Myrna Shiboleth is an animal behaviorist, world champion dog breeder and international dog show judge, and is acknowledged as the world authority on Canaan Dogs, one of the few remaining breeds of feral dogs in the world. After growing up in the U.S. and receiving a degree from Northwestern University in art, she made a radical change in her life by emigrating to Israel. She has worked at a variety of animal related occupations over the years, including stable manager and riding instructor, kennel manager and dog trainer, advisor on dog behavior to the Israel Defense Department, keeper and animal trainer at the Safari Park, and more. Her book, Tails of Shaar Hagai, is a humorous memoir of these and other experiences. Her previous book, The Israel Canaan Dog, has been published in two editions. She lives and breeds Canaan Dogs and collies at Shaar Hagai Farm in Israel, lectures and instructs in Israel and abroad on a wide variety of dog related subjects, writes for professional publications in Israel and abroad, and continues to enjoy new adventures with her dogs.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Myrna. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
Tails of Shaar Hagai is my second published book.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
My first book was The Israel Canaan Dog. It has been published in two editions, and I am now working on an updated edition.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
Actually, I had an easy time with my first book. It was a professional book on a very specific subject, at the time there were no other books available on that subject, and the first publisher I approached about it, who specializes in that genre, was ready to take it on.
However, the situation was different with Tails of Shaar Hagai. This was my first attempt at writing in this genre, and was not the type of book my publisher was interested in. I went through about three years of trying to find an agent and ending up with a scammer, that kept sending me lists of all the publishers that had supposedly rejected the book. Trying after that to find a publisher on my own resulted in more rejections, until I finally did find Sephirot Press who were interested, and restored my faith in my work.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
It was very discouraging. I tend to be a very realistic and down to earth person, and the rejections made me wonder if maybe the book wasn’t worthy of being published and I was deluding myself. The positive feedback of friends and acquaintances that had read the manuscript and really liked it kept me going.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
My first book was published in 1985 by Alpine Publications. Alpine is a publisher that deals specifically with the genre of the book and therefore was ideal for me.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It was very exciting and validating to see my own work in print. But I don’t remember celebrating in any particular way.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
My first book was geared to a very specific market, so there was not a lot of effort put into promotion. The publisher regularly advertised their books in professional magazines, and as this was a dog breed book, we notified the breed clubs, advertised in show catalogs and so on – the promotion was geared directly to the specific market for this type of book.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
I think that for this book, the route was the correct one.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
With my current book, I have taken the plunge into a very different genre. Tails of Shaar Hagai is a humorous memoir about the many experiences and adventures I have had over the years, while living a very unconventional life pioneering in Israel and working with dogs and other animals, and traveling to a wide variety of places. I think my writing has developed and matured a lot, and I am able to look at things that have happened to me and write about them in a different way that I would have some years ago, so that the story is both entertaining and insightful. It is intended to appeal to a much wider audience.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
I think I should have gotten more advice from experienced writers about how to go about finding an agent and getting published. I was very naïve and therefore was easy game for the fraudulent agent, and then didn’t really know how to properly approach publishers. I could have avoided a lot of the discouragement and disappointment, and the lost time, if I had consulted professionals.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
Being published was in itself a great accomplishment. I can’t say that my life has changed because of being published, but I didn’t really expect that it would.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I am not a professional writer, writing is something I enjoy, and also a way of expressing myself, being creative, and blowing off steam. I studied art in university, and quickly came to the conclusion that the world would not suffer from the loss of me as a practicing artist. Writing gives me a way of making use of my drive to create, and is certainly more successful than my painting! It is great when things are published, but I do write at times just for myself without any intention of submitting the result for publication. My profession is specialist in dog behavior, and I write, lecture, and teach about it, and work with dogs with behavior problems and service dogs for specialized tasks. I very much enjoy what I do, and am always learning new things and looking for new possibilities.
If I had a chance to choose something else, I would love to learn photography. Once again, it is a very creative profession. I do some very amateur photography, but would love at some time to really learn more and be able to do it better.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I have definitely combined the best of both worlds. Being able to write helps me tremendously in passing on my knowledge to others, and my work is always providing new things for me to write about.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
It would be nice to be able to imagine becoming a best selling author and being able to live on the royalties, but I really don’t believe it. Since I intend to continue having adventures, I hope that there will be more books, and that I will be able to provide people with some laughs and enjoyment. I enjoy my life, and so don’t see any need for great changes.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Be stubborn! Don’t give up! It is easy to start losing faith in your work after a few rejections. But persistence wins out in the end – there are many examples of writers that had books rejected many times, and ended up with a best seller.