Category Archives: Self publishing

The Brooklyn Mutt Show March 24, 2012

Just in time for Brooklyn’s weirdly early and foggy spring is the Brooklyn Mutt Show at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope! The Brooklyn Mutt show proceeds this year benefit Sean Casey Animal Rescue. On Saturday March 24, Phoebe and I will be there from 11am-6pm selling my book Dogs of Brooklyn and answering dog training questions. Phoebe will likely be entering some of the contests, like Best Ears.

Best Ears, Don't you think?

All proceeds from Dogs of Brooklyn sales at the Brooklyn Mutt Show are going to go to our cat Itty Pity’s cancer treatment. Sadly, after 17 years she was diagnosed with lymphoma and we want to make her as comfortable as possible as she passes into the next world (which ain’t cheap!).

Dennis, Phoebe dog, Phoebe Cat (in perch), and Itty Pity (on table as usual)

A good time will be had by all at the Mutt Show so come on down.

Some recent kind words on Dogs of Brooklyn/ my writing:

Good friend and excellent writer, Melissa Febos and I discuss writing, publishing, and dogs on The Nervous Breakdown.

Awesome editor/ writer Jason Boog interviews me about poetry and self publishing for Galleycat.

One of my clients interview me on poetry, Brooklyn, adolescence, and dogs on Walking the Blog.

More events etc to come! Mark your calendars for Saturday April 7 2012 at 7am-9am. Phoebe and I will be hosting Fido Brooklyn’s Coffee Bark! Come say hello and get free coffee, bagels, and dog treats in Prospect Park by the Picnic House. Hope to see you soon!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Interviews, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

My Life on the P List- Beaten by a 12-year-old at DWAA

I’m starting column to chronicle the d-list antics (humorous rejection) of being a poet and writer out there promoting myself. I’m calling it “My Life on the P List.” P being even further than D-list in the alphabet and miles away from the A-list. P also standing for Poetry, Promotion, Projectile Vomiting. P really can mean anything you like, but basically its my attempt to laugh at all the ridiculous rejection writers face. So read on- my failures are here for your enjoyment!

Several months ago I got a letter in the mail saying I’d been nominated for an award from the Dog Writers Association of America (really!) for my poem “St. Francis of 42nd Street” that appeared in the December 2010 of Dog Fancy Magazine.

February 12, 2012, the same night as the Grammys, I attended the DWAA Awards Banquet. So while Adele was busy getting awards left and right, I was making small talk with the real life cast of Best in Show. Appropriate considering the Westminster Dog Show is happening over the next two days. That’s right Mark Doty, Amy Hempel, John Grogan, and all you other writers who’ve had critical success writing about dogs–Eat Your Heart Out!

I have photos to prove the DWAA actually exists! When I got to the Affina Hotel, that’s right, we got swag bags! And instead of Rolex’s or whatever they give people at the Grammy’s mine was filled with dog friendly ice melt, dog chews, and other dog related products. Try to contain your jealousy!

Swag bag!!!

Wait it gets better! We checked out the writing display (my poem and Dennis’ photo was nowhere to be found)

Writing display

We find a table and wind up sitting next to some breeders. One of which had been a Westminster judge. Being that I’m a hardcore shelter/ rescue dog advocate sitting by breeders was like sleeping with the enemy! They were nice but did talk about judging “good” dogs. It got interesting when one of the older ladies started feeling sick and left to go to the bathroom with no shoes on. We checked on her to make sure she wasn’t having a stroke or something, she was ok but clearly not all there.

Dennis and I managed to eat our chicken dinners and keep our mouths shut about shelter politics.

Dennis and I playing nice

So the award ceremony starts and lots of the nominees and sponsors aren’t there which the presenter comments on saying about the sponsors “That’s okay we still have their money!” Which cracks us up. The awards are these plastic medallions and some cash awards. When they finally get to my category they announce the 4 nominees for poetry. One is at the table next to ours and she’s a fourteen year old girl that has a head band with cat ears on it. The presenter says her poem was published when she was only 12-years-old. They announce the winner and its her! She squeals and runs up to collect her plastic medallion. I stand there stunned that my 33 year old self who’s written for 20 years or more just got beaten by a 12-year-old wearing cat ears. They come over and give me my nominee certificate. I force a smile

My certificate! Almost as good as my MFA dipolma!

The highlight was I noticed Patricia McConnell who is pretty much my dog training idol sitting at the table next to us. So before we left I met her and gave her a copy of DOGS OF BROOKLYN!

Patricia McConnell is touching my book!

I grumbled my way home with Dennis who tried to cheer me up and not laugh at me too much. Its so ridiculous I actually can’t not laugh about it all.

So last week I was interviewed by Melissa Febos in the Rumpus and got mentioned by Poets and Writers,  this week beaten by a 12-year-old. Thankfully, the dogs love me no matter what–Too bad they can’t buy books!

3 Comments

Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

DOGS OF BROOKLYN needs your help!

DOGS OF BROOKLYN out now!

 

That’s right folks after years of hard work both writing and walking DOGS OF BROOKLYN is finally here! DOGS OF BROOKLYN is Susie DeFord’s fresh poetic narrative about her colorful life as a dog trainer and walker in Brooklyn, NY with vivid photographs by Dennis Riley.

I’m really excited, however, a book no matter how good it is doesn’t sell itself. DOGS OF BROOKLYN needs your help to be a success. How you can help!

Like and share the DOGS OF BROOKLYN facebook page for updates on events, giveaways, and copious amounts of dog photos: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dogs-of-Brooklyn/201496963253879

Buy and review and share the book on Amazon and/or add to your Wish List. Reviews make the book easier to find online. http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Brooklyn-Susie-DeFord/dp/0615565719

Help book and attend upcoming events! Please let me know if you have any ideas so far I’m thinking local animal shelter fundraisers/ readings but we need places to hold these.

Anyone good with computers/ social media? I’m trying to get the book correctly formatted for Kindle and other ebook places but could use some help. Also social media mavens please put the word out about the book!

If you write consider reviewing and pitching articles about DOGS OF BROOKLYN to blogs and magazines. I’m working on this but I can’t do it all alone.

DOGS OF BROOKLYN is a book that belongs to readers, dogs, Brooklyn and beyond. With help we can share our love of dogs and the city with the world.

Any ideas or help welcome- Please contact me at http://susiedeford.com/

The DOGS and I thank you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

How a Dog Walker Paid off a 37K Student Loan in 6 Years

Me and the Dogs

At 25 I made the naïve mistake of getting an MFA in Creative Writing at a private college in New York City. I had moved to Brooklyn, NY when I was 22 from Florida after finishing my BA in English at Florida State University. For three years I floundered around in various jobs at a tattoo shop, TV and film, public and private schools, baby sitting, dog walking, selling produce at street fairs etc. You name it I did it. One thing that’s great about New York is that you can always find work, it may not be the work you want but there are plenty of odd jobs. Somehow I paid the meager rent in my sub-basement apartment (that’s right, below ground, one small shoebox window under a sewer grate) and was able to eat. There were night I couldn’t sleep because I was so scared about money and the future, but I had hope because I was in New York and it seemed anything was possible here.

In 2003 I thought it would be a good idea to get an MFA to hone my craft and build a local writing community/ connections. I didn’t want to leave New York so I applied to three schools—two local and one low residency. I only got into one school, so that’s where I went.  There was no thinking about how I’d pay for it. The school helped me apply for and set up a student loan program.  They had no teaching assistantships or scholarships really, though I think I was able to get a yearly 2k scholarship. They didn’t care how I paid back my loans either as long as they got paid.

I hadn’t done any research on schools with funding or really given it much thought at all. I thought when I graduated I’d just sell my novel and pay my student loans with the book advance. Needless to say that didn’t happen and when I graduated in 2005, I had $37,000 to pay back. Not only that but the MFA program was super unsupportive—both the faculty and students. Despite doing well in the program and really trying to connect with people I finished feeling no better off than when I’d started. A few years later when applying to residencies and then PHD programs I couldn’t even get letters of recommendation from most of my former teachers. I had to hit up my undergrad professors who are thankfully lovely generous people who have always been supportive of my work.

In case anyone is unaware, the job market is not pounding down the doors of people with MFA’s—shocking, I know.  After graduating, I worked in publishing production for about 5 minutes. I got a job at McGraw Hill in the building above Madison Square Garden. My parents finally thought I’d made it. I had an office job with benefits and a somewhat decent starting salary. I commuted everyday to the clusterfuck of Penn Station during rush hour. I tried my best at a job I wasn’t properly trained for. I routinely got yelled to the point of tears at for making mistakes though I was really doing my best. The florescent ceiling lights and soviet block architecture had me sitting on the steps of the main library on 34th street eating my lunch with the passed out bums just to be outside of that place. I got laid off 3 months later, had to move out of my apartment, and got dumped. 2005 was a stellar year.

When things fall apart sometimes it’s for the best. Some of the most painful times in my life have lead to the best changes.  I applied for deferment of my student loans. I thought about all of the jobs I’d had so far. The only one I somewhat enjoyed was dog walking. I called up a few dog walkers I knew in the neighborhood and told them I was available for work if they needed help. Luckily one did. I worked for her for a few months then started my own dog walking and pet sitting business full time since I’d always been doing this on the side anyways.

I was so angry at the world and the writing community for not publishing my book or being supportive that I quit writing and just played in punk/noise bands for a few years. Once I was making a little money I started doing minimum payments on my loan though I was really resentful and angry. I felt like the school had taken advantage of my naiveté  by charging all this money for essentially a useless degree. Resentment though is like drinking poison and hoping the other person (or school) will die.

My dog business continued to grow as my bands fell apart, now I was angry at music for the same reasons as the writing community. I even resented dog walking despite loving the dogs, because I felt like I was this super educated person picking up dog shit for a living. The truth was I was afraid it was all I could do and that it wasn’t  “good” enough in my eyes or in the eyes of the world. I started to have problems with my health- chronic ankle pain, a burst appendix that landed me in the hospital for a while, and then getting hit by a car. Thank god I’d started to hire people to work with me at that point with the dogs or I would’ve completely lost my whole business.  I’d also met and started dating a really nice supportive guy around that time which helped me get through it.

Some time on my ass in hospitals and at home helped me be grateful for the things I did have instead of always looking at what I didn’t have. Up till then I’d had my health, a family who loved me, and a job that supported me. I started to realize the least common denominator in all of my problems was me and my thinking. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself for all the things life wasn’t giving me and start being grateful for what I had. As for my job I was clearly in this dog walking profession for a reason and maybe instead of thinking it was beneath me, I’d just try to do the best at it I could. I finally grew up and accepted life on life’s terms and decided to go out there and do the best I could with what I had. This is when things really started to change for me.

I began to learn about dog training and help clients train their dogs to make their relationships and lives easier. I let go of the rock scene. It didn’t really do much for my mental health—it was more of a spiritual vacuum than writing ever had been. I began writing again, working on a book of poems about Brooklyn and the dogs to give a voice to this odd life of mine, and the characters, animal and human, I encountered everyday.  My boyfriend began photographing the dogs to go along with my poems to help me with my book.

I took responsibility for my student loans and began to attack them with everything I had. I paid as much as I could every month instead of paying the minimum and being depressed thinking that I’d never pay them off. The dog walking business fluctuates—some weeks it’s great and some weeks are slow. When I’d have fear about money I’d pay more on my loans, or give an employee a raise, or contribute a little to a charity. I call this daring God to financially take care of me—faith in action. I wanted proof that I’d be taken care of. Initially, I’d do it and sort of cover my eyes afterwards waiting for the ceiling to fall in. It never did. Inevitably, I’d get a new client or business would pick up with training or pet sitting. I learned that instead of holding on so tight to money, if I trusted the universe that there would be more money, there actually was.

The most amazing thing that happened was that one day my parents (who are not rich) called me up and said they wanted to help me. They wanted to give me a yearly contribution of 5K for my student loans. I was really proud and hadn’t asked my parents for money since I’d left Florida and felt weird about it. I told them I’d think about it. After thinking about it I told them I’d take it, but only if I could match it every year. I figured it would be tight but I could try to pay $400 a month or more towards loans. This was in 2008, I think. I still had 30K in loans so I figured if I did this for 3 years I’d be done.

Dogs of Brooklyn cover designed by Claudean Wheeler

In 2010 I finished the poetry book I’d been working on and started submitting it to publishers. I got the same lackluster response as my novel did, though I had some poems published in magazines and even got paid for one by Dog Fancy Magazine. After a year and a half of this I was done. I talked to a friend in publishing about self-publishing and she actually said it was the best way to go these days. I hired a book designer and worked hard with friends to edit it etc. The result, Dogs of Brooklyn, can be bought by clicking here!

I had all these notions that I wouldn’t be accepted by the publishing world if I self-published. Maybe I won’t, but I’ll have something tangible to show for all of my work and that’s all that matters to me right now. I’ve had friends publish with major publishers and barely make any money or get any help with promotion from them—it didn’t solve all their problems in other words. Once again I found I needed to change MY thinking about things. I seem to be the only one limiting my own success with narrow ideas of what success means.

Dennis, Me, our dog Phoebe at Wedding in Prospect Park

This year I also married the supportive, non-punk rock/artist, but wonderful man I’ve dated the past 3 years. I never thought I’d marry someone who works for the government, but I guess two crazy/moody artist types just makes for double the crazy. Again, not who I thought I’d end up with, I had to be open-minded, and am so glad I was. He accepts me, and my crazy animals and is smart, funny, and easy on the eyes.

I sent in my final student loan payment last night. I only had to accept 2 of my parent’s contributions. The rest I paid myself and I’m proud of that. I believe so much is possible if I can just be more open-minded. Sometimes when one door closes or won’t open, you got to take a window.  Next on the agenda, trying to buy an upstate property for dog and Susie sanity, seems impossible but who knows! Happy 2012!!!

19 Comments

Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing

Self-hatred and Self Publishing

19th century illustration of La Fontaine's Fables by Jean Grandville

I have been in the pit of despair, climbed out, and then jumped right back in. Living in Brooklyn, NY I am surrounded by successful writers and artists- some lucky ones are even making their living off their art. I have been writing stories and poems since the age of 9 or 10 and my dream has always been to publish a book. I followed this dream through undergraduate and graduate school. I rang up quite a bit of debt getting my MFA in creative writing at New School University. I thought I’d finish my novel sell it and pay off my grad school loans with the book advance. That didn’t happen. I finished a novel that was the best a twenty-something writer could do but probably wasn’t very good and needless to say didn’t get published. I also didn’t publish my first collection of poems despite publishing a few here and there in various literary magazines. I was so disgruntled I stopped writing for a few years and just played in bands screaming my head off and being angry at the world. Those bands sadly didn’t take off either.

During all of this I started to find my way in a career of dog walking and dog training. At first it was really humbling to see artists around me publishing books and having their bands succeed while I was battling the elements picking up dog doo. In 2007 I found myself a few years out of grad school with nothing to show for it except a lot of debt and bitterness. One of my awesome undergrad poetry professors David Kirby was nominated for a National Book Award around that time. He and Barbara Hamby, my favorite poet and mentor, came up to NYC for the ceremony and I had breakfast with them. I spewed all of my garbage and disappointment at them and they kindly said “Why don’t you write about being a dog walker in Brooklyn?” Thus began the my book of poems “Dogs of Brooklyn.”

I worked on it for 2-3 years carefully crafting and editing poems. I had other friends and writers look over the work, published some poems in various literary magazines, and did some readings. When the book was “finished” (are books every really finished?), I began sending it out to all the first book contests in the back of Poets and Writers Magazine and to lots of different publishers. My then boyfriend, now husband, Dennis Riley photographed the dogs and we thought about making it a photo/poetry book. For a year and a half I spent money and time trying to get other people to publish and approve of my work. I was also writing for BOMB magazine interviewing poets on their work. In combing through the pile of books they get sent for review I definitely saw that while my book wasn’t maybe the best it also wasn’t the worst. I’m constantly amazed by some of the amazing books that get published and some of the ones I cannot believe got published. I felt like while I may not be the best poet out their I certainly am not the worst. But I also came to understand that in the hyper-intellectual world literary world poems about dogs aren’t always accepted.

I realized the people who liked my work weren’t necessarily the literary world, but regular folks who loved animals and Brooklyn. While I could sit around and be bummed that The New Yorker (who’s poetry I rarely enjoy) won’t publish my work, I realized that being yet another disgruntled artist really wasn’t productive. I come from a background of publishing my own zines in high school and being in the DIY punk rock band scene who put out their own records. I decided that even if the literary scene doesn’t believe in me, I do, so I will publish my book.

I’ve been working on it the past few months with a designer and some volunteer editors. I can’t tell you the highs and lows of this experience. There are days where I’m really excited about it and days where I’m filled with so much doubt, despair, and self-hatred I find it hard to function. I’ve received some really lovely feedback from folks in the writing community and some not so nice feedback. The format I’ve decided to publish in probably won’t support photos the best so I may have to publish it without them to keep costs down, and that is disappointing. We are still figuring it out.

There are times where I question why the hell I’m even bothering doing this. I guess overall I’m doing this as a gift to myself. I’ve worked so hard on various writing/ creative projects that haven’t seen the light of day and when you spend years working on something I guess you want something tangible to show for that. Maybe its a huge mistake, maybe I’ll never have a writing career with a faculty position at some college and have the admiration of all my peers (sounds a little like high school right?) But at least I’ll know that I tried my hardest to respect the work I’ve done and time I’ve invested.

It’s funny though in talking to my friends who have “made it” and are having success with their artistic careers they still struggle too particularly with money. It seems odd to me that they have published books and still sometimes have to juggle multiple adjunct jobs etc just to pay the rent. I’ve been really lucky that I have established a career working with dogs and I’ve always been able to pay my bills for the most part and have time to write. It may not be the most prestigious job, but particularly since I started training dogs, I get to really help people and their animals. I guess in this “race” I’m the tortoise and not the hare. I’m slowly getting okay with that.

3 Comments

Filed under Art, Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry, Self publishing, Writing