What’s next for this writer?
By Terry Albert
“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity
to climb a tree, I'll never grow up, never grow up,
never grow up! Not me!” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
I’m honored that my friend Sheila Boneham has invited me to contribute to her blog for writers. I struggled with writing this, and after several false starts I realized why. Who am I to speak with authority to writers, I wondered? When do I stop being an aspiring writer and call myself an author–aka a “real” writer? I’d like to think that after a forty-year career and five books I have achieved that prized status. Here are a few thoughts on how I got here.
The road taken
Not many of us have the opportunity to start over, but that is what I’ve done more than once. My working life began in corporate advertising where I designed display ads and wrote training pieces, public relations, promotional materials, ad copy and newsletters.
After seventeen years in that world, I was fortunate to be able to give it up and become a dog trainer and rescue volunteer. I started painting pet portraits and writing (without payment) for animal-related newsletters.
For the next ten years I did a little freelance work, competed in dog sports–obedience, agility and hunting tests–and devoted myself to volunteering. I served on the board of directors for the Seattle Humane Society and Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue. I fostered hundreds of dogs of all breeds. Then I got a divorce, and suddenly needed to make a living. So, I started over yet again. I cut back on my volunteer work, and turned my love of dogs into a career–actually, several careers.
Today, another ten years later, I have painted over 500 pet portraits and written five books about dogs. I’ve also designed logos, websites and posters for breeders and dog clubs. I’m happy to report I now get paid to write and edit newsletters and blogs. At the same time I board dogs in my home, and these inter-related careers make up the majority of my income. You might say I’ve been the jack-of-all-trades and master of none, but I’d prefer to think I am well rounded. J
A mix of painting, writing and dog care
When I design a logo for a national specialty show or a poster for a club fundraiser, I spend hours looking at dogs and learning about conformation and breed history. Research for paintings and books led me to take up photography. I must have 5,000 snapshots of dogs, most taken as reference for paintings. At some point it dawned on me that I could sell my photos, and many have appeared in books and magazines.
The contacts I made over the years through my artwork have come in handy when it was time to do research for my books. I especially enjoyed the recent Labrador Retriever Club’s newsletter where my logo design for the National (pictured here) appeared in the same issue as a nice review of my latest book, Your Labrador Retriever Puppy Month by Month.
The dogs that I fostered or boarded in my home ranged from Poodles to Italian Spinone. They’ve served as live models for my art and provided anecdotes (hard experience) to fuel my writing. There’s no substitute for living with a Basset Hound for a few weeks!
Are we there yet?
I think my creative path has been fairly consistent. Although my life circumstances changed dramatically, I kept going back to my writing and artwork. I created my first breed club commission for the Labrador Retriever Club in 1994. I painted my first pet portrait when I was 39. I got my first book contract at 56 years old. I hope to write more books, paint more pictures and care for more dogs. Who knows, maybe I will veer off into a new direction.
My, how time flies when you are reinventing yourself. The road not taken beckons me; maybe someday I’ll figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Then again, not knowing has been much more fun.