The Chicks trilogy began in 2005 with Chicks with Sticks (It’s a purl thing) (Dutton). Fifteen-year-old Scottie lives in a cool, Chicago loft, goes to a progressive-to-the-point-of-wacky private school—and she’s miserable. Her former best friend, trust-fund princess Amanda, is just that—her former best friend—and her mom has become an It girl in Chicago’s art world. Meanwhile, Scottie just wants to blend in.
Then she discovers knitting, and it’s as if she’s been thrown a cashmerino lifeline. Soon Scottie and Amanda find themselves hanging at their local yarn store, bound together by a yen for yarn and a hunger for friendship. They make two more knitty friends: Bella, a new age yoga goddess, and Tay, an indie tomboy with “anger issues” in the wake of her parents’ divorce. The friends’ stitches and their relationships become so intertwined that it’s hard to remember which came first: the girls or the purls.
And now, there’s Chicks with Sticks (KnitWise). For Scottie, Amanda, Bella, and Tay, life in Chicago has been all about seeking shelter. They’ve found it in their firelit stitch ’n bitch at Joe Coffee; in the halls of their quirky private school; in the arms of boyfriends—and always in the comfort of the friendship that bonds them together.
But now the Chicks are staring down the end of high school and it's time to contemplate life beyond the protective web of their knitty ensemble. Will the stresses of college applications and service projects, debutante balls and long-distance loves, mean the end of the Chicks? Or can this unlikely foursome bind-off the happy ending that only true friendship can craft?
About the author…
Elizabeth Lenhard grew up in Atlanta and studied English and creative writing at the University of Michigan. She’s been a features reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a contributing dining critic for Chicago magazine, and the author of more than thirty series books for teens and children. Elizabeth lives with her husband and daughter in Atlanta. Now that the Chicks are college-bound, she’s assuaging her empty nest syndrome with lots and lots of knitting.
Jenn: Do you write full-time?
Elizabeth: Writing is my only job. It used to be full-time, but now I write three days a week and spend the others with my baby. Before I became a novelist, I was a features writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I learned SO much in that job that helped me become a fiction writer. One of the most important lessons was how to write fast and clean and prolifically! Don't understimate that! ;-) But writing all those articles also taught me a lot about shaping a narrative arc and being a good storyteller. It was invaluable (and fun! And salaried!) training.
I left the newspaper in 1997 to be a freelance writer. I had a few fiction gigs here and there, but mostly I did journalism. I wrote features for various publications, was a food critic, and lots of other fun stuff. The fiction I wrote was work-for-hire paperbacks for a number of publishers, from Simon and Schuster to Scholastic to Hyperion. By about 2001 or '02 (I'm terrible with dates) I had so many fiction jobs that I gave up journalism entirely (except for the food criticism because, hello, free fancy dinners!) And then in 2004, I got my first hardcover book deal for "Chicks with Sticks (It's a purl thing)" the first book in the Chicks with Sticks trilogy AND the first book that was mine all mine! (In other words, not a media tie-in or novelization.)
Jenn: Where do you write?
Elizabeth: I write on my laptop so I can migrate from couch to couch. When my daughter and her "granny nanny" are in the house, I usually write on the futon in the home office, where I can shut the door. We have a small house, so I'm very lucky to have a "room of my own." A tiny, sorta dark one, but who cares! When I'm alone in the house, I write on the couch in the sunny living room or, best of all, on the screened-in porch!
Jenn: What makes you happiest about writing?
Elizabeth: I love it when I get on a roll and lose myself in a scene that just flows, like a movie playing in my head. That makes my day. It's also pretty thrilling to have young readers (in other words, not just my editor, friends and relatives) who write to tell me they love my books! It's nice to know I'm getting something right from the audience that counts.
Jenn: Give us a run-down on all your books. How do you see this new book fitting into the work you’ve produced so far?
Elizabeth: Like I said, I've written a lot of paperbacks--too many to count--from the "Spy Kids Adventure" series to a novelization of "Charlies' Angels!" The "Chicks with Sticks" trilogy is very different from those. It's definitely not an action adventure book! It's less plotty, more charactery, and it's got a lot more emotional depth--I'd like to think, anyway!
The Chicks have a schtick, and that's knitting, but these books are really about more than that. They're about making a family of your friends when you most need to -- when you're fifteen (and sixteen and seventeen) and your family just doesn't get you. They're about finding yourself for the first time and about the awkward period you sometimes experience as you get comfortable in that new you. The Chicks' first book, "Chicks with Sticks (It's a purl thing)" was about the four Chicks becoming new knitters and best friends. In the second, "Chicks with Sticks (Knit two together)" the girls were all navigating relationships with boys. And in this last book, "Chicks with Sticks (KnitWise)" the girls are getting ready to head to college and say good-bye to each other, and that's the most difficult (and moving, I think) transition of all.
Visit Elizabeth's website at http://elizabethlenhard.com/.