Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tom & Atticus Sign With Literary Agent Brian DeFiore

(Atticus and Dawa at Diana’s Baths. Photo was taken last fall.)

When in North Conway, we often take a morning and afternoon walk out to Diana’s Bath, a tiered waterfall just over half a mile walk from the road. It’s a beautiful place and on spring mornings such as this one during snowmelt it is also a very powerful place.

This morning Atticus and I were joined by Dawa, Marie Bouchard’s dog. We often house/dog/cat sit for Marie and when we do Atticus and Dawa spend their time in the house acting indifferently towards each other. There are no problems, just an understanding between the two to leave each other be. When we head to the car Dawa happily hops into the backseat and Atticus takes his usual place in the front seat. Then, when on the trail (any trail really), you’d think both dogs were best friends. They move together some of the time, apart on other occasions, but the three of us mostly move as a team.

This morning was no different. Our trio made its way through the woods. The dogs moved easily along while I crunched over the ice and crispy snow of the trail. Underfoot, my Microspikes gave me surety of foot as we moved along the icy ledges next to the waterfall. It gushed by us and the three of us took a seat on a boulder and watched winter literally washing away. Just a few weeks ago we were able to walk across the river but not here, not now. The deep snow and ice eroded from the bottom up and now the river is gaping wide open and the current gushes by with an impressive force.

From the falls we joined back up to the trail that leads to North Moat. Just two weeks ago Atticus and I followed it to the top of the mountain. It was a terrific day to climb and to sit on high above tree line. But then food poisoning came on and I was laid low for nearly two weeks now. It finally feels good to be out and about again and it felt great to be traipsing along the trail this morning. So long as I walked in the middle of it there was no problem, but step off to the side just a foot or so and I’d sink in knee deep in the rotting snow.

We moved through the woods and along the river that feeds the falls and were rewarded by a time both simple and sacred: a man, two dogs and the open woods without anyone else around. We walked on until we came to the first stream crossing. Had we been headed to North Moat we would have found a way to cross the stream, which was nearly bridged by a small fallen tree and some snow and ice, but on this day when we were just out of a walk in the woods there was no reason to push it. Neither Atticus nor Dawa had a problem with turning back. They took one look at the deep, fast-running cold mountain water and in unison gave me a look that said, “Yep, let’s head back.”

On the way back we stopped at the upper level of the falls again and looked out to where the river disappears below into the trees. Miles ahead of us, through an opening in the trees, North Kearsage stood peering down at us. We have yet to climb it but it is on my list to do this spring or summer.

How wonderful it was to stop and pause here and think about my writing again. Interestingly enough, I was actually tormented by the thought of writing throughout much of the fall and the winter. Last summer I signed on with a great agent but for whatever the reason it just didn’t work. I felt like I couldn’t be me and each time I wrote something I felt as though I were writing for her. It wasn’t a good situation. I stagnated, struggled and began to resent the book.

Eventually, I couldn’t take it any more. I ended the business relationship and now I’m happy to say I’m thrilled to be writing again. It feels like a gift again, instead of a chore. With the help of Brian DeFiore (about Brian) of DeFiore & Company (about DeFiore & Co.), my new agent, I’m changing the story into something much more than it was and I’m happy to say it still feels as though it is still my story. It is growing, but I’m growing with it.

Yesterday I spoke with Brian and it was liberating. I feel like an athlete who has in many ways been held back, but now I feel like he’s stretching me out and urging me to be what I can be. He’s got a gift for being comfortable and making me comfortable.

So this morning that’s what I was thinking about as Atticus and Dawa marched along ahead of me, two mismatched dogs – one small with only a stub of a tail and the other big with a feathery plume of a great tail. All three of us were in our elements. They were playing along at the base of a mountain while I was playing along with words and possibilities in my head.

I’m now dedicated to writing again. You’ll notice it in the coming weeks as I blog more than I have been since last summer. Writing just didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Suddenly, it feels like it always used to. In short, it feels like I’m now writing letters to a friend again and that was always my best writing – easy, flowing, simple.


Ellen said...


Glad you are back to writing freely and enjoying life on the trail with Atticus and friends. I've missed reading your stories from the trail. Good to have you back on a regular basis.


Thomas F. Ryan said...

Thank you, Ellen. It feels good to have the joy of writing in me again. Brian DeFiore has an ease to him that says, "Be yourself" and it comes through loud and clear.