Thursday, February 21, 2013
THERE'S NOTHING SOFT ABOUT THESE GIRLS!
'Beholding Bee' is local author's third young adult novel
By ARLINE A. FLEMING, Valley Breeze & Observer Correspondent
FOSTER - Her public voice is soft and sweet, a little shy, somewhat poetic.
But on the written page, the voices created by Foster resident Kimberly Newton Fusco shout out with resiliency and tenaciousness, strong little literary characters, young but memorable.
There's nothing soft about these girls, especially the one who takes flight in Fusco's latest novel for young people, "Beholding Bee," which will be launched on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Foster's Tyler Free Library, 81A Moosup Valley Rd. at 1:30 p.m.
"It's my favorite library in the whole world," explained the long-time town resident and award-winning writer who launched her previous books, "Tending to Grace" and "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," there, a place she often brought her own children for story hours.
A mother of four children ages 15 to 25, Fusco and her husband, Steven, came to the area after their oldest son was born, she said, finding "a warm and generous community" in Foster, and a place not far from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette where she was an award-winning reporter and editor. After more than 15 years of writing on deadlines, and with the family increasing in number, she decided to give herself a chance at writing from home.
A devoted reader, she returned to her book roots, producing a successful first novel in "Tending to Grace," published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, which earned her awards and a place in the publishing world. Her second, "The Wonder of Charlie Anne," continued with that same type of success, and her third has been released this week with early recognition, too. It will also be published by Faber and Faber, London, "making it an international book," she notes.
While the accolades are abundant, Fusco is quick to point out that "Beholding Bee" was many years in the making, and the inspiration actually goes back to her early days as a reporter when she covered a traveling carnival in Bristol. The idea simmered, as did the planning, writing and publishing tasks, which added up to four years.
"I'm really precise and I take a lot of time with every single word," she explained.
A personal writing habit sometimes includes writing poetry about the character's feelings and "then I rewrite it into prose. I love poetry and that helps me get into the character. I get so deeply into their emotions."
Fusco not only allows poetry to transmit her into the character, but she says she also sets up her computer margins so that the page mimics a newspaper column as she creates. "It's how I write."
She also makes a habit of finding a photo that resembles in her mind the character she is creating. She produces one of what Bee might have looked like if she stepped off the pages of the book.
Bee is an orphan. The time period is 1942. And she lives in the back of a tractor trailer with Pauline, her unofficial guardian. Bee also has a birthmark on her face that she spends a good amount of time attempting to hide. When Pauline leaves to work for another carnival, Bee runs away to create a new life - one that turns out to be quite imaginative and includes women in history.
BookPage, a monthly book review distributed to some 450,000 readers, describes Fusco's writing in "Beholding Bee" as being "lyrical prose (which) enhances the magic of the story as we are drawn into Bee's unconventional world and her touching transformation."
"With an arrestingly original voice, this book stays with you long after reading. Anyone who has ever felt lonely will find a friend in Bee," notes Faber and Faber, London.
While Bee is a fighter, so is the girl in Fusco's first novel, "Tending to Grace," where young Cornelia tends to remain quiet rather than announce her stuttering to all the world. She has something of Fusco in her. As a child, Fusco was "a young person who stuttered, and writing gave me a chance to express myself.
"I am drawn to characters like Cornelia who put on bigger boots and keep going," Fusco writes on her website, www.kimberlynewtonfusco.com .
Kristen M. Chin, director of the Libraries of Foster, describes Fusco as being "generous with her time and knowledge." Recalling an earlier book launch at the local library, Chin said it was "standing-room only.
"In addition to being Foster's most celebrated author, she is also much loved and respected by everyone who knows her, and she is widely known."
Fusco earned her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, New York, and her bachelor's degree from Roger Williams University, Bristol. While at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, she won a second prize in the 1992 National Awards for Education Reporting, and in 1988, a first prize for investigative reporting for her series "Poverty and Education in Worcester."
Living in Foster, notes Fusco, inspires her to write. The sounds of nearby animals and the plentiful woods for walking help clear her head to think. From the family's "new" old house, Fusco creates literary people comfortable around animals, which is no surprise given the sheep that roam her own front yard and her childhood in Upton, Mass., where Fusco said the family kept chickens and a pig. She was also able to walk to her own great-grandmother's house most days for a visit.
"We were very close," she recalled of Dorcas Brewster Newton, and Fusco dedicated "Beholding Bee" to her.
The little girl who spent days with her great-grandmother has grown up to become a celebrated writer, which also means she must make public appearances, give talks, and lectures.
"That's something I really grew into. I enjoy it now. I really love talking to kids," she said.
Fusco said she is almost finished with the first draft of another book, one which includes a strong friendship with a boy. Her sons have asked her about creating boy characters, and she smiles, saying, "It's not easy to jump the fence."
Though she has devoted four years to the development of "Beholding Bee," Fusco says that while it is a big adjustment being that patient in seeing the outcome, "I love this more than anything I've ever done. It really feels like a dream come true.
"I'm very determined. I've always been tenacious. That part of me is in all my characters, too."
So what does she hope "Beholding Bee" does for the readers who step into its magical world? "I hope they get it. I hope they see how much I love language. It's just so joyful to write," she said.
And one more "hope" from this local author about her books, which are on school reading lists nationwide:
"I hope that they make a difference in a child's life somewhere."