Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Winging It with Jenny Gardiner

Congratulations to GCC pal Jenny Gardiner on the release of her hilarious new book--out today!--called Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster). This is from the synopsis: "Like many new bird owners, Jenny and Scott Gardiner hoped for a smart, talkative, friendly companion. Instead, as they took on the unexpected task of raising a curmudgeonly wild African gray parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood."

LOL! I love the idea of a curmudgeonly parrot...although I wouldn't know the first thing about caring for one. (We just have a suspicious, always-ravenous guinea pig. :-) Jenny is the author of the novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her writing has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post, and NPR's Day to Day, and she has a column of humorous slice-of-life essays that runs in the Charlottesville, VA Daily Progress. Jenny lives in central Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, and, of course, a gregarious parrot.

Congrats on the new release, Jenny, and thanks so much for visiting today!

New readers want to know about your book! Can you tell us the basic premise? Think David Sedaris meets Marley & Me, with a deadly beak. It's the story of an African gray parrot who was given to us as a surprise Christmas gift just a few months after the birth of our first child. A wild, temperamental and trouble parrot that poops a bazillion times a day and has spent the past two decades on a mission to wound me. (It sounds very funny...and, also, rather dangerous. :)

What has brought you the greatest joy since you were published, and what has caused you the greatest angst? I think just hearing from readers who have really enjoyed reading what I've written. I love to be able to entertain/divert/amuse people with my writing, to give them time to escape the everyday and just go somewhere fun or interesting for a while. The angst just comes with the vagaries of the industry right now. What would have been published with ease 2 short years ago is being shunned with regularity now. It's very frustrating because so many authors know that they're writing wonderful books, but these books may never see publication because of so much uncertainty and financial instability, and of course the drastic paradigm shifts happening in the industry. But it's nothing any of us writers have a bit of control over, so I try to ignore it!

What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your books? For my novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, I received so many emails from women who were grateful that I put into words what they feel in their lives. I think the circumstances of my protagonist in that novel were so universal, yet it's not something that's often spoken about in such a truthful--or blatant--way. I loved that not only did they enjoy the book as a book, but they enjoyed the content and it helped them to think, "Hey, I'm normal, this is just like other people!" Oh, and the other fabulous compliment I received several times was reviewers and readers saying they peed their pants laughing when reading my book. That, to me, is high praise. LOL

If you could get a rave review in People magazine, what would you want it to say about your new book? My Achilles heel! I SO want to be reviewed in People magazine... Okay, here goes: "Gardiner's winning book is clever, witty, insightful and heartfelt. A must-read!

What is your author fantasy? I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be optioned and produced by Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen's Flower Films. Or how about Nora Ephron. Either of those would (sorry, I just have to say it) um, er, make my day... (Hee, hee!)

What is a typical writing day like for you? There really is no typical day for me. I've got 3 kids, so I'm at the mercy of their schedules first. Ideally I am up before dawn and at the gym and home before 7, then get the kids off to school, then come home to write. In reality there are often so many things going on that it's not that simple. Long ago I adapted to that writing lifestyle and take my laptop with me whenever I know I'll have even an idle 10 minutes.

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author? The time it takes to market and publicize oneself. I don't mind marketing and publicizing, but I'd way rather be just focusing on writing books, and rue the day that this became so much more the onus of the author. I understand why it is that way, but wasn't it a beautiful thing in this country when those with an area of expertise were able to take care of that end of things, rather than nowadays when it seems that everyone is expected to do everything themselves? There was a time when people didn't pump their own gas--remember that? And you hired someone to come fix things, rather than trying to patch it together yourself. Ah, but I digress... (Oh, I hear you. I had no idea how time consuming the promo stuff would be.)

Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist? Funny you ask, as my high school (a very small school) sort of showed up on Facebook over the past year. I use Facebook primarily for my books, so I think it's surprised people I knew long ago that I have a very different "social" experience on FB than they do. I don't think it's a total surprise to people that I'm an author. I mean my math skills suck so no way was I going to be an accountant LOL. I wrote for the school paper and the yearbook, went on to major in journalism, so I guess it seems like a natural extension of what I did back then.

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? Believe in yourself. This business can be demoralizing--it's all so subjective, so you have to trust in your gut that you're a good writer with a good product, one that just hasn't found the right editor yet. If you allow yourself to be dragged down by rejection, you'll only end up marinating in a gray fug of gloom half the time. (Wonderfully expressed, Jenny--thank you!!)

Check out this video of Jenny talking about the book. (If the site directs you to Simon & Schuster's Author page, just click on letter G, find Gardiner and click there to view it.)

So...who else has a pet? What kind(s)? Any of you bird owners?


Edie Ramer said...

Jenny, your book sounds hilarious. I hope all those things you put into the universe come true. It would be awesome if Winging It became a movie.

We have two dogs and a cat. They don't talk human, but they still manage to rule me.

Pamela Cayne said...

With a book like this, I can see you making it in People! Congrats on its release.

Robin said...

I'm not a big reader of memoirs, but yours sounds really great, Jenny! Even more so after reading your warm and insightful answers to Marilyn's great interview questions. Congrats and best of luck!

Marilyn Brant said...

Edie, Pamela and Robin~thanks, you three, for visiting and leaving such kind comments! Jenny says "hi!"--she emailed to tell me she's traveling to do a radio interview today, but will try to stop by later.

Hope you've all been having a great start to the week and wishing you a wonderful St. Patrick's Day tomorrow :).

Maria Geraci said...

Congratulations on your new book, Jenny! My mother in law owns some sort of rare South American parrot named Miss Marple. She bought it when she and my father in law were stationed in Panama (Army) back in 1979.

Yes, Miss Marple is still alive. Personally, I hate her (I know... what does that say about me?) But she bit me once and I've never forgiven her. My mother-in-law likes to joke that Miss Marple's life expectancy is way longer than hers and that she's leaving me the bird in her will. I like to smile and say I've always wondered what parrot tastes like.

I'll definitely be getting a copy of your book. Loved Sleeping with Ward Cleaver!

Tonya Kappes said...

Jenny is so fun!
I think about her crazy parrot A LOT!! Not only do I write, but I'm a child developmental therapist and some families can't come to me, SOOOO--YES! I do go to them. The stories I could write!
Anyways, one family has two large birds and when I sing the wheels on the bus or abc's, they sing along with me. When I walk in the door they praise me and say my name. It's awesome.

I love the question about facebook. I too only use my facebook for writing and when my highschool peeps starting finding me (I live a couple hours from my hometown), they are amazed. It's cool.

Marilyn Brant said...

Maria, LOL!!!!! Oh, SO funny that you've "always wondered what parrot tastes like" :-). Here's hoping Miss Marple learns to behave herself!

Tonya, what a fascinating experience you've had! You'll have to write some of those stories down, too ;).

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marilyn, Hi Jenny,
This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. I have friends with an African Gray and I can imagine the hilarity and danger involved.
Best of luck with your writing and great advice. Cheers~

Jenny Gardiner said...

hi guys! sorry so late to get here but have been traveling to promote Winging It!
And I'm so happy to see all of these friends over here! I love the in-law's parrot story--I'm saying, it is the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it? You might just have parrot wings while watching the NCAA playoffs hehehe

thank you all for stopping by!!!

Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy~we have long-distance friends with a parrot, so I've heard stories but have never seen it in action... ;)

Jenny, glad you were able to stop by (I know you've had a hectic week!), and congrats again on the wonderful new book. I think we're all a little in love with Gracie!

LuAnn said...

We don't have a bird, but my son has a fish tank.

Marilyn Brant said...

LuAnn, thanks for stopping by :). We don't have a bird either (nor can we manage to keep fish alive--lol), but we do have a guinea pig, who really makes us laugh!

librarypat said...

Loved the interview. Will have to read those books.
We have had many,many pets, but I always drew the line at birds - dust & feathers all over. I now have 4 peacocks, but they are outside, so no problem. I was the primary caretaker for a scarlet macaw at a children's museum. Beautiful birds, but they take a lot of work and understanding. When people get parrots and macaws, they don't realize they can live 75 years or so. Their beaks are strong and with the larger birds, can take a child's (or adult's) finger off. They are intelligent and temperamental. I have a husband and children to deal with, why would I want to add one more temperamental member to the family?

librarypat AT comcast DOT net

Jenny Gardiner said...

hi LuAnn! Thanks for stopping by! A fish tank is plenty to care for!
And Pat--you are TOTALLY right!

Brittany Roshelle said...

LOL! This book sounds so funny!