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Canine Chronicles — by Winnie Au

Last fall, my sisters and I ran a Kickstarter project for a book called Canine Chronicles. We were looking to create something we could all collaborate on, and a book project featuring my younger sister Winnie’s photography seemed like the best idea. We set up a project and promised to have a book ready to print by Spring 2011. 

That deadline has now come and gone, and we’ve had to push our release date back to Fall 2011. So far, our backers have been wondrously patient with us as we go through this process with them. This is due in no small part to Winnie, who has been putting together these great “here’s where we are now” progress reports and updating our backers every few weeks. Her latest is a video which takes you behind the scenes on one of our photo shoots:

As many of you who’ve worked on projects already know, the path to completion is never exactly how you planned it would be. When we brainstormed our book idea, we just thought it would be fun to dress dogs up as historical figures. What we didn’t think about at the time was that because some of these famous people are still living, we would need to do a lot of research about fair use, copyright, trademark, and the legal definitions of satire and parody.

Then there were the photo shoots themselves. Casting all of the dogs, finding the right costumes and props, coordinating and finishing the shoots ended up taking much more time than we’d first anticipated. Shirts we ordered on the internet that looked perfectly dog-sized showed up in the mail and ended up being very much not dog-sized. Our Charlie Chaplin pug looked great on camera but was too tiny to wear the bowler hat we’d bought for him (it covered his whole head!). The flight jacket we ordered for the yellow lab playing Amelia Earhart wouldn’t fit over his legs. Our Lucille ball dog looked mid-sized in the images her owners sent, but ended up being much smaller in real life. So we improvised. 

Now, the photo shoots are done and it’s up to me to write the stories that will take these ten images of dogs in costume and turn them into a coherent fictional history. It’s fun and daunting and stressful all at the same time. My older sister is waiting on me to finish the stories so she can begin the process of laying out and designing the final book. My mom calls me every weekend to ask how the stories are coming along. I want to do justice to the images my sister worked so hard on, and I want our backers to feel like they made the right decision in choosing to support our project. No pressure, right?

While many Kickstarter projects finish everything right on time, delays in the timeline are a reality of the creative process. It’s why project updates and maintaining open lines of communication — both during and after the project — are so important. Kickstarter backers are amazing people, genuinely interested in helping you reach the finish line. When you share with them your creative process, you also communicate that you’re aware that they’re there, and that without them, there is no project. 

And for those of you wondering, I’ll be finished writing all the stories by the end of this month. 

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