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Amy Timberlake comes home to promote new novel

"One Came Home" is Amy Timberlake's third book and is being called ". . . a 'True Grit' for the middle school set." She will come home to Hudson and will be at Chapter 2 Books on Saturday, March 23, at 3 p.m.1 / 2
Amy Timberlake, author. Photo submitted2 / 2

Hometown girl Amy Richardson Timberlake has certainly made good. The award-winning author will return to her hometown of Hudson on March 23 to promote her third book, "One Came Home," with a signing at Chapter 2 Books.

Timberlake is the daughter of Barbara Richardson and the late Jim Richardson. She grew up in Hudson and graduated from Hudson High School in 1985 and now lives with her husband in Chicago. But she says that Hudson will always be home and life in Wisconsin continues to inspire her.

Her latest novel, described as a "True Grit for the middle school set" and a "rare gem of a novel," is set in Wisconsin and centers around a young girl who refuses to believe her sister is dead. Set in the 1870s, Timberlake came upon the idea for her book while looking at a map of Wisconsin from that period that showed the migration of passenger pigeons through the state.

"It showed an area of more than 850 square miles that they passed through. The idea of it, the nesting, what that would look like, just the amount of dung it would mean, the whole idea fascinated me. I didn't know anything about it but I just felt I had to write about it," said the author who is also an avid birder.

Timberlake believes there is no better setting for her books than Wisconsin, and she set about putting her character and the birds together to create some new historical fiction. "It just captured my imagination. It is part history, part science fiction. Just a story I felt had to be told.

Timberlake's previous publications, both prize-winners, include a picture book for children entitled "The Dirty Cowboy," and another novel for middle-schoolers, "That Girl Lucy Moon." She says she is a slow writer and that "One Came Home" took three years to complete and another year working with her editor before it was published by Knopf Books for Young Readers in January.

She said she has been impressed with the four editors she worked with on the book. Each one was responsible for a different part of the book and wrote their comments in different colored pencils. When writing historical fiction, fact-checking is important, not only the information on the setting and what she wrote about the now extinct passenger pigeon but what phrases or specific words she used -- all checked in their historical context.

An editor also may suggest that she change a word and suggest an alternative. "Most of the time they are right and suggest the perfect word. But I always feel like I have to find something different to use. It has to sound like me."

And apparently people like what they have heard. Timberlake said that "One Came Home" has been the most well-received of any of her books. She will be busy in the coming weeks and months promoting it and is happy that those stops include her home state and her hometown.

"Wisconsin is a great setting for any kind of writing. It is incredibly beautiful and has an amazing history -- like the passenger pigeons. And did you know that we used to have buffalo there too? People don't realize what a gem it is. And to be honest, I kind of like that -- let's keep it a secret and to ourselves."

Timberlake says that it was in Hudson that she learned about the importance of community. "Growing up where everyone knows you and your family, that instills something in a person. And growing up along the St. Croix -- I always have to live near water because of it."

Timberlake also has fond memories of her school days in Hudson. Among the those she remembers are elementary teachers, Mrs. Kordum and Mrs. Burt and music teachers Kris Tjornehoj, Carl Meincke and Tom Dahle.

After graduating from Hudson, she studied business, moved on to liberal arts and gave graduate school a try but ultimately settled on writing.

Timberlake isn't sure she always wanted to be a writer but she has a very clear memory of one of her first attempts. She was in second or third grade and she wrote a poem. "I read it to my dad and he told me 'you have a knack for it.' I thought it was fun but that comment has stayed with me. It is funny how things turn out."

For more information about Timberlake and her books go to / She will be at Chapter 2 Books in downtown Hudson on March 23 at 3 p.m.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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