Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spotlight: Lend Me a Paw by Beth Finke

Today I'm talking to Beth Finke, award-winning author, teacher and journalist. Beth travels to speaking engagements with her guide dog from The Seeing Eye.

Lend Me a Paw

by Beth Finke

Photo of Beth and Harper from Beth's blog, Safe & Sound
A picture page from “Lend Me a Paw.” 
(Photo courtesy National Geographic School Publishing.)


Cherie: Hi Beth. Thanks for being with us today. Can you tell us about your picture book, Lend Me a Paw
Beth: Lend Me a Paw is a compilation of three stories about animal intelligence. My story, called One Smart Dog explains why sometimes Seeing Eye dogs have to rely on "intelligent disobedience" to keep the blind person they are guiding safe. When a Seeing Eye dog decides that what their blind companion is asking would put them in danger, the dog must refuse to follow the command. Example: let's say I told my dog to go "Forward!" at an intersection, and just then she realized a car was turning right on red. Even though I was urging her to go forward, she would refuse to budge. Intelligent disobedience is the most difficult skill a Seeing Eye dog must learn, and they use that skill in all sorts of different situations.

Cherie: That’s very interesting. Where did you get the idea for your book?  
Beth: An editor at National Geographic School Publishing contacted me about an idea they had to publish a couple of stories in a book. At the time the working title was "Animal I.Q." My previous picture book, Hanni and Beth: Safe & sound (Blue Marlin Publications, 2007) won an ASPCA/Henry Bergh Book Award for children's non-fiction, so the editor thought I might be able to write a story that fit into the "Animal I.Q." category.

The first thing that came to mind was the "intelligent disobedience" concept, and  when I explained that to the editor she was all over it. I live in the Printers Row neighborhood of Chicago, and a National Geographic photographer came and spent a day taking photos of us in action here, and along with photos supplied by the Seeing Eye in Morristown, they are the illustrations for the book.   

Cherie: What is your favorite (or least favorite) thing about writing picture books?
Beth: My favorite part about writing picture books is that it forces good editing. You don't have a whole lot of words to work with, so your writing has to be strong. 

Cherie: Where can someone purchase your book,
Beth: "Lend Me a Paw" is not available at bookstores, and the National Geographic School Publishing web site is set up to sell to  teachers and schools who use purchase orders and the like. If you're dying for an individual  copy, though you can phone in an order at 1-888-915-3276. Ask for sib number 978-07362-95116.  My previous children's book, "Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound"  is far easier to come by. Order it from your favorite independent bookstore or purchase it online at Blue Marlin Publications: www.bluemarlinpubs.com My memoir, "Long Time, No See" was published by University of Illinois press in 2003 and is also available commercially through traditional routes. 
Oh, and my Seeing Eye dog and I love to visit schools, please email me at info@bethfinke.com if you are planning author visits for the next school year.

Cherie: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book authors?
Beth: If you want a publisher to publish your book, send your manuscript out to publishers an agents! Sounds obvious, I know, but I hear from oh so many people who have a picture book written but haven't sent it anywhere. Maybe they're afraid of rejection? They're thinking well, as long as they don't send it out, no one will reject it?  But hey, if you don't send it out, no one will ever publish it, either!

Cherie: That’s great advice! What are you working on now?
Beth: I teach memoir-writing classes for senior citizens in Chicago, and I am working on a book for adults about my experiences with those writers.

Cherie: That sounds fascinating, and I’m looking forward to learning more about that book. Now for some fun questions:

Favorite color? Red. I lost my sight when I was 26 years old due to a somewhat rare disease called retinopathy. Red was the only color I could still see as my sight was fading, so it remains my favorite.  

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would your dream vacation be? At an ocean beach house with friends.

Are you a morning person or an evening person? Morning. I love being up before everyone else is. I get a lot of writing work done that way.

Do you have a favorite place to write? In hotel rooms when someone else (a conference that hired me to speak, a book fest where I'm sitting on a panel. that sort of thing) is footing the bill.

Who is your hero? My mother is my hero. I am the youngest of seven, my father had a heart attack and died at home a week after my third birthday. Flo had not graduated from high school and worked to get her GED degree and then held a job as an office clerk until she was 70 in order to raise us on her own.  The heroic part is that she never complained to us about her lot in life. She took naps when she could, though, always telling us she was "just resting her eyes." I follow her lead: naps are good when you can get  'em! 

Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. Thanks again for being on my blog!

Stop by Beth Finke's website to learn more about her and her books, or visit her blog, Safe & Sound to follow her adventures with her Seeing Eye Dog. 

Friend Beth on Facebook


  1. Great interview. Intelligent disobedience sounds fascinating. It never occurred how important it is for guide dogs to have to rely on themselves and even disobey their masters sometimes.

  2. Interesting interview! I like Beth's and her mother's ideas about naps. :)

  3. Intelligent Disobedience is such a profound concept. I'm taking this with me!

  4. Stephanie and Cherie, lucky for me, the editor at National Geographic School Publishing found the intelligent disobedience concept fascinating, too! Mirka, you're right -- intelligent disobedience kind of has a "civil disobedience" ring to it, doesn't it? And Ann, I think I'm going to go rest my eyes and muse about all this now...

  5. Beth, I'm glad the editor found it interesting. You're book sounds wonderful!

    Thanks for stopping by everyone!