Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Doodle Dog Books: Teaching Lessons, Helping Others

Fate. Destiny. Kismet.
Some of us believe in it, others are skeptical. Think on this story for a minute.

Two kids go to the same middle school, junior high, and high school. They are even in classes together. They like the same music, a lot of the same activities, but never really connect on a one-to-one level. Years later, and I won't say how many, they finally get to talking at their high school reunion, and boom. No, it's not a love story, they are both happily married. It is a story though, well at this point, three stories actually.

Jim Wood and Michele Quinn started writing children's books dealing with subjects which are difficult for kids to understand, like the loss of a pet, or childhood illness. The proceeds from their books go to charity, so not only are they helping children with their stories, they are helping causes near and dear to their hearts.

The first Doodle book aided a family overwhelmed with medical expenses, the second benefited an animal shelter, and profits from their latest book, Doodle: When Times Get Ruff, will go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio

Jim Wood is a writer, musician, dad, brother and friend. We've known each other online and in person for a few years now, and the work that he and Michele are doing is way beyond cool. Michele is a teacher, illustrator and a mom, so when you put the two of them together, how can these books be anything short of fabulous.

I recently had the chance to speak with both Jim and Michele about the journey of the Doodle Dog books. Please read the interviews, then check out the links at the end and order a few books.

Kath: The proceeds from the first Doodle book were donated to Ashley’s Army, to benefit the family of a child who had been undergoing cancer treatment. Is there an update on Ashley and how she’s doing?
Michele: She’s actually doing very well. I’m happy to say the bone marrow transplant was successful. Her numbers are not 100% yet, but they are so close that we can taste it, and she’s actually going to be walking with us at the Be the Match Walk & Run to raise funds for bone marrow transplants.

You’re involved in a whole bunch of charity endeavors. Where did the feeling that you should do so much to help others come from?
Michele: It really started in college, I became involved with my Honor Society where we did fundraising, worked with the Red Cross, assisting homeless people to find homes by sharing a home with somebody who was willing to take them in. Then I became a mom and I couldn’t just stay at home, and I started doing everything I could for my son’s school, volunteering from there. It’s just important for me to give back.

The second book “Doodle Meets the Pound Pup” was sort of based on your puppy. How did you ever get through the creative process?
Michele: We kind of collaborated on that one, and yes it was a difficult book to get through. It took a long time to do the illustrations. I was crying all the time, but I felt it needed to be done. As a teacher and a parent, I noticed in children’s literature, there’s not a lot out there for dealing with those things, of dealing with the death of a loved one. So that’s one of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing, to deal with some of those difficult circumstances that kids face now.

It’s very true, you can talk to a child and try to explain it, but sometimes if they see a picture and the story is written in a basic child’s voice, I think they can grasp it, and it seems more ok. If it’s written down, then someone else must have had this happen to them.
Michele: Right, and one of the key things I’ve tried to keep, especially with the second and third books, coming again from an education standpoint and child psychology, we tried to take a lot of that pain and push it to the dog, transfer it. We’re going to deal with the friend’s friend, but we’re going to put the heavy stuff on the dog. It removes the heavy burden from the child. And it’s a book, so the child can look at it on their own and can process it in their own time.

The profits from the second book went to an animal shelter and the proceeds from the third are going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. How did that partnership come about?
Michele: My neighbor, Ryan Wilkins is the Community Relations & Marketing Director, and I knew him from our FaceBook Community Page. Jim wanted to donate some books to a children’s hospital and I said my neighbor works for Ronald McDonald house, do you want me to give them to him, and that’s how I actually met his wife. So it just came up through there.

What’s been the best experience about this whole collaboration on the Doodle books?
Michele: It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to write a children’s book, and when Jim mentioned that he’d like to write a kid’s book someday, I said well I think I know someone who can illustrate, and it was that simple and that’s kind of how it fell into place. I’m fulfilling something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl, but honestly, the best part of it is that we’re doing it to give something to other people. We’re able to take the talent that we have, and do something for other people in a quiet way. With one project, we were able to give help to a family in desperate need, then for the animals, and now for the Ronald McDonald House, where Ashley’s family had to stay for two months, so it’s all connected. So that’s the best part of it for me

Then I spoke with Jim Wood.

Kath: The first book was about a little girl checking things out in the world and wondering if God was responsible for each part of it. What made you take a spiritual entrance into the series?
Jim: As I started writing, it was something that just came into my head. I thought about the girl and the dog and thought what could I do that’s kind of different? Just go out exploring the world “oh well, if this is like this, how can this be? How can a tree be?” Somebody made the trees, somebody made the grass, somebody made the rain, the seasons, somebody made us. Just basic fundamental questions of why are we here, what did this, and how wonderful it is that it happened, and here we are.

Now you are a music writer, an interviewer, and as both of us are, a ranter on your blog. How does your writing approach change when you’re writing a children’s book?  Is there a different mindset that you go into it with?
Jim: Actually I don’t think there is, because when I’m ranting I’m kind of in the mode that I feel like I could do whatever I want, but it seems whenever it’s time to write a children’s book it’s like flicking a switch. It just comes on… like, ok let’s try this, what’s this going to be about? We’ll start out by saying “let’s think about what we want to say. Like Chloe and the girl are playing and Christopher is a pain, the little kid thing. We’ll take things like that and turn them into rhyme. So it’s just like flipping a switch, it doesn’t really change at all, it’s just one way of looking at things.

Does the rhyming thing come natural to you?
Jim: Oh absolutely, I come from a music background. Rhyming and songwriting and all that, it wasn’t a problem at all. The hardest part is trying to find something that hasn’t been done before, and trying to get words to rhyme that don’t normally rhyme, but kind of sound like it.

As a writer I just have to ask, when you had your first book signing was there a moment when you thought that nobody would show up?
Jim: There’s always that thought that comes into your head. Then as soon as the first person comes, as long as one person comes, that’s it. But there is that certain fear.

I asked Michele this same question; what has been the best experience about doing these books?
Jim: Honestly, it’s working with her. As far as the back story goes, we hardly knew each other all the way through school. We went through middle school, junior high, high school. I didn’t know her, we never talked. It’s kind of sad because we missed out on all that, but in a way it’s good now because we’re adults and we get to work on things like these books, and get to help people. It’s given the books a purpose, and just doing them together has been the best experience for me. And now we have three, which is mind-boggling.

I have a dog question about this because Doodle is a Boston Terrier, and coincidentally or not, you have two of them, Doodle and Bruno. Now Doodle gets all the press while Bruno has only made an appearance in the latest book. Has this caused any problems at home?
Jim: No, not all.

So Bruno is pretty happy for his brother?
Jim: Yeah, he’s just happy to be a part of the story. He was tired of being in the shadows.

Jim and Michele are good people doing good work. Help them help others. If you have a child, the books are perfect. Don't have kids? Purchase one, two, five, or a dozen and give them to hospitals, libraries, day care centers, etc. This isn't a bucket challenge where you won't ever know where your money is going. All proceeds are going directly to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Helping out families of sick children. 

Do a good thing, buy a book.

To order a copy of the Doodle Dog books, click on the links below:
A little girl and her dog explore the world around them and wonder how things were made.

Doodle Meets the Pound Pup
A heart-warming tale about the joys of animal adoption and coping with the loss of a beloved pet.

Doodle: When Times Get Ruff
 "Doodle: When Times Get Ruff" tells the story of Chloe, a young girl who faces uncertainty when her younger brother Christopher becomes ill. With help and love from both family and friends, Chloe is able to overcome her fear.

Follow Doodle Dog Books on FaceBook
Jim Wood's Website:
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio

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