More accurately, it is my turn to finish writing something I’ve been working on for a few years–a memoir. I’m close to finishing a draft to send off to my agent (the brilliant Jennifer Gates, an angel of an agent to whom I owe the world already). It is tough to split my days working on a book different from one I’ve ever written before from all the other facets of my professional life. Memoirs are famously difficult to write, and silly me, I decided to write a “mutual memoir” about me and Willie, giving myself an extra challenge. I want to write a book that is personal, unflinchingly honest, and yet underscores universal truths about the human (and canine) condition. That is what all good memoirs should do. But they are not easy to write, I can now attest. When you read them, good ones flow as if there was no other way they could have been written, but I guarantee you there was a lot of editing and re-organizing that went into the final copy. What to say, what not to say and when to say it, turns out to be the greatest writing challenge I’ve ever faced.
I’m close to finishing what I hope is a final draft, and in order to do so I am going to unplug from the rest of my professional life this week. I now understand why writers often want to escape to that cabin in the woods; it is astounding how many distractions rip you away from your writing. If it’s not a crisis at the office, it’s the maple tree that has to come down before it falls on your car, or the gate that didn’t shut well enough and let the ram out to the ewes you didn’t want bred. I don’t have a cabin to escape to, and the farm will still be the farm, but at least I am going to focus most of my day on finishing a draft of the book so that I can send it off, take a deep breath and hope-beyond-hope that I have written something good enough to be published. If all goes well, at some point it will go out to publishers and some editor will like it and fight for his or her house to take it. I have no idea if that will happen–the publishing world is very different than it was twelve years ago: my agent said she wasn’t even sure that The Other End of the Leash would be published if I sent it out now. Of course there are always alternatives to a big publishing house, but it is always better for one of the big hats to take it on.
Cross your paws for me that I can finish up a draft that is good enough to send out. Every day I’ll go out into the woods and soak up any “good writing energy” you all might be able to send my way.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm. It’s balmy! Highs in the 30’s! Lows no lower than 15 or 20 degrees Farenheit. Ah, be still my heart. After temps going down to zero and highs in the single digits, this weather is just lovely. Maggie and I have been working sheep every day–she is just beginning to get a handle on inside flanks (which asks the dog to run the opposite of their instincts), working in tight areas with more confidence and discovering that, deep inside her, she has the power to move balky sheep who are happy to turn and confront her. We are having a ball.
Willie is in the best shape he’s ever been; he and Maggie play so hard twice a day that sometimes I stop them lest Willie blows a gasket. I also don’t think he has ever been happier. Sometimes he looks at me with so much joy in his face that my own heart expands as if it couldn’t be contained inside of my chest. He adores Maggie and playing tug and run-run-running hard an fast every day.
Tootsie is good too. Yesterday she went for her annual health check for the Pet Pals program. All the dogs go into the UW Vet School clinic the same morning, and we all have a great time in the waiting room together. The dogs are absolutely bomb proof and are happy to greet one another. Tootsie adores it, she goes in with her spaniel tail wagging like a drum stick in a rock band. We two-leggers love it too, because we don’t often get a chance to all be together. Here are some of the other wonderful dogs in the Pet Pals program:
Elvis is being cuddled in friend Halle’s lap. All the kids love Elvis, whose tongue always hangs out because of a jaw injury. Many of the children we visit at the American Family Children’s hospital have been badly injured too, and they love hearing stories about how happy Elvis is now.
The sweet and lovely Angel is another favorite–you couldn’t find a more gentle dog if you tried. Angel is rocking the latest in Christmas wear…
See you all in a week! Hope it is a good one for you.
Vera Stewart says
Good luck on writing your memoire! Realize it must really be difficult, needing to be in just the right mood. Go to those calm inspiring places and we will be thinking about what you are trying to accomplish.
Kathleen Bullard says
What a shame it would be if “The Other End of the Leash” had never been published. As a first time dog owner it has, and is, invaluable to me. As with your other books and essays, I love your sense of humor and straightforward unequivocal advice (“it depends!”).
Good luck with the writing – do your best work and I am sure there will be a way that it will get out to all of us in one form or another. We’re cheering for you!
Sending you all the best writing energy I can muster and very much looking forward to reading the final product published (all paws crossed) by one of the giants in the industry.
Loved the therapy dog photos. Ranger does more group visits than individual ones so he does get to see his work buddies often although they seldom get to really socialize with each other. One of the dogs in our Chapter of Therapy Dogs International is a huge Chesapeake Bay Retriever and whenever he and Ranger are at the nursing home together they always try to engage with each other playfully when they pass in the hallways. Thinking they’d enjoy a chance to really run and rough house after one visit we took them to an empty dog park and let them off leash to play. Ranger went around the park reading the news and the Chessie found a ball and insisted on playing fetch. They never once really engaged with each other. On leash at work it’s all minimalist play bows, friendly shoulder bumps, and brief tooth jousts; off leash in a park they had other business to attend to. Dogs, gotta love ’em.
Vicki in Michigan says
Sending “good writing energy” your way!
Chris from Boise says
With your hordes of faithful readers, a Kickstarter campaign would work if a major publisher is too obtuse to see the audience waiting for this book. But first – close the blinds, turn off your phone, settle the dogs, and focus on the final draft. Writing is HARD work!
Love your description of Willie and Maggie play-play-playing! It was worth the wait to find the right match for Will, and Maggie sounds like a great young girl in her own right. And then Tootsie, who has found her niche with you. What a change from her former life!
I’m surrounded by writers, my mom was a writer, I write almost every day. I know i know i know! Good luck, can’t wait to read it. I don’t quite remember if I fell in love first with books or dogs. A life long deep love.
I still would love to buy post cards of Maggie’s pic in the snow.
I understand how it feels to see one’s dog so happy. My BC is very anxious so those moments when she lets go are magical for me.
Barbara Briggs says
I am gobsmacked that a professional whom I respect so much for her ability to communicate so effortlessly with both the dogs and us “two legs”, has any doubt whatsoever that her writing will be sought after by the publishing world and us readers. We are waiting breathlessly for your next book, and I can’t imagine any book more fun than reading about your life with all your dogs, especially Willie. I’m sure it has been a lot of work to decide what the final product will look like, but just know that there many of us who think you can’t put a word wrong. Best of luck and congrats on finishing.
Christy Paxton says
Oh boy, can I relate. I am trying to put out a second edition of a book I published in 2010. I started out announcing “Coming out in April 2014!” and am now reduced to desperately hoping I can hit Send by year’s end. And my college major was Creative Writing… =8-0 Stick with it!! I can’t wait to read it.
Robin Jackson says
Best of luck: that’s a book I very much look forward to reading!
Sending creative writing vibes to the woods for you to find. I’m so looking forward to reading it. Got a title yet? “It Depends” or “Willie and Me” or “The Other End of the Walk”?
maggie moss says
I loved ‘The other end of the Leash’ It really gave me some sound advise’ way back when’ and have just got it out of the library again for the 3rd time in as many years .
Can’t wait for your memoirs .
I feel bad commenting, don’t want to distract you.
I can’t wait for that book! Go write! Crossing all paws, though you don’t need it.
I can’t imagine (or, perhaps more accurately, don’t WANT to imagine) that your memoir would have trouble finding a publisher. You have a platform, a proven track record, a built-in audience, and (most importantly!) scads of talent — I certainly hope that would be considered as sure as bets come!
Anyway, I can’t wait to read it. I understand the doubts and dreads that go along with writing a manuscript and hoping it’s good enough (I’m finishing up the zero draft of my sixth novel now — although tie-in fiction is a very different genre, the doubts and the dreads are the same for us all), but in your case they are entirely unwarranted.
It’s going to be good. Really. I promise. Nothing you’ve done could fail to be good. 🙂
Diane Peltin says
Fun to see you, Tootsie, and Jim yesterday. Thanks for the photo of Angel. She so enjoys seeing sweet Tootsie and all the Pet Pals friends – canine and human. Good luck with the memoir; I’m eager to read it. Sending good energy your way.
Ellen Pepin says
Go to someplace quiet and let Jim handle the tree when it wrecks your car. Insurance will pay. I can’t wait to be able to read your memoir. Just to let you know, I never could have helped my reactive, aggressive dog if it wasn’t for “The Other End of the Leash”. Three trainers had already failed. Publishing has changed, but there is always a place for a good book.
Jody Karow says
Sending you energy of inspiration! All fingers, toes and paws crossed too. I know this will be published as I know there are many who would love to learn from your journey…and Willie’s too! Eagerly anticipating this book.
Jon Sutz says
Good luck, Dr. McConnell. I’m intimately familiar with both of the challenges you face (memoir from both your and dog’s perspectives, and seeking publisher). Another challenge you may face is that it’s quite difficult to promote oneself, one’s own story (unless one is an Oprah or similar self-promoter). That doesn’t surprise me what your agent said though… for some reason, even as the $$ spent on our dogs is increasing, it’s harder to get published (maybe because so many are trying to enter the market).
But you have several things going for you that us upstarts don’t – a rich legacy of helping others, being an authority on certain issues, and already having a good rep as an author.
“Saved By Shayna: Life Lessons From A Miracle Dog”
I look forward to reading whatever you write, be it blog or book. I’ve also had the idea for a mutual memoir (hadn’t heard that term, thanks). I have never written a book before, so it figures that my idea would be one of the hardest types to write. The book idea springs from this post: http://all-around-dogs.com/wp/2014/02/23/my-dog-myself/
I am at a loss as to how to begin, so I’m mostly writing blog posts or rereading books like yours to gather topic ideas. If you have any tips, besides unplugging, I’d love to hear them.
If I ever get so far as to write my book, it is my dearest wish that you will read it and give me your thoughts. Your books have formed and informed so much of my journey with my dogs, especially Dash.
Ah, memoirs. The oft-maligned, scoffed-at stepchild of “real” writers. And yet. So very, very hard to get right. And all the light one’s heart can possibly hold when done with perfection. I. Can’t. Wait. For yours to be published. Hurry, please?
Oh, and yes. You deserve a nice, fat break and some downtime for having written it in the first place. We have a nice little home in the Northwest woods, with a view of the mountains and no ewes to sneak out or maple trees to totter. You’d be welcome here! Thanks for all you do for all of us; two, three and four paws alike.
I wish you the best of luck and hope you still publish your memoir even if a large publishing house refuses.
Sherry Langevin says
I like reading anything you write.
Sherry Langevin says
I enjoy your writings. Keep up the great work! I hope your distractions are numbered in the ‘minimal’ field….. good luck!
Emily Douglas says
Happy writing, Trish. I’ll be hoping for an excruciatingly painful and exhausting week full of self-doubt and uncertainty for you . . . since that’s always the best indicator of quality and personal success. 😉 Looking forward to another fabulous read.
Patricia Jay says
The best of luck with publishers, I know I will enjoy reading your book and I’m sure that goes for tons of others too!
Anticipation! Sending lots of good writing energy. I am so excited to read it!
Cathy W. says
Best of luck and I can’t wait!
Good luck with the hard work!
I wish you all the best. Your photos are lovely. Warm greetings from Montreal.
Kelly Schlesinger says
I, along with so many others, will be happy to leap upon your memoir as soon as it lands.
I am sad to hear that anyone could doubt that The Other End of the Leash would not be publishable, if that’s a word, today. What has the world come to? I loaned my copy to my sister and she has ordered multiple copies which she gives away to other dog owners. She is obviously more generous than I am; I always get mine back. It is pretty ratty, and well loved.