Tag Archives: fiction about dogs

New Books by Chantelle Saumier: Vinnie! Star of the Show and Vinnie! The Hurricane

Author Chantelle Saumier has just released two books about her husky-shepherd rescue dog, Vinnie. Because I’m the owner of a mixed-breed rescue dog myself and a huge sucker for a good dog story, I was keen to interview Chantelle about the adorable Vinnie and her writing adventures so far.

Author Chantelle Saumier with her rescue dog Vinnie
Chantelle with Vinnie

CK: I know that by day you teach primary school in Langley, B.C., and have done for over sixteen years, but now you’ve also written two children’s books, Vinnie! Star of the Show and Vinnie! The Hurricane based on the antics of your real-life dog (also named Vinnie). How long have you been writing and what got you started as a writer?

CS: For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed writing. By nature I am a creative person, and writing has been one of the outlets I have used to express my creativity. However, after university I took a hiatus. It wasn’t until a few years into my teaching career that I got the creative writing bug again. What sparked it was seeing the pure joy in the eyes of my students as I read them a story. The timelessness of that moment, the smiles on their faces and their total engagement, made me want to be a part of creating that experience for them. When I had my own children, this feeling only multiplied and I knew I just had to do it.

CK: You told me once that your dog Vinnie sleeps with his legs straight up in the air, as does the fictional Vinnie. How alike are the real-life Vinnie and his fictional counterpart? Which one is naughtier? What’s the worst thing your dog’s ever done?

CS: My dog, Vinnie, and his “fictional” counterpart, are really one and the same. This is why I knew I had to make some children’s stories about his antics. The things he does seem so unbelievable and silly, yet at the same time are very relatable to those who have dogs of their own. Vinnie has two sides to his personality. On one hand, he is super loving, very sweet, and always craving attention. On the other hand, he makes poor, impulsive choices that end up causing destruction of some kind. Not only has he wiped out the entire living room, but he’s also destroyed about eight pairs of my favourite shoes! Let’s just say that Vinnie, like all of us, is evolving and slowly learning from his mistakes.

Cover of Vinnie! Star of the Show

CK: Your family figures in the books, but Vinnie is, as the title of the first book indicates, the real star. How does the real-life Vinnie feel about now being in the limelight? Is he at all embarrassed by any of his bad behaviour?

CS: Vinnie, as the first book relays, loves attention! It’s a fact! So he is soaking it up.  He is pretty oblivious as to why he’s getting it, but that’s okay, he’ll take it! As for being embarrassed about his bad behaviour, he is. Vinnie knows exactly what he’s done when he’s done it because he gives us three distinct signs. He lowers his head, twitches his tail, and stares up at us with a certain look in his eyes. It’s the look that leads to the question, “Vinnie!  What did you do?”

CK: Have any of your students read the books yet, and if so, how have they reacted to them?

CS: My 2012/2013 Grade 1 students from R.C.Garnett Elementary have read the books. I decided to use my journey throughout this process as a learning opportunity for them as well. I wanted my students to learn about the different stages of publication, and I also wanted them to really see that writing is life-long and can go wherever we want it to go. Therefore, they saw all the stages of development from first draft manuscript, to basic illustrations, to revision stages, and finally, publication. My students were my biggest cheerleaders! They were so excited about the books and laughed throughout the reading of the stories no matter what stage they were in. They were able to make connections between Vinnie and their own dogs, which is so important in the development of early childhood literacy. In fact, it was their enthusiasm towards the stories that kept me on track and helped me to really believe in myself. Thank you Division 14!!

Cover image of Vinnie! The Hurricane

CK: Without giving too many juicy details away, what do you expect might happen to Vinnie in subsequent books?

CS: Vinnie will continue to be naughty and will continue to destroy things, but he also learns a few new tricks along the way. Stay tuned to find out what those are.

CK: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to publish a children’s book?

CS: Whether your dream is to publish a children’s book, or something else completely unrelated, my advice to you would be just make it happen. Push all your worries and fears aside and make it happen. Push away negative chatter from yourself and others and follow your heart. I strongly believe that we were born to live our dreams, and when we do, unexpected things, unimaginable things, fall into place before our very eyes.

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Please go to Chantelle’s website to read more about her or to order her books. Her dog Vinnie was adopted from A Dog’s Life in Kenora.

My Writing Has Gone to the Dogs

I consider myself primarily an editor, but every once in a while, I cross over to the other side of the great divide and write. It’s seemingly for pleasure, if you can call fussing over your own words instead of someone else’s pleasurable. Mostly, I write blog posts, but I also write fiction. Part of the reason you haven’t seen a blog post from me over the last couple of weeks is that I have been absorbed in writing a short story for a contest. It has been a sort of exquisite agony for me.

Writing fiction when I’m much more accustomed to editing it is good for me because it deepens my appreciation of what my clients go through when they’re developing their plots, characters, and settings. I’ve always been in awe of those who seriously undertake the daunting process of creating fictional worlds, and when I struggle to create my own, it reinforces my respect for the process and reminds me to tread lightly and tactfully upon the manuscripts that writers submit to me for editing.

But of course, I don’t just write fiction because it’s good for me. Certain themes spark my imagination. When I discovered that there was a short story competition dedicated to dog-themed fiction, I knew I had to enter it. I puzzled over the challenge of creating my canine protagonist, who could express his thoughts and emotions only through body language, behaviour, and vocalizations (but as stated in the contest rules, he was not allowed to speak). I struggled over how to make the dog the engine that drives the plot and how to make him upstage his human companions and take the spotlight. I agonized over how to make my furry main character show the same depth of character and emotion that any human protagonist should have.

My inspiration for the character came, not surprisingly, from my own dog. I began observing Trinka’s body language and behaviours and thinking about them in relation to what she was trying to communicate. She’s an amazingly vocal dog who apparently wants to have conversations with me–if only she could figure out how to speak English. After this period of careful observation, my plot seemed to come effortlessly to me one night, a genuine bolt from the blue. But getting everything down on the page was, of course, another story.

I fussed and I fiddled for days; you know how it goes. I had the whole thing packaged up and ready to mail today when it occurred to me that I’d forgotten a small but crucial detail. So I opened the envelope, only to find that I was also missing an important word, right there in the first paragraph. Even though I had probably read the story fifteen times before, I sat down and read it out loud, determined to catch any other niggling little errors that remained.

The tweaking could have gone on forever, but it was time to put a stop to it. I was well and truly done and, I admit, rather pleased with my work. When I finally sealed the envelope for good, I experienced a rush–or rather, a fantastic big whoosh–of elation that made the thought of all that fussing and fiddling fade away into nothing.

Trinka, the inspiration for my recent foray into fiction