In her first book, My Father the Dog (Candlewick), illustrated by Randy Cecil, Elizabeth Bluemle, co-owner of Flying Pig Children’s and Adults’ Books in Charlotte, Vt., writes about the similarities between fathers and dogs: they like to scratch, can lie around for hours and often growl when startled out of a nap.
What’s it like to be a bookseller and an author?
It’s a little strange to be both. For example, I can’t imagine ringing up my book for customers. But it’s also fun to have the dual perspective. At this point, I’ve now worked on just about every side of the book business and its market: as an editor, a production manager, a writer/producer’s assistant, a school librarian and a teacher.
How did you get the idea for the book?
I had a boyfriend after college who liked to think of himself as a sleek jungle animal, like a panther. And the reality was that he was more of a Golden Retriever. The guy-pup connection kicked around in my brain for years. About five years ago, I woke up one night and the first three lines came to me. This time, I thought of my dad. He’s a combination of cozy and barky. He’s also fuzzy around the edges and likes to snack.
How did your father react when you told him you were writing a book about him as a dog?
He said, “You know, darling, ‘dog’ can have a negative connotation.” He suggested several alternatives, like “My Father, the Cuddly Dog.” But when he read the text and saw how affectionate it was, he was won over.
What about your mother?
She would have been thrilled because she was quite a talented writer, and loved words, books and children. She had a fantastic sense of humor. Unfortunately, my mom died when I was 21.
How did you end up publishing with Candlewick?
I was in my first semester at Vermont College, studying for an MFA in creative writing for children and young adults. When Josie [Leavitt, who co-owns the store with Bluemle] and I were at BEA, we were chatting with Elise Supovitz at the Candlewick booth and Josie mentioned my manuscript. Elise got excited and said, “Give it to me and I’ll get it to the right editor.”
I knew Candlewick was the place I wanted to go to first. As a bookseller, I love Candlewick. I love the attention they pay to their books, the way they involve the author in the art process without stepping on the artist’s vision. It’s nice to be given a voice, and it feels more like a shared book.
How will you publicize My Father the Dog?
I have a Web site, www.elizabethbluemle.com. And on the Saturday before Father’s Day, we’re holding a Dad-Dog Contest at the store. In New England, I’ll go to a few stores and do dog events and signings. Josie and I are the NECBA [New England Children’s Booksellers Association] chairs this year, so it’ll be a great excuse to get around and see our colleagues’ wonderful stores.
Do you have any other children’s books in the works?
Candlewick has signed three books so far. Dogs on the Bed will come out in fall ’07 and the date for How Do You Wokka-Wokka? will depend on the artist’s schedule. I have several longer works in progress, but I don’t have a lot of time right now. I co-direct a community theatre, and we’re deep in the heart of rehearsals. The theatre is connected to books; our proceeds go to a literacy fund we started called The Charlotte Book Shelf.