Thursday, October 21, 2010

Charlie Anne's Big Night

My favorite library in the world - Tyler Free Library in Foster, RI - hosted a beautiful reception for Charlie Anne recently. The library is a former one-room schoolhouse, so it was a fitting place for Charlie Anne to make her debut. Plus, it is the library our family has loved for the last twenty years. It may be small, but it is very big in terms of warm-hearted friendliness and in the love the librarians there have for books and readers.

The reception was filled with children and adults - old and dear friends and many new friends, too. It was a wonderful night, and I am very grateful.

Kristin Russo from the Valley Breeze Observer, followed up with this lovely article.

Foster author launches second novel

By KRISTIN RUSSO, Breeze Correspondent

FOSTER - According to novelist Kimberly Newton Fusco, it takes a village to write a book.

Author of the award-winning "Tending to Grace," which is read in classrooms across the country and acclaimed for its sympathetic characters and rich use of figurative language, Fusco credits her village, the town of Foster, with helping her bring her most recent story, "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," to life.

"Books are not written alone," said Fusco. "There are often many people behind the scenes helping out, as there was for 'The Wonder of Charlie Anne.' I had some people helping with research, so important in a historical novel, and others helped by encouraging me to keep going. Others read the novel at various stages. My husband helped me plot the whole thing out on index cards after the first draft was finished."

She added, "I'm also grateful for the town of Foster itself, for providing so much rural landscape and farmland that is such an inspiration to me. It truly is a wonderful place to live and raise a family - and write books."

"The Wonder of Charlie Anne" chronicles the life experiences of 11-year-old Charlie Anne, a girl growing up in hardship during the Depression and struggling with loss and loneliness. Charlie Anne clings to cherished memories of her mother, with whom she shares a unique connection, and finds solace in her friendship with Phoebe, an African American girl who moves to town.

As their friendship grows, the girls find themselves at the center of controversy in a town that values "good manners" but not necessarily openness and acceptance. When prejudice rears its ugly head, Charlie Anne learns that it's not enough to know, "That the fork goes on the left, or how to put on tea. Real manners are about love, kindness, and respect," said Fusco.

As Fusco launches "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," she discusses the happy but unexpected success she experienced with her first novel, "Tending to Grace," which earned a number of literary awards, including the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award for its empathetic portrayal of a young girl who struggles to communicate with a stutter.

"I never knew Tending to Grace would be so successful," said Fusco. "'Tending to Grace' is on summer reading lists and taught in language arts classes across the country. It is used every year in classes in Foster, Scituate, Johnston, and Cumberland. I've visited classrooms all over Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It's even on YouTube. I am very grateful, because for me the best part of publishing a book is hearing from young people."

While "Tending to Grace" appealed to older readers, Charlie Anne's story will more likely reach younger readers who are closer in age to the 11-year-old main character. "In 'Tending to Grace,' my main character, Cornelia, is 14, and Charlie Anne is 11. There is an age difference there, and it shows in the voices of the characters. However, I hear from as many adults as children that they loved 'Tending to Grace,' and that seems to be happening so far with Charlie Anne. It's nice to capture readers of all ages. I have my fingers crossed," said Fusco.

A starred review from Kirkus Reviews indicates that Fusco's sophomore novel is off to an illustrious start after a nearly three-year process bringing it from its first draft to the book stores.

"It took two and a half years from first sentence to finished novel on the bookstore shelf," said Fusco. "I wrote the first draft pretty quickly once I got going because Charlie Anne's voice was so strong and I wanted to capture it."

She added, "I would write a chapter, send it to my editor, and she would say, 'Hooray!' and then I would write the next." The first three chapters were written by June 2008, and the entire novel was completed five months later. After two major revisions and one smaller edit, the manuscript was printed into advance reader copies and sent out for review, said Fusco. "The first major review to come in was from Kirkus Reviews, and it was starred. That got everything off to a nice start."

At a recent event at Tyler Free Library in Foster celebrating the launch of her new book, Fusco said she was delighted by the warm turnout of friends and family who had inspired her writing and encouraged her endeavors. "This town is filled with inspiration," said Fusco. "It was very rewarding to have so many people come out in support of me and my book. My husband counted more than 50 people."

For more information about "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," "Tending to Grace," and a third novel by Fusco currently in the works, visit