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?