In the Spotlight: Jenna Gavigan & a GIVEAWAY!

October 9th, 2018

There are few things I enjoy more than shining a spotlight on authors and books that I love. And today it truly is a spotlight, in every sense of the word! Here to celebrate her very first book birthday and introduce us to her leading lady — er, mouse — is Broadway, TV, and screen actor Jenna Gavigan!

Jenna Gavigan

Doesn’t she look feisty and fun? Like someone you’d want to hang out with? You’d be right on both counts — she is! And so is her fabulous new character, Lulu, the star of Jenna’s very first book, Lulu the Broadway Mouse.

I absolutely adored this book, which Jenna and Lulu’s publisher has billed  as “Ratatouille meets Broadway.” I think you’ll love it, too, whether or not you’ve ever dreamed of being onstage and in the spotlight, as Lulu does!

Shall we help Jenna celebrate her book birthday? Pull up a chair and grab a cup of tea and we’ll settle in for a chat before we all throw confetti and cut the cake…

How did this book come about, Jenna? Can you tell us a bit about that?

Years ago, while making my Broadway debut at the Shubert Theatre, I spotted a mouse running along a water pipe in the wardrobe room. To keep myself from freaking out — I was not a city dweller at the time, so not used to seeing the occasional mouse — I told myself that the tiny mouse was just helping out with the costumes. Perhaps she wanted to be on Broadway, too! That idea has been marinating in my mind for years, and I first started writing drafts as a picture book. One of those drafts happened while I was at Columbia University. That teacher encouraged me to apply to a conference at Rutgers that paired prospective authors with mentors. Eventually, my mentor at the conference became my agent, and she encouraged me to write the story as a middle-grade novel. The rest is history. (Note: I worked at the Shubert from March 2003 – May 2004, and my book sold in June 2017. So… that was a long story very short.)

Did you have to do any research for your book? Or had that all been done during your years onstage?

Yes, most of the “research” for this book is thanks to years in the theatre! But, I did go back to visit the Shubert when I was putting the finishing touches on my already-sold manuscript, to make sure I got all the real-life details right, like what color the seats in the audience are and how many chandeliers are on the ceiling. Roaming around, especially below the stage in the basement, I spotted other details that helped me add even more color and detail to Lulu’s world.

How did you come up with the character of Lulu? A MOUSE! There has to be an interesting story behind that!

Well, we’ve already addressed the mouse part of things! But, Lulu herself is loosely based on me as a kid. All I wanted was to be on Broadway. And I just kept working and hoping and dreaming. Lulu has an enviable optimism, but she also has moments of worrying that things won’t work out. I certainly had those moments. (Still do.) Moments of wondering if all the wishing and hoping and dreaming would pay off. My dream came true. You’ll have to read the book to see if Lulu’s does too!


Young Jenna as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”

Any tips to share for aspiring writers — or actors?

Just do it. There’s no magic potion. No right or wrong. Practice, focus, but don’t forget to have fun! Acting and writing have “make believe” in common. Sure, there’s work and training and business involved. But at the end of the day, we’re playing make believe. (On that note, be incredibly thankful when someone pays you to make believe. Be kind to the people you work with. Be humble. Be thankful.) Also, know that “success” (you’ll need to define for yourself what success means, BTW), doesn’t happen overnight. There are a lot of variables at play and a lot of people playing the game. All you can control is your work.  Your words. Your audition. How you sing the song. I’m sure you’ve heard it over and over again, but it really is true: “Be you. It’s the only thing that makes you different from everyone else.”

What’s up your sleeve? What will you be writing next? 

Well, I’m hoping for a sequel to Lulu!! I also love the idea of writing origin stories for some of the characters we meet in Lulu the Broadway Mouse—how those characters got started in the theatre. Guess we’d call those books spin-offs.  I’m also working on a novel set in the 1930s about a girl whose family runs a boarding house in Brooklyn. It involves a lot more research than Lulu did, that’s for sure!!

And how about acting? What’s next in that arena?

Here’s the thing about being an actor: you very rarely know what’s coming next. It’s exciting, in a way, but it’s also stressful and scary. I very much hope I’ll be on Broadway again soon. If you twisted my arm and made me choose my next gig, I’d honestly want to play Anna in Frozen. Or Dawn in Waitress. I said it when I was little and I’m saying it now that I’m a grown up: “I want to be on Broadway!”

And now — cue the confetti! Happy book birthday, Jenna! Thanks so much for stepping into the spotlight and visiting with us today. And thank you, too, for providing a giveaway: there’s a copy of hot-off-the-press Lulu the Broadway Mouse awaiting one of you — and I’ve heard rumors of a tote bag as well…

Just leave a comment below, sharing one of your favorite theatre memories with us. Maybe it’s a play you saw, maybe it’s a play you were in, or maybe it’s a play you wrote, who knows? Winners will be chosen at random on October 17th. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments so that I can assign you an extra entry.)  U.S. and Canada only, please. Have fun!

 

And the winner is . . .

October 1st, 2018

Maria Marabito!

Congratulations, Maria — and thank you to everyone for participating. It was great to read about all of our collective connections to Little Women (or aspirations to have connections, for those who haven’t read it yet – now go read it!).

Maria, I’ll be contacting you soon for your snail mail address, and will send your prize out shortly!

Happy 150th, Jo March! (and a giveaway)

September 23rd, 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, today’s word is “sesquicentennial.” Isn’t that a terrific word? It really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Next Sunday, September 30, 2018, marks the 150th anniversary — the sesquicentennial — of the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

I doubt she could have foreseen her book’s enduring popularity, or have guessed that her story of four young women coming of age in the aftermath of the Civil War would one day be considered a classic — reprinted countless times with countless covers, adapted for film somewhere around a dozen times already, with not one but two more movies heading to the screen shortly.

Nor could she possibly have known the impact that her book, and in particular the character of Jo March, would have on generations of aspiring young writers.

I was one of them.

I spent seven formative years of my childhood and young adulthood in Concord, Massachusetts, the small New England town where Louisa lived when she wrote Little Women.

I used to save my babysitting money (I earned a whopping 25 cents an hour back then!) and ride my bike the mile to her home — which is called Orchard House — and treat myself to the tour. The ladies who led the tours were always so nice to me, and if they thought it was weird that I was there all by myself, they didn’t say so.

Orchard House

It’s a wonderful old historic house, filled with treasures from the Alcott family, which is easy to mix up with the March family, her fictional characters, because so much of the book was inspired by her own life, and her own family. Anyway, I remember just standing there staring at the little half-moon desk that her father had made her, and thinking, “Wow, that’s where she sat when she was writing Little Women,” and thinking that maybe I would have a writing desk of my own one day.

I desperately wanted to be a writer just like Jo March, Louisa’s headstrong fictional alter-ego, even back then.

And now, here I am, lo these many years later, and I do have a writing desk of my own, just like Louisa did, and my dream of being a writer did come true, and there are books with my name on them sitting on shelves in bookstores and libraries and actual readers’ homes across the country and beyond! And I have Louisa to thank for it.

I did thank her, in the only way I knew how — by honoring her in a book. The Mother-Daughter Book Club is my homage to Louisa and her Jo. It’s the tale of a group of middle-school girls in Concord, Massachusetts, whose mothers force them to join a book club and read Little Women. They soon discover how timeless the book’s themes are, and are surprised to find so many echoes of the March sisters and their trials and triumphs in their own lives.

So happy sesquicentennial, Little Women! I fully expect you to be around for at least another 150 years!

To celebrate this remarkable milestone, I think we need to have a giveaway, don’t you? I have a complete boxed set of all seven books in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series that I’ll be happy to autograph and send to one of you! Just leave a comment below, letting us know your connection to Little Women, and the impact it’s made on your life. If you haven’t read it yet, that’s OK, you can just leave a post telling us that you plan to (we’ll hold you to it!).

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on the September 30, 2018, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women! Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments so that I can assign you an extra entry.)  U.S. and Canada only, please. Have fun!

 

 

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