hats 2Can we talk? I’m having a bit of an identity crisis.

A Woman of Many Hats (including a sombrero)

Depending on whom you ask and when, I am a…

  • Literata (= female member of the literati; woman with Ph.D. in poetry)
  • Travel editor
  • Guidebook author
  • Travel writer
  • Food and spirits writer
  • Pet writer and blogger
  • Freelance editor
  • Blogger about Freud, genealogy, and meat.

Looking back, I see I’ve followed my interests more than my common sense in a society that demands specialization.  Still, after many, many years of waffling, I finally feel comfortable defining myself as a writer.

Sometimes realizing that I ended up doing what I always wanted to do when I was a kid even makes me happy.

Who Do You Think You Are?

I’m glad I never managed to fit myself into a box, though it wasn’t for want of trying. I’ve gotten an amazing education, without paying any extra tuition. The drawback? People you’ve met in one phase of your life, especially those whose passions coincide with yours at the point of intersection, are convinced that they know the “real” you.  A friend I’ve kept up with since graduate school told me the other day that she always reads my blog. “Which one?” I wanted to ask — but I knew the answer. For her, there is only Freud’s Butcher, my so-called intellectual outlet.

ButcherBadgex200pxOthers seem to believe in metamorphosis, to assume people change on a cellular level when they pursue a different interest.  I had the odd experience recently of seeing myself discussed, obituary style, on a Facebook literary page, where I learned that I’ve “become a professional dog person.” I understand that it’s shorthand, but it’s also shortsightedness, suggesting there’s nothing I might say about pets or animal welfare that could synch with an interest in poetry, that I use as fewer brain cells here than I do when writing about Freud or genealogy.

There’s not much we can do about other people’s perceptions of us. We can only try to be the people we aspire to be — or, putting on my professional dog person’s hat, the people that our dogs think we are.

The Book That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Which brings me, finally, to my point.

I’ve been in a black mood lately. It’s what happens when you lose a muse, a best friend, an identity. For nine years, whether I wrote about him or not, a large part of how I defined myself was as Frankie’s person.

I wrote about the loss. I had a fundraiser in Frankie’s memory. And, for a while, I thought I might write another dog book; I have a good one in mind, if I say so myself. But I realized that I’m not ready to tackle it yet. I need a bit of distance.

That’s true too of the family history book I was planning. I’ve enjoyed exploring the past, locating relatives from around the world. But all roads in that story seem to lead to the Holocaust, whether succumbing to it or surviving it. I need to step back from that sadness too.

It suddenly struck me: Before Frankie and Freud, there was Misguided, the working title of a memoir of my life as a travel writer (in some incarnations, the subtitle was Confessions of a Travel Slut). Started more than a decade ago, the book has been through two agents, one of whom decided at the last minute that she didn’t like my persona (um, that would be me), the other of whom disappeared after a single round of sending out sample chapters.

The last time I worked on the memoir was in 2008; Frankie had just been diagnosed with diabetes, and had never been keen on travel in any case. It seemed like a good time for me to settle in and reflect. I hired an editor to read the proposal and sample chapters of my memoir and then sent them around to agents again.

Somehow I ended up selling a book about dogs directly to a publisher instead.

A Woman with a Plan

In the intervening six years, publishing has changed — and so has my attitude towards it. With four books with large, traditional publishers under my belt, I have nothing to prove. And I’ve realized just how much marketing authors have to do to sell books for which they only receive a small percentage. This time, I’m going to publish the book myself. Stay tuned for the details; I don’t have them yet.

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to write the book first.

So I’ve dusted off the old sample chapters and, for the first time, approached the book from the beginning, organically, rather than picking out tidbits to serve as agent or publisher bait. Starting any large project is always tough, but so far this has been a blast. I’ve been getting in touch with old friends from my days as a travel editor at Prentice Hall (Chapter 1), including several of the authors whose books I worked on. One of them confirmed that I was the first editor to allow the use of the word “penis” in a Frommer’s guide — a historic moment!

I’ve also been revisiting some less pleasant memories.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, it’s said, and I believe in the literary corollary: The best revenge is writing well. Those of you who have done me wrong should be very afraid.

But you pet peeps have nothing to worry about, I promise. You’ve always made me proud to be a professional dog person.

22 thoughts on “Dispatches from a Professional Dog Person”

  1. A wonderful post! I knew you first through your Will My Dog Hate Me blog but loved getting to know all the persona’s required to make you you! As a dog trainer, artist, writer and dog lover I find many people know me as just one of those. I want to write a book called The Truth About Miriam!

    1. Thanks, Miriam! I guess we both owe a bit of a debt to Facebook for filling out parts of our personalities; it’s how I got to know you.

      My business card says The Three Faces of Edie.

  2. I cannot wait!
    I think what makes you most fascinating to me Edie, is your literary and travel background. You raise the conversation level in the dog world. I look very much forward
    To reading your book.

    1. That’s very nice of you to say, Mel! I figured if I announced the new book, I would have to write it…And I think I’ve become a much better writer — as well as person — because of dogs.

  3. It’s bound to be pretty wonderful, Edie. Your audience is waiting — I, for one, want to hear more about the penis. (Surprise!)

  4. Very exciting Edie, wishing you the best on this new adventure.
    And you are not a woman with many hats! just a person with too many interests and ENERGY (caps intended) for us average mortals to grasp!

    1. I’m not sure where you get the idea that I have a lot of energy — just an inability to focus! — but if I fooled you, that’s a good thing. Thanks so much for the good wishes!

  5. Edie, you are a wealth of information and so entertaining. I love reading your blog and I’m happy I know you. 🙂 Jean

  6. Despite being an urban housing activist, crazy dog lady , and a history geek in various phases of my life, I have an intense desire to find the connections between seemingly disparate things. That never disappears no matter what I’m doing.

    So I feel an overwhelming urge to find the commonalities in the 3 Faces of Edie.

    And in your blogs, where I’ve gotten to know you, I see someone who explores by writing. Who digs into a topic and sees what it has to offer. Who is intellectually curious.

    I didn’t know you when travel was a major part of your life. But I’m sure you were open to learning everywhere you went. How could you not be given the places you visited on your honeymoon?

    People who need to figure out if you’re a travel person or a dog person or a foodie have simple minds. Share your gifts with people whose brains don’t explode at the thought of someone being curious and complex.

    I, for one, like reading good writing on a wide range of topics. So put me down to buy Misguided (heck, you got me with the title; I love the wordplay). I’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. I’m just finding out some of the commonalities, and it’s been really interesting. On the other hand, there are times I have to give up, shrug my shoulders, and say, who knows?

      As always, your support is much appreciated. Your tastes are as weird, um, original and eclectic as mine!

  7. I LOVE your writer persona! That editor was just plain wrong, IMHO. I can’t wait to read whatever it is that is in the making. As for self publishing — you go! I self-published a book a loooong time ago, 1998. Even then it was a great decision. I make much more money and got far more exposure than if I had gone with a publisher. Also, I wrote the book I wanted to write, not what some publisher/editor would have wanted me to write. As for ‘who do I think I am?’ Ha! I have no idea. I kinda feel on hold for the time being.

    1. I think dog blogging has helped me create a more genuine persona, someone closer to me than the original travel writer character I created for myself. At least I hope so. I’m impressed that you self-published a book so long ago — good for you. Your experience is very encouraging.

    1. Thanks, Rox. Yeah, I don’t know how focusing on animals became a pejorative, but somehow it did. Of course we know better!

  8. If there’s anyone who can wear all of those hats stacked on top of each other and do it with style, it’s you. 🙂

    1. It’s that pointy head I have. Seriously. I fell in a shower in Paris and had an X-ray that revealed all. It helps keeps the hats on 😉

  9. “But you pet peeps have nothing to worry about, I promise. You’ve always made me proud to be a professional dog person.” Well, maybe a certain ‘mean girl’ who was giving you fits last week. But then again, despite her chosen career, she’s F A R from being a pet person.

    And whichever persona you adopt for the new book, I’m sure I will enjoy getting to know you a little bit more! Looking forward to it, in fact!

    1. Ha, I was going to include the mean girl story in this post and then decided she didn’t deserve any more attention. Bottom line: She’s not one of my peeps, i.e., people who read this blog and are generally supportive — like you. As you say, she’s not exactly a pet person — or a people person!

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