1. What is your book Dropped-Off Dog (A Mostly-True “Tail”) about?
My book is about the real-life situation of so many abandoned animals. It is a chance for the reader to develop a sense of empathy for the animal who has relied on its humans to care for it and meet its daily needs of food, water, shelter, and love. Maslow identified these needs in human beings long ago, and we are just recognizing that domesticated animals have adapted to our world and now require them too. Dogs especially, are social animals and abandonment is difficult for them. Cesar Milan has told us to be “good pack leaders” and that’s what dogs (and some cats) expect from us. The dog in this story had been loved by someone and then, perhaps due to difficult circumstances, the humans in its life made an irresponsible decision and left it to fend for itself or become someone else’s responsibility. I am only pointing out and bringing awareness to a very real occurrence. Everywhere you go there are abandoned and stray animals lurking in the shadows. Some have lost their trust in humans, but many would love nothing more than to find a family to be a part of. Shelters are doing the best they can with limited resources and space to house the animals. This book is another way to help!
2. Why is animal rescue one of your causes?
Animals are gifts from God. They are our charges to care for and treat with respect. The blind adoration of a dog is so powerful. How could someone squander and take for granted that kind of "love"? I have always loved animals of all kinds, but being a veterinarian would have been too emotionally difficult for me growing up, so I chose this route instead. I can still help an animal in need, but not have to do the really hard job required of those vets out there.
3. Why did you chose a children’s picture book as part of your platform to convey your message?
Children are easier to teach and reach than adults. I have taught at both the elementary and college levels and kids just “get it” faster than adults do! They don't have all the baggage, emotional scars, and ideologies in place – and they welcome new ideas. This book has transcended the age gap though. Since I first wrote this book, I have met many adults who have rescued animals – and this book speaks to them. They have purchased it as an inspirational coffee table book! I love that!
4. Why did you chose fine art vs. cartoon-like images?
The illustrations are a part of conveying the story in a way that makes the story more “real” and not so cutsie. It is a serious story so cartoons were not the way I wished to convey the message. I had one publisher tell me that the story was far too sad and not kid-friendly, and that it needed happier illustrations, but I have had the opposite reaction from the children in the dozens of schools where I have read to them. They love the beautiful, realistic watercolor illustrations done so perfectly by my dear friend Robert Kelley. He studied my dog Steve and captured every nuance of his character. The children see this when they look at the pictures and know it is a real dog without me telling them. They are so much more intuitive than we give them credit for! They just get it!
5. Why did you select a hybrid publisher like 3L Publishing vs. a traditional publisher like Random House?
I tried the regular publishing route, but I have an impatient streak. I had submitted the book to a few companies and had gotten one rejection (mentioned above) and a few “no-replies”. Out of the blue, my illustrator had 3L Publishing come up on his Facebook feed so we checked them out and submitted the manuscript along with a few examples of the illustrations and Voila!, they liked us and thought we had a good product that they would be happy to represent and to put their logo on. I'm not saying it's easy to get published by a hybrid publisher because they still want a product worthy of adding their name to, but it is easier to get someone to communicate with you and work with you as a professional. Plus, I can't discount the possibility of divine intervention!
6. What did you enjoy the most about the process of publishing a book?
The most enjoyable aspect of the publishing experience is the realization of a dream. It is great to be able to say, “I am a published author!” It's a little bit ego-driven, but it is so rewarding to see the vision come to life. I had thought about every aspect of this book: what I wanted to say; how it wanted it to look like; and how it would be presented. When it came to life, it was like a piece of art for me to share with the world. My message had beautiful wings!
7. What is your favorite vegetable?
What is my favorite vegetable? Ha, ha! Well, as a kid, I was a reluctant veggie eater. I have grown up to love them all, except zucchini and broccoli. Roasted or grilled with olive oil and a little garlic, it would be difficult to choose just one! Is it boring to choose lettuce? I do love a good salad! I make a good salad too, which is another artistic composition, besides children’s books. I have nephew who insists that I make the salads for all the family get-togethers. I can reach kids through books and vegetables!
8. You were a stylist. What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Another difficult question for me to pick just one thing! I'm lucky to have worn many different hats in my life and gotten to experiment with lots of careers, as a teacher, boutique owner and stylist, an artist, and now an author. As a stylist, I was always trying to put together an entire look. Again, like the composition of a painting! (I guess that's how I think, in the realm of the “big picture”.) One “bad” piece can ruin the whole look. For me, a great pair of shoes and some cool jeans is the best foundation. If you have those two things down, you can throw on a t-shirt and an arm-full of bangles or a funky necklace and go just about anywhere!
9. You were/are a teacher. When a child sits in your classroom what do you want him/her to take away from your class?
As a teacher, of course I wanted my students to develop a love of reading, but I also wanted them to leave with compassion and a sense of responsibility for themselves and those around them. My favorite grade to teach was 5th because they are hungry for someone to recognize them as emerging adults. I always had high expectations of my students – and they almost always rose to meet them. Mistakes are part of developing character so, while they were free to make their own choices, they also knew the consequences. It is empowering to give them some freedom. I also wanted them to leave me with the idea that individuality and self-esteem are more important than just about anything else ... that is the topic of my next book! Stay tuned – leave with and use in life?
10. What would you rather do on a Friday night? Read? Go to a movie? Sit with a great friend with a glass of wine?
On a Friday night, the best thing is to spend time with a great friend, or friends, and have a meal together. Breaking bread and sharing wine, funny stories, and dreams for the future are among the best things in life. You can also have a chance to talk about the movies you've seen and the books you have read!
You can purchased Dropped-Off Dog off Amazon or visit the 3L Website (click here).