“Write what you know” is advice authors often hear, but I’ve been intimidated by it sometimes. It leaves me wondering what I know about that could possibly interest anyone else. So I’ve expanded that idea to: write what you care about. Nancy Furstinger has followed that advice better than anyone I know.
She is a lover of all types of animals and an adoptive mom to both dogs and rabbits. She also specializes in writing about animals. It’s those two loves that have led to her most recent picture books.
The first, Maggie’s Second Chance, is about a pregnant Lab mix who is abandoned in an empty house. The Realtor finds her and takes her to an animal control facility where her puppies are born. They are adopted, but Maggie is not. Jeff, a fourth grader, is upset when he learns from his teacher that if Maggie is not adopted, she will be euthanized. Jeff and his classmates convince the city council to open an animal shelter, and it is through that shelter, that Maggie is given her second chance.The book is based on two true stories. One is about a dog Nancy rescued. She was abandoned in a house after her humans moved. Nancy planned to foster her until a forever home could be found, but as Nancy admits, she flunked Fostering 101. She adopted the dog renaming her Jolly because that best described her personality.
The other part of Maggie’s story came together when Nancy read about a fourth grade class in Texas. They were upset when they learned that unwanted dogs in their town were being euthanized. Determined to do something about it, the students and their teacher, Diane Trull, convinced their city council to set up a no-kill shelter. In 2003, the Dalhart Animal Wellness Group and Sanctuary (DAWGS) was founded. Diane and her family work with children ages nine to eighteen to run the shelter. Although their resources are limited, they have rescued more than 7,000 animals.
Nancy’s new picture book, to be released April 1, is also based on one of her adopted pets, a large New Zealand white bunny appropriately named Marshmallow. Her first three years were spent in a tiny outdoor cage until Nancy adopted her and she became a house rabbit. It’s something that happens too often when bunnies are given as Easter gifts. Children enjoy them for a short time, but they quickly lose interest and the bunny is soon neglected.
That is the fate of Bella, the bunny narrator of The Forgotten Rabbit. When the children grow tired of their Easter bunny, she is left outside in a cage without enough food or water. Fortunately, another girl, Rosalita, rescues Bella turning her into a house rabbit. Nancy adds fun and tension to the story by having Rosalita set up an obstacle course for Bella and then entering her in a rabbit agility competition.
“Write what you know” is good advice because, as Nancy shows, it works. What do you know? What do you care about? The answers to those questions could lead to some of your best writing so far.