nonfiction books. She home-schooled her children, and reading together while sprawled across couches or on camping trips was a cherished activity.
Around 2000, she thought it could be fun to write stories about things that happened in her childhood or her observations in nature. One of those stories, “Black Bear in Hot Pursuit,” is available for free on her website, smeaglethebeagle.com. It is a true story written about a particular experience on horseback when she was 6 years old.
It was Pam’s day job as a postal worker that led to a fictional story about a beagle that loved adventure.
One of her friends, a resident on Pam’s rural mail route, bought a beagle puppy as a Christmas gift for her husband. One day, the friend mentioned an owl appeared in the backyard, and she was worried it might swoop in and carry the pup away.
The idea sparked Pam’s creative brain, and she thought about it all along her route. What if the beagle did get whisked away? What would it be like to write a story from the perspective of the dog?
Once inspired, she had lots of ideas, not just for that book, but for a whole series of adventures with a beagle named Smeagle.
The first book in the “The Adventures of Smeagle the Beagle” series took a while to write.
Pam, who writes under the pen name of Malina Morgann, started writing the tale in 2016. With the twists and turns of real life, she didn’t complete the project until 6 years later.
“Book 1: Smeagle Gets Hijacked,” is written for readers aged 8 to 12. It is the story is of a young dog that must find his way home when he is abducted and dropped into the snowy wilderness. Unsure of his ability to survive alone, Smeagle is scared but determined to make the journey home to the boy he loves. Along the way, a chance meeting with a raccoon, Kit, gives Smeagle hope.
Although Pam is a talented artist, she does not illustrate her own books.
Pam says she is too picky and meticulous and moves too slowly for the number of illustrations and revisions needed for this timeline.
She wanted to find the perfect look and feel and for “Smeagle” to have his own identity that would be instantly recognized like another famous beagle, Snoopy.
Pam worked with many artists to find the perfect characterization for Smeagle. She looked to other children’s books to find an artist who had the illustrative qualities she sought.
She decided on Kelley McMorris, an illustrator of many award- winning children’s books, as the series artist.
Though the stories are about fictional animals, Kelley researched the natural behaviors of the animals featured to make the representations accurate. She is always learning and looks forward to coupling her research with creativity for a final product.
“The goal is to make the stories really fun and humorous,” she says.
When asked if she has a favorite character, Pam shakes her head. Each character has its own personality. From a naïve and curious beagle to a witty raccoon, a superstitious mouse, a mysterious cat or a beat-up old bragging coyote, she likes them all for different reasons.
Her imagination has several more characters waiting to be brought to life in stories adults enjoy as much as their children.
Pam says books give children the opportunity to go on adventures, learn about the world, see things from a different point of view and simply escape.
“I believe that kids have a lot of stress now that we didn't have when I was in school,” she says. “Good, quality books can help ease that stress.”
Pam has also written a factual account of an abandoned horse she rescued. She also penned a poem about a serendipitous moment she observed in a field when a small blackbird took on an eagle in defense of the blackbird’s nest of babies.
Pam has several projects on the horizon.
The second book in the “Smeagle the Beagle” series is almost complete and will be available by the end of the year. Pam takes on the challenges of self-publishing the books with her own company, Weathered Hat Publishing, and hopes her book sales will begin to cover the costs associated with publishing.
“I am not going to quit writing,” she says. “I love to write.”
“Smeagle the Beagle” is available at smeaglethebeagle.com and on Amazon. You can also find more information on the Smeagle the Beagle Facebook page.