Cynthia Bardes’ favorite place to write is on the beach under an umbrella.
No iPad or laptop for her, Bardes writes her children’s books longhand on a legal pad.
That’s how she’s written all three Pansy books beginning with “Pansy at the Palace, A Beverly Hills Mystery” and her newest, “Pansy in Venice: The Mystery of the Missing Parrot” coming out Oct. 8.
Sitting in her sunny kitchen at Windsor, holding the real-life Pansy in her arms, she explains why she shuns writing technology.
“I don’t know how to type,” Bardes says.
Maybe that’s one reason her books about the little chocolate poodle, Pansy, who solves mysteries wherever she goes are so irresistible.
They feel natural, as though they flowed effortlessly from Bardes’ pen. And they’re fresh and playfully elegant.
That elegance is partly due to the different locations Bardes chooses. From Beverly Hills to Paris to Venice the settings are all lovely.
Best of all, the stories are told from Pansy’s point of view – not her human owner, the little girl, Avery (based on Bardes’ own granddaughter, Avery). So from the opening line of “Pansy at the Palace,” we’re seeing Pansy’s point of view.
“Once upon a time, I lived at an animal shelter in Los Angeles. Every day I watched other dogs go home with new families. Some people wanted a big dog. Some people wanted a medium dog. And some wanted a little dog. But no one wanted me.”
Don’t worry. On the very next page Avery and her Mother adopt Pansy and love her very much.
Clearly, a lack of typing skill hasn’t held Bardes back as a writer. Now, two big talents at Riverside Theatre have adapted “Pansy at the Palace,” into a children’s musical called “Poodleful, a K9 Mystery.”
It debuts Sept. 18 at Riverside Children’s Theatre.
The show is an exciting landmark for Bardes. It’s also the debut of an energetic new initiative called Riverside Theatricals, which creates and performs original plays for young audiences, performed by adults – something Riverside’s never done before.
Bardes is pleased that Allen Cornell, Riverside’s executive director and Jon Moses, managing director, decided to create Riverside Theatricals.
“Creating original children’s shows performed by professional adults, and presenting them to families and young people is so important,” Bardes says.
Bardes is thrilled with the quality of the “Poodleful” production featuring 10 original songs written by Ken Clifton, Riverside’s musical director and a libretto by choreographer/director D. J. Salisbury.
Bardes plays one of Clifton’s songs on her iPad. “Isn’t it rich? It’s really Broadway-ready, isn’t it?”
A longtime fan of Riverside Theatre and Allen Cornell, Bardes and her family have always enjoyed the theater.
“My daughter Aubrey has been a Groundling, (the legendary Los Angeles improv group) and my granddaughter, Avery, is involved in theater and writes songs. In fact, the theater may be what I love the most,” Bardes says.
In another break with tradition, after “Poodleful’s” run at Riverside Children’s Theatre Sept. 18 – 20, it goes to Stuart’s Lyric Theatre Sept. 25, then to Gainesville. And it will be back in February 2016 for seasonal residents.
In January 2016, Bardes and Moses will go to New York City for a New Works convention for original musicals.
“We’ll have a booth there. We hope a licensing company will pick it up,” says Bardes.
A good break
It’s just possible that none of the Pansy books or “Poodleful” would have ever occurred were it not for a nasty accident. A car hit Bardes while she crossed Wilshire Boulevard. Her leg was badly broken but has healed nicely.
“I was flipped in the air and needed a long recovery period,” she says.
For years, Bardes and her husband David have spent fall at the Royal Poinciana Hotel in Beverly Hills to be close to her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. Confined to bed for several months, Bardes says watching her own dog in the hotel inspired her to write a children’s book.
“I’m a Type-A personality who always needs a project,” Bardes says.
But writing was a move in a new direction.
Bardes had studied art history and literature and painted at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. A bit later, vacationing in the south of France, Bardes discovered some exquisite silk fabric at her hotel.
“It was the most beautiful I’d ever seen. I bought six. On the plane home, I decided to design clothes,” Bardes says.
She set up a workroom in Miami, hired Castilian seamstresses who cut everything one piece at a time and began selling the dresses on Seventh Avenue in New York City.
“I went on the road, too, and did that for 10 years. Then I got tired of traveling and began doing interior design work here. I tried retirement, playing golf and bridge but didn’t like it,” Bardes says.
She’s brought that same energy and focus to writing children’s books.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done. Publishing in general is in disarray and it’s hard to get known if you’re not already known,” she says.
Bardes learned the children’s book format. Most often the books are 32 pages long, not too many words per page and have fabulous illustrations.
“The artwork must match exactly what’s on the page. It’s very precise. My illustrator Virginia Best is wonderful. We work together very closely on each page,” Bardes says.
Along with all her talent, Bardes is a savvy, hardworking businesswoman. There is now a Pansy stuffed dog.
Not only are the books available at numerous book stores, including Vero Beach Book Center, they’re also available on line and at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman’s.
“I’ll be signing the newest book at Bergdorf’s in New York this December. This will be my sixth signing there,” Bardes said. “I love to be involved in a creative project like this and I love living in a town that supports the arts.”
To learn more about Cynthia Bardes and the Pansy series, visit www.pansyatthepalace.com.
Riverside Theatre tickets can purchased by calling the Riverside Box Office at 772-231-6990 or online at www.riversidetheatre.com.