Today Barbara Barth, an utterly charming and (I say this is as a compliment) wacky author is visiting for 5Ws. I never know what’s going to come next from this lady who is so full of imagination and inspiration that every time I turn around she has a new book to tell me about! Her latest is A Dog Dreams of Paris a picture book for “dreamers of all ages”. You can read my review of it here.
Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the ‘net, and margaritas, to name a few. Then there are the dogs. As many as her house can hold! After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays that became her memoir The Unfaithful Widow. She also wrote a suspense-romance called Danger in her Words. When she isn’t writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can’t resist. You can learn more about Barbara and the upcoming dates (and book giveaways!) on her WOW Blog Tour here.
Who is your favorite author? Who is your favorite canine literary character?
I don’t really have a favorite author that I follow. I have books that I read and love and the author is my favorite at that moment. Sometimes I will dearly love one book by an author, but not the next one that is written. It’s hard to tell what will strike my fancy, it depends on my mood. I am not a huge fiction fan, more essays and memoirs on life, and houses, gardens, and of course, dogs. At the beginning of this year I read Around the House and in the Garden: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing, and Home Improvement by Dominique Browning. At the time of writing her memoir, Browning was editor in chief of House & Garden magazine. Her story is about the way a house can express loss, and then bereavement, and then, finally, the rebuilding of a life. I was in a reflective mood at the time, worrying about my need for hip replacement surgery. Her words on finding comfort in her home resonated with me. For a complete turn about, my favorite fiction read this year was Mary Kay Andrews Save The Date. A wonderfully entertaining story of a floral designer, a big wedding, romance, a dog, and one of my dream cities, Savannah. I wanted to move to Savannah and open my own florist shop after reading the book. It was light and fun and the description of the city, the apartment, her shop, and all the brides coming in with their Pinterest boards on their iPads was so in the moment my head spun in joy. Both books played on my own house fantasies!
My favorite dog story, a children’s book by Hans Wilhelm, I’ll Always Love You, is dear to my heart for many reasons. It is the story of a young boy and his puppy, Elfie, a dachshund, as they grow up together. As Elfie ages she can no longer romp and play, and her health goes downhill, until one morning she does not wake up. As grim as that sounds, it is so beautifully written with a life message for all of us. The boy takes solace in the fact he told Elfie how much he loved her every day. While he is not ready for a new dog, he knows he will one day and will always remember to say “I love you”. I am almost in tears again as I write this. What a beautiful message to everyone. Let those around you know you love them. The illustrations are charming and naïve. It is classic for me.
What charity is benefiting from your latest book, A Dog Dreams of Paris?
The month of May, the launch month for my picture book, Friends of Dekalb Animals (FODA), a local group I am very familiar with, received the royalties. It was not a large sum, but with any rescue group everything and anything is needed. I also sent a packet of books to Atlanta Canine Adoption Project (ACAP) the group that brought Miss April in Paris and her buddy Rascal to me! Most of May I was in the hospital with hip replacement surgery and inpatient physical therapy. So I got off to a slow start with my marketing. The book is available to rescue groups at my wholesale cost if they are interested in using it for fund raising. They can contact me directly for details. In the fall I plan to set up at festivals, and doggie events, signing my books, with the profits going to animal shelters. My goal is to use any profits for my animal rescue folks. The book is my way of giving back to the folks who work so hard to help our dogs find their forever homes.
Where would you visit if you could go anywhere in the world? Will Miss April be visiting anywhere else?
While I was writing the book my mind was humming the tune to Somewhere Over The Rainbow, but the words in my head were, A dog dreams of Paris, why, oh why can’t I? I tell you why I can’t. I have SIX dogs at home! It’s hard to go anywhere. My pet sitter fees are crazy. Luckily, I am a nester and travel is not high on my wish list. I like to take day trips to see places, usually to work off my farmhouse fantasy, by going to rural towns around Atlanta. But I rarely am gone overnight. I dream of Paris, too. I’d love to visit it. I did make it to London years ago, and it was wonderful. But at that time I had only one dog and a husband who stayed with the dog and I traveled with my mother! My biggest problem about traveling, is that wherever I go, I look at real estate ads. I want to live every place, but in reality, just like April in her book, there is no place like home, my forever home with my six dogs!
April’s travels are over for the time being, unless of course she becomes famous and has to make TV appearances! I have five other dogs with their dreams. You may see some action with them in the future!
When did you decide to become a writer? When did you decide to become a publisher?
I started writing right after my husband died in 2008. I found myself sending odd e-mails to friends at 2am thenwriting them back saying, “never mind!” I finally decided to channel my grief and anxiety into writing. The more I put words down, the more I found I enjoyed the process. It was a huge help to me in dealing with pain. I did not go to grief counseling and only looked at one widow book that freaked me out with the advice it gave. I decided to write my own widow story, essays over the course of the first year, quirky stories on finding peace and happiness with the help of a vintage Corvette, girlfriends, bad dates leading to good things, signs from the universe, and a bevy of dogs to fill my heart and bed. The Unfaithful Widow was the end result and I am proud that it placed as a finalist in the women’s issues category in the 2011 USA Best Book Awards. I also love that it has connected me to other widows who have read my story and contacted me. For me, writing is about connection. Connection to what is going on in my head, and connection to other people. My essays have a way of reaching people and I hear back. I can write about my rose bush blooming, my silly dogs, a life adventure, that touches someone and they comment. My fiction is lost in a sea of books, and while enjoyable, it seems more impersonal.
As I was researching how to publish my memoir, I took a class on self-publishing and print on demand. I liked the idea I could do this myself. And, quite frankly, I needed to release my widow book to move forward. I didn’t want the angst of waiting for an agent, a publisher. I also had a fixed image of how I wanted the book to look. Self-publishing was my answer. My memoir, while self-published, went through a company that used their ISBN and imprint for my book. I later learned I could do the same myself, even with a book designer, by buying my own ISBN. My company Gilbert Street Press came into being. My book designer is my sister, her company is PD King Design. While she handles all my books, she does work with other authors, too. She is amazing and can understand the look and feel I want and makes it happen.
Why do you have so many dogs?
Because I am a crazy dog lady!