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garth stein on “the art of racing in the rain” — and the art of never giving up

Garth Stein and me

The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of my all-time favorite books, and I was thrilled to meet author Garth Stein last week at a luncheon sponsored by the Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club of San Diego and Warwick’s Books for his new novel, A Sudden Light.

My recap is in the Rancho Santa Fe Review but I want to share one really important part of Garth’s talk just with you. It’s kind of an underdog (!) story. If you’re a writer or are struggling with any kind of obstacle, this just may be the encouragement you need to keep going.

I started writing The Art of Racing in the Rain during the summer of 2006 and by Thanksgiving I had finished the first draft. I sent it off to my agent and a couple of weeks later, he called me. I know specifically when it was – it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – because it was sort of a big deal.

I was going to Whole Foods to buy my organic turkey because nothing’s too good for my in-laws, who were coming from New York for the holiday for the first time. I go into the store and my phone rings. It’s my agent. And I think, “Man, this is perfect timing. It’s right before Thanksgiving. He’s going to tell me how brilliant I am, I’m going to be able to share that with my in-laws and they’ll be like, ‘Not only are you rocking it with our lovely daughter and our perfect grandchildren but you’re also a really good writer.’”

So I sat on the bench outside Whole Foods and I said, “Hey, man, what do you think?” And he said, “It’s narrated by a dog.” And I paused and said, “I knew that. I wrote it.” And he said, “No one’s going to read a book narrated by a dog. No one’s going to buy a book narrated by a dog. No publisher’s going to publish a book narrated by a dog. It’s not even narrated by a dog. It’s narrated by an author pretending to be a dog.” To which I replied, “Victor Hugo wasn’t a hunchback.”

Garth Stein

Anyway, he went on and on – at length – about what a disaster this was and what a waste of time and what was I thinking – and on and on and on – and I’m ruining my career and taking him down with me. He said, “Just do me a favor and throw it away and write me something I can sell.”

I don’t know – it was the holiday season and all, and these two words came into my head – no, not those two words – and I said them to him. I said, “You’re fired.” So I fired my agent. And I went into Whole Foods and the butcher handed me my turkey and I asked him, “Would you read a book narrated by a dog?” And he said, “Is it good?”

And that’s the right answer.

So right after Thanksgiving, I started sending the book out to agents and they all said the exact same thing. Everyone said no and I was really at the point of giving up.

Then I went to a fundraiser for King County Library System. I was at the author dinner and we were all introducing ourselves. I said, “Hi, I’m Garth, and I’ve got this book that I think is really good but it’s narrated by a dog and no one will even touch it.”

Layne Maheu, this other author sitting across the table, looks up and says, “Hey, you should talk to my agent. He sold my book and it’s narrated by a crow.”

This is a true story.

He wrote a book, The Song of the Crow, about a crow stowing away on Noah’s Ark. So I sent his agent my book on Monday and he called me on Wednesday and left me a voicemail which I kept for 120 days, which is the maximum you can keep it. I kept it because he was crying and he said, “I love this dog and I love this book, and you have to let me represent it.”

A few weeks later, he sold it at auction and it ended up being on The New York Times Bestseller list for 158 weeks.

If you really believe in something, you have to just keep going for it. You have to persevere. I always try to tell that to my kids.

Art of Racing in the Rain


  1. Wow and wow! What a story! Makes my day. Odd to me so many agents would be so limited in their thinking, esp. in today’s dog-loving world. Let’s hear it for crow and dog narrators and success stories!

  2. I absolutely love that book, and I’m a huge reader, usually very snobby about what I’ll read, so the whole “the narrator is a dog” resonates for me, but it’s so beautifully written. I cried too. Great post, thanks for sharing. Lucky you, to meet him!

  3. Words I definitely needed to hear. So many thanks to Garth and of course to you. BTW, you look adorable in the photo!

  4. I loved this story. Good for him!

  5. Such a great message…I would like to read the book!!

  6. Such a great reminder, but the way this piece unfolds is PERFECTION! Thank you! I needed this today 🙂

  7. This is just what I needed to hear today!

  8. Lois, thank you. One of my all time favorites as well. Wow. So proud of you. Yuu took this amazing step of faith and courage and you are DOING IT GIRLFRIEND.

  9. I so so love this story of perseverance! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    This gave me goose bumps. Garth’s story needs to be told and retold! I loved his book and I am so glad there will be a new one for me to read.

  11. Wow, good for him. I had actually never heard of him until right now, but I want to check out one of his books.

  12. What an inspiring story. I love hearing about happy stories.

  13. Wonderful account of a successful story.

  14. I will def need to pin this to my Book Love pin board to share with others. I’m sure many readers will enjoy it.

  15. Very interesting that’s for sure! What a story. Very inspiring!

  16. It’s one of my favorite books. Anything with dogs makes me CRY! haha

  17. What a great story! I’m so glad you got to meet him in person.

  18. I love the art of racing in the rain, how cool you got to meet him! x

  19. What a great story on how the book came about. I loved the book and read it on a flight and cried so audible that my seatmates and people across the aisle and in front of me all looked at me. I just held up the book and pointed. They may have thought crazy woman or understood the sign for the book is making me cry!

  20. He gets cookie points for inspiration! I love the idea that a dog tells the story!

  21. Oh my goodness…I love this story. And I loved this book. My dad asked me to read it. In fact, he loaded it on my Kindle for me, so I wouldn’t miss it. And now I love it even more. Thanks for sharing this awesome story! It made my day.

  22. I’m glad he didn’t give up. His words are very encouraging and his story is inspiring.

  23. Jennifer Williams says:

    That just shows – you never give up when you really believe in something. Now I want to read the book simply because I love dogs!

  24. What a terrific inspiring story. I want to remember this always.

  25. Loved the book so much and also loved the way you told the author’s interesting story. Am going to send your blog post to the women in my book club, who also loved the book!

  26. This is a great example of why you should never give up. Thank you for sharing such a inspirational post.

  27. Amanda Love says:

    Never give up on your dreams. That’s what this tells me. And would I read a book narrated by a dog? I sure would!

  28. Wow what a great story. I am so glad that you got to meet one of your favorite authors.

  29. Wow, another thing you have in common with your donut eating friend — he loved, loved, loved The Art of Racing in the Rain! The artwork on the new book looks absolutely amazing!

  30. What a funny story about the agent. I’d totally read a book narrated by a dog.

  31. The moral I got from this post is to never give up your vision; just because other people don’t see it in the moment, doesn’t mean it won’t work for everyone.

  32. Good thing he kept going after what he wanted. The world could be without a good book today if he had just given up! Very inspirational!

  33. Great post to start the weekend! We all need to hear the words, “never give up”! It’s so easy to give up on your dream when someone knocks you down. Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

  34. Thank you not sure what else to say except thank you. Yep that covers it.

  35. This is very inspirational! Just the encouragement I needed today, thank you! Now I need to go read this book LOL

  36. What a great story. I am all about books with the ‘never give up’ message.

  37. Who wouldn’t want to read a story narrated by a dog? We know how my dog talks and he tells us lots of stories about his day and what he wants and everything. I’d love to hear another dog’s perspective.

  38. I love this story behind the story! this makes me want to read that book.

  39. This is such an inspiring message for anyone that has a dream. Sometimes we just need to FIRE the nay-sayers and move on. Thank you for sharing this!

  40. Seriously, truly inspiring. Well done. I don’t have words for this, so pinning and tweeting so others will be inspired.

  41. Wow this is so inspiring. This can really serve as a reminder of what can happen when you follow your dreams.

  42. Melissa Smith says:

    What a great story about never giving up! And by the way, I would totally read that book.

  43. What a great story. Such a perfect reminder.

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