Flower Power

Kids, books, and dogs. Could it possibly get any better than that? Not if you ask Gracie after her visit to the Stanford Free Library. Her first reading & signing was a smashing success, largely due to the talents of Danielle Sundberg, Children’s Programming Director Extraordinaire.

Organized and exuberant, she gently corralled our new little friends and directed their attention to Ms. Grace and I as we read aloud and shared the silliness that is You Can Count On Gracie. As you can imagine, comments and chuckles from the peanut gallery were not in short supply. Danielle kept the canine ball rolling with I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words, while Gracie enjoyed hand pats and love from her fellow audience members.

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Our smiling star was happy to help demonstrate the proper way to approach and greet a dog. Her ulterior motive was obvious.

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Drawing inspiration from “Three Thirsty Flowers” in You Can Count On Gracie, Danielle had prepared a marvelous craft session during which the children fashioned their own flower headdresses. The results were nothing short of a fabulous floral runway.

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GracieGirlWe’ve brought home wonderful memories of our visit to the Stanford Free Library and are hoping that our new friends will cherish the laughter and learning we shared that day. While we’re thrilled that many copies of You Can Count On Gracie went to new homes, the opportunity to demonstrate basic dog handling techniques to the kids was especially gratifying. Sharing life and love with a dog is a gift that is best enjoyed by starting off on the right paw.

Thanks again to Danielle, Arlene and the rest of the staff at the Stanford Free Library for the terrific work they do. Support your local library – there’s so much going on right under your nose!

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Beacon Barks!

For the past 7 years, on the last Saturday in April, the main street of Beacon, NY has been willingly given over to canine jurisdiction. Tented vendors line the barricaded street, and from 10:30 to 3:00, it’s all about Rover. Beacon Barks! is a community parade and street festival dedicated to the region’s shelter & rescue organizations. Organized and sponsored by the Beacon Dog Park and the Beacon Barkery, it has blossomed into a fantastic four-legged celebration of man and woman’s best friend.

As the CEO (Canine Executive Officer) of Little Minute Publishing, Gracie was there to promote her literary tour de force “You Can Count On Gracie”. I assumed the position of production assistant as I set up her table and commandeered the help necessary to raise the EZ-UP tent. Grinning from the sidelines, the furry Lady Gaga watched as her entourage set her stage. She was oh-so-ready for her close-up, Mr. Demille, when the spotlight shifted from her to the oncoming parade of paws.The party had started and she wasn’t going to miss a moment of it.                                                                                    

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The Grand Marshall was divinely decked out in spots and waved from a bicycle powered rickshaw, while the bluest of mascots led the way with a little help from artist Ed Benavente and organizer Jeff Mchugh.                                                                                                                                                   

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The procession that followed was a silly and spectacular testimonial to the power of dog. Leaving their day jobs far behind, owners were proud accessories to their pets as they strutted their stuff and owned every inch of the limelight. Bedazzled, bejeweled or simply sporting their own fabulous fur, they took to the street with a stylish spirit and the joy of the moment. ParadeBullyBrigadeWellDressedWeinersMastiffSmilinBeagleBoysChineseCrested                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

KiltTo say “a good time was had by all” was an understatement and Ms. Grace would definitely second this assessment. A flash of her smile brought new friends to her side and led to sessions of heavy petting. Paws down, the most memorable encounter happened when Adam, a young man with special needs, stopped by with his mom, his aide Yasmin and his own golden retriever. Adam was engaged and at times over-exuberant, held in check by Yasmin’s firm but gentle counsel. I couldn’t have been prouder of my girl as she showered him with sweetness and acceptance. A copy of “You Can Count On Gracie” went home with the family and I hope it takes with it memories of a wonderful day.

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A round of applause is in order for all the volunteers who organized this labor of love to honor our companions and raise support and awareness for those animals still looking for their “forever” homes. Thanks go to Jeff McHugh, president of the Beacon Dog Park, Libby Faison of the Beacon Barkery, and to the town of Beacon for hosting a heartwarming party for those wet noses and wagging tails that unconditionally brighten our days.

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The Birth of a Book

MaterialGirlWatermarkwebMy mother loved to shop. Her conquests in the bargain arena were well known in our neighborhood. Tired of trying to find something? Just ask Rose. The hunt thrilled her and she pursued her quarry with determination and tenacity. It could be said that she had too much time on her hands, but I prefer to think that her obsession was a karmic holdover from a former life as a bloodhound.

While the bloodhound’s hunt might wind up as dinner, the bulk of my mother’s conquests were relegated to shelves, closets and “that room off of my brother’s room”.  When she died, I was faced with the grueling task of sorting through her booty. I promised myself that I would bring as little as possible back to my own home, but more often than not I fell prey to the warmth of her memory and rationalized the bulk of my artifact gathering by designating them as props for future art projects.

In her bedroom stood a four foot high armoire dedicated to housing her extensive collection of jewelry. Finding only a few valuable pieces in the chest, I was faced with a mound of costume necklaces, bracelets and earrings with which I could not bear to part. They were her treasures, after all, and I decided that I should keep them in her honor.

I can’t remember how or why I embarked upon the “Material Girl” series. Gracie had established herself as a patient and willing model and I imagined a series of photographs in which the jewelry would be progressively piled on her. We began with a few trinkets, and over the course of about 25 minutes, I covered her in a rainbow of beads, crystals and faux pearls that cascaded onto the floor. I was rewarded with an unlikely homage to my mother. Grace took her pay in treats.

Initially I envisioned “You Can Count On Grace” as literally counting on Gracie. I would create a one through ten series with a variety of items cleverly placed on my canine canvas. While the idea intrigued me and I had the perfect accomplice, it became apparent to me that the concept might lose steam at about number three. Bouts of brainstorming and fielding suggestions eventually led to the eleven scenarios that would become the book.

A childlike love of shiny objects and a dose of dysfunction built a mountain of bling from which “You Can Count On Gracie” emerged. Thanks Mom, there really was gold in them thar hills.

 

 

The Prop Pile

CraftRoomPropPileI love to put things away. Hate clutter. Oddly enough, I can’t bring myself to find a more permanent resting place for this motley collection. No particular harm is being done after all; stuffed animals, inflatable fish and a sequined moon sit among fake carrots and butterfly wings on a table in my “Crafts Room”. It’s out of the way and only occasionally irritates my organizational itch.

Unnerved by stray Tupperware on an otherwise pristine kitchen counter, I smile as I pass “The Pile” on my way to the laundry room. We’ve been on a bit of a romp together over the last year as I collected, composed and created the photographs that would become “You Can Count On Gracie”. I remember the night I scoured the internet looking for the nine plush Golden Retrievers that would surround Gracie to become the number 10. (Sorry- they’re in a separate lump on the other side of the room, but trust me, they share the Craft Room limelight.) My vision called for a brown rabbit while the web was loaded with white bunnies; who knew I could get so excited when my hunt turned up the perfect cottontail at a reasonable price? The list goes on and so do the ridiculous memories brought back to life by the denizens of “The Pile”.

While waiting for the shipment of the first edition of “Gracie”, I’ve been putting the final touches on the Little Minute Publishing website and we will be going live. The book will be available for sale on the site and eventually on Amazon. I’ll also be listing bookstores, readings and events as I hit the promotional trail.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging and bringing you up to date on the latest goings-on in the land of Grace. Look for posts about our photo shoots and how we created the magic that would become our wonderful project. You’ll see why I’m having a hard time putting away “The Pile”.