I often joke that when the fiction writing isn’t happening, I take pictures of the pup. Good writing days…well, there’s nothing better. But, let’s face it, sometimes they’re not so good. Sometimes they’re putrid. Some days I struggle to string together a few words and tack on some questionable punctuation at the end.
When those oh-so-infrequent (go with it) low-productivity days hit—after I’ve rearranged my sock drawer, scrubbed the silverware separator and shredded old bills (NYC rental agreement circa 1994, I’m talking to you)—the camera offers welcome distraction. Ok, procrastination. Whatever. That, my friends, is when I take pictures of Kona, our pup.
But, I ask, can you blame me?
Answer: No. You cannot.
But a funny thing has happened with all my, er, procrastination: I’ve ended up writing a tidy little library’s worth of picture books for our young nieces and nephews. The whole endeavor started years ago with Bogie, Ko’s big brother. When The Husband and I were newlyweds, I got Bo a puppy Santa suit and the two of us carried him all around the city, taking holiday pics of him. Bo looking at the Rockefeller Center Tree. Bo checking out toys in a window. Bo picking out our Christmas tree and bringing it home. And, of course, Bo peeing, because I’m not above a cheap laugh. Every paw print was chronicled in Santa Bo.
The following year, we returned from a family Disney trip with a Yeti. That spring and summer, the running joke between Husband and me was situating the Yeti in surprise spots throughout the apartment. Sometimes he was dressing. Or going for a bike ride. One time I came home and found him sitting in front of the TV, one paw in a bag of M&Ms, another on the remote, watching SpongeBob Square Pants. And of course, the Yeti and Bo playing backgammon. The Yeti was a misunderstood little guy–everyone feared him when in reality he was this well-rounded sophisticated chap. Another book, The Urban Yeti, was born.
On the last page of The Urban Yeti, Kona made his debut (furry cliffhanger!), and all was revealed in the following book, The Story of Lil’ Ko. That literary offering focused on the deep and complicated bond between brothers—a common refrain in some of the finest literature of our day. In this story, Bogie waded through the weighty and oh-so-serious emotional issue of how he wanted a Brother computer and ended up with Ko instead.
The following year, we gave the nieces and nephews Toys Story, where we incorporated the full cast of stuffed animal characters, including the always-difficult Gingerbread Man, into the gripping plot of…wait for it…how will Ko and his friends get their paws on a bowl of clementines??? I’ll say what you’re all thinking: Dramatic tension, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Next, there was Let Us Eat Cake, a story that got to the heart of an insidious discrimination so pervasive and corrosive, it’s a blight on our society. Specifically, that shop owners will not allow dogs into their stores to buy baking ingredients. Ko can’t buy any butter! He’s simply not welcome anywhere. I know…let’s pause a moment to collect ourselves. But fear not. The Ko is a plucky little pup. Instead of wallowing in the injustice of it all, he heads to Washington D.C., meets with a Very Important Pup there and returns victorious, with Congressional-approved legislation in hand! Yes, the part about Congress actually doing anything to better anyone requires a serious suspension of disbelief, but this is a children’s tale, one where a stuffed blue octopus speaks.
Then, this past year, we did a book called Lord of the Cozies. I should preface this plot summary by noting that there was a stretch during the holidays where we watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy like it was our jobs. I am nothing if not a diligent student of storytelling. Anyhoo, in this book we included the familiar cast of characters from stories past, and introduced some new ones, like Mrs. Domo and Furry Bunny (perhaps we watched LOTR too many times? Is that possible?). There was a quest for Ko to save the Christmas village, political maneuverings by the still-difficult Gingerbread Man, who was backed by big money, and, at the very end, a tribute to Bogie, the little guy who started it all. Last year, Bo went to that big backyard in the sky, so it was only fitting that we bring our books back to where they all began.
As for this year, let’s just say we’re in pre-production work. I’m not procrastinating. Honest. I’m creating.
Like I said, go with it.