Describe your day job.
As cliche as it may be, I truly believe the old saying “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” While some might consider this a platitude, I truly find so much joy in my work that it is hard to even call it a job. I run an insurance division for Dakota Capital Life and specialize in products that help people pre-plan their funerals. The general concept of this may sound a tad morose, the fact that I am able to help people find peace of mind before they pass is truly rewarding. With old age comes so many areas where stress and worry can derive, and being able to alleviate even just a small portion of that gives me the such a sense of fulfillment.
I also run a small baby boutique, making some of the products myself, including soft sole baby shoes. This is a passion project that stemmed from making baby shoes for my own son. Since that inception, it has ballooned into a full fledged business, one of its main tenants being that I donate a small portion of the sales to local animal shelters in the area.
Tell me about your latest book.
I had never been a writer by trade, and just a few years ago I couldn’t even have fathomed that I would ever start writing a book, let alone finish one. Nevertheless, I now find myself in a place where I didn’t just write a book – I wrote a book I am incredibly proud of. The book is “Pickles the Dog – Adopted,” and is based on a real dog named Pickles, whose story I felt compelled to share. The real Pickles is an adorable pup that was rescued during a flood here in North Dakota. She had been adopted and returned to the shelter several times and things were not looking good for her. That is until a family member of mine took her in and spent time helping her learn and adjust to life in a home. In the book, a young girl and her family adopt Pickles and bring her home to their farm. Pickles, has never been to a farm before and is constantly getting into mischief because she doesn’t know any better. Through training, however, our young girl trains Pickles with a squeaky toy and uses it throughout the rest of the book to help Pickles behave. Overall, the book is about tolerance of others, and understanding their past before you pass judgment, and also about perseverance. There were a couple more specific points I wanted to include though. First, I wanted the main character to be a female. While there is so much talk these days about representation of women in movies or politics, I think what gets lost in the wash is the small-scale stuff we could be doing. I wanted to write a book that girls of a young age can relate to and feel empowered by. In probably my favorite scene in the book, the young girl visits her mother asking advice on how to make Pickles behave. Her mother doesn’t tell her what to do, but simply suggests she try something she hasn’t tried yet. That is how we arrive at the squeaky toy training – simply through the girl’s own ingenuity. Second, I wanted to include a real training technique. Not just to have a basis in reality, but so that people reading the book could learn something that has helped me immensely. The method of training a misbehaving dog with a toy is not only a common practice, but something I have incorporated in my real life. We have two beautiful Great Danes, and sometimes they become energetic as you can probably imagine. Like any dog, they would expend this energy by wrestling which would of course result in stuff getting knocked over and breaking. To help focus this energy, we would squeeze the toy whenever they started misbehaving, grabbing their attention, and then use the toy to play with them.
Who are your writing role models?
I am always drawn to authors who try to teach children life lessons without being too on-the-nose or overbearing. Just like any book for adults, I think there is an art and beauty in subtlety. Eric Carle, the author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” would probably be my biggest role model, in this regards. It is such a simple, yet elegant, story about moderation (something even us adults need to be reminded of, from time to time), that also incorporates educational aspects for children, such as days of the week and even a bit about metamorphosis.
How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?
Of course my son and family are always my number one priority, but I’m not sure “balance” is the right word to describe caring for them, while also working at a job I love and writing a book I care so immensely about. I know some people unwind from the day by watching some TV or maybe perusing social media, but I’ve found writing to be so fun that it is the perfect way to decompress. I hardly find myself needing to find motivation to write, when the act of doing it feels like a reward in and of itself.
What are your other passions outside of writing?
If you couldn’t tell from the subject of my book, I LOVE dogs. To help bring this love to other people, I volunteer as a pet therapy handler at a local facility near my home. One of my Great Danes, Carmela, and I visit children there about once a month. The kids love Carmela and I really believe she helps brighten their day.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
My book has been out for a bit less than I year and I have been extremely flattered that it has won four national awards, thus far. The one that I am most excited for is the 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Award. The award banquet will be held in DC this year, where I will be doing a book signing at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition. Stop by and say “Hi,” if you’re there! I am also very excited to announce that there will be a sequel coming out this fall called “Pickles the Dog – A Christmas Tradition.” Both our main character and Pickles will return as Pickles learns all about a Midwestern Christmas tradition.
Be sure to check out my website for updates on the release!