What's the thing about 'Lucy Rose'?

She has a new musical devoted all to her

She has a new musical devoted all to her

October 02, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

FREDERICK, Md. - Katy Kelly spent many years inside the Beltway, making a career for herself as a respected journalist for USA Today and People magazine and as senior editor for U.S. News & World Report.

But it would be the story of a fictional 8-year-old red-haired, freckled-face girl named Lucy Rose that would garner Kelly a legion of devoted fans - none of whom have even graduated from elementary school.

Since 2004, children have been reading the "Lucy Rose" series about a straight shootin' "original thinker" as she embarks on a series of adventures and learns lessons along the way.

And now, Lucy Rose leaps from story books to stage. The Maryland Ensemble Theatre presents the original musical adaptation "Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me" at 2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 8. Kelly, along with her family, will be in the audience for the Saturday, Oct. 3, performance, after which she will sign her books.


Kelly said Julie Herber, MET associate artistic director, approached her about adapting "Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me" into a musical version for the Frederick, Md., based theater. "I just thought it was a really neat idea," Kelly said in a telephone interview from her Washington, D.C., home.

Although the musical is based on her book, Kelly said her involvement with the production is minimal. However, she's looking forward to the show with its original songs. And she is planning to bring along several members of her family. "I'm really excited to see the show," she said.

Kelly said the "Lucy Rose" series came about almost on a whim. During a family dinner, Kelly's mother said that when she left her dog, Poppy, alone, he did so much better when she told him where she was going and what time she would return.

That night, Kelly said she wrote the first line that inspired the "Lucy Rose" series: "My grandmother thinks her dog can tell time."

Accustomed to writing nonfiction, Kelly dove into the story. "I did it entirely backward from how you're supposed to write," she said. "I didn't even have a plot."

She wrote the first "Lucy Rose" and then sent it to three agents. "I'm still waiting to hear from them," she said.

A co-worker at USA Today sent an e-mail to Random House Inc. asking if they could take a look at her work. It seems to have done the trick. Random House paired Kelly with editor Beverly Horowitz. Kelly said she learned that creating stories for a child reader was different than writing for an adult reader. One big difference: Get the characters talking.

"(In my original submission,) Lucy Rose said everything. Kids really need dialogue," she said. "It wasn't a big change I had to make, but it made a big difference."

Kelly said she worked with the illustrators who have created the image of Lucy Rose. Through the course of the books, the illustrator has changed from Adam Rex to Peter Furguson, who has illustrated her most recent books.

"Adam was so great, but he's been busy with his own stuff," she said.

And Furguson, she said, is just as busy. In fact, they've haven't even met.

Kelly herself actually worked as an illustrator after college, where she majored in painting and printmaking. But she couldn't deny that she carried the writing gene. Her mother, Marguerite Kelly, wrote "The Mother's Almanac." Her father, Tom Kelly, was a journalist with Washington Daily News. Her brother, Michael, was a syndicated columnist and editor with Atlantic Monthly. Her sister Meg Kelly is an Emmy Award-winning television writer. Her other sister, Nell Conroy, is not a writer, but a teacher; she teaches the next generation of readers in kindergarten and first grade.

The Kelly clan grew up on Capitol Hill where people think there are more government buildings than residential ones. It's one reason why Kelly based Lucy in Washington, D.C.

"We lived on the block my dad was born on," she said. "I didn't really realize that it was unusual to live in Capitol Hill. ... People think you can't (live on the Hill) because there's only government buildings."

Today, Kelly and husband Steve Bottorff still live in Washington, where they raised their daughters, Emily, 23, and Marguerite, 20.

Kelly said she and Lucy Rose share many similarities, but said Lucy Rose "has a dab of me and a smidge of my sisters." Kelly said her mother is like Lucy's grandmother, the southern belle, Madam; her father is similar to Lucy's grandfather, the encouraging Pop. Kelly, like Lucy Rose, had a dog named Gumbo. Adam "Melonhead" Melon, Lucy's arch nemesis, is actually based on her beloved younger brother, Michael, who died in 2003 in the war in Iraq.

Kelly said her parents made growing up fun. She said when her brother was younger, he desperately wanted to grow a mustache. One night, her parents clipped a piece of his hair and glued the hair to his top lip while he was asleep. Those stories from her childhood often find their way into her stories.

Since the first "Lucy Rose" book was published in 2004, Kelly has given her loyal fans a study stream of adventures. Her most recent book, "Lucy Rose: Working Myself to Pieces and Bits" was published in 2007. She said she is taking a little time to focus on her new series devoted to Melonhead.

Kelly said the new series will be released in March 2009, with a second one following it in the fall of 2009, then a Lucy Rose book will follow that.

She said it's bittersweet that Melonhead is getting his own series.

"But it reminds me of all the great times (Michael and I) had growing up together," she said. "He was so sweet. It just reminds me of the happy times."

If you go ...

What: "Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me"

When: 2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 8

Where: Maryland Ensemble Theatre, The FSK Hotel, 31 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md.

Cost: $12

More: To purchase tickets, call 301-694-4744 or

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