Monday, January 6, 2014

Marla Frazee & Toaster

Who is in the photo at right?

The one wearing the green bandana is Toaster. She's almost two years old. I bought her off Craigslist for $300. Best guess regarding her breed is that she's part rabbit, part coyote. Can you tell that Toaster did not want to have her picture taken?

Oh, and I'm Marla Frazee. I write and illustrate children's books.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It seems like the perfect time because the book of poems I just illustrated by Cynthia Rylant is called God Got a Dog. In the title poem, God decides to adopt a stray dog She finds out by the railroad tracks. She takes him home and names him Ernie. This is the first book I've done that is really for all ages of people – and all ages of dogs. Instead of being primarily for children – and puppies.

What's brewing?

Always a non-fat, extra-hot latte. Preferably straight from the Intelligentsia barista. But barring that, I try to produce a reasonable facsimile at home.

Any treats for you or Toaster on this occasion?

My agent, Steve Malk, just sent some cookies from the Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos, California. I'll have my favorite – brown butter sea salt. Toaster will have pretend bacon.

How did Toaster get her name? Any nicknames?

When we brought her home, she looked, and still looks, like she stuck her nose in the toaster! I call her Toast for short.

How were you and Toaster united?

Our previous dog, Rocket, had just died. I was so sad. I kept popping into the humane society where we'd adopted Rocket, and into pet shops with the way-too-expensive dogs. Then I started combing through dog adoption websites. On April Fool's Day in 2012, I saw a photo on Craigslist of the most worried-looking puppy I had ever seen. I knew she was the dog for me.

Is Toaster the model for any dogs in your books?

Not yet, but Rocket had a starring role in Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild! and I named the roller coaster after him in the book I did called Roller Coaster.

I also wrote and illustrated a book about two dogs (who I've been told look like cats) called Boot & Shoe. But I know I'll be putting Toaster in a book soon.

Does Toaster do more to help or hinder your writing and illustrating?

In the morning, Toaster and I hike in the hills above Pasadena. I use this time to get my head organized around whatever I am going to be working on in the studio that day. Since she runs ahead and falls behind and then needs to catch up, Toaster's hike is about three times as long as mine. When I get to work, she is completely wiped out. This is the ideal system and I try to make it happen as often as possible.

Who are Toaster's best pet-pals?

Her best friend is our cat, Klondike. They perform antics and are into shenanigans.

Where is Toaster's favorite outdoor destination?

A particular shallow brook – she plops herself in and laps up the water.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

She chomps assorted large sticks into toothpick-sized bits. Did I mention that she has anxiety?

Cat, postman, rabbit...?

Since her best bud is a cat and since she's part rabbit herself, I'd say the postman continues to disturb her universe the most.

If she were in therapy, I'm sure postman issues would take up a lot of the time.

What is Toaster's best quality?

She has absolutely no aggression. None. She is a complete and total pacifist.

If Toaster could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

She would abolish all houses, cars, trucks, streets, and strangers.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dog could speak, which actor should do her voice?

Lisa Kudrow.

If Toaster could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

What on earth happened to you in your first 8 weeks of life that made you so damn nervous?

Visit Marla Frazee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue