Django the Greyhound Gets Adopted! [A Story of Love and Acceptance]

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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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!?
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!

Carving the Way: Author, Athlete, + Influencer Hayley Diep

Hayley Diep, author
Hayley Diep, author

Q: What age did you first ride a bike?
A: My parents got me on a bike when I was about 5. I had one of those pink/purple “girl” bikes that I’d ride up and down my street. We lived on a hill, so I had some fun scrape-ups, but I stopped riding bikes after elementary school and didn’t get into biking again until my senior year of college. At first, I was using my bike to commute. I didn’t start riding for fun or as a sport until I was 23. My husband and I got into doing triathlons, and so I learned how to do road rides. I didn’t even know mountain biking was a sport that you could do until I was 25!

Q: What is your favorite style of riding?
It is so hard to choose between road or mountain biking! I love them both. They each have their fun and challenges, but right now, I have been really enjoying mountain biking. I like being on trails and learning new skills. It’s the most satisfying feeling to come back to a trail and conquer obstacles that I couldn’t do before. I feel like with mountain biking, I can see my progress. Also, I don’t have to worry about getting hit by cars.

Q: What was one of the most challenging rides you have ever done?
A 121-mile bike ride (road ride) with a little over 8,000 feet of elevation gain total. Five thousand feet of the elevation gain was in the first 20 miles. It was the longest ride I’d ever done, and it took a lot of mental willpower and food to finish it. 

Q: What is your dream ride trail or destination?
I don’t know if I have a dream ride trail, but I’d love to try mountain biking out in Moab, Utah. I’ve seen photos and videos. The trails out there look beautiful. I’m just not sure if my skill level is there yet.

Q: What or who influenced you to write your book?
I was inspired to write my book after a bike ride with friends. My two friends and I had been the only women on a trail. I drove home that night with the line in my head, “If you give a girl a bike, she will ride and ride and ride.” Then, my book was born. I thought about the other male-dominated sports that exist that I enjoy doing and figured that my character could do them all!

Q: Why did you choose The Be Good Foundation as one of the recipients of your book proceeds?
The Be Good Foundation is one of six foundations that will receive proceeds (only if the book is bought directly through my website, though). I chose it because I love its mission and all of the good that it is trying to accomplish. It is removing unexploded ordnances in Laos that were left behind from the Vietnam War. My family is from Vietnam and escaped after the war, and so I know how the war has directly impacted people who live in those countries. My family was lucky enough to leave. It is unfortunate that not everyone has that opportunity and that their homes aren’t safe due to these unexploded bombs. I love that the Be Good Foundation is trying to make these places safer for the people. I also love that it supports other cycling-related nonprofits to help get more people on bikes.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away?
I hope that all readers, young and old, will be inspired to get outside and try any of these sports. I also hope that all girls, but specifically minority girls, will see themselves in this book and know that they are capable of doing these sports. 

Q: Why did you select Braden as your book illustrator?
I chose to go with Braden because I liked the dynamic movements in his art and his characters’ silly facial expressions. When I saw his art portfolio, I knew right away that I wanted him to bring my book to life. He is such a talented and creative illustrator. Also, I love Star Wars, and when I saw his drawings of Star Wars characters, it was a done deal!

Q: What are your plans as an author?
I am currently working on a picture book biography and a middle-grade novel. I’m going to try to be traditionally published next. We’ll see how it goes!

Q: Who is your female athlete idol?
A: I have several female sports idols. Ayesha McGowan (IG: @ayesuppose) and Brooklyn Bell (IG: @badgal_brooky) are both cyclists who are breaking down huge barriers for women and women of color, which is so inspiring to me. Rebecca Rusch is another idol of mine. She is an incredible cyclist who is doing so much good for the world through her foundation and way of life. Last but not least, Sky Brown. She’s a 12-year-old skateboarder who is fearless and flies up halfpipes! She’s a superhuman kid!

Q: Where can people buy your book, If You Give a Girl a Bike?
A: My book is available in local bookstores and Amazon, but it is preferred if people order it through my website so that 10% of proceeds can be donated to charities such as the Be Good Foundation and National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).

And the winner is… (Part 2 of I saw the sign…)

CONGRATULATIONS to Jaudat the creator of sign #15 and winner of the contest!!!!! “I really didn’t think I would win. People have a more deviant sense of humor than I thought!”

Shout-out to Heather also whose #3 sign came in second place.

Thanks to all who participated. It was a lot of fun.

“I saw the sign…”

Door Signs

My teammates and I have been working collectively for more than a year on a massive responsive website project. I received all the content to edit toward the end with little turnaround time — knocking out an average of 30 subsites daily. In an effort to distract me from the stress and as a gesture of appreciation, one of my cohorts made a funny sign and taped it to my office door. The next thing I knew my entire team was creating editing themed signs and randomly posting them on my door. It’s been super fun spotting each new one as it’s appeared. Four launch postponements later our website finally went live, so the sign making has come to an end. Tomorrow I’m holding a “Best Sign” contest for my team. The person with the most votes will receive an Amazon gift card. Check back to find out who won!