FACETIME- Contest queen: Jenny Gardiner 'cleans house'

Jenny Gardiner.

It's not that surprising that the author of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver writes in the kitchen– albeit a very sunny, spacious Glenmore kitchen. More unusual is how she got her book published. A tiara resting above her desk/counter sits in sparkling testament to her tale.

 Gardiner won a contest, but it wasn't as simple as submitting a manuscript, having judges ruminate over the entries and announce the winner– like the Hook short story contest [whose winner will be announced and the story published next week–editor]. Contestants in the Romantic Times magazine/Dorchester Publishing contest had to last through several rounds of Internet voting, and the author with the most votes got her book published.

That's where Gardiner proved that not only can she write, she's a formidable marketer. She had people in every school and athletic activity her children took part in voting for her. Her Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters nationwide voted for her. Her quilting association buddies voted for her. She even had sailors on a submarine casting ballots for her book.

As if it weren't enough of a challenge for a mother of three to find time to write something besides grocery lists and the Christmas letter, "When I started submitting, I realized I had to learn the business," acknowledges Gardiner.

It's no secret that debut authors will do anything to get their book in front of an editor, and Gardiner knew that editors would be the judges picking out the Romantic Times contestants. After winning the American Title III contest, her book came out number 32 on Barnes & Noble's mass market list, and she just found out it's getting a second printing.

"You have to prove your mettle as a marketer and publicist," says Gardiner, 45.

"The publisher was looking for someone who could write well and do the tap dance to promote the book," observes Janis Jaquith, author of Birdseed Cookies: A Fractured Memoir. "She had the best writing and promotion. She's queen of promotion."

Gardiner likes to joke that she learned how to write fiction doing publicity for a U.S. senator. "Writing is a coping skill from elementary school when I realized I could get extra credit for writing for math," says Gardiner. Still going for the extra credit, Gardiner has six books in various states of revision. And now she's got a track record as a published author.

Gardiner says her insights in Sleeping from Ward Cleaver came from her own parents "gruesome" marriage. And to the inevitable speculation about how autobiographical the book might be, she's adamant about her husband. "He's not Ward Cleaver." 

See Gardiner at the book fest discussing, "Trying to get it right: Fiction about marriage" at 6pm March 26 at New Dominion Bookshop.