July 7, 200827 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, Hanni, travel, Uncategorized, Writing for Children


Beth and Hanni with Jude Rich (left) and Francine Rich (right)

That's me with Jude and Francine Rich, my favorite publishers.

This is Part Two of, well, a two-part series. To get the appropriate build-up, please read my Practice Run blog post first.


During last week’s cocktail reception, Henry Bergh Award winners were invited to give speeches. Joanne Ryder (author of Toad by the Road) thanked her husband Laurence Yepp during her speech. My publisher Francine Rich got so excited hearing Laurence Yepp’s name that I was afraid she’d fall out of her seat. Later on she explained: Laurence Yepp is the author of Dragonwings,a book her son Dominick counts among his favorites. “I got my picture taken with him!” she gushed.

Yepp and Ryder were among the many, many impressive writers at the reception. Mary Alice Monroe was at our table – she’s had a dozen books published already. Maribeth Boelts (her book Before You Were Mine won a Henry Bergh award for fiction) was at our table, too, along with her editor from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Victoria Miles, author of a number of award-winning books for children, sat across from me and complimented my Lana Turner dress.

We all signed books after the ceremony, but the first person who approached my table wasn’t really interested in buying Safe & Sound– he wanted to pet Hanni. I happily relented, unbuckled Hanni’s harness, and let him have at her. After that, many of the 100+ in the audience lined up for a chance to pet Hanni. I mean, c’mon – it was an ASPCA event. They all missed their animals at home. While Hanni enjoyed herself on the ground, Guy Pantangelo (his dad is Animal Precinct’s Officer Joe Pentangelo) assisted me at the table by rubber stamping a dog pawprint onto every book sold. Just like the day before, a portion of each book sale was donated to the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey, CA.

Guy Pentangelo helps Beth while she signs books

Guy Pentangelo helps me while I sign books.

When the caterers came to clean off the tables and shoo us away, Cheryl, Marilee and I took our wine to the fancy lobby outside the meeting room. Lounging there in a comfy chair, glass of wine in one hand, Hanni’s paw in the other, my sisters sitting across from me, well, that’s when I knew. I was a winner. None of us wanted to leave.

The next morning we all headed back to the exhibit hall for one last visit – and one last free t-shirt. What a kick it was to be recognized by people at the convention center. “I was there last night!” “Congratulations!”

Hanni brought me back to earth by misbehaving on our way home. As we headed to the jetway to board our flight at the John Wayne airport, a child in a stroller caught Hanni’s eye. The kid was right next to us in line, enjoying a sandwich, kind of flailing her arms, I guess. Hanni took that as an invitation to enjoy the sandwich, too, snatching the PBJ right out of the poor child’s hand. It all happened so quickly that the kid didn’t flinch. Her parents didn’t flinch, either. By the time I got my hands on Hanni’s mouth to root out the sandwich, she had swallowed it.

Laurence Yepp pets Hanni

Hanni enjoys her time off work

Ah, well. Even award-winning dogs break the rules sometimes.

Practice Run

July 7, 20084 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, guide dogs, Hanni, travel, Uncategorized, Writing for Children


2007 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award Winners

2007 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award Winners

It’s been a week now since Hanni and I attended the cocktail reception in California to accept our ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award, and we’re both still walking on air. Finally this morning I’m coming down long enough to sit in front of my talking computer and compose a blog post about the big event. Eight writers won the Henry Bergh Award this year, some for fiction, others for non-fiction, poetry, young adult books, and so on. Two illustrators were also recognized with awards.

I was so excited to get to the reception that we arrived early — the room was pretty darn empty when we got there. Our early arrival turned out to be a good thing – it gave Hanni and me a chance to practice getting from our table up to the stage. You know, so we’d be ready when they announced our award! For the first dry run I let go of Hanni’s harness – I held on to her leash as someone guided us and pointed out where the three steps to the stage were. At the foot of the steps, I crouched down next to Hanni and pet her and rubbed her and told her over and over what a good girl she is. When I stood up, I put my foot on the first step. Tapping my foot then, and pointing to the step, I exclaimed, “Good girl, Hanni! Here’s where we want to go. Good girl!” We were led back to our table. I sat down, then helped Hanni situate herself underneath. After that, I pretended our names had just been announced. I pulled out my chair and called Hanni to come out. She did. Standing up, I lined my back against the back of the chair and commanded, “Forward!” Hanni led me right to the stairs. She was perfect.

She is perfect!


Joe Pentangelo, me, and Hanni

Joe Pentangelo, me, and Hanni

We tried it a few more times – the practice was more for me than for Hanni – until I felt fairly sure we’d make it without me falling. Or fainting. My Blue Marlin publisher Francine Rich arrived with her husband Jude around that time – they presented me with lilies. The fragrance was sensational. I felt like a star. The whole event was first class, fancy hors d’oeuvres, fancy drinks, fancy people. I even had a police escort! Joe Pentangelo, Special Agent for Humane Law Enforcement at the ASPCA — and one of the stars of the Animal Precinct TV show on Animal Planet — met Hanni and me at the stage and walked us to the podium to receive our award. Find out if we made it without tripping — or fainting! — by reading my next blog post, called Winners!!!

Lucky Dog

July 3, 200816 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, Hanni, Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Book CoverHenry Bergh Award stampWow. So many wonderful things happened while Hanni and I were in Anaheim to accept the Henry Bergh children’s book award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) — it’d take an award-winning writer to sum it up in one blog post. Hey. Wait. I am an award-winning writer now! I oughta be able to condense this great weekend into 500 words, right? Let me give it a try. Sunday morning started with a fundraiser for the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey, CA. We’d do presentations there and sign books. Proceeds would go to the shelter.
The drive there took us speeding down one of those famous California eight-lane freeways. We were close to our destination when our driver (Kristen Limbert, the Coordinator for Humane Education at the ASPCA) saw a dog crossing the road. “I’ve gotta stop,” she said, merging through deadly traffic to pull over to the side, open her window and make kissy noises. The puppy was understandably confused by all the traffic, but somehow needled his way right into Kristen’s arms. Now, that was one lucky dog. What were the odds of an ASPCA van crossing his path, headed directly to the local Animal shelter?! He had no tags, so was dubbed Henry — for the book award, of course! Hanni stayed calm for the entire ordeal, and Kristen vowed that if no one adopts Henry by the end of the week, she’ll take him home.

Beth and her sister Cheryl at the American Library Association conference

My sister Cheryl and I--and Hanni, of course--at the American Library Association conference

After the shelter event Hanni and I joined my sisters Marilee and Cheryl at the American Library Association (ALA) convention center. Marilee had come from Orlando to join me; Cheryl had flown in from Seattle. We visited the Independent Book Publishers Association Booth to make sure the copy of Safe & Sound displayed there was front and center, then did the same at the ASPCA booth. After that, it was time for the ALA World Championship book cart precision drill team competition. From a blog post on LibGig:

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of such a thing? What is a Book Cart Drill Team? Well, you know what a drill team is, right? And you know what a book cart is, right? Well put them together and you get the single most nerdcore sporting event ever. Presiding over the festivities were Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka. They entertained the crowd, conducted interviews and provided color commentary while the judges tallied their scores…

There were pinwheels, there were catch and release routines, carts were spun on one wheel. Librarians surfed on carts, did splits on carts, wore sequins and lab coats, and the singing was amazing!

I was not a judge, but the Bibliofiles book cart drill team from the Austin Public Library was my favorite. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you already know how much Hanni and I love Austin. A lot was made of the drill team’s headgear (books that spun!) and I thought it was cool that the team learned sign language, donned white gloves, and interpreted their soundtrack to us. But what really sold me on the Bibliofiles was their grand finale– they rolled out a big banner of a famous Helen Keller quote: “Literature is my Utopia.” It was written in print, and in Braille. They took silver in the competition, and Marilee found a video on YouTube of their performance –check it out!

On Monday we went to an author presentation, signed up for contests, picked up free pencils, post-it notes, books and catalogs at exhibits, fronted Safe & Sound where necessary, then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award ceremony. I slipped on my Lana Turner dress, Cheryl wore sequins, Marilee fluffed my hair and lent me her jewelry. Hanni stood proud as she guided me into the Anaheim Hilton for the event. True to form – I mean, Flo Finke didn’t raise no fools — we were the first to arrive at the party, and the last to leave. Yikes! I’m over 500 words already! I’m sure you are just on the edge of your seat, though, waiting for details of the award ceremony — guess you’ll just have to stay tuned for my next post!

Pro Wrestlers Don't Give Pedicures

June 27, 200815 CommentsPosted in book tour, guide dogs, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, travel, Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Pro wrestlers don’t give pedicures.

At least Atlas Horn doesn’t. Atlas (he claims this is his given name!) is a groomer at Doggie Bath House, a new business right down the street from us. I brought Hanni to Doggie Bath House yesterday to get spruced up for our upcoming trip to California. I wanted Hanni to get her nails painted for the big event — we’re accepting our ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award during a cocktail reception at the American Library Association annual conference on Monday.

“We don’t do nails,” “we don’t paint nails,” the owner told me right away. “We only do nails as in nail trims.”
For a short moment I considered going elsewhere. But when the owner introduced us to Atlas, I knew we had to stay. How could I deny Hanni the chance to be bathed by a pro wrestler?

Atlas grew up with dogs, he told me. Dog grooming seemed the perfect way to supplement his pro-wrestling income. “You can make good money wrestling,” he said. “But I have a daughter now.”Atlas is a gentle giant--when it comes to dogs and children.

Does the responsibility of fatherhood make a pro wrestler more careful in the ring, less interesting to the audience? Does the thought of a daughter at home distract him from crushing his opponent? Do you get paid less if you lose? Atlas never explained. What’s more likely, I figure, is that fatherhood forces Atlas to cut down on travel to faraway cities. There are 12 venues for pro-wrestling in Chicago, he said. “But the work is only there on weekends.”
And so, during the week, Atlas grooms dogs.

Hanni tried to be stoic in the pro wrestler’s presence, but truth is: she hates getting soaked. She hardly ever gets bathed, really. Think about it. Guide dogs don’t need baths as often as other dogs. Guide dogs are pretty much always attached to their owners. Unless we go playing in mud puddles, or get caught up with skunks, or tangle ourselves in brambles, our dogs stay pretty clean. The guide dog schools teach us how to brush and comb our dogs, and if we do that every day, baths are unnecessary.

For our special day in Anaheim, though, I wanted Hanni to sparkle. The trip to Doggie Bath House was worth it. Her nails may still be the same black color they were when we entered the place, but now, thanks to Atlas, her fur coat absolutely shines!

Hail to the Orange, Hail to the Blue

June 21, 20086 CommentsPosted in blindness, travel, Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Hanni and I at the University of Illinois quad.One question I get during the “q&a” after some of my talks has to do with colors. You know, whether or not I still remember them.

I do.

I will admit, though — There are some new fashion colors I have trouble coordinating. Teal, for example. Terra cotta. Chartreuse. When in doubt, I Pair them with black.

One color combination I cannot get out of my head ( much as I might like to) is orange and blue. I graduated from the University of Illinois. I can safely say that even a blind woman could have chosen better school colors.

But to quote the school fight song, I’m “loyal to you, Illinois.” I even bought myself a tangerine-colored skirt and top (I didn’t pair it with any blue, thank you very much) the year Illinois played in the final game of the NCAA basketball championships.
And of course I am especially loyal to my alma mater when it gives me a nice plug – I just received an issue of The Media I — a newsletter put out every month by the University of Illinois College of Media. What a fun surprise to hear my name mentioned in the alumni section.

Beth Finke ’81 JOURN, author of the book, “Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound,” recently received an ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award. Based on publisher nominations and presented each year by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the awards are named for the founder of the ASPCA.
Henry Bergh was born in 1813, chartered the organization in 1866, and also spent time working to prevent child abuse. Finke is the 2007 winner in the Nonfiction
Companion Animals category.

Hanni and I leave for Anaheim a week from today to receive that award. My dress?A basic black number, to coordinate perfectly with Hanni’s shiny red manicured nails. We’ll be the belles of the ball.