Monday, August 20, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Lois Szymanski and Rylant!

Lois S. and Fan
Okay, so you know how you meet someone and you just connect? It's like you've met a long-lost sister or brother you never knew you had? Well, that's the way I feel about Lois Szmanski. We have so much in common! We both love shelties, we both had difficult childhoods made bearbable by books. We both read the Misty of Chincoteague books over and over and over as kids, and we both feel most at home by the sea. Oh, and we are both authors. See what I mean?

Lois is the author of over 20 children's books, including fiction for young readers, picture books, and nonfiction books for kids. And many of these books reflect her love for horses and for the ponies of Chincoteague Island. Her newest book, Wild Colt, is absolutely breathtaking. Lois's love for horses has not only influenced her writing, its led her to help others. Lois helped create The Feather Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps children purchase Chincoteague pony foals. And you better believe you can find Lois (and often her faithful sheltie, Rylant) right there in the thick of things during Chincoteague Island's pony penning week! Lois also teaches writing and is very involved with SCBWI (The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators).

And here's another thing: both Lois and I think Cynthia Rylant is the best author on the planet. Lois felt that so strongly, she named her sheltie Rylant! Let's meet this dynamic duo in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and Rylant find each other?
Handsome Rylant
When our family dog, Springer, passed I had a hard time adjusting to life without a dog. I was working full time by then. I thought it would be unfair to a puppy to leave him home alone so much, so I took in a cat instead. From time to time as the years passed, my daughters, Shannon and Ashley, asked if I would ever get another dog. I always said, yes, but not until I could quit work. When I do get another dog, I always said, it will be a Sheltie or a Border Collie. I love both breeds but had always adopted from shelters. (Springer was a wonderful Border Collie/Husky/Lab mix.).Ten years after Springer passed I got a great advance with a series contract and decided to leave my job at McDaniel College to write full time. By then, I’d forgotten about getting a dog. I’d settled into life with my cat, which is by the way, NOTHING like life with a dog!

That winter, my daughter, Ashley showed up Christmas morning with a puppy in her arms, a big blue bow on his neck. I melted. “You always said…” she told me. My husband shook his head, “No dogs!” he said.
“But, Dad, Shelties are really smart,” Ashley told him. “They know how to herd sheep and everything!”
“That’s just great,” he replied. “Now we’ll have to get a sheep.” We didn’t get a sheep and Ryley won over Dan in no time flat. Ash told us she’d chased ad after ad going all over the state looking for a “Sheltie that looked like a Border Collie,” which cracked me up. I named him after one of my favorite authors, Cynthia Rylant.
Agility Rylant!

2. What makes Rylant's tail wag?
Almost anything. He loves doing agility. He loves playing fetch. He loves walks in the park and rides in the car, but he goes nuts over flashlights. He chases the beam wildly, bounding over barriers and going up walls. I can’t even whisper the word flashlight without him barreling into the room. Even as I type the word I look up for him, because he might be able to hear the click of the letters and sound it out!

3. What's your all time favorite dog story?
A Dog’s Way Home of course, and I’m not just saying that because I adore you, Bobbie Pyron! I met you because of my infatuation with the book. I tracked you down! LOL! I have referred it to many people and use it in my writing class at Carroll Community College. (blush, blush...)

Mom's best boy
4. If Rylant could change just one thing about you, what would that be?
He’d make it so I could run again without falling down. He misses doing agility and would have been great in the show ring. We only tried that once and I couldn’t keep up with him. We still fool around in the backyard in small doses. When I pull out the equipment, he does donuts, barking and running to weave and jump and dash through the tunnel. He’d also probably tie himself to my body so I’d never go away without him.

5. In five words, tell us what Rylant means to you:
Happiness in motion, my friend.

Thanks so much to my dear friend and kindred soul, Lois, for visiting with us today. Be sure and check out her website to see what all she's written. She's amazing!


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