Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Our dear Sally

This is our dear Sally, the dog that inspired CHASING AUGUSTUS.

A terrible very bad dog!
In 2012 when I finished BEHOLDING BEE and began thinking about another book, our dog Sally was getting very old.

She was the dog of our dreams. The kind of dog that became the best friend for our four children, and she followed them everywhere they'd let her go: through the woods, down to the fishing brook, up to the old cow fields and into the piney woods.  She slept in their rooms, snoozed quietly while they built Legos for hours, waited patiently for them beneath their treehouse, and was the first to dive into the new plastic toddler pool, shredding it immediately.  She never wanted to be separated from her beloved Daniel, Matthew, Kate and Laura.

Anyone who reads my books knows that I love to write about transformation, about characters who face mountains of adversity and because they find grit and determination, are able to push on and become more than they thought they could be.

Well, the same holds true for dogs.

Sally did not start out very well. We already had one very elderly rescue dog on the day that we received a call from a dear friend on the other side of town.  She knew our big family well and thought we were the perfect home for an almost-year-old mixed breed golden retriever with an unhappy past.

Our friends knew a great dog when they saw one.This scrawny red dog might not look like much but she is smart with a lot of heart and she could really become a great family dog, they told us. 

There was plan in place that included a half dozen people to spirit her away from the house where she had been mistreated. No one wanted Sally to go back to her former owner, so one day our friends scooped Sally up, hid her in their barn, took her to the vet, and called us.

On a very cold winter day with snow on the fields in our town in rural Rhode Island, we piled into our minivan and went and had ourselves a look.
Well, here’s what we found:  Already in her short life, Sally had been mistreated, was malnourished and untrained. She was filthy, had been allowed to wander all over the streets of our town, and was extremely strong-willed.  Not a good combination. And yet she immediately latched onto our children with a thumping tail and dozens of kisses, and so we brought her home.

Well.  It was not all easy street. Sally was used to running off wherever she wanted to go. She didn’t like to be confined inside the house, either.  We lived in a 200 year old home with very old windows.  If we left Sally in the house when we weren't home, she simply pushed the old windows out onto the ground and jumped out. She ran around the neighborhood, and during one long escape, she got picked up by the dog officer and was taken to the animal shelter and put into what our children called "Doggy Jail." And she barked.  A lot.  Barking was a sport to Sally.

In essence, Sally was a very bad, no good, pretty terrible dog.  More than once, we thought that maybe she was too much for us.  But if you know our family, we are no quitters.  We’ve survived a house fire and lived for nearly a year in an emergency trailer on our property while a new home was being built, and we know how to push on.

Time passed and we learned how to train our unruly dog. Lots of love, lots of exercise, lots of treats, lots of firm attention, did I say lots of love? Incredible amounts of love. We installed an invisible fence and suddenly Sally had two acres to run around as fast and as often as she wanted and she decided that it was her job to keep our property free of all squirrels, birds, rabbits and anything else that crawled or slithered.  With all that exercise and four children to look after and healthy food and lots of love, she quieted down and became an incredibly good dog with a very big heart.  She became the dog of our dreams. 

Sally died halfway through the writing of Chasing Augustus. It is unbelievably sad to lose a dog you love. 

Sally lived the essence of something I try and remind myself of each day:  It's not the circumstances of your life that define you.  It's the action you take that tells the world who you are.

It turns out that we if we are brave and refuse to quit, we can always write the next chapter of our lives.

And this is true, even for dogs.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sit. Stay. Read!

Launch Day is here!

I am so excited to send Rosalita Gillespie and her dog, Augustus, into the world today.

The novel is the story of a girl who will never give up on her dog, not ever. It's a story of resilience and discovering who you are and where you belong, and finding help in unlikely places.

Here's what the reviewers are saying!

"God's bones!  Magnificent."  - Kirkus, starred

A "heartfelt tale" with "a fleet of unforgettable characters" that "will appeal to young fans of Kate DiCamillo" - School Library Journal

"Excellent" - The Providence Journal 

"The writing is smooth and evocative" -  The Bulletin of Children's Literature

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Random House Children's Books Indie Rep Spotlight Pick fall 2017 list

Monday, May 15, 2017


                            CHASING AUGUSTUS by Kimberly Newton Fusco



Could Rosie’s life be much worse?
While still a baby, she was abandoned by her emotionally distant mother to the care of Rosie’s father, so she could “make something of herself.” He and her “big lug” of a dog, Augustus, were all a girl could need. But a year ago, her father suffered a disabling stroke, and her mother returned home just long enough to give her dog away. In the far-from-tender care of her grumpy, bewildered, but loving paternal grandfather—and under the threat of being taken away by her mother—Rosie has spent the past year desperately searching for her dog, thinking of little else. Her gripping, animated narrative—she’s given to employing medieval-style curses she and her papa have invented—is spun out across a dismal landscape of struggling but colorful and richly developed (though mostly default white) characters. There’s Phillippe, neglected by his mentally unstable mother, constantly hiding within a giant overcoat, and now in Mrs. Salvatore’s loud but tender foster care; Cynthia, another neglected child, who can rarely stop talking; a mute, outsider woman, Swanson, who has an undeservedly fearsome reputation; and Mr. Peterson, a teacher who could make all the difference if Rosie would let him. Ultimately, it’s Rosie’s heart and determined spirit that see her through to a hopeful, well-deserved resolution.
God’s bones! Magnificent. (Fiction. 10-14)

Friday, March 3, 2017

A new draft begins


With CHASING AUGUSTUS set for publication in September, I have begun writing the first draft of a new novel.  Each time I begin again I have to remind myself how difficult it is to create something out of nothing.
I love these wise words by the novelist Octavia Butler:
"First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice."
I agree.  An amazing amount of work can get done, one day at a time.

I tell students in the classes I visit that if you write a page a day, you can write an entire novel in a year.

Now, back to work!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

This dog!

Reason #157 Why An Author Should Love a Dog:

Because when the words aren't working and the sentences aren't flowing, and you wonder why you ever wanted to be a writer in the first place, your dog gently wags her tail and looks at you with those soft doe eyes and tells you:

Oh, Kim, this is so hard, BUT YOU CAN DO IT!

And then you begin again.  

Because you love a dog.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Favorite Room

    This is the spot in my home where I love to read.  I usually read several books at once, and our family room, with comfy couches, a crackling woodstove, and blankets woven from our sheep wool, is the perfect reading spot.
     When I visit schools I am almost always asked to list my favorite books, so I've been keeping a list for more than a decade. Here are my top books of 2016! (I already have many for 2017, but I'll have to wait to add them to my list...)

              The Girl Who Drank the Moon
                    by Kelly Barnhill (middle grade)
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (middle grade)
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (young adult)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (adult)
The Underground Railroad by Coleson Whitehead (adult)
Middle Passage by Charles Johnson (adult)
I also try and read several classics a year, and this year my favorite was a reread of:
 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

And for my writing friends, my favorite writing book of the year was:

  The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Year of Gratitude

When you are writing a novel about a girl and her dog, you need to do a lot of research!  Happy New Year everyone.  Let's make it a year of love and peace and kindness.