I met Samantha (Sam) Wulff, a fellow Buffalo State alum, in 2019 when I led a yoga event for Music Is Art in Buffalo, NY. She helped me with my social media and logistics for the day. Instantly, I could tell that Sam was destined for greatness with her natural spark and drive!
A few weeks ago, I saw on Sam’s IG page that she worked on writing her first book, a heartwarming children’s story of a greyhound’s journey. I was excited to catch up with her to get the details! Her self-published book, Django the Greyhound Gets Adopted!, debuted to the public on March 6. I was hoping to share our video interview with you, but Duo didn’t cooperate, so here’s the transcription from our conversation…
Q: Why did Django influence you to write this book?
A: I think it started with his adoption when we got him. Our friends and family would see him, and they’re like, he’s so different. Not a lot of people know about greyhounds, and not a lot of people understand them. They have some weird intricacies and patterns — they have to learn a lot after they come off the track (as race dogs). They’re super sweet and a misunderstood breed. I wanted to tell the story of greyhounds in general because not many people know about them — they were a breed to fuel a racing industry and make people money. I want to bring that fact to light.
Q: How long have you wanted to be a children’s book author? And why did you pick that genre?
A: I think I chose to write a children’s book first because I myself am a child at heart. I’ve always wanted to write books. I started writing them when I was at least four or five years old. It’d be sitting with construction paper, stapling the papers together, and writing on them with crayons. They were always cat- or dog-themed or some other type of animal. So I think that was always the path I wanted to go. As I got older, I realized because I like children’s books so much when I was a kid, the sense of wonder they sparked, that I really wanted to write one for my first book. If I can make a kid happy or inspire a spark of wonder in them, then I did my job.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from the book?
A: Reading is so personal. I hope that everyone takes away something different. I hope the story inspires and educates people. Life is full of twists and turns, and I think that can be scary. Sometimes life can be stressful and cause some anxiety, but there are really great people in this world who are willing to help you, willing to be there for you. And that’s what I really want to come through with this story.
I hope that people enjoy Django’s story and come to love him just as much as I do. Greyhounds are awesome dogs. Again, they’re often misunderstood. I also hope that people going through life changes, or, you know, a family with a child or animals who are adopted, really get something out of this storyline, which helps their family.
Q: I know it’s still early since your book release, but what has been the biggest thrill about the experience so far?
A: The biggest thrill so far has been the launch of the book and seeing how excited people are, like you. A close tie to that was my first time working with the illustrator (Sofie Engstrom von Alten). Seeing the storyboard for the first time when I mapped out how I wanted the pages to look, this is what I’m thinking… working together with her and seeing it all come to light was great. The copy is pretty minimal in this book since it’s a kid’s book — the visuals are important, and she did a fantastic job.
Q: All that said, how did you choose Sofie as your illustrator?
A: I found Sofie through a freelance platform. I wasn’t searching for a specific style. It was kind of like, I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want. I had an idea in my head, but I couldn’t bring it to fruition myself because I’m not really a visual artist. I can do basic graphic design, but this type of illustration is a whole other game. People who are skilled at illustration are impressive. When I found her, I was like, this is it! She has her own experience in the publishing world. She had her own book published through a traditional publisher, and she has helped other people publish their books. She had the formatting aspect down well and industry knowledge. We would bounce ideas off of each other. She was really invaluable and awesome to work with.
Q: What was the biggest unexpected challenge you faced with writing and publishing the book?
A: Self-publishing is really cool because you get to make it whatever you want. Thinking back to my days when I was a kid, I was like, I’m going to make whatever I want and throw it out there. If people like it, cool. If they don’t, that’s fine. I did what I wanted to do. On the flip side of that, you don’t have the support of a publisher. You don’t have someone who will take the reins and work with the illustrator and do the formatting and do the printing and do the distribution. So you need to figure out every little piece, which was a bit of a learning curve for me. It was learning all the different platforms and the software and getting the formatting just right — all the little tweaks and going back and forth. I’m a pretty impatient person. It took about four months to do the whole thing after I had the story. In my mind, I’m like, oh, this should be quick! Working through the process and learning everything, getting up to speed, was the toughest part.
Q: What are your future plans as an author?
A: I think that if I do any more children’s books, I will potentially make a series from Django the Greyhound Gets Adopted! We’ll see how it goes. Next, I’d like to write a novel. I already have a couple of ideas in the works. It would be for a different demographic — young adults, teens. I would also like to write some short nonfiction stories. Kind of run the gamut. It’s what makes me happy, what I’m feeling at the time. I don’t want to be just a children’s author. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just not for me or the path I want to take.
Q: Given what you have learned from this self-publish experience, would you ever want to do it again?
A: That’s to be determined. With self-publishing, you have to front all of the costs. It takes a long time to reach the profit stage. If you’re writing, you should do it because you love it, not because you’re going to make money. Anything in the creative field is usually driven by passion, not by the paycheck. I’ve heard the pros and cons of both self-publishing and having a publisher. I’ve done a lot of research, and I think it would be nice to have somebody say, I’m going to take this from here and, you know, do all the manual labor after you wrote the book. It depends. If you’re working with a publisher, there’s going to be some changes you have to accept.
Q: Who is your author idol?
A: I read all different kinds of books when I was little — Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein. Those stuck out to me as a kid. I have liked Kurt Vonnegut for a really long time. I think his storylines are so unique. I love his dark humor and that he didn’t start writing until later in life. He’s a good example of following your passion and writing because you feel compelled. So I had to pick one person; he’s probably my favorite author.
Q: What is your biggest goal for this book?
A: Awareness about racing greyhounds is definitely important. Second, I would like to have the funds to donate a portion of the proceeds to Buffalo Greyhound Adoption. We got Django from them.
Q: Most importantly, how can people buy your book, Django the Greyhound Gets Adopted!?
A: They can buy it on Amazon — there are a hardcover edition and paperback or ebook through Kindle, FREE if you have a subscription. I’m happy to share that shortly after my interview with Sam, she learned that Barnes & Noble picked up her book!
ME: I look forward to doing a follow-up interview with you once your next book is ready!
SAM: Thanks, you’ll be the first to know.
ME: You heard it here, an exclusive with Gal on the Go next time!