David Grimm: Citizen Canine

David Grimm
PublicAffairs, April 8, 2014, $26.99
ISBN: 1610391330; 978-1610391337

Grimm reports:

Cats and dogs were once wild animals. Today, they are family members and surrogate children. A century ago, pets didn’t warrant the meager legal status of “property.” Now they have more rights and protections than any other animal in the U.S. Some say they’re even on the verge of becoming legal persons.

For Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, I traveled across the US to trace the social evolution of pets from wild animals to quasi-citizens.

David Grimm, with Jasper on his lap, and Jezebel
I began thinking about writing this book when my wife and I rushed our five-month-old kitten, Jasper, to the pet emergency clinic. He was suffering from massive kidney failure, and we would eventually spend more than $3,000 to save him. The fact that we were able, and willing, to shell out so much on an animal we barely knew — and the fact that most people didn’t think we were crazy for doing it — got me thinking about our society’s relationship with cats and dogs. I also began wondering about the end point of this relationship: What are the good, bad, and bizarre consequences of turning pets into people?

I spent a few months researching the topic, and submitted my proposal to an agent who had worked on another pet book. With guidance from my agent, I spent another six months writing and rewriting my proposal. When we started shopping the book around, we found most publishers wanted a Marley and Me-type pet book. Fortunately, PublicAffairs was interested in a more serious pet book, and we struck a deal. I spent about two and a half years researching and writing the book.

The one thing I wish I had known before I started is the importance of the sample chapter in the book proposal. I didn’t spend as much time on it as I should have, and I think that hurt my chances with some publishers.

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Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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