What’s Dog Got to Do With It?

Fear of Writing by Milli Thornton

The arsonist doggie
on the cover of my book

Being a cat person, it’s ironic for me to use a dog as the symbol of Fear of Writing. Here’s Dog in all his glory (right), setting a match to his manuscript.

I originally commissioned the dog image from artist Steve Andrus as a way to reassure potential readers that this book isn’t scary—it’s about putting the fun back into writing. Twelve years down the track, that approach is still working. As one reader put it:

Milli’s techniques are so friendly and non-frightening. . . . The book is very laid-back, conversational, and downright funny! Even the cover picture of the dog holding a match to his manuscript makes me laugh every time I look at it. The exercises are fantastic—they wind up your imagination and let it go and then wonderful things happen.

—Susan Smith, San Antonio, Texas

What I’ve come to realize: the FoW doggie has shades of meaning depending on the person.

Five or six years ago a subscriber noticed this in Vol. 3, Issue 9 of the Fear of Writing Gazette:

Your imagination is like a dog kept indoors too long during rainy weather. If you let the dog out, what will it do? Probably roll in the mud, caper, bark for joy, shake its coat out, run fast with a stick in its mouth, and systematically sniff everything in the garden.

Promise to let your imagination out like a dog being let out to play. Promise not to suppress that dog.

—Excerpted from Fear of Writing, page 8

Having been inspired by this section of the book in the past, this subscriber naturally thought the cover image related to “letting the dog out.” But as she clicked around at fearofwriting.com after reading the Gazette, she stumbled on The Story Behind the Book Cover:

The arsonist doggy on the cover of Fear of Writing is the sneaky brainchild of Taos artist, Steve Andrus.

I say sneaky because Steve and I agreed that the cover should be unisex, which is why we chose an animal. Steve, as you can see here, is a dog person. He claimed he was at his most comfortable painting a dog. I’m a cat person myself, but I figured if he didn’t like cats he might paint something unflattering—so I gave him the green light on the dog idea.

Steve at first wanted to paint a dog blasting a hole in its monitor with a shotgun. Being a pacifist, I said NO GUNS! So he toned it down to arson and gave the dog a bow tie. When confronted about the bow tie, Steve admitted proudly: “Yes, this is a male dog.” He believes that men are the underdogs and when he saw the opportunity to avenge his fellow mutt in public, he grabbed it with both paws.

My Gazette reader was compelled to write to me and point out how well the cover image fits with “letting the dog out.” I was stunned. Until that moment I, the author, had never connected the cover image with page 8 of the book itself.

But that’s the beauty of getting feedback from my readers: they add more depth to my material with their own unique imaginations.



The Fear of Writing doggie also lends his assistance to students in the online course based on my book: Fear of Writing Online Course

3 Responses to What’s Dog Got to Do With It?
  1. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    October 19, 2012 | 10:49 AM

    How funny! I never actually thought about the dog or why it was a dog, but I love the story behind it. =)

  2. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    October 19, 2012 | 5:03 PM

    Fun post, Milli! I think it’s so wonderful how you get actual, specific feedback from your readership on what the FoW doggie means to them, and how you/he have inspired them to learn how to approach their writing in a more playful,adventurous way.

    But…now after reading this post, I can’t get that”Who let the dogs out?” song out of my head 😀

  3. JM Merchant
    Twitter: jmmerchant86
    October 22, 2012 | 7:25 PM

    Haha! Love it Milli. I’ll definitely be remembering that when I start reading the book again tomorrow. x

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