Arts and Entertainment

In books | Bainbridge author Suzanne Selfors on the scent of a good tale

Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Island's Suzanne Selfors debuts her new kids book, 'Smells Like Dog.'
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Suzanne Selfors is not about to write a sad dog story. In fact, she’s adamantly against them, down to her bones.

“I’m sick of books where dogs die. I’m sick of movies where dogs die. I’m boycotting them at the moment,” she said.

That’s good news for readers of the Bainbridge Island author’s newest book, “Smells Like Dog,” at the very beginning of which Selfors spells it out like this: “The following story is a dog story, but it is not, I repeat, NOT, a sad dog story. I hate sad dog stories,” she writes. “So I promise you that you don’t have to worry because the dog in this story does not die. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have many harrowing and exciting adventures.”

“Smells Like Dog,” the goofy and magical tale of a goodhearted farm boy and his olfactorily challenged canine, releases May 1. Selfors will hold a launch party for the book, which is aimed at 8- to 12-year olds, on Sunday, May 23, at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge.

Homer W. Pudding, Selfors’ latest kid hero, has a thing for maps. If something is hidden, mysterious or lost, he’s all about it. Homer is most definitely not interested in raking poop, or any of the other chores that need doing on his family’s goat farm, which is a point of contention with his very hard-working, very pragmatic father. But if there’s an adventure to be found, there Homer will be. Only 12-year-old Homer isn’t your typical hero: He’s not tall or athletic, in fact he’s kind of chubby, and his classmates think he’s weird. They don’t understand his great imagination or his need to be a famous treasure hunter just like his uncle.

When Homer’s uncle dies, he leaves Homer the following:

1 (one) mysterious gold coin; and

1 (one) droopy, floppy, big-footed basset hound that can’t smell worth a darn.

So what’s a would-be treasure hunter to do? Following his uncle’s influence, Homer sets out to discover the meaning of the coin. Alongside him are Gwendolyn, his big sister and a budding taxidermist; Lorelei, an orphaned, pink-haired soup seller; his new dog, who happens to have a secret talent of his own; and a cast of other funny, colorful characters, from an inventor with a tower in the sky to a pair of nutty lawyers who invariably want to sue everyone. Homer’s adventures take him from the small town of Milkydale to the big city’s Museum of Natural History, where he finds himself amidst a search for a famed pirate’s map.

Selfors, 46, writes the way people like their stories told: With a sweeping lens, her narrative punctuated by a thick sense of humor and occasional editorializing. She never takes herself too seriously and makes room for all kinds of fun.

Selfors said she thought up the idea for “Smells Like Dog” while walking her own canine, Skylos. She spent time with Baxter, a basset hound friend of hers, to learn the way basset hounds move and bark and sniff about.

Just like Homer isn’t understood by his classmates, the dog in Selfors’ book is equally a misfit, as is everyone at some point in time, including Selfors.

“All the time,” she said, about feeling a little different from everybody else. “It’s constant with me. And I think that’s more the norm than not.”

“Smells Like Dog” is the first volume in what Selfors envisions will be a trilogy. It’s the first series she’s written, and the second tome will be released next spring. In the meantime, February 2011 will bring the debut of her next teen book, “Mad Love,” which follows “Saving Juliet” and Poulsbo-inspired “Coffeehouse Angel.” Her other kids books include “Fortune’s Magic Farm” and “To Catch a Mermaid.”

Selfors said she enjoys writing for a kid audience most of all, because the youngest readers often come with the biggest imaginations, and the least desire to read longing and romance page after page.

“It can be pure, fun adventure,” she said.

She lists Roald Dahl as a writerly influence, and Stewart Little and Matilda as two of her most beloved childhood characters.

Selfors calls “Smells Like Dog” a whimsical, fast-paced adventure, one that both boys and girls will enjoy.

“It’s a classic story about two misfits that find one another and fulfill their destinies,” she said.

Selfors is also encouraging kids to enter her writing contest, which rings in its third year alongside the debut of “Smells Like Dog.” (See more details in gray box, p. 2.)

To learn more about Selfors, her books and her writing contests, visit www.SuzanneSelfors.com.

Selfors is also preparing her 2010-2011 school visit schedule. Teachers who’d like the author to visit their class can contact her at mail@suzanneselfors.com. WU

A very important note for kids only:

ATTENTION: If you are not kid, if you are not a first-grader or an eighth-grader or anyone anywhere in between — in other words, if you ARE a grown up, you should stop reading this now. I mean it, STOP. This part is just for kids, so you can go do something else, something for grown ups. Got it?

Are they gone? OK, good.

Bainbridge Island author Suzanne Selfors is hosting her third annual Student Creative Writing Contest for local kids — that’s right, YOU — in grades one through eight. Her fun and exciting new book, “Smells Like Dog,” is about a dog with a very special (and supersecret) talent. Your challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to write your own story about a special dog. Maybe it’s a dog you already know, maybe it’s an imaginary dog. Just try to keep your story to one or two pages. (You can draw a picture too if you want.)

Six stories will be chosen and their authors (which could be you) will each receive a $40 gift certificate to Eagle Harbor Book Company. Everyone who enters will get a bookmark and a special Dogploma of Creative Writing.

Winners will be announced at 3 p.m. May 23 at Eagle Harbor Book Company. The deadline to enter is May 20. (That’s less than three weeks from now, so get writing.) Find an entry form at Eagle Harbor Books, or email Selfors for one at mail@suzanneselfors.com.

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