Joni B. Cole, a writer, teacher of writing, wife, mother and ThirdAge blogger, has collected quite a few fabulous reviews on Amazon for her new book “Another Bad Dog Book: Tales of Life, Love and Neurotic Human Behavior." “I think I'm a wee bit biased about this book," Joni admits shyly, "so perhaps put more trust in other readers' reviews. But I hope you read it and enjoy it!” And those who have read the book, which will officially launch in the beginning of October, certainly do like it, declaring ”Funny, funny, funny!” about its twenty-eight essays, including one that was a Pushcart Prize nominee. And noting as well that “Joni…is the person you want to be sitting next to whispering snarky comments and witty observations about the people around you.”
“I’ve been writing for about twenty years,“ Joni, who lives in Vermont with her psychologist husband, two daughters, one cat and one small and one bad dog, Eli, told us. She describes Eli, the dog of the book’s title, as weighing a mere nine pounds and looking like a fluffy “Chihuahua bat. ”To really like Eli – who was found wandering the streets of Hartford, Connecticut, had to have nine of his little rotten teeth extracted, and who tends to pee only on the most expensive fabric -- you have to be like Joni, and millions of others, who really heart dogs.
But Joni doesn’t write in her book only about the irrepressible Eli who manages to defy a four-hundred-dollar invisible fencing system. She tells us as well about different aspects of her life, worrying that her husband is not her “best friend,” getting instructions on what to say and what not to say from her daughters, and giving a speech to a Winning Women group when she doesn’t feel or look very winning. But at the same time, as Joni shares her insecurities, she can also really dish it out about the things or people she doesn’t like. “No one would describe me as blunt or brutal,” she said, “but we all have an internal monologue that mixes self- deprecation and judgment, irony and snarkiness. One minute we are standing in judgment of everyone else and the next we are feeling insecure and inferior. That seesaw is who I am. And what goes through the flow of my mind, all our minds, is a mix of all this. I think putting down all these feelings makes for an honest story.”
Joni, who teaches at the White River Junction Writing Center, has also written a book for writers about writing “Toxic Feedback: Helping: Writers Survive. “ Her best advice for other writers: “Be in a community of writers. Make sure you have feedback, which will help you write more, help you write better and make you happier. Writers tend to think writing is solitary but you don’t have to go it alone.” She said she loves teaching. “That way I am always surrounded by stories..”
One of her own stories she especially feels close to is called “The Boy of Summer” about the high school crush she reconnected with on Facebook. But, ohmigod, he turned out to be a gun-toting, Fox-watching, Sarah Palin lover who denounces “lunatic liberals,” a/k/a writing teachers in Vermont. She tells you how she manages to finally make peace with her memory of that sexy “boy of summer” and unfriend his present irritating incarnation.
Even more touching is her essay on her extraordinary father and his final years. He was an intelligent. emergetic, life-loving man who had a debilitating stroke and slowly faded away in a nursing home. But as Joni writes, “He still had a sweet tooth and enjoyed a good cup of coffee, though it was hard for him to steady the cup. He still made my mom furious and he still loved her and remembered to tell her so.” During her last visit she tells him that she and her mother are going shopping. ‘these days he rarely responded. But a few moments later…' Mommy’s got my wallet. You make sure she pays for everything when you go.'" He was still her generous, caring dad. “It took me a long time to write that one,” Joni said. But, trust us, your readers will think it was worth it.
You can order Joni's book on Eli at www.amazon.com.
Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge.