Barbara Techel – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House is a true, inspirational story about my dachshund who became paralyzed in 2006 and is now wheelchair-bound, but does not let that stop her from giving back to the world in her own, unique way.  The book describes how Frankie became a registered therapy dog, and started making visits to Libby’s House, a senior assisted facility.  From her doggie point of view, she shares stories about her visits.  Many have Alzheimer’s or dementia and Frankie teaches us that patience, listening, and understanding opens our hearts to what matters most—which is love.

Tell us something about yourself.

I live in Wisconsin and have lived here all of my 46 years.  If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would end up being a children’s book writer, I would have told them they were crazy.  But a series of events that began back in 2004 led me to writing, and then writing children’s books and becoming very passionate about sharing my message that animals with disabilities should not be disposed of, but given a chance at life.

What inspired you to write this book?

Without a doubt, Frankie herself, my little red dachshund, with the liquid black eyes and spunky personality inspired me!  As I watched her go from being able to walk for six years, to falling and having no use of her back legs, through physical therapy, and then eventually fitted for a custom doggie wheelchair, I learned so much from her.  She never once felt sorry for herself and adjusted to her situation, learning how to move around without the use of her back legs.  She taught me that there are always blessings in every challenge we have, and that we always have a choice when faced with a difficult situation.  I realize if I choose to be positive no matter what, my life moves along much smoother.

As I began taking Frankie out and about in our little town of 1,200 residents, people were fascinated by the “little dog with tires.”  And kids especially loved her and thought it was so cool she could walk with the help of her special wheels.  It was then that I realized the blessing, which was that through Frankie’s example she could help kids see their challenges as steeping stones.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide to self-publish?

After many, many months of research, attending seminars, webinars, reading books, talking to others, I decided self-publishing was the best route for me.  I formed my own publishing company, Joyful Paw Prints and to date have published three children’s books about Frankie.  The first two books I went through a local area printer, but did not have distribution.  As I began to receive more exposure to my work, I really wanted distribution to take some of the work load of myself.  I decided on Lightning Source and have been very happy with that decision.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I have always liked to write, but had not really written for quite a few years.  In my early 40’s I had been feeling a void in my life.  I wanted to live a more joyful life, and I wanted that joy to come from doing something that was important to me and hopefully something that could give back to the world in a positive way.

At the time my 9-year old chocolate lab, Cassie Jo was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, which really had me thinking about my own mortality.  I felt an urgency to do something different that would bring me more happiness.  I decided to enlist the help of a life coach (www.leadyourlife.com), which was one of the best decisions I ever made for myself.

After a lot of deep soul searching, I knew I wanted to do something centered around animals, especially dogs.  Part of my coaching work was to journal my thoughts and feelings.  My coach complimented me that I was very well at expressing myself through words.  That is when the idea was born to begin writing about what I love best, which is animals.  I was lucky enough to land writing a monthly column with our local paper, and it has blossomed from there to writing for on line publications, Doxie Digest, Pet Home Magazine and my children’s books.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

Ha!  Good question.  For me it is procrastination.  I think as a writer you have to figure out what is going to make you write.  I know that sounds silly if you like to write, but for me I found being held accountable has me doing my best writing.  I have check in and let someone know I am doing my “job.”  It works well for me.

How do you do research for your books?

For my Frankie book series, I lived through the first story, so it was somewhat easy to write about since it is non-fiction.  The same with my 2nd book about Frankie’s therapy work.  If I have an idea, for me I have to experience what it is I am going to write about before I can begin writing.  I did therapy work with Frankie, from the training to visiting the senior assisted facility for a few months before I felt comfortable in beginning to tackle the concept for the book.

Did you learn anything from writing this book?  What?

Wow!  Great question!  I still continue to learn so much about life from my disabled dachshund.  She has opened my eyes to a world I would have never experienced.  One thing I did learn, as I mentioned above, is that I do my best writing by being held accountable.  I also found a new editor when I wrote my 2nd book, and working with her helped me become a better writer.  She would make suggestions for me on my work, put me in the “think tank” and have me think about how I could make it better.  I learned a lot through that process.

What are you reading now?

A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

Non-fiction, anything about dogs, inspirational, motivational, self-help.  I like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Jon Katz, Cheryl Richardson, Joan Anderson

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

In my mind I am formulating a new book, but I have not quite convinced myself of the idea yet.  Frankie and I are a volunteer therapy dog team for a local community hospice and I would love to write about our experiences during our visits.  I would like to teach kids about death, in a positive, uplifting way, through Frankie’s eyes.  But for the time being I am having a hard time figuring that out.  If it is meant to be, it will happen.  J  That much I know.  I try to hold the vision for what it is I want to write and pray for guidance.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

I say go for it!  Truly.  I think so many have a great story to tell but are afraid because of the statistics you here on getting published.  Decide what your goals are and do your research about what publication route is right for you.  But I get ahead of myself.  If you have a story to tell, just write it.  Don’t worry about the spelling, grammar, etc.  Just get it out on paper.  I often hear other authors say to just write 15-minutes to 30-minutes a day… and think about it.  If you did that you could have one page a day and by the end of the year you would have 365 pages… more than enough for a book!

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

I love internet marketing and using social media to get the word out, as well as keeping my blog up to date, doing appearances with Frankie, promoting visits with classrooms via Skype, entering contests, writing articles, doing radio shows, some book signings, and every summer I set up a table at our local Farmer’s Market and Frankie and I hang out so people can meet her.  I do very well selling my books via this avenue as we are a small town resort with lots of out of town visitors.  Whatever way I can be creative and find a way to market it, I give it a shot if it makes sense.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

They can visit me on my website, www.joyfulpaws.com or visit Frankie on her blog at www.frankiethewalknrolldog.blogspot.com