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Henry David Thoreau-the-Ball, Eric Carle Canine Caterpillar, and Bark Twain were among the fiction and nonfiction-loving fur balls who braved the heat Sunday afternoon to participate in the Fresno State Alumni Association Creative Writing Chapter’s first LitPup event, held at Gazebo Gardens.
While every adorable author received oohs and ahs from the audience of literary enthusiasts, judges Mary Castro, the first lady of Fresno State, Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and Bryan Medina, Fresno’s Poet Laureate, crowned Margaret Atwoof, portrayed by Maddi, and Bark Twain, portrayed by Bailey, winners of the canine costume contest. Both wagged away with a prize from Whitie’s Pets.
Rocking a grey afro wig, energetic Maddi was the perfect pooch version of Atwood, most known for her riveting dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale—the inspiration behind the new Hulu original series of the same title. Judging by the joyful grin on Maddi’s face, I assume a canine adaptation, “The Hand Doggy’s Tail,” would be vastly more pawsitive.
Meanwhile, Bailey Bark Twain earned major personality points after ditching her formal top hat before the pooch parade to instead rely solely on her scruffy terrier face—not too dissimilar from Mark Twain’s unruly mustache—to win over the judges. Embodying the spirit of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn author, Bailey also earned puppy points for her affinity for rivers. There’s no doubt Bark Twain was dreaming of jumping in one and going on an adventure to escape the 104-degree heat.
In addition to the prose and pooch parade, several local creative writers shared readings of poems and excerpts from their novels and memoirs. Readers included Margarita Engle, U.S. Young People’s Poet Laureate, Aaron Poochigian, author of the novel Mr. Either/Or and poetry collection The Cosmic Purr, and Carole A. Firstman, author of the memoir Origins of the Universe and What It All Means. Wayne Brown, Katreena Duback, Eddie P. Gomez, Alysha Hoffa and Erica Hughes were also featured.
Canines and Classics: A good combination
Angelica Cano and Graham Brock, who brought the Barkley Brothers, Porkchop and Ringo, as the head and rear, respectively, of Eric Carle’s caterpillar character from beloved children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, said the event was a fun way to bring dog lovers and literature lovers together.
“I love dressing up my dogs and even though they might not like it as much, it’s fun because whenever a dog, no matter what kind it is, goes somewhere in a costume, everyone lights up,” Cano said. “I think the more events you have that incorporate pets, the happier people are, so I think this was a genius idea.”
Becky Brown, the Associate Director of Development for the College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State, also praised the inaugural event. She and her dog, Laney, who came dressed as the great white shark from Jaws by Peter Benchley, were happy to come show support, although originally Brown hoped to dress Laney up as Thing One from The Cat in the Hat.
“When I originally saw the notice about LitPup saying no cats allowed, I thought, what about The Cat in the Hat?” Brown joked. “But her Dr. Seuss costume didn’t come in time.”
Though successful, attracting a crowd of 60-plus people and about 10 canine contestants and a dozen or more others barking them on, organizer Courtney Hughes did suggest that the next LitPup may take place when it’s cooler outdoors.