There are many contests and competitions out there you can enter if you’re an author. Many of them are very tempting, and they’re usually expensive to enter and the odds are so great against one winning. Every once in a while, I’ll enter one of my books in one of those for independent “indie” publishers, but I’ve never entered one just as an author.
So imagine my surprise last year, when I looked in my inbox to find a post telling me I’d won one!
Of course at first, I thought it was just another spam scam, looking for money or to hack into my email account. But no, it was legit. Turns out there’s this area events-focused magazine—Bucks Happening that holds an annual “best of” type contest for any number of categories ranging from “Most Happening Nightspot” to “Most Happening Artist.” Because I live in Bucks County, PA—an area with a long history of embracing and nurturing the arts—there was even a “Most Happening Author” category, and that’s the one I won.
So, big deal, right? Well…kinda, yeah. Because first of all, I didn’t even know about this contest. Second of all, I didn’t know I’d been nominated. And most of all, because this isn’t a thing where the hosting publication nominates you for its own self-promotional reasons; you get nominated by someone in the reading public. In short, someone who’d read my book actually thought enough of it to nominate me for this honor. And that, my friends, is the kind of thing an author lives for.
Sure, you can look on it as a flimsy popularity contest of sorts, and I suppose to some extent, that’s true. But since I’ve never spent one second of my life thinking of myself as a “popular” person, I choose instead to see this as recognition bestowed by someone who thought enough of my work to earn me the honor, with no reflection on themselves because it was done anonymously.
I’ll take that every time, and gratefully!
So, as nominations are again open for this year’s Most Happening List, I reflect on how thrilled I was to receive last year’s honor, and take this opportunity to say thanks to that person who nominated me, and to all those who voted and helped me win. I appreciate everyone who’s ever read my work, and hope you all enjoyed it and will take a look when my next book comes out.
Since completing her Frankie series of children’s books, Barb has gone on to write and publish a couple nonfiction titles. The first was Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances, which I had the honor of editing. It’s the only book solely on this subject, and is absolutely stuffed with useful information for any author trying to promote their book.
Barb’s latest nonfiction effort is Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way. It’s a courageous sharing of Barb’s personal story, about how her entire life was transformed by the love of a small red dachshund who lost the use of her back legs. Barb was inspired by her miniature dachshund, Frankie, who ruptured a disk in her lower back when she was 6 years old and was given only a 30% chance of walking again. This led Barb to have Frankie custom-fit for a dog cart to help her walk again. Through Frankie’s Eyes is a moving read she sent me at a time when I was going through some personal struggles of my own, and I found it inspiring and uplifting, at a time when I really needed that. So I’m sharing with you here a recent visit with Barb about this marvelous book, in hopes that perhaps it can do the same for you.
Q. What was your initial reaction when your dog was given only a 30% chance of walking again?
I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine what Frankie’s life would be like if she didn’t walk on her own again. And just as I talk about my book and being honest, I share that I questioned if I even wanted to take care of a handicapped pet. How would my own life change? How would I do this? I was scared.
But I loved Frankie so much and I wanted to give her a chance. It changed me in a way I never saw coming, and I’m so grateful.
Q. Was Frankie’s injury the impetus to help other dogs with disabilities?
Very much so. I never had even heard about dog wheelchairs (also called dog carts) before this happened to Frankie. When I had Frankie custom-fitted for her wheelchair, I was amazed at how she could do pretty much all the same things she did before her paralysis. Her wheelchair was just a tool to help her live a quality life.
When Frankie became paralyzed in 2006, I didn’t really hear of any other dogs such as her who were in wheelchairs. It was part of the reason I wrote a children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog about her, to help spread a positive message and educate not only small children, but parents and grandparents who would read the story to their kids/grandkids and they could learn that dogs with disabilities can lead a great life if given a chance.
Q. Your story, Cassie & Frankie Inspire a Writer, won an honorable mention award in 2007, in a contest sponsored by Linda and Allen Anderson of Angel Animals Network. Who is Cassie, and were you inspired to help just Frankie when you wrote the book or article, or did it move you to help other disabled dogs, as well?
Cassie was my chocolate Lab, who passed away in 2005 from terminal bone cancer. She inspired me to become a writer. I was in awe of how she continued to be happy even though a tumor in her body was growing and would eventually take her life. It awakened me to go after what it was that would bring me more joy, and to live my own life to the fullest. Though cliché, it hit me over the head how short life really is.
Little did I know that nine months after Cassie’s death, Frankie would then become paralyzed. Though it was painful and tough at the beginning of Frankie’s ordeal, I knew I was being presented with an opportunity to spread a positive message.
Q. Has being the owner of a disabled dog made you more sensitive to disabled people?
You know, I’ve always been sensitive to disabled people. But I’d say my empathy and compassion deepened. Even more than that, my respect for them grew, as I realized even more what they are up against in their day-to-day lives.
Q. You are an advocate of the human-animal bond. What can you tell us about animal communication?
I’m very fascinated by the human-animal bond. I honestly believe if not for my dogs, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I’ve learned so much from them and feel I’m a better human being because of having them in my life.
One thing that concerns me is that I don’t know that we take the time to really see and tune into our pets. I know it’s not always easy in our very busy, day-to-day lives, and believe me — I’m not perfect at this, either. But I truly believe they are trying to help us mortal human beings to live more consciously, and to awaken to living more fully in the present moment.
Q. What can dogs teach us?
The list is endless! For me, I’ve learned to appreciate nature. I’ve learned to live more in the here and now. I’ve learned to worry less. I’ve learned to be still more often. I’ve learned not to take life too seriously. I’ve learned to be positive and look for blessings in challenges. I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a nap in the middle of the day.
Q. I understand you created National Walk ‘n Roll Dog Day, which is observed annually on September 22. How are paralyzed dogs helped because of this day?
Yes, I am the founder of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day, which I launched in 2012. This special day is in memory of Frankie, created in honor of all dogs in wheelchairs around the world. Frankie touched the lives of thousands during her six years in a wheelchair, visiting schools in my state of Wisconsin. She even became a dog who visited schools via Skype! Frankie also touched many lives as a therapy dog visiting hospice, hospitals and nursing homes.
I was so inspired by Frankie and all the dogs in wheelchairs that I wanted to have this special day in their honor. It’s my hope to continue to shine a positive light on these dogs, who overcome adversity so beautifully. We can learn so much from their amazing spirits.
Along with this special day, I created The Frankie Wheelchair Fund. This fund grants wheelchairs to paralyzed dogs who may otherwise not have been able to have one, such as when their families are in financial stress, or the dog is in a rescue situation. To date, we have granted 32 wheelchairs to dogs in need.
I often tell folks that one of the reasons I love working in the world of publishing — in any aspect; as author, publisher, event coordinator, instructor — is that by and large, the other people in this industry are truly great. Yes, there are a few overblown egos and perhaps an author or two who’s too busy envying a peer’s success to be happy for them. You find those types in every field. But by an overwhelming margin, this industry is populated with interesting, interested, kind, caring, diligently hardworking, decent and deeply generous people who sincerely want to see each other do well.
And they walk their talk, let me tell you. In no other place have I witnessed the kind of selfless outreach to those on their way up or to those who don’t quite believe they can do it yet, by those in a position to lend a helping hand. You are almost certain that it’s not motivated by self-interest or the hope of some kind of return (other than, perhaps, a little interest gained on such investment in the Great Karma Bank), because in almost every circumstance, those who can help are no longer in need of such aid themselves. Usually, they’ve already “made it,” whatever “it” means to them. It’s this position of comfort and security that allows them to look beyond themselves to those still struggling to find their place in the great world of books.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. There is always that person who, regardless how hard s/he is working toward his/her own success, somehow finds the time, energy and interest to still hold out a hand to help a fellow scribbler learn the professional ropes, find an effective new tool or technique, or to make a needed connection. And never underestimate the importance of these small kindnesses, for there are at least as many stairways to heaven built of tiny bricks and cobblestones rather than mighty slabs of granite.
Certainly I have been the beneficiary of such spiritual largesse more than once. Countless times, for reasons that often still mystify me, someone saw something in me that sparked such uncommon kindness. From my first English teachers who encouraged my early, clumsy attempts at creative writing; to my high school newspaper advisor who saw that I could never quite make peace with the inverted pyramid form yet still told me to stick with it; to my college professor who agreed to write the foreword to my first history book; to the many author colleagues who cheered me on as I “went for it” as an independent publisher when a contract fell through too late to find another publisher and still meet the deadline for my marketing hook; to the other indie publishers who constantly help me navigate this unsettled, revolutionary industry that never looks the same on any given day.
And equally certain is the knowledge that rarely can I pay these people back, because, as described above, most of them don’t really need my help anymore. And so it falls to me, and to others who similarly benefit, to pay it forward. It’s incumbent upon each of us to remain aware of those around us, so we may recognize those who may also be struggling as we once did, and to reach out that helping hand to offer advice, a listening ear, and maybe just a little hope. Someday, it will be their turn to do the same.
And that brings me to the particular example of this point that I’d like to share, one that points out that no matter how far you’ve come along this path as a writer and an author, there is always someone doing better than you are, and there’s always someone who could use your help. The grace of the situation enters when we remain humble enough to recognize that truth.
About a month ago, one of the more well-known Southern authors writing popular fiction today was honored with an award named after one of the most famous American authors of all time. Such an award is, in itself, such a massive validation of one’s lifetime body of work, it’s hard to imagine a greater honor. Until you imagine what it would be like if the famous author after whom the award was named shows up to present you that award herself, in person. And that’s what I want to share with you here.
Now if that isn’t the epitome of grace on Lee’s part, I just don’t know what is. I mean, this woman is literary royalty. She doesn’t need to bother herself to leave her comfortable home and traipse to some hot venue to give away a statue to someone who still aspires to breathe the same atmosphere. But she did. And apparently, it wasn’t the first time she’d made the effort to help an up-and-comer whose talent she recognized and believed in. No, there’s a long history of nurturing between these two incredible artists, and its story touched me and reminded me that fully half of what makes books wonderful is the experience we gain on the way to being able to write them. This article tells one of those heartening stories, and I just thought you’d like it, too.
May it continue to remind us all that none of us is ever too small to be worthy of a little encouragement, nor too big to be above lending a hand when we can. I hope that when it’s your turn to need help, you accept it with grace, and that when it’s your turn to give help, you do it with gratitude for the opportunity to give back.
This legacy post first appeared on my old blog September 12, 2009:
According to the Southern Review of Books: Two previously unpublished Hercule Poirot stories by Agatha Christie have been discovered among her family papers. The works were unearthed from the crates of letters, drafts and notebooks stored by Christie at Greenway, her holiday home set in a seaside garden in Devon, “The Guardian” reported. The new stories will be included in “Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making,” which will be published by HarperCollins this month.
And speaking of cozies, “Mission: Murder,” the first in the Hattie Farwell Mystery Series published by Enspirio House, an imprint of Word Forge Books, is celebrating its first-year anniversary. Some of you may be aware that I am the founder and publisher of Word Forge Books, so I am especially proud to announce that this anniversary is extra-special.
In May, Betty’s book was awarded a Silver Medal in the prestigious 2009 Independent Publisher Best Book Awards.
“Mission: Murder” garnered the silver for Best Regional Fiction, beating out 54 other titles in the category. Not bad for an 80-year-old author, huh? You can read more about Betty at her website.