Peter Arenstam was born on a farm in Western Massachusetts but grew up on the coast in historic Plymouth. At 16 he traveled to Colorado to participate in the mountaineering program outward bound. He sailed down the east coast on a passenger carrying boat to Florida and earned his captain’s license at the age of 18.
In 1985 Peter received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He went on to apprentice in boat building at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath where he became an instructor and free lance boat builder.
Currently Peter’s duties as manager of the Maritime Artisans at Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum of 17th century Plymouth, keeps him busy overseeing the restoration and sailing program of the reproduction ship, Mayflower II. He is a frequent lecturer and public speaker on Mayflower and maritime history. The whole region celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the ship’s sailing from England to America during the summer of 2007.
Peter sailed as captain on a Jamestown settlement reproduction ship during New Line Cinema’s production of the Colin Ferel film, A New World and has a role in the History channel’s documentary, Desperate Crossings: The Untold story of the Mayflower.
Peter and his wife Susan have two daughters, Hannah, 19, and Abby, 16. They live in Plymouth in an old Cape style house near the ocean.
1) Have you been published?
I am proud to say that I have six books in print. The first book, I am co-author with John Kemp from Plimoth Plantation, and Catherine O’Neil Grace, Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage, published by National Geographic in 2003. The Second book is Felix and His mayflower II Adventures, published by Plimoth Plantation in 2007. I also wrote a series of four books for Mitten Press from Ann Arbor Michigan. They are, respectively, Nicholas, A Massachusetts Tale, A Maine Tale, A New Hampshire Tale, and A Vermont Tale.
2) What are you working on now?
Well, I have a picture book about the animals that sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, with my agent right now. I am doing research for a middle grade adventure novel set in England and New England in 1623-25. It seems I am kind of partial to that time in history.
3) Who is your favorite children’s book character and why?
This was a harder question to answer than I thought it would be at first. I am reaching back to books I read as a young kid, and I don’t think I can put one character atop all the others. Horton, from Dr. Seuss was a great character for his tenacity and humility, Mowgli for his bravery and fun, Sam Gamgee for the same things, Harriett for her bookish quirkiness, Jim Hawkins was brave and true almost beyond belief. I imagined myself beside each one of these characters at one time or another holding on to that dust speck too, writing in a journal secrets I observed, or sailing off to the Spanish Main on the Hispaniola in search of treasure, all real and part of my young life. I still read children’s literature today, love it and learn from it.
4) What do you think is the most important thing to know in the writing/publishing industry?
Patience, perseverance, and practice. Study others who have come before, work hard, and always be ready for a chance.
5) What is your favorite patch of sand and what do you love about it?
Plymouth Beach is a magnificent two and one half mile beach with lovely dunes, shallow water and a peacefulness belying its closeness to town. To top it off when the tide is low mid-day, Brown’s bank is a great sandy oasis of isolation off the end of the beach. It can only be reached by boat, but is worth the journey.