I first “met” Jenny Gardiner when she emailed me after seeing my GoLions87 persona online – “Is that Penn State?” she asked in an email. It was and she graduated from PSU and thus a friendship was born
Then, both of our manuscripts (Sleeping With Ward Cleaver for her, Beauty and The Best for me) were chosen for the third American Title Contest sponsored by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester Publishing. Jenny, the marketing queen, won the contest and I have to say, if you haven’t yet read Sleeping With Ward Cleaver, get thee to a bookstore and buy it. Laugh-out-loud funny and very poignant.
And now her second book is out and it’s just as laugh-out-loud funny; I was lucky enough to be one of her early readers and knew she’d sell this to some lucky publishing house. Well, Simon & Schuster is that lucky house and Winging It releases today.
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 grey parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood. WINGING IT: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me (Gallery Books; on sale March 16, 2010; Hardcover; $23.00), is a hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation.
A gift from Scott’s brother who was living in Zaire, Graycie arrived scrawny, pissed – off, and missing a lot of her feathers. Every day became a constant game of chicken with a bird that would do anything to ruffle their feathers.
The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you—literally—never applied to Graycie.
But Jenny and Scott learned to adapt as the family grew to three children, a menagerie of dogs and cats, and, of course, Graycie. WINGING IT is a laugh-out- loud funny and touching memoir, Jenny vividly shares many hazards of parrot ownership, from the endless avian latrine duty and the joyful day the bird learned to mimic the sound of the smoke detector, to multiple ways a beak can pierce human flesh.
Graycie is a court jester, a karaoke partner, an unusual audio record of their family history, and at times, a nemesis. But most of all, she has taught the family volumes about tolerance, going with the flow, and realizing that you can no sooner make your child fit into a mold than you can turn a wild parrot into a docile house pet.
WINGING IT reminds us of the importance of patience, loyalty, and humor when it comes to dealing with even the most unpleasant members of the family.
Here’s what people are saying:
“As sweet as a song and sharp as a beak, Winging It really soars as a memoir about family–children and husbands, feathers and fur–and our capacity to keep loving though life may occasionally bite.”
–Wade Rouse, bestselling author of At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream, and Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler
“Jenny Gardiner’s hilarious memoir will have you alternately laughing and crying, and watching the skies for winged pets out for your blood.”
–Kristy Kiernan, Award-winning author of Catching Genius
“With her right-on humor, Jenny Gardiner manages to make owning a vengeful parrot sound like fun! You don’t even have to like pets to like this book.”
Author of FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA
“This funny, smart book is much more than a story about life with a challenging parrot. Jenny Gardiner writes with humor and grace about the challenges and joys and stresses of parenthood, too. I loved it.”
author of The Opposite of Me
Jenny and I are part of the Girfriends CyberCircuit, a group of 24 women who blog about each others’ books, and this week it’s her turn in the hot seat with the interview questions. Here goes:
Tell us about the inspiration behind Winging It.
This time around my book is a memoir, titled WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME (Gallery Books). Think of it as David Sedaris meets Marley & Me, with a deadly beak. It’s about an African gray parrot with an attitude who arrived as a surprise Christmas gift the year we had our new baby. Life has never been the same.
The idea grew over many years. We got this parrot as a gift–my brother-in-law came back from Africa one Christmas with parrots for the family, and we ended up with the ornery one. And over the years, stories about her have become so legendary, she is such an entertaining thing (when she’s not being vicious). I have written about her for my newspaper column before and people were so interested in her. At dinner parties, she becomes the focus of everyone’s interest–we’ve had her now for almost 2 decades and people are always so entertained by her and stories about her, so I thought it would be fun to do a book. My sort of funny backstory is YEARS ago, I was sitting in a bat mitzvah, and I get really antsy when I’m a captive audience, especially when everything isn’t in a language I can remotely understand. So when I was sitting there for like 3-1/2 arduous hours (it was a high holiday so they had a huge service with it), I pulled out a notebook and pen and HANDWROTE four chapters of what would eventually become this book…
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...
(snork! Yeah, that’s so you.)
What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?
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
(Judi’s note: yeah, I was pretty close to doing that, too, and I was reading it in the same room as you – remember?)
Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?
Currently I’ve given up Mint M&Ms for Lent. And while I know I can go back to them (while the limited supply lasts!) in a few weeks, I’m disinclined to because it was a habit I needed to break. I did that last year with Peanut M&Ms and it seemed to stick. Though I think I just end up trading one bad habit for another.
What’s the promo machine looking like for this book? Any upcoming signings/tours?
When my first novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, won a publishing contract in the American Title III contest (sort of an American Idol for books), I won that by surviving a 6-month period of online voting. What was wonderful about that was it really gave me a leg-up on marketing–particularly online marketing–a product that at the time wasn’t even a tangible book one could buy. But I guess you’d call me an “early adapter” LOL to capitalizing on the internet as a marketing tool. So I do try to maximize my online presence as much as possible, especially because with a family it’s hard to technically “tour” when book comes out. I do do plenty of appearances and signings, try to do as many book festivals as I can afford, and do whatever media appearances as possible.
I’m appearing on a panel and signing at the Virginia Festival of the Book, in fact, March 21. I’ve got a signing at Fountain Books in Richmond, VA, on April 8, and at the Barnes & Noble, Tyson’s Corner, VA, on April 16. I’m also at the PennWriters Conference in Lancaster, PA in mid-May. We’re setting up other events still.
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…
What’s next for you?
Writing, writing writing. I’ve got a proposal to put together for my next non-fiction book, I’ve got an agent and editor awaiting a book I’m writing right now, and so many other ideas I’d love to start writing.
Thanks, Jenny! My copy of Winging It just arrived yesterday so now all I need is some free time (what’s that?) to get to reading it! Can’t wait!
Here’s a link to Gracie – you can hear her in all her glory. And I can attest to what a great mimic she is – she really has Jenny’s laugh and voice down pat!
Find the book here:
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Winging-It/Jenny-Gardiner/e/9781439157619
Jenny Gardiner is also the author of the award – winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, and the Washington Post. She writes a column of humorous essays for Charlottesville, Virginia’s newspaper, the Daily Progress. She lives in central Virginia with her family.