My affair with writing started when I was old enough to hold a crayon. My first work of fiction was in kindergarten, I believe. My two-paragraph “report” about our field trip to the arboretum involved getting my foot stuck in a rabbit-hole and being left behind because I found the trip too boring despite learning about lichen for the first time. By fourth grade, I was writing stories about tropical islands shaped like a panther’s head where animals could talk. Then, at 15, I wrote my first screenplay, a historical fiction epic about a fifth musketeer. I wrote an action-adventure novel a few years later about an anti-terrorist agent, and I knew, despite working full-time in the high-technology industry, that being a writer was in my heart.
But you know, a girl’s gotta eat, so I kept working my way up the corporate ladder until I was director of operations at a small internet start-up company. Destiny decided it was time for me to do what I was supposed to be doing, and all the pieces started to fall together: I sold my house, I moved somewhere more conducive to writing, and a friend sent me information about a new publisher opening house in Chicago.
After banging up against the velvet rope of traditional publishing for decades, this new publisher accepted my novel. I’d finally “made it.” Then, I got a call from a small indie publisher wanting to handle my eBooks. I went from zero to two publishers in the course of one summer.
The move that changed everything was the one to Washington State in 2008. Living in the wilderness was where I needed to be and, within a few years, I had turned out suspense novels, romantic comedies, romantic suspense, writing prompt photo books, and the biggest surprise to me: an entire series of children’s books.
What better way to share the world around me and all the amazing things I got to see while traveling than with an adorable dog? Mr. Pish is the star of about 10 educational children’s picture books, an all-ages activity book, an app, and 14 years of calendars. Writing through the precious pooch’s eyes has given me such a wonderful opportunity to learn from a different point of view, and his philosophy that “Everywhere I am is the best place ever” is something that’s made me a happier person.
When he passed away at the age of 16 in 2013, my heart broke, plain and simple. While I still traveled and kept his thoughts in mind at each place I visited, it was too hard for me to write without him there. Having the little guy in my lap, laying his head across my keyboard, and getting me up off my butt to take him for walks is still missed, and I imagine always will be. I was never a little dog person, but he managed to win me over. I always say, “Little dog, big personality,” and nothing could be more true about him.
I am literally just now getting back to carrying on his legacy with books that teach kids history, geography, geology, and whatever else interesting he happens to discover about the places “we” visit. It’s still hard, though.
A mother once came to me and told me that her son, who was 13, refused to read. But one day, they were on Mr. Pish’s YouTube channel, watching one of the silly videos we had made together, and the boy became engrossed with my little guy. The mom seized that opportunity and gave him a Mr. Pish book, and she swears that is the only reason her son is now reading. I’ve heard similar stories from other parents that Mr. Pish’s books helped spark their sons’ interest in reading. As I think about those kids, and as I talk with teachers and sit in on school district events doing my job as a photojournalist, I see opportunities where Mr. Pish’s insights could be helpful to our next generations. And I know I need to get back to it, because he is needed.
Oddly, I always saw myself as a spy novelist and never imagined that I would achieve my dream of having thousands of people reading my writing and seeing my photography through children’s books or writing for newspapers.
While getting back on the Mr. Pish bicycle is daunting, I want to honor my sweet boy. He’s in my heart, and on my mind – now I just have to concentrate on getting him back onto paper.