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Brew City best-seller

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ELKHORN -- Local residents will have the chance to enjoy an evening with New York Times best-selling author Lesley Kagen at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, in the Matheson Memorial Library's community center.

Kagen, writer of “Whistling in the Dark,” “Land of a Hundred Wonders,” “Tomorrow River,” and “Good Graces,” as well as her newest novel, “Mare's Nest,” will give an hourlong presentation with a question-and-answer session and book signing to follow. The event is sponsored by the Friends of Matheson Memorial Library and is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase.

“We asked Lesley to join us this year at the recommendation of several of our members that are fans of her books,” said Katie James, president of the Friends of Matheson Memorial Library. “People enjoy her stories set in 1950s Milwaukee and are really looking forward to hearing more about how she brings her old neighborhood to life.”

Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-WalworthCountySunday

Kagen, 64, is a Milwaukee native who often writes about her experiences growing up in a working-class neighborhood. Her debut novel, “Whistling in the Dark,” won the Honor Book Award in 2007 for her portrayal of two Milwaukee girls in a coming-of-age thriller set in 1959.

Kagen attended the University of Wisconsin and majored in radio and television. Shortly after that, she took a job as the morning drive disc jockey on one of the country's first alternative radio stations -- WZMF. In this position she had the opportunity to interview many popular musicians of the time such as Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon.

In 1976, Kagen moved to Los Angeles where she began a 10-year stint working for Licorice Pizza record chain where she produced, wrote and voiced thousands of commercials as Lesley from Licorice Pizza. When setting out to expand her career, she ended up doing on-camera commercials, a couple of movies of the week and even an episode of “Laverne and Shirley.”

After getting married and having two children, the Kagen family moved back to Wisconsin. It wasn't until her oldest child went off to college that she discovered her talent for writing novels. She found herself with a bit more time on her hands, decided to give it a try and hasn't looked back since.

During the event, Kagen will speak about her experiences growing up in Milwaukee, her love of writing and her childhood fondness for Sampson the gorilla at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

“I would encourage anyone to come and meet Lesley and hear how she formulated the ideas for her best-selling novels,” James said. “She's really funny and her stories about growing up in Milwaukee are incredibly relatable.

“It's also a chance to hear what she's currently working on and get the scoop on her next book.”

Walworth County Sunday caught up with Kagen recently and asked her five questions about her writing, plus a bonus question for good measure.

Q. In what ways has growing up in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin informed your writing?

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