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Interview with Barb Techel

When did you start writing?
I started writing seriously about 3 years ago. In 2004 I was feeling a void in my life, but was not sure what that void was all about. In December 2004 my nine year old chocolate lab was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. Her diagnoses made me face my own mortality. Realizing how short life truly is made me find the courage to look deep within myself. I wanted to do something with my life that mattered and leave a legacy behind. I hired a life coach to help me with my journey. My love of animals kept coming up in our discussions and after many different avenues I explored I decided I’d love to write about animals. I started writing a monthly column called, “For the Love of Animals” for our local paper and I did that for two years. I also joined a local Women’s Writing Circle and began exploring other areas I liked to write about. Though most of the time my writing always brings me back to my love of animals.

"Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog" isn't just a usual children’s book. Tell us a bit about it and how you got the idea.
My book is a bit unusual in the fact it is a non-fiction children’s book. It is also told in Frankie’s voice, as if she is telling you the story herself. I had been thinking about writing an adult non-fiction story based on life lessons I learned from my dogs. After attending a writing conference in 2007 and learning about self-publishing I was very excited about the possibility of writing and publishing my own book. I really had no intention of writing a children’s book. But I believe God gave me a message to write Frankie’s story. I woke up the Monday after the conference, sat straight up in bed and said out loud, “I’m going to write a children’s book and it is going to be about Frankie.” That is the honest truth. That same week I began working on the book.

"Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog" was chosen as a 2008 finalist for the Indie Excellence Awards. When writing the book did you think it would be such a success? Why do you think it's been so well received?
All I knew was I had to write this story. My drive to do this was quite intense, but intense in a good way. I knew if I didn’t write Frankie’s story I would regret it at the end of my life. It was that important to me. I have a strong faith and I just believed (and still do) that if I followed my heart and wrote the story, God would take care of the rest. And He has. Of course, I do my due diligence in making sure I am doing what I can to market it. But I really believe if I do something each day to get my name out there and continue to follow my heart, my story will reach those it is supposed to touch. And it has and continues to do so.
I think the reason it is well received is because for one, writing about dogs right now seems to be a huge market. People want feel good stories. People love true stories and a story with a happy ending. And it’s pretty hard to resist a cute little dog in a wheelchair. At my book launch in Feb. 2008 I had over 200 people attend and sold 160 books! I often joke, “Put a dog in a wheelchair and people will come.” I mean that in the kindest way. It was very tough in the beginning of Frankie’s injury and paralysis, but I realized I had to look for a blessing in her situation. The blessing was writing her story and sharing her message that disabled animals can live a quality life.
You are a proud member of several writing associations. How do you feel they affect your writing career?
They are very helpful in marketing and learning ways to effectively market my book. They are also helpful in learning everything about writing and publishing. Writing can be a lonely endeavour, but having a connection to associations helps you to not feel so alone and you always have somewhere to turn to for answers.

You do a lot of author visits. How does this affect the sales of your book?
My main goal is to visit local schools. I do very well selling books to schools and usually sell anywhere from 40-60 per visit. I offer a discount to schools for my books. I really believe in my story and believe it can help children face challenges with a positive attitude. I want my book to be affordable to as many children as possible, so that is why I offer a discount price through schools. One important thing about author visits is to be sure the person hosting you gets the word out about your visit as that will help greatly in people attending and your book sales.

Any tips on how to be organized for author visits? What to take with you etc....?
I have a suitcase on wheels ready to go at all times. I have all my props, paperwork, books, etc. in that suitcase. I also keep a box of books in my car at all times. I’ve sold many books just from my car as I am out and about! Every school that books a visit with me receives a letter of agreement outlining the date I will be there, my needs and my fees. They also receive a bio and photos of Frankie and I to use as they wish. They also receive a copy of Frankie bookmarker’s that they can make copies of and hand out to the children. Sending the letter of agreement outlining everything you need and what you will be doing helps elevate any questions. I also try to make sure to follow up the week before with the organizer in case there are any questions. I also usually pack my suitcase the night before, so in the event I think of something I forgot, I can add it in the morning. Usually the last thing I have to pack is my laptop and off I go!

Where can people find out more about Frankie and your books?

They can visit my website where they will see a video about Frankie and learn about my book and it is www.joyfulpaws.com

Anything else you'd like to add?

I’m really passionate about bringing a positive face and voice to animals with disabilities. Writing Frankie’s story has enabled me to show others that disabled animals deserve a chance. Frankie is no different than before. The only difference is that she can’t use her back legs. Her spirit and mind is fully intact.
I also self-published my book and am so excited the direction self-publishing is heading. It used to have such a stigma attached to it. But if you are a professional about all the steps of writing, publishing and marketing your book, I believe you can be a success. To me success is in the faces of the children I meet. It is also in the smiles of the elderly and the ill that Frankie and I meet with our therapy work. If you have a passion to write your story, I would encourage you to go out and do it and don’t let anything get in your way. I followed my heart and did it and am so glad I did. I have been blessed in so many ways.

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