When I came home from work the other day, there was a box on the table. That’s not unusual–I do plenty of online shopping, and there’s often a box on the table. It took me a minute, though, to realize where this one had come from. Then I pretty much ripped it open.
I really loved writing this book, and not just because it was my first chance to put my name on the cover of some children’s nonfiction. Okay, on the cover of a CHILDREN’S BOOK (!!!!!), period. The research and the writing was lots of fun. So much fun, I can probably come up with, oh….FIVE reasons.
1. Talking to dog people. They’re different from cat people, you know. And, as much as I love my cat and all the cats I’ve had over the years, there’s a piece of me that is…doggy. I really do love meeting a dog on the street and stopping to say hello and chat for a minute. And I am talking about chatting with the dog, not just the dog’s owner. You know, if you try to have an active conversation with a cat, yeah, well…they’re not all that excited by the concept. Have you fed me? Are you offering a lap? I’ll be with you as soon as I finish staring into the corner to weird you out. Yes, they’re always good for a snuggle or a rub-against-the-leg on passing. But the level of greeting a dog will give you is just on another plane. Especially if they’re a smart dog and a nice dog and they know you’re a smart and nice person who’s not threatening their owner in any way. For research, I got to talk to several breed specialists and breeders. Very cool people who love their dogs, who get their dogs, and who were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.
2. Figuring out the cool facts about dogs in general, hounds specifically, and different breeds of hound even more specifically–the cool facts that the kids reading the book would love. Things like the difference between how a scent hound and a sight hound will go after a rabbit. Like how high you really do have to build your fence to keep your hound from jumping it. Like how to pick your puppy out of a litter.
3. Sorting and sifting. Honestly, this is the best part, for me, about writing nonfiction for kids. You research and read and interview, and you gather simply oodles of information. For a 32-page book. Oodles. 32 pages. Then you pick the big concepts, the important topics, to share. Then you filtering out all the stuff you can’t write about and write tightly about the stuff you can. In an engaging voice. Engaging to the kids and engaging to you, as the author. It’s a persona, I think, different from the one in me who speaks out loud, different from the one who writes novels and picture books, different from the one who sits in my office at work. I think it’s probably the closest to a teacher persona I will ever have, and–happy days–it comes without lesson-planning or classroom structure or essay grading (all of which I am in AWE of teachers for; none of which I’m any good at).
4. Working with Capstone. This part of the job was a joy from start to finish–from the first call from the acquisitions editor asking if I’d like the job (Hello?! Why, yes, I think SO!) to the submission and revision passes, to the emails back & forth about logistics and “tricky spots.” I am so lucky to have made this connection and have this opportunity.
5. Getting to say things like, “My book’s coming out in February.” ” Aren’t the dogs in my book adorable?” “Did you know that a hound can…? Oh, sure. I wrote about it in my book.” Honestly, I do try not to say these things too often or too loud, but you can bet I mutter them quietly around the house when I need a pick-up. It is just an awesome feeling. Like a little extra jolt of caffeine, or perhaps some other more illicit but absolutely risk-free drug. Especially when, as with this book, the work felt so much like not-work.
Now you’re asking, what’s the Plus One? Oh, you know, just that last thing that would have made the experience perfect…
+1. If I’d gotten to actually meet and greet with this guy–whose photo is, I believe, my favorite from the whole book.