The book is Secrets of a Working Dog: Unleash Your Potential and Create Success (Joseph Rudolph Publishers, 2011). I wrote it from the perspective of my dog, Bella. She’s an opinionated boxer who doesn’t mind telling overworked and overstressed humans how to work smarter and be happier by thinking like a dog.
Bella calls humans on the carpet for their working habits and suggests that all the electronic time-saving gadgets in the world won’t make them happier or more productive. Pavlov’s salivating dogs don’t hold a candle to the packs of people who drool at every beep, ding or buzz that comes from their laptops, cell phones and BlackBerries. Indeed, being connected 24/7 makes humans tense, irritable, distracted and depressed. This makes their four-legged friends unhappy, too.
Through the voice of Bella, I offer readers ten secrets for living well-balanced and successful lives. The book contains fun and funny “Bella-isms,” along with interesting facts and figures and interviews with successful entrepreneurs and dog-friendly organizations across the country. (Don’t worry, cat lovers—there are cat stories, too!).
Tell us something about yourself.
I live in Portland, Oregon which is appropriately ranked as one of the dog-friendliest cities in America. I also have the privilege of being self-employed, which means that Bella has been coming to work with me since she was just a puppy. My “day job” is running a word of mouth marketing firm that I co-founded with my husband in 2002. I gave myself the title of Chief Wordsmith because I spend a large part of my time writing proposals, press releases and articles for industry trade journals. Several years ago on a whim, I created a blog in Bella’s voice as a fun diversion and a way to stretch my writing abilities. Funny enough, it took off and attracted quite a bit of media attention, too. In the time since, Bella has taught me so much about work/life balance that I decided to share her lessons in a book that would appeal to anyone else trying to juggle the realities of modern life in our fast-paced, digital world.
How did you choose the title?
One of the advantages of writing in Bella’s voice is that I get to poke gentle fun at my fellow humans without coming across as preachy or judgmental. I like the word “secrets” because it invokes the whole self-help genre—which is funny, considering that the self-help guru in question is a dog. As for the “working dog” part, Bella is technically a member of the working dog category. Instead of herding sheep or guarding property, however, she a new breed of digitally savvy canine who doesn’t mind giving unsolicited advice to the humans who desperately need her help.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I would never consider myself a night owl, but the only way I was going to get this book done was to write at night. Fortunately, I found my groove—from 8 PM to midnight, usually with Bella lying at my feet and a thermos of strong coffee on my desk! (Again, I’m lucky to live in Portland where it’s sacrilege to drink weak coffee.)
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
You can judge a book by its cover. In other words, good design matters—you can tell the greatest story in the world, but if your book doesn’t appeal to the eye it will never break through the clutter. And believe me, there is a lot of clutter. Luckily, Bella is a very photogenic dog and we worked with a very talented photographer and book designer who helped us put together a book that is aesthetically beautiful. We spent more money that we had planned, but it was worth it.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would ask my interviewees to sign a written release form at the time of our interview. I really cannot stress this enough. I waited until the book was near completion and then went back to those whose case studies I decided to include. Everyone was very gracious, but there were inevitable delays (busy schedules, vacations, etc.). It held up the production of the book by another four weeks.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
Naturally, I love books about dogs. Not the overly saccharine sort, but rather books that respect and celebrate the human-animal bond. One of my favorites is John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Writing a book is hard work, but once it’s done—it’s done. Marketing is much harder because it’s a non-stop endeavor. You have to believe passionately in your work and be willing to go out and sell it because nobody else can (or will) do it for you with the same enthusiasm or authenticity.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
This book is for anyone who loves animals and seeks straightforward and simple advice on how to balance the responsibilities and challenges of modern life and still have fun. It’s been very satisfying to get positive feedback from all age groups and professions—from teenagers to titans of business!
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?