DOG SHOW RULES—PARALLELS TO THE WRITING WORLD
I’ve been away from the dog show game for some time. Thus I was struck anew by the parallels between these canine carnivals and the writers’ world. Human behavior can vary greatly but dogs generally find ways to rise above their baser instincts.
Thus, the wise person concedes that every dog is beautiful and every author’s book is memorable.
The following points are axiomatic for AKC (American Kennel Club), participants but they hold value for writers as well.
1. Do Your Paperwork
The American Kennel Club sets very specific rules for competing in dog shows. Bottom line— late or incomplete paperwork disqualifies an entry. Likewise, publishers and agents specify requirements on their websites. It astonishes me when otherwise intelligent beings grouse about being rejected for sending a 150,000 word unsolicited manuscript directly to an agent or editor. Read, digest and follow instructions if you want to compete.
2. Grooming is essential. Always put your best paw (foot) forward. Dogs and their handlers accept this but not every writer agrees. A disheveled show dog will not win despite his/her distinguished pedigree. Too often writers believe that casual attire is synonomous with sloppy. Appointments with prospective editors, agents and peers are business meetings that require one to project a professional image. No self-respecting Sheltie would ever forget that.
3. Show your teeth to authority figures but don’t bite—SMILE.
Judges routinely examine a dog’s mouth to assess his bite and teeth. Bad behavior—even the slightest nip—may disqualify a dog for life. Growling shows bad temperment, a fatal flaw in the breed standard.
Writers have been known to snipe, grouse and snap at readers, reviewers, and publishers who displease them or offer unflattering criticism. THIS NEVER WORKS. Better to adopt the show dog style and grin while thinking about the bones (or bucks) to come. After all, no writer wants a reputation for being “difficult.” Better to suck it in and move on.
4. Refrain from barnyard behavior. Show dogs know that nuzzling, sniffing, challenging or God forbid mounting are strictly forbidden. Potty issues in the ring are embarrassing and unacceptable.
Unfortunately, the alcohol-fueled hilarity at conferences leads some writers to forget that. Fisticuffs, slanging matches or unlikely pairings tend to live in infamy. Remember, other writers are born storytellers who can immortalize your bad behavior. It is their nature.
5. Keep your composure and self-confidence even when you lose.
Show dogs realize that although each match has only three winners, the other competitors are not losers. They hold their heads high and prance out of the ring with their pride intact. Writers who watch others snag awards and honors often lose their confidence. Self-doubt has no place in the show ring or the literary field. Hold you head high and forge ahead. That’s what winners do.
Some authors complain that the publishing industry has gone to the dogs. That’s not such a bad thing is it?