Last weekend the weather finally warmed enough for our pet tortoises to play outside.

As I sat outside reading & watching Sunny and Sandy, I thought about my favorite tortoise quote:

“Turtles have everything a writer needs: tough shells to deal with criticism; soft, sensitive insides; the need to stick their necks out if they want to move forward; and the slow-and-steady patience to keep slogging away, day after day.” –Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star

I’ve been collecting turtle figurines on my travels for many years, but none are as charming as the real thing!

An Argument Against E-Readers

Yesterday I snuck away with a good book (Stolen by Lucy Christopher) to soak my feet in the lotions and potions my husband gave me for Mother’s Day.

I lit a candle, swished my toes in the fragrant bubbles, and read… Until my kitten Minnie joined me. And fell in the tub. Twice.

A much drier, but still embarrassed, Minnie.
(I wasn’t going to interrupt my foot bath–or this great story–to take a wet cat photo.)

While I rescued Minnie, my book tipped off my lap into the sudsy water.

My first thought: I’m so glad this isn’t an e-reader! Minnie skittered away, trailing her soaked tail, and I kept reading, carefully turning each wet page (it’s a seriously compelling story!).

So, between not being able to read in the bathtub (or poolside or at the beach), and not being able to read during airplane take-offs and landings, I think I’ll stick with paper books.

Like Minnie, I tend to be a bit klutzy.

Interview with Bobbie Pyron & A Book Giveaway!

Today I’m so excited to introduce you to a wonderful new middle-grade novel, A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron. I love the way this story–alternating between the lost dog and his girl– combines action and adventure with school and family issues. But I mostly loved the way my own 11-year-old daughter got lost in this story! 

Leave a comment to win a signed copy of A Dog’s Way Home.
I’m impressed by the way you depict Tam’s doggie thinking in A Dog’s Way Home. You obviously know a lot about canine sensibilities. Will you tell us a little bit about your very first dog?  

The very first dog we had when I was a child was a wonderful beagle named Puck. I come from a family of big-time dog lovers and dogs were always members of the family. They were not dogs that were stuck out in the back yard–they lived in the house with us. Puck was probably one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known and had an “old soul.” He was our nanny. We lived in a small beach town in Florida. Whenever my sister and I went out to roam the neighborhoods or the beach, my parents always said, “Take Puck with you and mind him.” We didn’t think there was anything odd about that! And because I was a rather shy child, I often preferred to spend my time with Puck than with other kids.
Tam is separated from his little girl Abby, but neither gives up finding each other again. I once found my missing cat after six months (I phoned the animal shelter on my birthday–and my cat was there!). Have you ever found a lost pet? 

This is kind of a “lost pet” story: when I was about five, our neighborhood was hit by a small tornado. It came on so suddenly, we barely had time to come in from the back yard and hide in the bathroom! When the storm passed, my sister said, “Oh no, Pucky is in the back yard!” My mother and sister and I ran to the back yard. Not only was Puck gone, but so was his dog house. We walked all over the neighborhood calling and calling his name. My mother even called my father at work and told him he had to come home and help find Puck. Right after my dad got home, we got a phone call from some folks several blocks away. The man said, “We got at dog house in our front yard and a dog in it that belongs to you”! Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Puck and his dog house had been picked up here, and dropped down over there. He never got in that dog house again.
I’ve always liked standard poodles, but my daughters don’t think I’m fashionable enough to own one (poodles apparently don’t like sweatpants!) What three dog breeds best represent you and why? 

Wow, three…that’s hard! My husband will tell you without hesitation that I’m a Border Collie. I’m always trying to get him to do something! And I need a job to do—I’m not a nap taker or lollygagger. But I’d like to think I also have the loyalty of a Sheltie and the stubbornness of a terrier.
Tam encounters many wild animals on his journey. Have you ever had a wild encounter while hiking with your dogs? 

Ha! Well, living up here in Park City, it’s not at all unusual to have close encounters of the wild kind. And I do spend a lot of time—all year round—out on the trails with my three dogs. We’ve frequently encountered moose, coyotes, foxes, deer, rabbits, grouse, elk, and unfortunately, skunks. One of my dogs, Boo, is a coyote mix so she loves to hunt. When she was younger, she’d run up and antagonize a moose until it had enough and chased her. Of course, she’d run straight to mom and hide behind me! Another time, she met a very friendly fox. They played and played together out in a field for a good ten minutes. It was so amazing—and of course, I didn’t have my camera with me.
I admire the way Abby sticks to her belief that Tam will return–long after everyone else gives up. Tell us about a time in which you’ve stuck up for your beliefs. 

I am by nature a fairly reticent, peace-making kind of person. I don’t like to “rock the boat.” BUT, I will not back down when it comes to the importance of adopting pets and the rights of our animal friends, whether they be domestic or wild. I will also have to say, I also had to really stand up for my beliefs when I was trying to find an agent or publisher for my book, A Dog’s Way Home. So many people (editors, agents, workshop critiquers) told me I “couldn’t” and “shouldn’t” write the book in two different points of view. But I knew in my gut and in my heart that that was the way the book had to be written. I stuck by my vision for the book until I finally found my wonderful agent who also believed in the way I had to tell the story. Eventually, she found my amazing editor, Molly O’Neill, who also believed in my vision (and may I point out, I originally met Molly at one of your SCBWI regional conferences the year before). What I learned from that is this: yes, you have to “pick your battles” but you also have to respect your instincts and your vision!
To find out more about Bobbie Pyron see her website:  Be sure to check out her blog too! You can see me with my big doggies featured in her Fido And Friend In Five series.

To win a copy of A Dog’s Way Home, please tell me what kind of dog best represents you!
Contest ends at midnight on March 23, 2011.
Open to book and dog lovers worldwide!  

Work-In-Progress: The End

Yesterday after I announced celebrating the completion of my first draft, a friend confessed to me that she didn’t experience joy in finishing her recent manuscript–because she felt as if there was so much more work to do.

Yes, I have much more work to do: characters to round, subplots to weave with thicker yarn, themes to emphasize…

But today I blissfully mismanaged my time. I nibbled the congratulatory chocolates I mailed to myself–while reading a book for pleasure; I took a long walk in the middle of the day; I flitted about online, window-shopping; I played long games of fetch with my kitten. I still haven’t showered. And maybe I won’t.

Yesterday I hosted a cupcake party for my daughters. Living with a writer isn’t easy–I space off mid-conversation, talk about people who don’t actually exist, sneak away from home on weekends, and ask weird questions about plot possibilities–again for a story that doesn’t yet exist. The revision process is only more obsessive–so we all deserved a treat.

The truffles, however, were all mine. I stretched myself with this manuscript, trying out a new genre, working hard, fighting doubt and fear, finding courage. I learn so much with each story I write–no matter if it ever reaches a bookstore or not. And that’s something to celebrate!

I urge you to mark your own milestones by doing something fun & slightly indulgent. Finding joy in the process of completing a big task–like a polished, ready-to-submit manuscript–is the best part of the journey.

Do to the fact that I have not yet showered, Minnie will be starring in today’s vlog:

Just don’t tell my mother that I’ve posted a cat video online (she’ll never let me hear the end of it!)

Impromptu Kitten Acquisition!

We went to the pet store for reptile reasons, but stopped to visit the cats waiting for adoption. One spunky kitten bounced around a cage of older cats, catching tails, and leaping in the air.

We hadn’t planned on adding a kitten to our busy household quite yet–but this one had the kind of personality that meshed with our other pets. And our old cat needed a bit of relief from our young cat’s playfulness. So we brought her home.

Everyone loves her. Especially Otis. And, even though she’s tiny she’s got our big dogs under her spell too!

Meet Otis, The Animal-Loving Kitten

I wasn’t sure how our new kitten would get along with all of our other animals…

It took a few days, but now Otis and Magnum snuggle together like old chums. I also wondered how this small cat would get along with our large dogs.

Otis loves Jack and Rosie–and even sneaks under their legs to snack on their food! He also loves to hang out with our tortoises, Sunny and Sandy.

We now make sure the tortoise cage is covered. Otis still tries to share their sunshine.

One day I found Otis snoozing on the tortoise cage while Sunny munched on his broccoli right below him–not caring even a little bit about the large shadow of a cat looming above. Now if only Otis didn’t want to be a writer…

At least he keeps my neck warm.