INTERVIEW WITH MASTER DOG CHEF MICKI VOISARD
LA: Before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
MICKI: I’m a Master Dog Chef and have been for over 10 years. I started Dog Chefs of America in 2000 — a 50’s-style diner for dogs where people can buy daily prepared meals for their dog and take Dog Chef Cooking Classes.
I lived in California my whole life but grew tired of the crowded roads and expensive living. So two-and-a-half years ago my husband and I moved to Southern Arizona. We now live 40 miles south of Tucson in Tubac — “the next Santa Fe.” Our Kitchen is on a 17-acre ranch in Amado called the Amado Territory Ranch. It’s a destination ranch with two restaurants, a B&B, a bookstore, several artists’ studios, plus our Kitchen and Dog Park. You can check it all out at: www.dogchefs.com
LA: You were a published writer before you attended our live travel writing workshop in San Miguel de Allende. Can you tell us a little bit about that and why you decided to take our course?
MICKI: Before the workshop, I had written and self-published two books — and sold 20,000 copies of each. So I had experience in writing, but you always need to keep current.
I found the travel writing workshop attractive because many other people were going to be there, and I knew it would be unfamiliar territory for most of us. That’s always an exciting atmosphere because when we are not on our own turf, we tend to be vulnerable. I think it brings out the real travelers, since life “on the road” can take you out of your comfort zone.
LA: I’ve heard mixed reviews about self-publishing. What was your experience and would you recommend it to others?
MICKI: Self-publishing is certainly not for everyone. I was capable of doing most of the work on my own and I hired the right people to do everything else. The second book was much easier than the first because I already had the experience.
The hardest part was the marketing. Most first-time books with large publishers are never guaranteed a shelf life of over three or four months. They may only sell 5,000 – 10,000 copies. I odds in self-publishing are much better. Besides, self-publishing is not nearly as strange or looked down upon as it was just five years ago. The Internet helped change that, and so did the concept of Books On Demand.
LA: What else do you write?
MICKI: I write for two magazines on a regular basis and occasionally do a travel piece with my dog Carlos. We check out hotels that have a pet meal service menu and Carlos does the tasting. He’s not your regular scarf-it-up dog since he has been raised on natural food. He’s quite discriminating in his taste. and my personal sous chef! Making it a “travel” article does not change the rules. I still focus on what the editor wants and what the reader wants from those 2,000 words. Finally, I always leave them “wanting more.”
LA: Where do you do most of your writing?
MICKI: Anywhere! Writing is like going to the bathroom, when you gotta go, you gotta go — when you gotta write, you gotta write!
LA: Would you recommend the course to others?
MICKI: Absolutely! It really doesn’t matter if it’s travel writing or writing for a health magazine or writing about dogs’ health — the basic ideas are the same. People always want to know what’s in it for them. Taking the workshop gives you that understanding about how to identify what the editors want. Knowing that is the key, and the workshop effectively emphasizes that.
It gets you to focus on writing, whatever kind of writing you want to do. It also puts you in the company of people who want similar experiences. Plus it motivates you!
LA: What advice would you give to new students who haven’t yet had an article published?
MICKI: What do you know so well that you can talk about it until you are blue in the face?
I’m sure people who know me in town probably hide when they see me coming. They know I will ask about their dog and talk endlessly about what might help them, food- wise. I’ve seen people hide from me at the grocery store because they feel guilty about what garbage they are buying for themselves or their pets. But that’s what you want. You want to be a pain in the butt because that makes you the “expert,” and experts get paid well. If anyone has a problem with their dog nutritionally, my name is the only one that comes up!
So know your subject, be willing to look at your subject from outside of the box, and learn what editors are looking for. Then jump in the water — you’ll find the temperature is just right!
LA: Finally — books, magazine columns, what’s next for the Master Dog Chef?
MICKI: I am currently working on creating DVD’s of my Dog Chef Cooking Classes. We’re also talking with a few major cable networks to do a Dog Chef Cooking Show. Last year we had a production group come and do a documentary on my book Becoming The Chef Your Dog Thinks You Are. The documentary is about how cooking for your dog or really just giving your dog something other than commercial dog food can extend his life and keep both of you from seeing a lot of the vet!
I want to challenge people to eat better and do the same for feeding their pets. I want people to understand that they don’t have to worry about disease if they improve the diets of their families and pets.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]