These days, all my social activities with friends who are parents of school-age kids have been put on hold while they gear up for the new school year. If I had kids, I’d be swinging from the rafters at the thought of having my weekdays (or part of them, anyway) back to myself. And then I thought that I do have kids; they just happen to be of the canine variety. And it got me thinking: is it really impossible to teach old dogs new tricks?
I have one new dog, who’s six years old and highly trainable. No problem with new tricks there. And I have one older dog, who’s twelve and has never been trainable, not even by the best trainer I know. Getting her to sit on command reminds me of the scene in Skyfall when the villain, played by Javier Bardem, bemoans the senselessness of Bond’s refusal to do what he wants and ends by lamenting, “It’s exhausting.” In fact, I often try to mimic his accent when I say the same thing to my “senior” dog.
And then I realized that transitioning to a new career means I have to send myself back to school and be open to new tricks. Luckily for me, I love learning new things. In just the past month, I’ve signed myself up for three new learning experiences:
- Survival strategies, which combines practical self-defense techniques with tactical handheld weaponry. I do not like guns, though I enjoy target practice. And I loathe knives except to slice, dice, chop, julienne, and otherwise cut food. I’m more of an air horn girl. One blast of that thing should send an intruder careening toward the exit signs. But it’s not a suitable accessory for a small purse. Better to know how to wriggle out of an attacker’s grip and run to safety brandishing pepper spray if need be. It’s something that my protagonist, Maxime Martin, had better know how to do too, sans pepper spray.
- The University of Washington’s Certificate in Private Investigation. At the recommendation of crime novelist Ingrid Thoft, to whom I’ll forever be grateful for turning me onto this program, I applied for admission and I’ll be sitting in the classroom this fall. I can’t wait to learn how to “uncover the facts and expose the truth,” according to the program description, because Maxime will need this know-how for the sequel to my first novel, A SCANDAL IN NICE.
- The Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference, which was recommended to me by Hallie Ephron, author of my favorite how-to book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. This conference starts in a couple of weeks, about the same time that my friends’ kids will be facing their first day of school.
I’ve never been to a writers’ conference, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. And being reasonably new to mystery writing, I had never heard of the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference. So I googled it and found a blog post by mystery writer Katherine Bolger Hyde. What a find— and what an inspiration! She describes how she struggled for ten years to launch her career as a mystery writer. And then, in the space of about ten months, she applied for a scholarship to this conference, won the scholarship, attended the conference, met literary agent Kimberley Cameron, became her client, and ended up with a two-book deal.
It didn’t take this “old dog” (though I prefer “young pup,” but let’s be real) more than ten minutes to follow the scent to the Book Passage website, sniff out information about the scholarship, send in my submission, think good thoughts, and prepare to wait for a reply.
And last week I got the news: I am the recipient of this year’s William Gordon scholarship! WOOT!!!
So while my friends’ kids gather their school supplies and agonize over what they’ll wear on their first day of school, I’ll be doing the same things. Only I’ll be jetting down to San Francisco to begin my schooling at this four-day conference.
Thanks to William C. Gordon for funding the scholarship, Kathryn Petrocelli at Book Passage for her delightful emails, and Hallie Ephron for her suggestion that I check out this conference. But most of all, thank you to someone I’ve never met or had contact with—Katherine Bolger Hyde—for taking the time to blog about her experience and inspire someone a thousand miles away to follow in her footsteps.
San Francisco, here I come!