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Last Wednesday, the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) announced the nominees of their Regular Categories for their Annual Writing Competition. The DWAA, formed in 1935, continues to support and reward writers, bloggers and authors who capture the essence of the human-canine bond on so many levels.

This year, for the first time ever, winners of Regular Categories, and those of the Special Awards category, will be announced before the DWAA Banquet in New York City held this year on the evening of February 10th. So, many of my fellow nominees, and DWAA members, will be excitedly watching on Wednesday, December 13th, at 7:00pm (EST) on the DWAA Facebook and Twitter sites as the results roll in!

Yes, I said fellow-nominees, because for the third year in a row, I was thrilled to discover that my writing had garnered notice. In 2015, my biography of DWAA Co-Founder, Will Judy, was nominated in the Reference Book category and last year I was honored with three nominations, taking home a Maxwell in the Short Fiction category and The North Shore Animal League America Award for my blog post on the topic of Spay and Neuter.

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Teddy models the Maxwell: A very Sirius occasion!

This year, I’ve been nominated in the Short Fiction category for my short story On the Scent of Life about the personal struggle of a Cadaver dog handler, and for a guest blog post titled Fostering Ginger. Special Awards are “super secret” with no nominations, just that “And the winner is” moment! No matter the outcome, I’m honored to be nominated among such talented colleagues and wish all nominees the best.

Also last Wednesday, just after these announcements were made, I tuned into a webinar to reunite with fellow students and instructors from the Middle Grade Mastery course I’d enjoyed this past spring. The MGM course is one of many classes offered by Mira Reisberg of the Children’s Book Academy, and was co-taught by author Hillary Homzie. During the MGM course, I revised a Middle Grade novel with the personal input and one-on-one editorial guidance of Mira and enjoyed critique groups with fellow-writers from around the world, many who have remained in my Writing Universe.

During this hourlong gathering, those in attendance spoke about their journeys in securing agent representation and their submissions and subsequent review by editors. Mira and Hillary offered helpful insight to get us unstuck if we’re in a rut and suggested ways we can improve our chances of making 2018 a success for our projects.

Hillary reminded us to be mindful of our time by restricting time spent watching TV (sorry binge watchers) or on Social Media. She rightfully pointed out that even by writing one or two paragraphs a day, we are heading toward completion be it a Picture Book or a 45,000 word MG Novel. I also liked her reminder that when we’re unsure of where our character and plot are going, to stop and interview our characters to fully flush them out.

Mira encouraged us to mine our imaginations for all the possibilities and outcomes of a plot by asking the simple question, “So, what’s your premise?” It’s a deceivingly simple question, but one should be able to let an audience know the essence and purpose of your book in just a few sentences enticing readers to want to know more.

I’ve met many aspiring writers who feel that they don’t need writing instruction because they think all you need to do is think up a story and sit down at the keyboard. That’s a great start, but there’s so much more to it. Even with a gripping, well-executed manuscript, it isn’t easy to engage overworked literary agents and editors, or small presses and The Big Five publishers.

Part of the appeal of the MGM course, and others offered by the CBA, are that they include the involvement of some well-established agents and editors. Scholarships are also available and some students even receive a Golden Ticket from a participating agent, or editor, with an invaluable invitation to submit a Full Manuscript for serious consideration! The CBA courses use Facebook as their meeting base, so if you do take a course, be advised you’ll need to set up an account to participate.

My MGM project has endured many revisions, title changes and winding paths, but with each turn, it becomes a stronger story and I’m hopeful that it will find the right home in the coming year, embracing the mantra that it will land on “the right desk, at the right time”. While there is no course to find the exact moment of that winning combination, taking writing courses like those offered by CBA just might make that match a reality.

For the entire list of DWAA Writer’s Competition Nominees:

https://dogwriters.org/2017-nominees/

For more information on the Children’s Book Academy visit:

http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/

For a free webinar and Scholarship info: https://wj168-366180.pages.infusionsoft.net/

Work hard and practice Enlightened Persistence. To be continued!

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Presentation to Manasquan River Artists Group (NJ)

Since 1990, I’ve participated in more than 500 art shows, my work has been displayed at numerous venues in the Tri-state area, and I’ve served as a board member and jurist, helping to organize several arts events. I’m grateful for all the judges, curators, colleagues and my clients who helped me to thrive as a productive working artist.

In my High School Art Studio, a perceptive art instructor encouraged me to use acrylics sensing it was a good medium for me (after watching me struggle with pastel and water colors). She also guided me to create my first painting on slate, a very forgiving surface. I’d go on to produce hundreds of these paintings. I still love working with the natural lines and quirks of each “rock” and find the slate surfaces (and now masonite) very receptive to acrylic paint, perfect for layering and changing one’s mind! Acrylic paints are also incredibly adaptable; just add water to thin for a watery effect, use additives to create body, highlight with oil pastels and spray on some gloss finish – magic!

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In 1990, I began working with vintage postcards making them the focal point of my work. Although I haven’t kept track, I’ve created and sold well over 1,000 pieces. My artwork hangs on the walls of offices and homes throughout the world. 

One of my former writing instructors once said to me that she believed writers were born, not made. Many feel that way about artists. Although art has always been a part of my life, I didn’t set out to have a career as a Fine Artist (or an author), but if it is true that we are born, or destined for a vocation, than the Creative World is one where I’ve learned I belong, even with all its inherent set backs.

The Art Show life presents many challenges; rain storms, high winds, blizzards, the ability (or inability) of an event promoter to promote, the health of the current tourism season (in the Northeast, H. Sandy ended many events), a weak economy and competitive venues offered by on-line options.

Then there are the long rides to get to show sites and the physical labor of putting up tents and displays and dealing with “neighbors” who encroach on your designated (and well paid-for) show space, or complain about how terrible an event is (I actually began writing as a way to shut out their negativity).

While I enjoyed my community of fellow-artists and customers, many who became friends, working so many weekends caused me to miss  numerous occasions like weddings and family reunions.

For the past seven years or so, I’ve spent time transitioning to the life of a writer, but lately, missing the painting process, I’ve spent more time on that side of the loft (see previous post). Now, my aim is to create on-line marketing initiatives to help promote my artwork, relying on my Social Media platform, while retaining a handful of in-person events. It’s also rewarding to reconnect with returning customers who are happy to reconnect and add some new pieces to their collections!

As I patiently await some publishing news (something that is ongoing and comes with the territory), I find peace, inspiration and “my rock” in the process of painting where I can just add water and go with the flow or start over when ever I feel the need.

To follow me along the Creative Path,  and of course check out art (and writing). Please LIKE my professional page and visit often as I’ll be posting paintings on a daily basis throughout December (and beyond). https://www.facebook.com/LisaBeginKruysmanAuthorAndArtist/

Thank you.

 

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Most of my days begin with the battle of creative expression; do I head for the mouse first and draft a chapter or two, or grab a brush and finish a painting? Physically it isn’t a difficult choice, as my loft space is divided in halves; one side dedicated to drawing and painting, the other where the writing takes place.

Some days I let my muse guide me, others, I ask my dog to choose the side he prefers at the moment. It’s only fair as my writing often celebrates the canine-human bond. 

I’ve worked as a fine artist since 1989, so a few years ago, when people heard that I’d taken up writing, they’d assumed I’d be an illustrator as well. To them I continue to explain that I’m a painter, mostly landscape, and illustration is a very different animal. Also, up until recently, authors didn’t typically illustrate their own work (in fact, the two rarely even communicated to keep each one’s unique vision intact), although currently there’s an increased call for author/illustrators.

Recently, however, wondering how I could combine words and image in my own creative projects, I received a fortuitous call from the Program Director of a local arts guild. She’d heard about my paintings that incorporate vintage postcards, and my books, and asked if I’d give a presentation for their annual membership dinner in November. They’d even pay and feed me and allow me to sell books. Who could refuse?  I said, “yes,” then hung up, grasping the challenge of my audience; talented well-known artists. 

Because it’s a story that originates in New Jersey, I’ve decided to focus on Around the World in 1909: Harriet Fisher and Her Locomobile, (American History Press – 2014) a fun and informative book about the first woman to drive around the world. It’s filled with inspiration, history, travel and even pets!

For this event, I’ve created Postcard Paintings featuring three destinations in Harriet’s history-making journey; Paris, Lake Como, Italy and Japan. Time doesn’t allow for Fisher’s tour of Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, China, and back through the American West, but hopefully they’ll appear in subsequent presentations.

For the past several years, I’ve addressed historical societies, elementary schools, women’s clubs, a university association and although each event has focused on a different book, many people want to hear about the story behind the book, or seek encouragement to write one of their own.

Although my interest in writing and painting was evident early on, my official Path to Creativity began at age 30 when I left a great job in the entertainment industry, traveled to Italy for a painting course, returning home a Full-Time artist. Fifteen years later, after taking a writing course, I began composing short stories and drafted my first book. I believe that the discipline and professionalism gained in the corporate world in my 20s has helped me to structure my writing and art life. It hasn’t been an easy or straight-forward path, but I always tell those who ask for advice to think of a goal as a journey filled with small steps and to keep learning and form alliances with those who share your vision. 

My journey goes on. Currently, I’m “barking up” new projects, and my story of Teddy (our foster-to-forever dog) will be featured in an Anthology published by the Baker Publishing Group in Fall 2018. It’s always good to have several projects in the works because the path to publication has many twists and turns. And of course, it never hurts to surround yourself with great family members, friends and to have a loyal dog (or any loving pet) curled up at your creative feet, no matter what side of the studio your creative muse, or dog, dictates.

So, if you invited me to present at your next event, what would you ask, or like to learn? Please leave a comment, or reach me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. 

Happy musing! Here are the images for my presentation (all are 8 X 10 – acrylic paint on mat board. All postcards are originals from 1909-1914).

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Paris – postmarked 1914

 

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Lake Como, Italy – postmarked 1909

 

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Japanese garden – 1910

 

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Enter a caption – Flip side with postal markings.

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“Ted, White and Blue – Patriotic Paws”

Five years ago today, we said farewell to our beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Hooper. Named for the Matt Hooper character of  the blockbuster movie Jaws, she really did drive the boat, our house, our lives.

On a cold night in the winter of 2010, “Hoop Girl” was sitting by my feet at the moment I happened upon something called National Dog Week, a quirky yet poignant Canine American Holiday established in 1928. I fell in love with its colorful history, and began writing a biography about its Founder, Captain Will Judy, chronicling its unique, roller coaster-like legacy. In doing so, a new career was launched, and five books later, I’ve never stopped writing.

Alone with Hooper during the last moments of her life, I had an odd request. I whispered in her ear, “When the time is right, please send Dad and I a special new dog friend, and if possible please send one that likes other dogs and is calm, cool and collected.”

It seemed like a strange way to say goodbye to a loyal and loving companion, but in true dog-like fashion, within five months, my heart-felt request was granted when we fostered a little black and white Havanese-mix named Teddy.

Teddy came to us like a bright light in a bleak post Hurricane Sandy landscape. He wasn’t intended to stay, but stay he did, and has brought us much happiness. “Steady Teddy” couldn’t be any more different than “Hyper Hooper”. And unlike Hooper, Teddy adores other dogs. Now, with us for nearly four years, Teddy sits by my feet and inspires me to keep on writing, in fact, a story I wrote, based on his arrival in our lives, will be part of an Anthology released by the Revell Publishing group in October 2018. When the editor titles the book, I will let you know!

And another interesting thing happened with the Tedster by my side. I revamped my art studio and did something I’d wanted to do for a very long time, paint my first pet portrait. The painting of Teddy featured above, draped by the American flag, brings my creative life full circle, and reminds me why I continue to write about dogs and history, or anything else that inspires me. It also captures the spirit of National Dog Week that was established to encourage a collective and thoughtful period when we are mindful of all the ways dogs enrich our lives.

 

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Hooper, Ready for Her Close-Up

There are many exciting things going on in the Creative Front, and we’re working hard and visualizing some good days ahead; creating during challenging circumstances when the sun is temporarily hidden by fleeting clouds; welcoming the positive influences and encouragement from a dog that’s been sent to help makes it all worthwhile. That’s the ultimate gift.

The 89th Observance of National Dog Week will be celebrated the week of September 25th this year!

 

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So excited to be part of the Speaker Agenda at the            Eighth Annual BlogPaws Conference!

Barking News: Looking forward my participation in a Publishing-industry Speaker’s Panel with the Cat Writers Association of America and during a session with the BlogPaws  folks this weekend! Temperatures are soaring, but we’ll be inside exploring…during so many fabulous sessions surrounded by some lovely pets! Check out my recent contribution to Ruff Drafts https://dogwriters.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2016springsummer_members.pdf– page 11 , the official newsletter of the DWAA where I discuss my work with Laura Pople of Seer Farms. If you are part of the Yahoo on-line reading group DogRead, please join me as I discuss Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher. I am their featured author through June 30th! We are having a very nostalgic look back in time via our love affair (and Will Judy’s) with man’s best friend. And…Look for updates on the launch of my new kid’s Picture Book, Teddy Two-Tone and the Seven Days of Dog Week written for the youngest of eyes. I may have lots of questions when I attend a session presented by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, at BlogPaws. Happy summer!

 

National Cat Week

         A Poster Stamp from National Cat Week 1946

 “We like cats. They furnish running exercise for dogs and always win the race. They are a living, moving thing of beauty, softness and grace. They and the birds are among the few animals that wash themselves.” Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week, 1949

As I excitedly prepare to attend the 8th BlogPaws/CWA Conference in Phoenix later this month, it is not lost on me that although I have been writing and blogging about canines for several years now, in Phoenix, I will be part of a publishing-industry speaking panel organized by the Cat Writers Association of America. Preparing for this event has made me nostalgic.

Yes, I love dogs, but the truth is, more cats have blessed my life than dogs, and as I’ve discussed in past posts, I grew up in a menagerie masquerading as a house of humans.

My very first pet (although I barely recall) was a grey tiger striped kitten named mittens (I presume she had white paws). My only real memory of her was the day she jumped on our huge Christmas tree, toppling it full force onto our living room floor. The memories stop there.

Two bunnies followed – and I proceeded to let them out of their hutches early each morning only to have them return to their homes each evening (Don’t judge, I was 7 and it was the mid-1960s).

I also recall daily kick ball games that took place on our dead end street. One late afternoon, a mysterious car stopped and deposited a large duffle bag on to the curb. In those pre-terrorist days not filled with warnings of “see something, say something” we had no fear. We raced to the moving bag and unzipped it,  “unleashing” a parent’s worst nightmare; contained in that writhing bag were five gorgeous kittens suitable for Hallmark greeting card images.

We convinced our parents to let us foster them, (they were so adorable we had no trouble placing them). Gypsy, a black and white cat stayed with us and being an unaltered female, we faced the inevitable (don’t judge – it was the late-1960s). A year later, on the Fourth of July, my father was drawn to our garage by a strange wailing. Inside an open drawer that contained a folded American flag, rested one perfectly formed tri-color newborn kitten (red, white and black). My brother named him Jefferson.

Much later, my  brother Matt (RIP) answered (in a pre-Craig’s List world) a free-to-good-home ad for a kitten. I’ll never forget coming home from college for a holiday visit in 1977, expecting to meet a tiny ball of fur  only to meet Morrison (named after Jim Morrison) a cat much older than I had expected. My brother, upon meeting this charming young cat, couldn’t help but bring him home. Morrie lived life as an indoor outdoor cat (Don’t judge, it was the late 70s) and yes, he was neutered. He was one of the best family pets we’ve ever had.

Next came a little tortoise-shell cat that Matt brought home from a construction site. We named her Pita (short for pain in the you-know-what). Pita was a clingy sweet heart with a good disposition. Just a few years ago, after a very long life of over 21 years, she said good bye and went off to die in peace at a time of her own choosing.

So much has changed in the world, I recall a time when carefree kids ran about in the outdoor world, accompanied by their pets. Kids and pets need that, and so do we. So, on days when you are feeling frazzled by tweeting, pinning, instagramming, blogging and snap-chatting about your own pets and those of others, remember to unplug and take a break and enjoy this beautiful season.

Be it fur, hair, fins, hooves, or scales, we engage our hearts when we share our tales…It doesn’t matter our topic, good writing will engage almost anyone and you can even educate others in the process.

What a terrific  opportunity it is when we get to sit and chat with fellow authors and bloggers. It doesn’t happen often enough. If you are attending the CWA/Blog Paws Conference – please join me for my sessions: Friday, June 24th at 2:30 (joined by members of the pet-book publishing industry) and Saturday at noon, for a lunch time Table Topic about all things “writing”. If you don’t, and I have to sit alone, I might just revert to Middle School behavior – throwing spit balls (or hair balls), making fun of what your cats and dogs are wearing (I would NEVER do that), taking selfies, and passing notes, when the lunch monitors are not looking! Happy travels.

 

 

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The Author and her dog, Teddy consult on a Winning Proposal

 

Preparing for my participation in the fast-approaching Cat Writers of America/BlogPaws Conference in Arizona this June, I reflect on the past six years and my own path to becoming an author.  Back then, I wondered if I’d ever get a book completed, published and promoted, let alone be invited to talk about it at a conference!

Today, I am happy to say that I have birthed five books, with several in various stages of production and review. Although my primary topic has focused on canines, and those who celebrate them, I am  open to any topic that fascinates me including sports, history, and travel.

While I have averaged a book a year, nothing has unfolded as planned, and in many ways, I feel I am just warming up and I didn’t even begin writing “siriusly” until 2010.

Whenever someone learns that I am an author, they quickly tell me that their friend, or a family member, has written a book (congrats), or, that they, them, themselves, have a great idea for a book. In truth, many of these ideas are very good and have potential, but the big question is, how will they get their idea on the path to publication?

If their book idea falls under the category of Non-Fiction (memoir, how-to, history) there is one phrase that separates the wannabe author from the true “story-teller” who is willing to go-the-distance and endure the rocky road to get it all down and done…the Full Book Proposal.

I am always glad to help those in their authoring journey within reason, however, if they aspire to write Non-Fiction, the first thing they will receive from me are examples and templates for creating a strong Full Proposal, which typically is comprised of several parts that requiring a GREAT deal of thought, planning, research and editing. That Proposal, is your book’s blue print, and will also require something called a Query, a few short paragraphs that accompanies the Proposal –  that will make an agent or editor want to dive in to your Proposal, and take your book out of the “Slush” pile.

This is part of what I will be speaking about at the BlogPaws Conference in Phoenix come June, in the company of so many other bloggers, reporters, authors, publishers and social media specialists. As someone who has worked with agents, and publishers, I will be asking my personal partners in the publishing world for advice that I can share with those attending the BlogPaws Conference to help them to create strong, saleable projects. I will also discuss Fiction projects that have their own special guidelines.

The CWA/BlogPaws event is open to anyone, at any level, who wishes to learn more about writing for the pet-industry, and beyond. Once you learn the basics of writing a great Proposal, Query and Cover Letter or a sensational Synopsis, the writing process will flow and if being a published author is your goal, you will be on the “write” path and enjoying the journey and all the emotions it is sure to invoke.

I look forward to learning so much this June. Bring your Proposals (and your ideas) Want to know more, or to make your reservation?: http://blogpaws.com/events/2016-conference/

Keep current on National Dog Week and “Paw-thor” News at: http://www.lisabegin-kruysmanauthor.com

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My “T-editor” takes a moment to reflect!

 

 

 

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”