Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sheila Writes: Ten Ways to Help the Authors You Love

Sheila Writes: Ten Ways to Help the Authors You Love:

"Authors are a needy bunch. We need time without distractions for our work. We need stimulation of various kinds (not necessarily ingested) to keep our creative juices flowing. We need readers, and that means we need a way to help readers find our books, articles, poems, plays." (p.s. You can find my Animals in Focus mysteries & nonfiction about dogs, cats, & animal rescue in all the usual places in paperback, ebook, Audible, and large-print formats.)

Click the link above for an instant replay ~ and please help authors. We need you!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflections on 2014

Writers & Other Animals: Reflections on 2014: by Sheila Webster Boneham

I've never been big on making resolutions for the New Year....Still, I do like to mark the end of each year with a look back....

Please click the link above to read more. And have a happy, healthy, creative, adventurous new 2015!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Melina's Book Blog: Catwalk by Sheila Webster Boneham, Interview+

"Story ideas are all around us in our daily experience, and human beings have been transforming experience into stories since we first learned to speak, both as individuals and as a species. Think of how young children are when they first begin to tell the “stories” of their lives and imaginations."

Interview, short review, and book giveaway at
Melina's Book Blog: Catwalk by Sheila Webster Boneham

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Kelly P's Blog: Blog Tour {Guest Post & Giveaway} Catwalk by Sheil...

How Does a 50-something Woman Act, Anyway?

"The exact words I heard through the phone line, right after the request to make her younger, were “She doesn’t act her age.” Check out my post on my 50-something protagonist on
Kelly P's Blog, part of my 2-week blog tour. Book giveaway, too!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and Meows: Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webst...

Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and Meows: Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webst...:
"Already one of my favorite cozy series on the shelves, [CATWALK] the third book in Sheila Webster Boneham's Animal in Focus series is the BEST ONE YET. Janet finds herself knee-deep in trouble once again trying to solve the murder of a local big shot, a real scumbag who deserved his fate more than just about any other fictional character I've come across."

Pop in for a post from Sheila, review from Melissa, fun videos, and a chance to win a free book!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writers & Other Animals: The Australian Shepherd: All-around Dog & Mystery ...

Check out the breed that stars in the Animals in Focus mystery series.

Writers & Other Animals: The Australian Shepherd: All-around Dog & Mystery ...: by Sheila Webster Boneham Jay (UCD Perennial See You At The Top, ASCA CD, AKC CD, RN, CGC, Pet Partner The main dog in my Animals i...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

Writers & Other Animals: Help Name a Mystery Kitten and Puppy!

Writers & Other Animals: Help Name a Mystery Kitten and Puppy!: by Sheila Webster Boneham My third Animals in Focus mystery, Catwalk , will be out from Midnight Ink in October. Yay!  And here's th...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Memoir & More - New Class in Wilmington!

I love teaching (almost) as much as writing (sometimes more!), so I'm happy to announce my next class, just in time to get summer rolling. 

Memoir and More: Writing Literary Nonfiction

Pomegranate Books, 4418 Park Ave, Wilmington, NC
(910) 452-1107

4 Saturdays - June 7, 14, 21, 28 ~~ 1-3 p.m.
(Limit 8 students) Class fee -- $75.

This class will focus on nonfiction writing: memoir, biography, personal essay, lyric essay. The names don't matter - this is nonfiction that tells a story or reflects on experience through language. This very broad genre includes writing about travel, nature, environment, cultures, people, and much more. Life!

We will spend some time each week looking at a selected piece of nonfiction writing with an eye to surveying the wide range of styles, subjects, and techniques available to us. Students who care to will have the opportunity to share work and receive feedback. (No one is required to share.) We will also spend some time on deep revision, which is where the real work - and fun! - of writing unfolds.

This four-week class offers a safe environment in which generate ideas, to write, to receive feedback from your peers and the instructor, and to read and respond to your classmates’ work. 

There is no required reading, but I will make suggestions, because writers read.  
If you are interested, please call or visit Pomegranate Books to register; seats are limited, and payment in full is required to hold your place. Feel free to tell others who may be interested.
Have a creative May!

Questions? Click here to Email Sheila

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Spring, Change, and Creativity

The past three years have been a time of change for me, and I haven't finished yet. Truth be told, I hope I never finish, because it seems to me that when we stop being open to new experience, in some sense we stop living.

But let's back up a bit.... As you may know, I taught writing, literature, and folklore for almost two decades at universities in the U.S. and in Tunisia and Kuwait (before many Americans had ever heard of either country). I had a sparkly new Ph.D. degree in folklore and cultural anthropology, but there were very few teaching jobs in my field. Luckily, I stumbled into a job teaching professional writing at the University of Maryland. That led to similar positions at American University and Indiana University. I also worked in various positions as an editor, working on everything from scientific monographs to school books for kids to magazine articles. And I started publishing in both scholarly journals and commercial magazines. I can't even begin to list what I learned about writing from teaching and editing. 

Then, with the support of my husband, Roger, I left teaching in the 1990's to write, to garden, to play with animals. The result? I wrote twenty-one nonfiction books about dogs, cats, and animal rescue; four of them never saw the presses because the series were cancelled by the publisher, so my publication list shows seventeen, plus oodles of articles in major and minor periodicals. My books won critical respect, and six "best book" awards from the professional organizations for dog and cat writers (meaning people who write about dogs and cats). 

Sometime in the early part of the new millennium, I wrote a mystery. I didn't think I could write fiction, didn't think I could make up a story. But I was in a writing group with three mystery writers, and one day as I drove home from a dog show, an opening line popped into my head, and I started writing, and I discovered that I could make up a story. Even better, I loved the process. That venture turned into the Animals in Focus mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. Drop Dead on Recall (2012) won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction and was an NBCPetside Dog Book of the Year in 2012. The second book, The Money Bird, hit the shelves in fall 2013, and Catwalk will be out this coming fall. 

But here's the thing.... my literary true love is narrative/lyric nonfiction. Think Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Barbara Hurd, Loren Eiseley.... I could go on and on. So in 2011, again with Roger's support, I entered the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine, intending to focus on creative nonfiction. I did write CNF, but I also wrote fiction, a stage play, and poems. Some of the work I started at Stonecoast has been published; some is still cooking; some inspired my "to write" list. 

I also found that I missed teaching more and more. I do teach occasional workshops and classes, but I would love to go back to the university setting part-time, and to teaching more frequently at workshops and conferences. I'm mobile, so if you hear of something, drop me a note!

People often ask me what I'm working on. Good question! Just as I always have several books open on my night stand (and, to Roger's horror, on the floor, the end tables in the livingroom, the bathroom floor...), I always have several writing projects underway. I'm never short of ideas, and my challenge is to decide which project has priority. I've been working on that over the past few months, and I think I'm there, more or less. Maybe if I put my top three out there for you, dear readers, I'll be less likely to wander. It's worth a shot. So here are my top three projects-of-the-moment. 

  • Riding the Zephyr on the Fourth of July is a collection of lyric essays about traveling on long-distance trains. Two of the essays have been published, if you'd like a taste: "The 'I' States," in The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review, and "Nocturne: Nebraska" in The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literarture. I'm planning to hop back on some trains this spring and summer as I write and revise more essays. 
  • familiaris: A Memoir is a lyric exploration of my years breeding, showing, rescuing, training, observing, and loving dogs, liberally laced with reflections from the biological and social sciences, history, and the arts. 
  • Rattlesnake Mountain is a literary eco-thriller set in the high desert of northern Nevada, where we used to live. 
So there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know. All three books are well underway, and I work on each at intervals. I also have a few short stories, essays, and poems in various stages. The process sounds scattered to many people, I'm sure, but it works for me. And yes, there may be more Animals in Focus mysteries in my future, too. And poems. And....well, it's spring. I'll just have to see what pops up, all green and mysterious!


Check out my Writers & Other Animals blog - 
"...for readers who love animals, and animal-lovers who read."

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Writing Process

One question that comes up pretty often whenever writers speak to groups is some variant of "What is your process?" Today I've been tagged in a series of blogs that raise that question and others - thank you to author Victoria Dougherty for including me in this. (You can find Victoria at

And now to my answers....

What am I working on?

As usual, I'm working on several projects. One is an environmental novel set in the high desert of Nevada. It's about half finished. I have also begun the fourth book in my Animals in Focus mystery series as I prepare to launch the third book, Catwalk, in October. As if those aren't enough to keep me hopping, I have several essays, short stories, and poems in various states of completion. Never a dull moment!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Good question, and the answer depends on which of my works we mean. For now, I'll stick to my mysteries. The Animals in Focus series has (surprise!) animals who are vital characters in the stories. They are not, however, "humanized." They don't solve crimes or answer phones, and I don't presume to speak for them other than through their own behavions. In other words, in contrast to a lot of fictional animals, I strive to make mine as realistic as possible. 

The main human characters in my books are in their fifties and sixties and very active, and that's a little strange in genre fiction, it seems. 

Why do I write what I do?

That is an interesting and, I think, unanswerable question. In creative work, I'm not sure that we entirely choose our subjects or our genres. A psychologist might get to the bottom of some of my reasons for writing what I do, and occasionally I have some deep and startling insight as I'm writing or walking (or dreaming). But all in all, it's all a bit mysterious.
How does your writing process work?

I'm never entirely sure what people mean when they ask this. What I think of as my process, though, is this: I write every morning, and I have done so for years. Now, when I say "every morning," I mean almost, because there are days in which something else intervenes. But for the most part, I do begin my days by writing. I tend to fiddle for the first half hour or so, figuring out what I want or need to work on. Then I get down to it, and if I'm really lucky, I enter the deep, enveloping "flow," a creative place not unlike runner's high. Then I'm no longer in control, and all I can do is set the words down on the screen or, more rarely these days, on paper. 


Next week, my brilliant author friend Christy English will pick up this thread. "Christy English, romance and historical fiction writer, embracing life one book at a time...." You can find her at  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Memories, Writing, and Trains

[Updated April 17]

I'm a Midwestern girl. I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, spent my first six months in Chicago and the next six years in Elmhurst, a suburb of the Windy City. I have fond memories of getting dressed up and walking hand-in-hand with my mom to the "El" station a couple of blocks from home, and riding from there into the city for shopping forays. 

What we remember is always fascinating to me. Here's what I remember of those trips....

I remember shoving a nickle into the slot of the peanut dispenser, then twisting the handle (unless it was too stiff and my mother had to do it) and cupping my hands beneath the metal chute to catch the nuts. One or two always got away, but not for long. The pigeons were ready, and they bobbed and cooed and snatched the runaway nuts, and the ones I threw them on purpose. 

I remember riding the escalator to the second floor of Carson Pirie Scott, where Miss Lovelace (I adored her name) fit my new shoes. 

I remember eating hotdogs served in cardboard sleeves and slathered with pickle relish at the counter in the basement restaurant of...well, I've forgotten that. But oh! what fun to spin around on the seat until the hot dogs arrived. 

I remember kneeling on the scuffed seat of the train to watch the world outside. I was a watcher even then, fascinated by sheets flapping as if they might raise the tenements into the air, by platforms where people scurried into and out of the train, and always by the people themselves. 

I'm still watching, and I'm still riding trains. In fact, I'm working on a series of long essays about train travel. 

One the essays -- "The 'I' States" -- appears in the Winter 2014 Issue of The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review. I'm especially honored to be included because this issue is focused on the Midwest. I began my life in the Chicago area, was reared mostly in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was schooled at Indiana University in Bloomington. Although I have lived many other places, I remain a Midwesterner in many ways. This essay -- and this issue -- may begin to tell you what that means.

"Nocturne: Nebraska" appears in the Spring 2014 issue of The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature. Again, I feel honored to be included in such a gorgeous magazine -- beautiful writing, beautifully presented. This lyric essay is a meditation on what cannot be seen beyond the windows while crossing Nebraska at night. 

Right now, I'm planning a long train ride around the U.S. in May or June -- North Carolina to Washington, DC, to Chicago to New Orleans to Los Angeles to Seattle and then....We'll see how my saved-up travel points hold out! I have a new travel backpack, itchy feet, and a loose and flexible plan for the journey, and for the writing. I hope you'll join me on my travels!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Blog, Renewed Blog

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that my writing and my reading are pretty eclectic. For those of you who don't know that, here's the scoop - I write (and read) across genres and resist the current "need" to be "branded." I write literary nonfiction, commercial nonfiction, literary fiction, commercial fiction, poetry. Occasionally I venture into academic writing (although it's been a while).    

All this variety makes life more interesting for me, but I suspect that it has also made this blog a bit too eclectic for some readers. Not that having multiple interests is all that unusual. It's just that my particular constellation of interests isn't likely to coincide with anyone else's constellation. 

So I am making some adjustments. This blog will continue to focus on writing - the things we write, the act of writing, the writing life. And although I do not judge a work by its genre or place in the big-box bookstores, I will lean here toward forms we tend to think of as "literary." (I do include some "genre" writers in that category, by the way.)

My new blog, "Writers & Other Animals," is where you will now find posts about books and other writing in which animals are important, if not central. If you like fiction and nonfiction featuring animals, I hope you will check it out. 

So there you have it. Both blogs will get rolling in earnest in March, with occasional "warm-up" posts in the meantime. 

Comments welcome! 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Sheila Boneham's Animals in Focus Mysteries

It's been a busy couple of weeks here in Animals in Focus Mystery Land. This morning I learned that Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the series, has won this year's Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America. The Money Bird, book #2, came out last September and has garnered excellent reviews, and book #3, Catwalk, is scheduled to  be released September 2014. And book #4, tentatively titled Shepherd's Crook, is underway. 

With all this going on, it occurs to me that it might be fun to share a few tidbits about the books. (Don't worry if you haven't read them -- no spoilers here!). I ran this post a few months ago in a different context, so if it looks familiar, you haven't lost your mind. But you could pass it on to your friends! 

So here we go....

  1. The people in the books are not real people. Yes, yes, you're sure that person belongs to your dog-training or cat-fanciers' club, but s/he doesn't. Really. (Do be nice to me, though....)
  2. The animals in the books are as real as can be! Now, this is fiction, so no one dog or cat or bird in the book is exactly like any one real-life dog or cat or bird. But Jay, the "protagdog," and Leo, the "leading cat," and all the others never do anything that I haven't seen or heard of an animal doing.
  3. Janet MacPhail, who tells the tales, never intended to be an amateur sleuth. She was perfectly happy photographing animals, landscapes, and occasionally people, and wrestling with the challenges of being 50-something. But then people started dying....
  4. Janet's dog Jay is an Australian Shepherd. Yes, Aussies really are that energetic and smart. Really. 
    My muses -- Australian Shepherd Jay (1997-2012) and
    Labrador Retriever Lily (lying on my feet as I type)

  5. There are lots of retrievers in The Money Bird (2013). Retrievers come in many flavors, as you can see in the book -- Labrador, Golden, Chesapeake Bay, Flat-coated, Curly-coated, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling. Besides the "official" retrievers, there are other breeds designed to collect game birds from water and land. 
  6. Winning in obedience competition really can come down to half points, as it does in Drop Dead on Recall (2012), and some people are very serious about training and winning. But I've never heard of anyone actually committing murder at an obedience trial. Still....
  7. Dogs do not have a corner on exciting sports like agility. Wait 'til you see what Leo, Janet's cat, is up to in Catwalk! (But you do have to wait until September 2014. Sorry.)                                   
    My handsome Leo, one of the inspirations for Leo
    in the series (along with George, Malcolm, Kitty, Mary,
    Jean-Luc,Snoopy, Annie, Fred, & Simon).
  8. You younger readers - listen up! People in their 50s, 60s, 70s + really do have lives, complete with hopes and dreams, and physical, mental, and emotional activities of all kinds. So pay attention to Janet and her friends and lovers. (Woops! Just one of the latter at the moment!) You might learn something. 
  9. I made up the endangered parrot species in The Money Bird, but a lot of real-life birds and animals are at risk from trafficking, habitat destruction, and other factors. My hope is that the limited information in the book will encourage people to learn more, and behave accordingly. Fiction is more than entertainment.                                                           

  10. When you buy my books from Pomegranate Books, I will gleefully autograph your copies of Drop Dead on Recall and The Money Bird, or my in-print nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009) for the reader of your choice. Click here to order now!

So there you have it. What else would you like to know? 

Drop Dead on Recall has won the Maxwell Award for Best Fiction Book in the 2012 Dog Writers of America Writing Competition, and was named one of the Ten Best Pet Books of 2012 by NBCPetside blog!
Sheila's books are are available in the usual places and forms -- paperback, ebooks, large print, and Audible. If your local bookseller doesn't have them in stock, they can order them, or you can find them online or HERE.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shiny New Maxwell Award for Drop Dead on Recall!

I'm wagging and bouncing all over the place this morning! Why? Because Drop Dead on Recall has won the Maxwell Award for fiction!

Winners in the annual Dog Writers Association of America's writing competition were announced last evening at the awards banquet in NYC. You can find all the winners and finalists listed here. Congratulations to everyone! 

It is always an honor to win a Maxwell (three of my nonfiction books have won in their categories, and three others have been finalists). The competition is always formidable, and the judges are themselves knowledgeable dog people and writers, and they volunteer their time to support quality writing about dogs. 

Drop Dead on Recall (2012) is the first book in the Animals in Focus Mystery Series published by Midnight Ink. The sequel, The Money Bird, came out in 2013, and the next installment, Catwalk, will be out in September 2014. You can learn more about the series by clicking the Mysteries tab above.  

The real-life Jay
 (UCD Perennial See You At The Top,
Delta Pet Partner. 1998-2012)
Animals are key characters in my books, always real and realistic. The "protagdog" is Jay, an Australian Shepherd modeled on my own Jay and other Aussies I have had the privilege of sharing my life with over the years. The top cat is Leo, and he turned out to be a hero in Drop Dead on Recall (and wait 'til you see what he's up to in Catwalk!).
"The intricate plot [of Drop Dead on Recallhas plenty of surprises, red herrings, and interesting details about animals. Fans of Laurien Berenson or Susan Conant will especially enjoy this pet-centered mystery." — Amy Alessio for Booklist.
Autographed copies of my books are available  from Pomegranate Books - click here to order. They are also available in paperback, ebook, Audible, and large print formats from the following vendors:

Your local bookseller - please support Independent Booksellers!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sea View Inn, Pawleys Island, SC

Retreat for Women Writers
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
March 9 - 13, 2014 

Have you started your memoir, or a novel, or some other book-length work, or thought about starting one? Or perhaps you are working on short stories or essays or other prose? Do you long for supportive feedback and time to focus on your writing?

Whether you think you want to write but don't know how to begin, or you have a manuscript well underway, Sheila's Retreat for Women Writers will get you (re)started and inspire you to keep writing when you get home. Click Here to learn more. 

We have extended the deadline and still have a couple of spots open, 
so register today and come jump-start your writerly self!

Monday, January 6, 2014

One Week In -- New Year's Goals Revisited

Here we are again - six days into another new year. I have a cheerful new date book in my computer bag (even though I mostly keep track electronically these days) and a brand new calendar on the fridge. I just finished Catwalk, the third book in my Animals in Focus Mystery series, so I'm poised to start a brand new piece of writing. It's not unlike the brand new spiral-bound notebook on the first day of class - a clean start full of possibilities, and I don't want to mess it up. But here's the thing: to live creatively, whether through writing or painting or travel or volunteerism or, well, any pursuit, we have to make a mess. We have to make false starts. We have to fall on our butts.

We have to recognize that the path to our goals is paved with failures, set-backs, disappointments. I won't throw a bunch of platitutes at you -- you've heard them all. And I agree: failures suck. Rejections suck. If you can get your breath back  and stick it out, though, you can use all that crappy feedback to make your work, your play, and yourself stronger. Granted, you'll have a few scars, and some of the buises won't completely disappear. Hey, I'm still smarting from a comment my seventh-grade English teacher made about an image in a poem I wrote. (He was right, but did he have to laugh so hard?)

Enough of that. The real question when we open this lovely new notebook is this: what now? Where do I want to go, and how will I know when I'm getting close? Goal setting and tracking work for me (and, according to many studies, for a lot of people). I'm actually a bit of a "goal addict." I have  lists of goals for all sorts of things, but I will stick to writing goals for now.

Every year for the past mumble mumble years, I have written down my goals for the year, for the next few years. When I start a new project, I create daily and weekly goals that will get me to the end. Trust me, I'm obsessive about this. Having my goals where I can open a file and look at them gives structure to what can become open-ended work. (Okay, sure, it also serves as one of those rituals of procrastination that we creative types find so comforting.)

Do I reach all my goals? Bahahaha. No. Do I revise my goals along the way? You betcha. Do I re-evaluate the importance of some of my goals as I go? Of course. Occasionally I ditch a goal. But the bones, as they say, are still there, and they support the body of my work, both the act of working and the result. Does goal-setting work? Since 1998, I have written 22 books of non-fiction; 19 of them are published (three were in series that were cancelled by the publisher). I've also written three and a half novels (one published, one in production, one coming along), several short-stories, several essays, a few poems. Goals work for me.

Why have I waited until the second week of the new year to write about goals? I mean, that's all so last week, no? Two reasons...First, I was finishing Catwalk, the third Animals in Focus mystery. (First goal of 2014!) But the other reason may be even more important and here it is: during the first few days of the new year, I like to reflect on what I accomplished in the previous year. A lot of people do this at the end of the year, but that feels too much like an ending to me. A review of accomplishments strikes me as more of a launching pad. Besides, December is already too jam packed to accommodate yet another thing to do.

Did I accomplish my goals in 2013? Yes and no. Some I reached, some I ditched, a few I've carried over and reset. What about you? What did you accomplish last year, and what are your top two goals for the coming year?
Speaking of Goals....Get a Jump Start on Yours!

Sea View Inn, Pawleys Island, SC

Retreat for Women Writers
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
March 9 - 13, 2014 

Have you started your memoir, or a novel, or some other book-length work, or thought about starting one? Or perhaps you are working on short stories or essays or other prose? Do you long for supportive feedback and time to focus on your writing?

Whether you think you want to write but don't know how to begin, or you have a manuscript well underway, Sheila's Retreat for Women Writers will get you (re)started and inspire you to keep writing when you get home. Click Here to learn more.