After months (well actually 2 years) the project is completed and The Street Dog is a reality!
So please indulge me while I brag shamelessly about my first effort at authoring and illustrating a children’s book.
Most of you that have followed this blog have a real soft spot for pit bulls. And you must know by now that I do too – and hopefully you recognize the tremendous impact my boy, Ca$h Money, has had on my life since adopting him over two years ago. So of course the protagonist of The Street Dog is a pit bull modelled after Ca$h. It is my way of thanking him for all that he has given me. In addition to providing me with courage (how can one not be brave with a 73 pound bundle of muscle by their side?) he single-handedly restored my ability to become inspired artistically and opened up a new world of creativity for me. After having closing my sketch pad for over ten years, I reopened it in January of 2013 and attempted my first simple effort. You can probably guess who my subject was. Very shortly after that I was walking Ca$h in a local park and the idea for a book lodged in my mind and refused to leave. By the end of that walk I had characters, personalities and a plot for The Street Dog.
I wrote in my entry ‘How it all Began’ that when I left work on leave of absence in November of 2011 I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and almost full-blown agoraphobia. I wrote that I was terrified to touch my fingers to the keyboard of my computer. This is not an exaggeration. Three years later I have taught myself over eight different graphics applications and have become fairly proficient with my (really cool) Wacom Tablet.
The result is a beautiful children’s book that weighs in at a hefty 54 pages-almost twice the number of pages for the industry standard. It is divided into four grown-up chapters that I feel will make a child feel that sense of accomplishment in conquering something that resembles a real grown-up book. The Street Dog even has its own Table of Contents! The text itself, however, is not complex. It is appropriate for the early-reader age group with some ‘reach words’ sprinkled here and there to encourage vocabulary expansion. The ending of each chapter is a cliff-hanger. I want the reader to want to turn the page to find out what happens next! The dimensions of the book are a generous 8.5 x 11 inches. Every page has at least one illustrations and some have up to three. The larger-than -average size is ideal for read-alongs. I pictured an adult sitting down with a child and reading the book to them initially, giving them the confidence to pick the book up by themselves and enjoy the challenge of reading it solo. The size also makes The Street Dog ideal for group reading. No one is going to have any problem seeing the illustrations in a gathering.
The canine characters in the book are all an homage to dogs that have passed through my life or are still in it, and have belonged to family and friends. Folks in my area in Delaware may recognize the alley behind Ciao Pizza where Dog is bottoms-up in the dumpster foraging for a meal. Some will recognize the steps of the Westminster Presbyterian Church steps where Dog seeks refuge, shivering in a snowstorm. A street corner in Trolley Square opens the first chapter. Even my own husband is not safe – a bald guy at the shelter was inspired by him!
Behind the fun and colorful images are powerful and multiple messages. Embracing one’s own individuality, diversity, self-esteem and the importance of adopting needy animals are all issues I wanted to address. There are two more manuscripts in the editing process that deal with sibling rivalry and bullying. And there is an outline for another installment that encourages neighborhood care and cleanliness. All of these topics are dealt with in a practical and (of course) humorous manner. It was important to me that children understand they are not alone-everyone goes through a myriad of trials throughout their life-and there are good solutions to all of them.
The Street Dog is currently being sold on the Balboa Publishing website, Barnes and Noble website, Amazon, in Kindle and Nook form and on our own website, http://www.waltthestreetdog.com. I invite you to check the website out. It is colorful, easy to navigate and offers opportunities for readings, visits and signings. If you order the book through our website we will send you an autographed copy (autographed!) and will make every effort to get it there before Christmas. I cannot think of an animal-loving child or adult that will not enjoy this heartwarming story.
I could write thousands of words on The Street Dog, but I’ll spare you that. What I do want to leave you with is this: three years ago I sat immobile all day on a couch, wrapped in a quilt, with the meager comfort of a heating pad-too frightened to join in life. I wondered if all of the fear and pain was worth living for the slim hope that things might change. I am here to tell you that it is. Things do change – minute to minute. The path you are following keeps moving forward. If you are in pain, gut it out. Hang tough. Your pain is temporary and you are braver than you know. I know that great things await you.
You are meant to help change this world.