Thursday, January 29, 2009


Excitement isn’t a big enough word for the opportunity I am about to partake in. I created THE FRACTURED KEYBOARD as a place for writers to come and share what they’ve learned; on their own, through classes, workshops, conferences, and other outlets. Tomorrow, I am heading to the equivalent of Oz for us writers. Yes, I am talking about the publishing capital of the world; NEW YORK CITY, baby!

For years, as a SCBWI member, I have dreamed of participating in a national event. Thanks to my wonderful husband and precious kids, my dream is about to become reality as I prepare for the SCBWI Winter Conference in the Big Apple.

On Saturday I will be attending three breakout sessions with major editors entitled, THE INSIDE SCOOP: HOW I WORK & WHAT I ACQUIRE. Then, throughout the two-day affair, I will be dazzled by clever and well-connected keynote speakers such as the famous authors Jack Gantos (JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL)and Tomie DePaola (STREGA NONA)or agents, Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media or Michael Stearns from Firebrand to name a few.

As I converge upon NYC to the Mac Daddy of all conferences (at least from my point of view.) I will think of THE FRACTURED KEYBOARD and its faithful followers and I will come home ready to share my newfound knowledge. So be sure and check back soon, but in the meantime, please wish me a safe and fruitful trip for us all.



Thursday, January 15, 2009


I recently went to see the movie, MARLEY & ME, based on the NYT Bestselling book by author John Grogan. Admittedly, I have not yet read the book and although I knew the story was about a naughty dog, I assumed it would be a comedic piece. Therefore, I was very surprised at the depth of emotion the movie evoked in me and everyone else who wept openly in the theatre. I had no idea it would end the way it did.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with MARLEY & ME, it is a memoir of sorts which chronicles the life of one young couple as they embark on their life together and the building of a family; beginning of course, with the addition of a puppy. From the beginning Marley is an incorrigible animal and his hijinks do make for great humor. Although this rough and tumble canine is billed as the world’s worst dog, he manages to forge an unbreakable bond within the Grogan clan. Through good times and bad, Marley is always there. Until Father Time begins to take his toll and a decision must be made regarding the dog’s fate.

On this day, I sat in the theatre and watched John Grogan’s hauntingly familiar story play out on the screen. Amazingly, it was very much like my own and struck too close to home. In the final scenes, as Owen Wilson held and comforted his dying dog, I saw myself, doing the same thing almost exactly a year ago.

So, as a tribute to my faithful friend, Seven, and as a writing exercise with a therapeutic upside, I thought I’d like to post my essay, SEVEN & I. For those of you who are or ever have been dog owners, I’m sure you have an unlimited supply of your own brand of canine comedy. In tribute to man’s best friend, and as a simple writing practice, I ask you to post and share your fondest, funniest memories here. In fact, I'll even offer a $10.00 Books-a-Million gift card for the best one. I will choose a winner on Tuesday, January 27th, so post your submission soon! Here's mine:


I paid a $3.00 filing fee for a three-month-old stray. Had I known how badly behaved she would be, I might have left her to the Dog Officer. Upon arriving home with this yet-to-be-named imp, I opened the back door.

“Welcome to your new home,” I announced.

She promptly jumped on our new couch and threw up. Of course I felt bad for her. Poor little baby got car sick. No problem. I took her outside and tied her to the porch rail while I cleaned the mess.

Task finished, I hurried to bring her back inside. But she had other ideas. Instead of finding a puppy on my back porch, I found a brand new leash dangling from the rail, clearly bitten through by needle-sharp puppy teeth. Now what? How does one call a puppy with no name? Turns out I didn’t have to call her, she was easy to find. The house across the street raised chickens and at that very moment a considerable racket emanated from their hen house.

I found the newest member of my family happily chasing terrorized chickens haphazardly around the neighbor's yard. I desperately tried to rein in the little trouble-maker, while the chicken-lovers watched, but she was too fast and was having the time of her life! With feathers flying and gobs of chicken scat stuck to my shoes, I finally managed to grab her when she snatched up a poultry treat. Needless to say, I had saved the dog from certain euthenization, but was unable to save the chicken from the dog. So, with great apologies to my neighbor, I pried the deceased fowl from the puppy's stubborn grip and dragged her home.

Potty training was no easier. She refused to pee on paper and relieved herself whenever and wherever the mood hit. It wasn’t long before my perfectly kept home smelled like a rest room at McDonalds. Putting her outside for bathroom duties was a trial in itself. If there was a way to wiggle free from her tethers, she would be gone in a flash. Although we had finally given her a name, Seven, she still refused to acknowledge it and only returned home when she was good and ready.

We lived deep in the country back then and Seven took an affinity to the local wildlife, often bringing them home as trophies. Squirrels were her number one target and she usually managed to smuggle their dead carcasses into the house without our knowledge. One fine evening I found her tossing an opossum around the yard. When my husband picked up the lifeless creature to remove it from the yard, it curled it’s worm-like tail around his finger and gave a toothy grin. Hence the term, playing possum. But Seven’s biggest catch was the 3-point buck she herded from the woods, which very nearly struck me down. To this day, I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or Rudolph, as he charged out of the brush and I dove out of his way.

All in all, Seven remained an important and loyal member of our family for fifteen years. She was there for the births of our children. She stayed with us through our move to North Carolina and kept us safe while my husband was away. She comforted me through my miscarriages and always remained our ever-watchful protector. Her loyalty was second to none. A miserable puppy had grown to be an amazing dog. I finally made the decision to put her down when she was so stricken with arthritis that each day became a furious battle. When she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes, devoid of their impish glow, she seemed to beg for help. I held her close and whispered of our love and devotion as Seven took her final breath, her body fully relaxed for the first time in months. She is sorely missed.

-Niki Schoenfeldt