"How I Got Published" -- Leigh Brill, Author of A DOG NAMED SLUGGER

In celebration of my latest humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, Aug. 1, 2012), I will be featuring interviews with other dog book writers here and there. It's very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines. This week it's Leigh Brill, writer, speaker, and advocate for people with disabilities. She published her first story at the age of 15; since then her writing has reached national and international audiences through publications including Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body & Soul, the Guideposts book Soul Menders, and the magazines Just Labs: A Celebration of the Labrador Retriever and Ability. Leigh has shared more than a decade of her life in the company of service dogs and continues to do so. She serves on the Board of Directors for Saint Francis Service Dogs, and lives with her family in rural Virginia.
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In celebration of my latest humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, Aug. 1, 2012), I will be featuring interviews with other dog book writers here and there. It's very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines.

This week it's Leigh Brill, writer, speaker, and advocate for people with disabilities. She published her first story at the age of 15; since then her writing has reached national and international audiences through publications includingChicken Soup to Inspire the Body & Soul, the Guideposts book Soul Menders, and the magazines Just Labs: A Celebration of the Labrador Retriever and Ability. Leigh has shared more than a decade of her life in the company of service dogs and continues to do so. She serves on the Board of Directors for Saint Francis Service Dogs, and lives with her family in rural Virginia. Find her on Facebook.

Her 2010 book is called A DOG NAMED SLUGGER. Read on to learn more about her publishing journey and her advice to writers.

GIVEAWAY: Leigh is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.

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Currently own dogs? Tell us their names, breeds and one amusing fact per dog.

I currently share my life with two amazing dogs.

Kenda is a yellow Labrador and my retired service dog. When in work mode, she was always quiet, obedient, and focused, but when she is relaxing and having fun she often snorts! Then she sounds like a little piglet rather than a rather dignified dog.

Pato is my young Golden Retriever and new working partner. I think he must have watched a lot of Groucho Marx movies as a puppy; Pato communicates with his eyebrows better than any dog I’ve ever known. He uses those ‘dancing eyebrows’ to get his wants and needs across AND to charm all the humans he can.

In one sentence, what is your book (or latest dog-related book) about?

A DOG NAMED SLUGGER reveals how my life, initially shaped by cerebral palsy, is ultimately re-shaped by partnership with a remarkable service dog.

When did it come out? Publisher? Any notable awards or praise for it?

Published by Belle Bridge Books in 2010, A DOG NAMED SLUGGER was awarded the Epic Award for Nonfiction in 2011. Booklist calls the book “Irresistible” and proclaims, “This touching memoir will warm the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.”

What inspired you to write this book? (In other words, how did the book come about?)

A DOG NAMED SLUGGER was inspired by the devoted and funny Labrador who changed my life. Slugger shared so many gifts with me during our partnership. I needed to find a way to share some of those gifts with others. My book is one way I can do that; it brings me a rewarding sense of continuity. I also find a sense of grace through words and writing. It’s very like the grace I’ve discovered in service dog partnership. A DOG NAMED SLUGGER has allowed me to marry those two sources of grace in my life. I like that!

What kind of writing, if any, were you doing before the book?

Before writing A DOG NAMED SLUGGER, I enjoyed the creative challenge of writing poetry and short stories. My work has been featured in publications including Just Labs: A Celebration of the Labrador Retriever, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul® books. I’ve also created an educational children’s coloring book to explain the important assistance service dogs provide for their partners. To expand my creative endeavors, I’ve also shared several of my own humorous essays on public radio.

How did you find your agent?

A: I first contacted my agent, Robert Astle, after finding his agency listing on Publishers Marketplace. Thanks to several thorough conversations, we discovered that a working partnership would be a great fit for both of us.

What has been the biggest surprise or learning experience you’ve seen through the process of seeing your book(s) get published?

I am most surprised to realize just how far a single book can reach. I’ve been amazed to receive messages from people all across the U.S., and from readers as far away as Australia, South Africa, and Norway. Folks from every demographic and life situation have shared their own stories, questions, and positive responses to A DOG NAMED SLUGGER. I’m honored.

Tell me about a fun moment or proud experience you’ve had with your book and readers since the book was published.

I had an experience that started out funny and ended up being very rewarding. I was coming out of the grocery store with my service dog by my side and a bag of groceries over my arm. Lost in my own thoughts, I was considering the deal I’d gotten on chicken thighs and wondering if I would like the new laundry detergent I’d found on sale. Suddenly someone called out to me from across the parking lot, “Hey, aren’t you Leigh?” Startled, I saw a lady hurrying toward me. I didn’t recognize her and I imagine my expression relayed just how baffled I was. Still, the woman brushed her hair from her face and smiled. She explained that she recognized me from my book and that A DOG NAMED SLUGGER was one of her daughter’s favorite new reads. “My daughter is in college now,” she added. “She has to deal with a disability that’s a lot like yours. Your story really inspired her. She figures if you can accomplish so many things, she can too, So I just wanted to tell you that and thank you.”

Just like that, in the middle of the grocery store parking lot, my afternoon turned from ordinary to extraordinary.

What are you doing to reach out to readers and dog enthusiasts?

I enjoy keeping up a dialog with readers and friends via my website, email, and Facebook. I’ve also been featured in numerous radio interviews that reach local, regional and national audiences. I’ve been happy to share news about A DOG NAMED SLUGGER in local and national print publications and magazines.

Some of the greatest dog enthusiasts I know support Saint Francis Service Dogs in Virginia. As a board member, volunteer, and partner with this foundation, I’m able to reach out to all sorts of new friends (two-footed ones as well as four-footed ones). My dogs and I also meet wonderful dog enthusiasts every time we take part in book readings and service dog awareness presentations. We love doing those whenever and wherever we can!

Think of your dog (or a past dog perhaps). If you could compare them to one celebrity, who would it be?

Honestly, I have a hard time comparing my service dogs TO celebrities; to me they ARE celebrities. Consider a few key points:

  • They are talented.
  • They are some of the best at their calling.
  • They are hard working.
  • They are undeniably beautiful and very photogenic.
  • People—even strangers—are often drawn to them in public and ooh and ah at the mere sight of them.
  • They are adored and very well cared for.
  • They get to see remarkable things and go places where most dogs would never set a paw.
  • They are frequently asked for their ‘pawtographs’.

I’m happy to add that even as my service dogs seem to be growing more and more famous by the day, they haven’t let it go to their heads.

Favorite of these dog movies? --- “Best in Show,” “101 Dalmatians,” “The Shaggy Dog.”

As a kid, I loved “101 Dalmatians”. I still do. It’s a classic! My amazing canine partners are also living examples of a great quote from that movie: Danny says, “The humans have tried everything. Now it’s up to us dogs!”

Where can people find you on the Internet?

My website address is www.leighbrill.com. Folks on Facebook can also get weekly updates on life with my service dogs at A Dog Named Slugger.

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I am now writing the sequel to A DOG NAMED SLUGGER! I also have plans in the works for children’s book featuring a service dog.

GIVEAWAY: Leigh is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.

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RED DOG / BLUE DOG is a humorous photo collection of
dogs doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things,
assembled all in good fun. It released Aug. 1, 2012 from
Running Press. Visit www.reddog-bluedog.com.
A portion of the proceeds benefit no-kill shelters.

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