Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Being a Crafty Gal

RO: About a year and a half ago I met a cute, energetic woman at Malice Domestic, that's a mystery writer's conference for those of you who may not know it. Like me, she was a new writer. Unlike me, she revealed herself to be a very crafty gal. Not just smarts - although she could give workshops on marketing and book promotion and probably has - real crafts. Particularly scrapbooking. Now I confess I had never given scrapbooking much thought. It was the section in Michael's that I passed on my way to the baking stuff..or the floral arranging items. Then I had a chance to see one of Joanna's scrapbooks. It was a work of art! Seriously..who knew? The details, design and talent involved were mindboggling. (What did I know? I thought people stuck pictures in a book and maybe added a few ticket stubs.) Anyway, I'm proud to call this funny, crafty gal a new friend.

Meet Joanna Campbell Slan...and a couple of her four-legged friends.

It’s No Mystery—We Love Dogs!by Joanna Campbell Slan
Weekend before last, Rosemary and I attended Love Is Murder, a grand mystery lovers’ conference held in Chicago. I’d like to tell you that the fans were throwing themselves at Rosemary and me, but that’s not completely true. See, it’s more accurate to say they were throwing themselves in our general direction because--we were standing in front of Rosemary’s dog, Max.

Never fails. I shave my legs, put on panty hose and makeup, for what? To get upstaged by a dog. Sigh.
But hey, who could resist? Max sure is a cute dog. I was right there at the front of the crowd trying to give him some loving. (He’s a sweet pooch, and he accepted the attention and affection with admirable calm. Rosemary, is there a photo of him here on your blog somewhere? Could you point us to it? Hmm?)
I was at the head of the “I want to pat that dog” group because I was jonesing and missing my pets. I love dogs—and cats! If I could cope with the drama and the mess—and if my husband wouldn’t kill me--I’d have more than just the two pooches we own, Rafferty and Victoria. My hubby is a great guy, and a smart one, too, so he’s set a limit on our pet ownership. “Don’t even THINK about it,” he’ll say when he sees “pet lust” sparkle in my eyes. I can’t really blame him. He knows that I once owned thirteen Great Danes and that was just…NUTS. I had a revolving account at the vet’s office, I bought a twenty-pound bag of Purina almost daily, and I spent most of my waking hours cleaning up messes. Back then, the bulk of fiber in my diet was dog hair, and all my sweaters looked like they were mohair. Which they were. Mo’ hair than yarn.

I was also single. (Guess why? Hmmm? Could it have been the roaming pack of big dogs that surrounded little old me? Uh, maybe!)

Since I can’t have more dogs in real life, since I’m incredibly allergic to cats (I wondered why my nose ran for years!), I have resorted to virtual pet ownership. While writing Paper, Scissors, Death, I decided my protagonist Kiki Lowenstein would adopt Gracie, a rescued harlequin Great Dane with uncropped ears. You can imagine how shocked I was to discover that one of the women who works in my vet’s office owns “Orion,” a rescued female Great Dane who looks exactly like Kiki’s imaginary pet!
I used to tell school kids that the best part of being an author was the dress code. You can roll out of bed and head to work wearing your pajamas, and you have to admit, that’s pretty neat. But lately I’ve been re-thinking the benefits of this job. Maybe the BEST part of being an author is that you can have all the pets you want. And never have to clean up any messes. How cool is that?

Cut, Crop & Die, the second book by Joanna Campbell Slan in the Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft series will be out this June.

The first book—Paper, Scissors, Death—is available through all major booksellers. ***********


  1. Welcome Joanna,
    I'd love to meet you sometime and see those scrapbooks! Like Ro, I've been pretty much in the dark about that artform, but am now dying to see it from an expert hand.
    I'm a dog person,too, and sadly allergic to cats. But funny story, when I had my first baby, twenty two years ago, we took our new daughter and our old dog, Channing, a Samoyed for a stroll on the Esplande. The dog got so much more attention than the baby that my husband started keeping score. By the end of the walk, the proud dad was infuriated: In the oohs and ahs department, Samoyed about 22, Baby 3. And she was a a really pretty baby!

  2. Nice to meet you, Jan! I once owned a Samoyed!

    I think what surprises folks the most about scrapbooking is the level of detail--and that's never visible in the magazine pages. On the other hand, I judge a scrapbooking contest in the UK each year, and this year's winner made stunningly (is that a word?) simple pages.

    Tell you what. I'll post some of my most recent pages on my blog in a few minutes. Go to and you'll see pages I did for a doodling class. (Yeah, you read that right--doodling.)

  3. Hey Joanna! SO wonderful to see you here.

    Can you come to my house? I have paper bags of photos and souvenirs and I would dearly love to have them in a scrapbook (or 20) but it's intimidating.

    Back to pets in books--I had my dear cats Lola and Leon, who died at age 20 and 14. Jonathan (my husband) is allergic, so no more cats.

    But anyone who knew Lola and Leon realize they live on as Charlie McNally's Botox.

    It's so much fun to write about Botox--because I get to think about her real "ancestors."

  4. Great post, Joanna! I knew your marvelous book had a great dane in it, but I didn't know you once owned SO MANY! You've got a big heart.

    And I agree totally about the ability to live vicarously through our protagonists. I won't tell you all the things that I only get to do in writing...

  5. The neat thing about you writers is that you have such a way with words. Sorry, couldn't resist! I am going to save "pet lust" for future use. My husband has it. His favorite breed is the English Springer Spaniel. We aren't allowed to step foot into a pet store or the local kennel. It's too easy to fall in love.

    Don't get me wrong, I love our six dogs. Our lives are ruled by the dogs more than they are by the four kids and I know I spend more money on doctor bills and maintenance.

    We go through a lot of dog food. I'm constantly sweeping up hair because they all shed. One of the dogs jumps the fence so I can't let her out for a second without watching her unless I want to chain her up. (She routinely likes to go out at 2 and 4 a.m. to squat for long stretches. She actually gazes at the stars while doing so.) My baby, Zoe, goes to daycare at my mom's when I'm working.

  6. Welcome to Jungle red Joanna! I cannot believe you had that many big dogs! I can't begin to imagine the logistics...

    I have pet lust too, though right now Tonka the Australian shepherd is enough pet for us. I would definitely have more if I was single. I've told my husband I will be an old crone with many cats if I live long enough. My highest count was nine, and that was truly too many:)

    We hope the series is doing well and are very glad to have you here for a visit.

  7. Hooray for big dogs! *wipes Newfoundland drool off jeans leg* Of course the best part is watching our 7 pound cat totally "pwn" the 150 pound Newfie.

    My MiL was big on scrapbooking. We have boxes and boxes up in the attic of the ones she made for my husband. I fear I'm not that crafty...Or maybe I'm not that organized. I save stuff and then forget where I put it.

    I'll have to keep my eyes open for your books, for sure!

  8. Joanna, you are amazing. Thirteen Great Danes?! My husband's grandmother always had two at a time and they had their own enormous wing-back chairs and specially-cooked lamb and rice dinners every night. But isn't it true that a big dog will break your heart? They never, ever live long enough, I think.

    The cover of your novel is very cool! Were you happy with it immediately, or did it take more than one try?

  9. That'a great question, Laura. And having seen some of your artwork, did you have a lot of input on the cover?

  10. Rosemary, I confess I was just incredibly thankful that both designers did such a great job!

  11. Thanks for visiting, Joanna! See you soon...

  12. Whoa, doggies!

    Yes, the cover of my book is divine, and the wonderful Kevin Brown at Midnight Ink got it "spot on" in one.

  13. Silver, thanks for considering my series. You know Elaine Viets said something in one of her books about how big dogs are buddies and small dogs are babies. We can use friends and dependents, right?

    By the way, that was dependents...not DEPENDS.

  14. Hank, of course, I'll come help you with your scrapbooks. But as for sorting through photos...I don't do that. Nope. I just grab a handful or two of ones I like and work with them.

    The rest are inventory for some future date. (See? Denial is a beautiful thing.)

  15. Roberta, was that nine cats? Or nine lives and one very mobile cat?

  16. Thanks for having me, ladies. There's some talk about having a few of us crafty mystery writers show our hobbies at Malice. Stay tuned!