As I resettle in to life in to life in a log home in rural Florida, my creativity is encouraged by the slower pace of life and natural beauty of this area. Unpacking more boxes, I recently came upon a stash of books, mostly animal-rescue anthologies published by the Revell-Baker Group to which I’d contributed over several years, edited by Lonnie Hull Dupont who wrote and edited under the name of Callie Smith Grant.
Discovering this bin of books found next to a box of my art supplies, motivated me to take steps to return to writing and painting. But, the ability to focus is often lost in the grief recovery process. One day you feel like you can write a novel, or a memoir, or begin a series of paintings. The next day, however, it can be challenging just to form a complete usable paragraph or prep a canvas, or just write a blog post that needs to “air” the next day. I try to remind myself to just take small steps when the energy presents.
Today I spent some time talking with a “book coach” on defining one’s message as a writer. Basically, when you set out to write a book about your personal experiences during a specific period of time (a memoir) you need to consider who would actually invest their time reading (and of course buying) your work. It isn’t just about the writing, these days especially, the marketing aspect is compelling. The book industry is extremely competitve and you must stand out and make readers care about “your story” by offering some value to their own lives. I keep a note book where I jot down potential Working Titles and elevator pitches for my projects. If someone asked me to explain the unique message or purpose of any project I should be able to do that in just a few sentences, clearly and concisely.
Somehow, over the course of a decade, I’ve managed to see five books published and I’ve contributed to four animal-rescue anthologies. That alone is encouraging and motivates me to try again.
As I was writing this post, I recalled that I’d submitted an essay for another Revell anthology, this time for a bird-themed project. After I’d sent it to Lonnie, she’d written to say that she liked my submission, but wasn’t well and the book would be delayed. For some reason, I got a bad feeling as I was writing about her and when I googled her name, I was saddened to find her obituary as she’d passed just a few months ago. So much has gone on in my own life, sometimes things get past me.
Rich and I’d met Lonnie when she and I presented on a publishing panel for a BlogPaws writing conference in Chandler, AZ . At that event she’d invited me to submit a story for her upcoming anthology Second Chance Dogs. I did, and was thrilled when that book won the Maxwell Medallion presented by the Dog Writers Association of America for best book in the category of dog rescue. I was honored to go on to submit to Lonnie’s other anthologies – The Horse of My Dreams, The Cat in the Christmas Tree and The Dog Who Came to Christmas which was a Finalist in the DWAA Writing Competition last year.
Rich and I would later meet Lonnie at another Blog Paws Conference in Myrtle Beach. She reminded Rich of one of his favorite relatives and he enjoyed our meetings bonding over animals and pet-writing. These memories remain very special to me.
Lonnie, who served as a senior acquisitions editor for the Baker Publishing Group and editor of several of their animal-themed anthologies was a good friend to humans and animals, and an encouraging editor. By including me in several of her projects, and supporting me as a writer, I became more confident in my skills and now I hope to use that inspiration to do better as a writer, and as a human, going forward.
Thank you Lonnie for your enduring gifts. I know her family will miss her hugely this holiday season and beyond.
Here are the beautiful covers of some of her anthologies. Have a good first week of December.