Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Almost Perfect - Blog Tour

Book Synopsis:

Two unlikely friends, an old woman and a boy with special needs, take an aging champion to Westminster Dog Show, and heal their troubled families.

Seventy year-old Bess Rutledge has fantasized about winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life, but now she has decided she is too old to follow her dream. She meets Benny, an angry fourteen year-old with mild autism and ADHD, who has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. He becomes convinced that winning Westminster with McCreery, Bess’ aging champion standard poodle, will finally make his mother proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy.

Where to buy the book:

Watch the Trailer:

My Thoughts

This is a beautifully written story about relationships, belonging and learning to forgive others. We follow an emotional journey as Benny yearns for the love, support and acknowledgement from his mother, and Bess, a beautiful older woman who is coming to terms with her own journey and realising that things are never going to be the same again. 

The story is woven with a wonderful mix of supporting characters, Bess's twin sister, her son and Dr Kate the psychologist at Benny's school for special children. 

Having been involved in the world of Dog Shows for many years, I enjoyed how the author explained the competitive process and how everything worked. It brought back memories, while explaining to those people who are not aware, about the inner working and the competitiveness that surrounds minor shows and the prestigious Westminster Dog Show. 

The characters are very believable and their interaction and development is well written and shows true emotion.I enjoyed this story very much and would recommend it to others who are looking for a story that makes them feel good about life.

Author's Bio:

Diane Daniels Manning is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas which helps children dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.

When not at The New School, Diane and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty and a rescue cat named Elvira, convene at the keyboard to share great thoughts and plan the dinner menu.

Six Quick Questions with Diane Daniels Manning:

Q1. Which character came to your mind first? The old woman Bess or the twelve year-old Benny?

Bess has been in my mind for 30 years after I did an oral history of one of the greatest poodle breeders ever. A novel didn’t emerge until I was inspired by the special children at a therapeutic school I helped to found in Houston. The school Benny attends is modeled after it.

Q2. ALMOST PERFECT tells about the unusual friendship of Benny and Bess and their journey to Westminster Dog show with two standard poodles, father and son. Has a standard poodle ever won Westminster?

Several standard poodles have won Westminster over the years. In 2014, a white Standard Poodle was Reserve Winner. If the chosen Best in Show became disqualified, then the Reserve Winner would move up to become the winner. The owner of the 2014 Reserve Winner got her start from a real life inspiration for the fictitious character of Bess.

Q3. Which character is most like you in real life?

All of them, and none of them! Obviously, my job is most like Dr. Kate’s. She runs Benny’s school. But I am like Bess in that we both built something from scratch and stuck with it. Bess built a kennel; I built a school. But I had lots of help and Bess did it alone. I hope I am not as “grumpy” as Bess, however.

Q4. What is the reason for the poodle’s specialized clip?

This is something my character, the boy Benny, wants to know, too. Because poodles have hair, not fur, it must be cut. Poodles are actually water dogs, and the cut is a tribute to their days plunging into the icy waters of Germany or Russia where they originated, not France. The big chest protects their vital organs and the “bracelets” keep the joints warm. Today, cut down poodles continue to compete against Labs and other water dogs in hunting trials. The term “French poodle” refers to their clip, not their actual origin.

Q5. Are Breaker and McCreery, the dogs in ALMOST PERFECT, based on your own dogs?

I am a long-time owner of Standard poodles like the ones in ALMOST PERFECT. My current dog, Misty, is a black female with a conscience. Whenever she does anything naughty, like stealing a pair of socks to snack on, she runs from the room in a particular way that has a very distinctive sound like no other. I immediately know she’s done something forbidden. If the object is valuable enough, I give her a milkbone to release it, and that, of course, only encourages the game. Breaker was inspired by her shenanigans. Poodles need lots of attention and aren’t suitable for everyone.

Q6. Do you belong to a writer’s group?

I have belonged to the Magenta Writer’s Group in Ajijic, Mexico where I used to visit several times a year. It is very helpful to have the support of other writers, even if the group is primarily social. Currently, I belong to several writer’s organizations, but am not part of critique group.

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1 comment:

  1. I was re-reading your review and had to thank you again for your support. You are a good writer yourself!