In Support of Children and Dogs

Oh yes, we communicators are all alike in at least one way – given time and inspiration, surely a great book will emerge from these talented fingers. Or not. Unless you’re Greg Bardsley, Al Riske, Rachel Canon or a handful of others who have actually done the hard work of writing and publishing.

I’d still be sitting there, kidding myself that any day now, my masterpiece shall write itself and bring thunderous applause, if I wasn’t approached by my friend, Rose Nielsen, last summer. Rose asked, “Would you be willing to write a children’s book about therapy dogs to support the Dog Program at Children’s Hospital?”


Dogs? Children? Writing? Are you kidding? I was in!

What an amazing process, filled with great collaboration and mutual support…After settling on the concept (Rose’s therapy dog, Blondie, would go on a treasure hunt at Children’s Hospital), we spent a fair amount of time brainstorming what the treasure hunt would look like and what parts of the hospital Blondie would explore.  I wrote a draft, Rose had it test-marketed with a class of grade school children, I revised it, we tested it again, revised again. We went from thinking the book would be a combination of photography and illustrations to just illustration. Rose found Adonna Khare, a (fabulous) illustrator who was willing to work with us. Adonna asked for sketches for each page which I created in my clearly untrained hand, but which were a blast to do.

Then the book had to be laid out and designed. Reviewed. Revised. Reviewed. Revised.

Meanwhile, Rose was hard at work arranging printing, pricing, and marketing – all those things that I hate doing but are oh so necessary.

And so we are approaching the realization of this dream, filled with whimsical drawings and a sweet story. The book should be for sale mid-summer, with all profits going to support the Dog Program at Children’s Hospital. We hope to raise a minimum of $5,000, although clearly I’d love to raise more.

Use this one.png


Try again.png


What a journey…from casual conversation to rough draft to rough illustrations to final product… I’ll let all of you know when the book is available for purchase!




The Best from the Best – Your 2014 Reading List

Nose in a book

I asked my Facebook friends a simple question a couple days ago – what book was your favorite read for 2013? And with that, 40 suggestions came pouring in! I don’t know about you, but I’m always interested in a great read. And I was excited to see some books that I already had on my Kindle/iPad that (I confess) I forgot I bought or had second thoughts about so hadn’t tried them yet. They are now on my top list. And as pleased I was to see books on the list that I, too, read and loved, it’s the treasure trove of new reads awaiting me that has me really excited.

Thank you everyone! Here’s the list (in  the order they came in), along with who recommended it and  links so you can read more about each one of them! Merry Christmas!

  1. The Golem and the Jini by Helene Wacker (Karen Shamban) (I second this recommendation – great read)
  2. At the Devil’s Table, The Untold Story of the Insider who brought down the Cali Cartel by William Rempel (Me!)
  3. The Frieda Klein mystery series by Nicci French (Penny Bruce)
  4. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison (Penny Bruce)
  5. Capital by John Lanchester (Penny Bruce)
  6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Matt Artz) (This was sitting on my Kindle, forgotten. Hidden treasure!)
  7. The Humans by Matt Haig (Matt Artz)
  8. Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanvich (Jan Brockway)
  9. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Carolyn McKenzie)
  10. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Karen Shamban) (I loved this book – found it a fast and fascinating read)
  11. The Big Short by Michael Lewis (Carolyn McKenzie)
  12. Where Did You Go Bernadette? by Marie Semple (Carol Capps) (I agree – great read!)
  13. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Nancy Weintraub) (Thanks for lead, Nancy. Never heard of this but it looks terrific)
  14. Home by George Saunders (Mike Bellissimo)
  15. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (Greg Bardsley)
  16. Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Greg Bardsley)
  17. Rake by Scott Phillips (Greg Bardsley)
  18. Luminarium by Alex Shakar (Rachel Canon) (Another forgotten treasure on my Kindle… thanks, Rachel!)
  19. Tenth of December by George Saunders (Rachel Canon)
  20. Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Rachel Canon)
  21. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (Phyllis Scargle)
  22. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Betty Chase)
  23. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Betty Chase)
  24. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Joan Gross) (This was terrific – ever what happened to Doc in the Shining? Now you’ll know!)
  25. The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett (Joan Gross) (loved this book – didn’t want it to end)
  26. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Dana Fugate)
  27. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Linda Crowe and Ann Bischoff) (Can’t speak for the movie but the book is fantastic. Geri Rhoades first recommended it to me and I couldn’t put it down)
  28. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayer (Linda Crowe)
  29. Savages by Don Winslow (Al Riske)
  30. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (Geri Rhoades)
  31. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (Geri Rhoades) (Just finished – was surprised at how good this was…)
  32. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Ann Bischoff)
  33. Hild by Nicola Griffith (Ann Bischoff)
  34. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (April Rassa)
  35. The Circle by Dave Eggers (April Rassa and Hal Stern)
  36. The End of Wasp Season by Denise Mina  (Peter Ryan)
  37. Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin (Hal Stern)
  38. Squeeze Play by Jane Leavey (Hal Stern)
  39. Human Division by John Scalzi (Hal Stern)
  40. The Duplex by Kathryn Davis (Me!)

LATE BREAKING NEWS! Other suggestions that came in response to this post:

41.  Lush Life by Richard Price (Ellen McGlone)

42. The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Mike Bellissimo) (Hey, Mike – this looks amazing! Thanks!)

43. Little Bee by Chris Cleve (Kathy Knopoff)

44. Pilgrim’s Wilderness by Tom Kizzia (Kathy Knopoff)

45.  Unwritten by Charles Martin (Kathy Knopoff)

So there you have it. Keep track of books you love in the coming year, and we’ll do this again next December. Ye ha!

The Calm Between Storms

Is it the new drugs? A new maturity? (God forbid!) The fact I have no trips to Cleveland scheduled? Or a momentary acceptance?

I don’t know to what to attribute my calmness these days. But I’m in a good place, and seem to be coping with my mom’s illness more rationally. It’s mindful, and believe me, no disrespect intended, to when I lost Inspector, one of my favorite dogs of all time. I went across the street to tell my neighbors that my beloved was gone, and I started sobbing. After 10 minutes, I wiped off my face and felt – OK. The last three months feel like that 10-minute emotional storm, and I’m emerging from it in a better place.

It seems that all the advice was right, although I did sneer at it initially. I needed to separate myself from the situation so I didn’t react so violently to every bump and irritation.  And to do this, I needed to take a longer view, which I couldn’t do before.

Because my mom’s condition has been so volatile (She’s great! No, she’s on her deathbed! No, she’s great!  No, call 911!), I was living in the moment.  Panicked and exhausted and angry, it’s no wonder I wasn’t the most pleasant company.  But a switch went off in my head during this last trip to Cleveland, and it was a welcome move to a “what will be, will be” mentality.  So I’ve stopped fighting some things:

  • Want to drive, mom?  I think it’s a very bad idea but I can’t stop you.  Just don’t tell me about it.
  • Want to take everything out of your safety deposit box and keep in it your house, where various caretakers can steal it?  It’s your stuff to lose.  Just don’t tell me about it when it’s stolen.
  • Refuse to use your cane because you think it makes you look old (!!)?  Then don’t.  I’ll still love you when you fall and break your hip.

I’m channeling my good friend, Betty Chase, who would often say,  “Change what you can change and don’t fret about what you can’t.”

Oh, and take your daily dose of Zoloft, too!  No point taking foolish chances!

Who Me? Go Off Half-Cocked?

I heard from the powers that be that I was a wee bit premature in posting my Scott McNealy blog. So I’ve pulled it down. Look for it in a few more days.