Aug 272013
 

Fourth Installment on The Book Coach Is Writing a Book
(for previous installments, email Francine)
Conscientious administration is essential.  Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts  offers the experiences of over 75 people who talk about sleeping withe their pets and the bond they share.  I keep track of everyone I interview, their names, e-mail address, city of residence and phone number and, when relevant, their spouses’ names. I also track citations from online research,

If I had to do it over again I would have entered this info on an Excel spreadsheet or other contact software. Instead I have several unwieldy lists on Word documents.

I’m still a computer dinosaur. Learn new software? Save me, O Lord.  But now I am capitulating and learning.

I recorded 95% of these interviews using an online tool, AudioAcrobat. I pay $19.95 a month for this software which I have always felt well worth it. This way I keep all of my clients’ interviews available to me in perpetuity.

I also retained a transcriptionist to convert these recordings, MP3 files, into Word documents, my faithful and competent  Marcy McGaugh, www.writersrescueBerkeley.com.

For that material which I discovered online, such as medical opinions, the historical characters and celebrities who slept with their animals, I kept a record of the websites and documents I intend to cite.

With many of my interview subjects, I have kept a running e-mail conversation to follow up on questions I neglected to ask the first time around or issues that came to mind later. With some, whose pets were sick, I contact them again to check on the progress of their animal companions.

Aug 222013
 
Third Installment on The Book Coach Is Writing a Book
(for previous installments, email Francine)

I followed two modes of research — interviews and online discovery.

Interviews
When I identified an individual who was willing to talk about sleeping with his or her pets, I pose the obvious questions:
·       how many pets do you have?
·       what species and varieties (that is, dog or bunny, sheltie or floppy-eared)
·       sexes, ages and names?

But the questions that draw out their story and open the heart are:
·       how did you start to sleep with your pet?
·       what unusual or unexpected things happened?
·       how does sleeping with your pets affect your household or lifestyle?

Most of the pet owners/guardians I found never questioned that their animals should sleep with them. They would agree with author Anthony Douglas Williams who says, “Some people don’t understand why I allow my dog to sleep on my bed. When a dog is family, they can sleep anywhere.”

For others it was a process of opening up to the experience, some willingly and some not.

It was moving to hear how important it Is for my interview subjects to talk about this interaction with their domestic animals. I came to see that people share their beds with animals do not think this nightly ritual is remarkable. No one had ever asked them about it and they never thought of talking about it. However, this practice Is deeply significant to them.

I was able to categorize their experiences around similar themes, for instance, being awakened in the night, the importance of cuddling, disputes with the spouse over the pet’s presence in bed, the loss of a pet who was once so close.   Each anecdote has its unique and peculiar twist. There are some truly extraordinary stories as well, such as the woman who slept with her boa constrictor.

Not all of these tales are about living pets. Some people need to recount stories of pets long gone. Chatting with me has been a way to recapture that closeness for them.

Online Research
As any good journalist would, I had to see if anyone else had published on the subject. I found no other book on the subject but I discovered a multitude of articles — mostly on the health warnings for the allergic about sleeping with animals. I found more recent authorities who saw sleeping with pets as benign for the human but not so much for the animal. That was a surprise.

When it came to recounting the experiences of celebrities, I decided against trying to contact any famous individual’s representatives to request a personal interview. I knew it would be too time-consuming and probably these efforts would be futile. So I quoted and cited the magazine articles in which such stories appeared.

One of my fondest discoveries was Stanley Coren, a psychology professor, who works in Vancouver. He has written many articles and books on the psychology and behavior of dogs. He contributes regularly to the magazine Modern Dog. I quote him in my chapter on historical figures who slept with their dogs for the research was his.

Aug 152013
 

When I settled on the idea that it would be fun and fulfilling to write about sleeping with pets, I had to decide on the format. I knew I did not want to write a biography of my beloved Lola’s life. I had no intention of creating the next Marley and Me, by John Grogan.

Rather, I wanted to gather the many experiences of pet owners/guardians. I was sure there was gold in those stories. But how to find these people?

I never thought of going to HARO, helpareporterout.com *. This lapse never ceases to amaze me. It would’ve been so much easier had I considered that avenue at the very beginning.

What I did do was start asking my friends who had pets about their experiences. I also asked them for referrals to people they knew.

I started getting stories. I was thrilled to see how much people wanted to share this aspect of their bond with their pets. What’s more, many of these pet owners felt their stories about their pets were sacred.  Occasionally, I had to get back to them to verify the information in their interview, and they would gladly and patiently revise or correct me.

Using AudioAcrobat.com, I recorded our interviews over the phone and sent the MP3 files to my transcriptionist.

Still I needed more material.

Eventually a contact at the Bay Area News Group (where I used to work) suggested I approach the columnist who was regularly contributing his wisdom on wild and exotic animals, Gary Bogue.

I wrote to this kind man and asked him if he could refer me to any pet owners he knew who might be willing subjects. Instead, he ran an appeal for me in his column. From the one brief notice he published, I got responses for many months after that. God bless him.

More in the next installment!

 

*HARO, www.Helpareporterout.com connects journalists with the public when they are looking for input and expertise on the subject they are writing on deadline.

More on this in a later installment.

Aug 072013
 

First Installment
Introduction to  writing Cat Naps and  Doggie Snorts

You are receiving this announcement because you are interested in writing a book. So I thought I’d share my own process with you.

You may also be among the dozens of kind people who shared their time and experiences with me for the material for this book – people who sleep with their animal friends.

I started writing Cat Naps and  Doggie Snorts a year ago after my beloved cockapoo, Lola, died. I missed her beside me at night so very much. One  morning  I arose feeling her absence keenly. I immediately went to the Internet and searched for “sleeping with pets”. I found thousands of articles in popular magazines and scholarly journals.

But no book. So I decided to write one myself. As they say in the cement industry: find a need and fill it.

For the last year I have been interviewing folks who have  adopted  animals and asking them how they manage sleeping with pets or not during the night. Their experiences have ranged from hilarious to heartbreaking and always goofy in their own peculiar ways.

I now  have a manuscript of over 60 anecdotes and 20 chapters. The chapters are organized along themes, for instance: Wild Things, The Big Pileup, Saying Goodbye and so on.

I would be so pleased if you would like its Facebook page under its title: “Cat Naps and  Doggie Snorts”,  https://www.facebook.com/CatNapsAndDoggieSnorts.

Over the next few weeks with one posting a week, I will describe to you my process of writing it and my endeavors to get it published.

For those of you who want to write your own book(s), I thought you might find this instructive and I hope entertaining.