Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me - by Jenny Gardiner

My guest today on the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour is Jenny Gardiner, author of the new memoir, Winging It, which is out today from Gallery Books.

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 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 the couple's 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, as Jenny vividly shares the 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.

Jenny Gardiner first appeared on the GCC tour as 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.

Jenny lives in central Virginia with her family and took some time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions...

What was the inspiration behind the writing of Winging It?

Winging It came about because people were always so darned amused at stories about our parrot. We could host a dinner party and spend half the night with people cracking up about the things she says and does. I have a column in our local paper and wrote a piece about her a while back. Readers were so interested in more and that grew into this book!

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?

You have to be really strong and true to yourself to tough it out in this business. And be your own biggest advocate. Publishing is not for the faint of heart. I think any creative venture is subject to the vagaries of subjectivity, so regardless of your ability it takes much more than just that to succeed. Sure, most often, you need to have writing chops (well, not that Pamela Anderson did, but still...). But you must have an unyielding faith in yourself and a whole lot of intestinal fortitude to withstand the rejections and to not take them personally. Because it happens to everyone. And there was a time when once you'd published your first book that meant all of your books got published. Those days are gone now, and most authors need to be content with slight incremental improvements in their career while the publishing industry weathers this economy and the really core-of-the-earth types of paradigm shifts that are happening in the business right now.

Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?

Gene Shepherd (In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash); JD Salinger (Catcher in the Rye); Meg Cabot (just about anything--I love her voice)

What is the elevator pitch for Winging It?

Think David Sedaris meets Marley & Me, with a deadly beak

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?

Learn the business. Network, meet people, understand how it all works so that you can figure out how to make sure you can advance. Read what is selling in the market and try to glean what trends are out there. Although don't write to a trend--write what's in your gut, and make it the best it can be. Remember those who are ahead of you in the business who take the time to help you out and remember to be that person when you become successful. It's a very tough business and it's really wonderful to have the kindnesses of others to usher you along as you navigate choppy waters. And believe in yourself. Don't let rejection get you down (easier said that done). If you start to feel your confidence waning, go back and read your best work, and remember that you're doing this because you love to write. And then write as if you love to write.

Get more info at Jenny's website HERE.

And be sure to check out Graycie the Parrot on YouTube and Jenny's video interview.


Jenny Gardiner said...

hi Wendy! thanks for hosting me here!

Wendy Tokunaga said...

You're welcome, Jenny. And say hi to Graycie for me. :-)