Tuesday, March 16, 2010


By Jenny Gardiner

A memoir! This may be a first for our little Girlfriends Cyber Circuit group, as we're a cozy little bunch of novelists.

But I think WINGING IT by Jenny Gardiner is such a lot of fun it will grab hold of you and take flight as much as your favorite fiction. Check out the promo copy:


A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me

Your browser may not support display of this image. Your browser may not support display of this image. 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.

Your browser may not support display of this image.

“ …Graycie is as much a part of us as we are of her. Sure, she might be feisty at times. But who isn’t? Whether she’s yelling at the dog or answering the phone or bobbing to the beat of the kids clapping for her amusement, she’s one of us. Our parrot, petulant or not, is a member of our family for the long haul.” -Jenny Gardiner

I love this this description! And Jenny may want to kill me for this, but before I launch into the interview, I can't resist this old Jewish joke ...

A successful man is looking for a truly spectacular gift for his Yiddisha mama. But it's tough because he's already bought her everything. Then at last he finds it--a parrot that speaks Yiddish. It's insanely expensive, but he really wants to please his mama. So he has it shipped to her. Then he waits a few days and calls.

what did you think of the bird?"

"It was delicious!"

I know. I should be ashamed. So without further ado, here's Jenny ...

Did you have any input on the cover of WINGING IT, and are you happy with the finished product?

My editor was great at collaborating with me on the cover. She really liked the idea of trying to do something sort of stark, playing up the contrast against the gray bird. I never saw the other cover options as it was being considered but she did check with me on suggestions and such. Funny thing is the graphic artist who designed the cover posted the various covers he'd come up with on his blog one day and I happened upon it because of Google Alerts. I really love the one that they settled on.

What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

I have this obsession with accents. Maybe not quite an obsession. But I love, love, love to hear accented English. I notice little nuances in how people speak English when it's not their native tongue. I get my fix by listening to the BBC, which has such comprehensive world news coverage, and NPR. My kids always mock me in the car because I always try to copy the way people say things when I hear them on the radio. Perhaps I'm a repressed actress? ;-)

Can you share some particularly memorable fan mail you received about this or previous books?

One of the first emails I got from a reader I thought was just so hilarious, because her point was that I must have been spying on her life, as what she was reading in Sleeping with Ward Cleaver was life as she knew it. I'll copy it here:

“Having read pages 1 - 15 in your new novel "Sleeping with Ward Cleaver" I must now ask that you immediately remove your little radio transmitter from my brain, as well as your cameras from my household. Until I have received notice that these tasks are completed I will have no recourse other than to wear my (almost) patented Brain-o-Matic Tin Foil Hat. This will ensure that my thoughts cannot be picked up by anyone. Not that they are by anyone in this household anyway.”

Another early letter that I thought was so sweet was from a woman who really didn't have the time to read or the money to buy a book, but did so anyhow and was glad that she did:

“I received a gift card for Barnes & Noble for Christmas....as a working mom, I hardly have time to read so I decided to treat a friend of mine to coffee inside the bookstore instead of buying a book. On our way out, there you were, and I happened to have enough credit to buy two books so I bought one for each of us. I finished mine in about two days...forgoing laundry and child care duties (my husband didn't mind, really...I kept reading some of the passages to him because they were so funny). It was hilarious! My friend finally started reading her copy this weekend....she called me to tell me how funny it was and that she was actually calling her husband at work to read some of it to him. She also cancelled plans we had together so she could finish her book. We're looking forward to more books from you. My husband is, too, because your book inspired me to go out and buy some sexy underwear!”

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

It's awfully hard not to. I mean we writers revel in fabulous reviews, and by extension, a bad review can certainly drag you down. Of course books are very subjective, so I do try to not take things personally. Although it's a bit like someone telling you they hate your ugly baby--not like we'd take that criticism sitting down, right? I'm still waiting on reviews for Winging It (though did get one--and a lovely one, from Library Journal, who said, "Often comical and sometimes tragic but never dull, Gardiner's memoir proves that the hope of having a model pet (or child) is usually not realistic. It will speak to animal lovers and offer fair warning to anyone considering the 40-year-plus commitment of owning a parrot."

The blurb I received for my first novel from Meg Cabot did make my heart sing. She was just so amazing to have even agreed to take a look at my book and I was already thrilled that she'd even consider it. But then her blurb was so perfect, to boot:

"A fun, sassy read! A cross between Erma Bombeck and Candace Bushnell, reading Jenny Gardiner is like sinking your teeth into a big frosted chocolate cupcake...you just want more."
-New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot

And this review I just thought was so funny:

“If you want to laugh until you pee your pants, then pick up this book. If you want to gain some insight into what goes into a marriage, then pick up this book. I loved the character of Claire. She is someone that every woman can relate to, young or old. Jenny Gardiner has a gift for finding humor and at the same time tackling tough issues. This is a great mom lit book to read by yourself, or giggle about with your book club.”
-Book Room Review

What are you reading now?

About ten books at once LOL. But am racing through my friend Sarah Pekkanen's The Opposite of Me and loving it. She's such a funny, talented writer.

Thanks so much for having me!

Thank YOU, Jenny! Good luck with WINGING IT ... may it fly off the shelves.

WINGING IT is available at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Jenny's website at jennygardiner.net.


Jenny Gardiner said...

Ha! Love the joke, Ellen. And I can so relate...Thanks for posting me!

Gloria said...

I throughly enjoyed reading this, as I had a similar stroke of luck, oddly I say stroke, as not to induce a sense of real stroke, but enduring the loss of my mother certainly seemed that way, her voice, her innocence made me yearn to hear something that sounded the way she sounded. Not that my mother shrieked, for crying out loud, but the birds innocent sense of sound, that comes through, whether the house is peaceful or argumentive, is not to say the birds reflect it. My one bird a Hahn's McCaw knows if there is tension, he says, "okay" in a very slow way as if to say, "common snap out of it". They are amazing. I have my almost 18 year old daughter who doesen't like the birds at all, she claims they make a mess, and at times can be kind of loud. Well that is not the usuall thankfully, but I have learned to deal with those times when my birds feel like screaming. But my daughter also needs to realize that at times she does the same things, she can definitely be rude, definitely be loud, and not be at all caring if she bit the hand that fed her and continues to feed her. With that said, I am going to let some other bird friends know about "Winging It" and I am going to check out "Living With Ward Cleaver", he seemed to be a constant in my living room as well I always loved Fred McMurry in "My Three Sons", I wished he were my dad in those days, but wait theres also the dad from "The Brady Bunch" that was a bit more cool. Have a great day, I really enjoyed reading this. Gloria

Jenny Gardiner said...

ha! thanks Gloria! I appreciate you spreading the word!