Maureen “Moe” O’Brien, who is originally from Mamaroneck, NY, and Bethel, Conn., has lived in Myrtle Beach, SC, for the past 28 years and now considers herself a southerner. Her “claim to fame,” as she likes to call it, is having played pro basketball with The Texas Cowgirls and toured with The Harlem Globetrotters in 1959. An avid golfer, she is a two-time SC Senior Golf Champion. Her book, Who’s Got the Ball? (And Other Nagging Questions About Team Life), published by Jossey-Bass, is a “how to” for team members in all types of work environments. Her poem, “A Prayer for Newtown,” was published in The Shine Journal.
A passionate dog lover, “Moe” lives with Miss Maggie Malone, her “precious” redheaded toy poodle. She’s President of Animal Advocates of Horry County and works tirelessly with local rescue groups to find homes for abandoned and abused animals. She’s also a proud grandma to eight granddaughters and one great granddaughter, all of whom share her love for dogs. She is the author of Waggin' Tales: Bogey's Memoir, about a very special dog she owned. You may find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Waggin-Tales-Bogeys-Maureen-OBrien/dp/150061582X
When did you decide about dogs? What inspired you?
Actually, my book, Waggin’ Tales: Bogey’s Memoir is not about dogs in general but about one very special dog. Bogey was six months old when my husband and I adopted him from a local shelter. When his prior owners were asked why they were surrendering him, they said he was stupid and untrainable. Having had dogs all my life, I knew those labels had been misplaced.
As it turned out, Bogey was the most brilliant and loving dog I have ever had the honor of parenting and became a legendary therapy dog here in Myrtle Beach, SC. He was not your typical therapy dog, offering pet-pets to patients in nursing homes and hospitals but a bit of a circus dog, resulting in his being in great demand to perform tricks for children and adults alike.
Unfortunately, at age eight, just three days after one of his gigs, he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Two weeks later, I started to write little stories about his life. It was the only thing I could think of to ease the sadness. Writing has always been my go-to panacea when life gets challenging. It just so happened that I was enrolled in a Writers Roundtable at the time and decided to bring in some of my Bogey stories for critiquing. The group and the instructor loved them so much, they suggested I publish them as his memoir. At first, I was hesitant but once I made him the narrator and changed from past to present tense, I experienced the richness of his life all over again and knew others would as well.
It’s amazing how things turn out. Here I had started all his stories to help me mourn and now I get messages and comments from readers saying how much it has helped them work through the passing of their pet. Makes me feel good, that’s for sure.
How do you tackle the issue of promoting your book? Any words of advice?
I learned so much about marketing and promotion when my first book, Who’s got the Ball? (And Other Nagging Questions About Team Life) was published in 1995. Naively, I actually thought Jossey-Bass, now Wiley & Sons, would do all that stuff and I could sit back and rest on my laurels. A tough but valuable lesson. The book did quite well and I am still receiving royalties, enough for a K-cup of coffee every now and then. But it could have done even better had I been more involved in promoting it.
When Bogey’s memoir came out, I threw a book signing party at a local restaurant and set it up as a fundraiser for Grand Strand Humane Society, the shelter where we found Bogey. Since I had decided to donate the profits to the shelter, I invited the Shelter Director to write the foreword. The beauty and benefit of self-publishing. It was a huge success, not only in terms of the monies raised but also in getting word out about the launch of the book.
I have always loved creating things but abhor any aspect of selling. It has been a completely different story with this little book. I am a passionate dog lover and currently head up “Animal Advocates of Horry County” in addition to working with a few rescue groups in town. Because I know Bogey’s memoir can influence folks to adopt rather than shop for a dog, I am shameless, even devious, in my ploys to sell the book. Like the Fuller Brush man of long ago, I have a box of books in my car at all times, business cards displaying the book cover in my pockets and bookmarks in my purse. When I’m in the grocery store in the pet food aisle and hear customers talking about their dog, I chat them up, mention the book, hand them a card and ask if they’d like to buy one. My bookmarks also sit on the counters in the local libraries. I also donate books to many of the local rescue group fundraisers.
These grass root efforts (sounds better than devious ploys) have proven more successful than renting a vendor table at a fair or doing small book signings. There’s nothing worse for me than sitting at a little table, donning my very best manufactured genuine smile and pleading silently with my eyes for people to approach and engage in conversation.
I should mention that for the first few months after publication, I did send the book out to magazines dedicated to “everything dogs,” asking for reviews. I did land a few and I’m sure that was helpful but only minimally so. Of course, I posted on Facebook on and off for about eight months, even including customer reviews from Amazon, which I’m sure got some traction.
What are you working on now?
I have a few projects in the hopper right now. One is a children’s picture book about a teddy bear and a butterfly. The working title is “How do you Hug a Butterfly?” The story is in outline form and I think I’ve found a lovely illustrator so I’m pretty excited about it. Colorful illustration is vital for this type of book.
For years, friends who are familiar with my past have been encouraging me to write my memoir. There’s no doubt I have lived an interesting, exciting and blessed life, with enough conflict and resolution to fill many pages. Then again, who hasn’t? Recently, I did an open mic reading at a local theater, a short piece I wrote in fairy tale form about a slice of my life. It was very well received, so although I’m not committed to writing my memoir, it is simmering on the back burner. In the meantime, I volunteer at an assisted living center and am helping a few of the residents write their memoir. This is a lot more fun for me and the folks and their families seem to be enjoying it.
I am also considering writing a sequel to Waggin’ Tales: Bogey’s Memoir. This book will be all about the escapades of my current fur baby, Maggie, and will be called, Maggie’s Diary. She is a redheaded toy poodle, a personality kid on steroids who steals the hearts of everyone she meets.
How do you marry your roles as animal activist and writer?
Here is an interesting question. Because of some physical limitations, I can’t do as much as I’d like to assist in rescuing animals. What I can do with my writing skills is edit Rescue Newsletters and write up biographies of animals looking to be adopted. And I am constantly writing letters to our local and state legislators to seek their help in reducing the kill rate at our county shelter. Since I can’t physically get out there and help trap feral kittens and get them spayed and neutered and can’t foster abused and abandoned dogs, it does make me feel better that I can contribute in some small way.