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Taking A Book For A Walk

Author Spaid finds writing
as simple as walking the dog

By Nita S. West
Contributing Writer


MADISON, Ind. (March 2000) – Ora Spaid could, as the saying goes, write a book on dog walking. In fact, in 1996, he just that. He wrote a book based on his adventures and encounters while walking dogs in a small southern Indiana town.

Ora Spaid

Photo by Phaedra Jones

Author and former
journalist Ora Spaid
pens his books from
his downtown
Madison home. He is
best know locally
for his "dog" book.

"Where the Grass is Greener and Dogs had Better Keep Off" is a delightful romp down the streets and alleys of Madison, Ind., with Spaid and his canine companion. While "Grass" introduced Spaid to many Madisonians, the book was not Spaid's introduction to writing.
Spaid has authored three books: "The Consummate Trainer" (Prentice-Hall, 1986) and "Starting Off Right: Better Orientation for New Employees" (HRD Press, 1991) and his memoir. In addition, he has written cover stories and corporate profiles for magazines, business manuals on operations and quality assurance, articles for newspapers and the Internet.
He began his writing career when his high school locker mate encouraged him to join the staff of the school paper. He began writing a sports column that, to Spaid, quickly took on a professional status. He had found his calling. He went on to graduate from Medill School of Journalism, part of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He also attended Notre Dame, Michigan State, Indiana, and Mississippi State universities for short periods of time.
In 1950 he became managing editor at the McCook Daily Gazette, in McCook, Neb. There he took on a variety of responsibilities, including editorial operations, advertising coordination, promotion and circulation duties, as well as writing editorials and columns. One year later, he moved on to the Louisville Courier-Journal. As a reporter and assistant city editor, Spaid became experienced in an even wider array of journalistic functions. His talents were often recognized in four reporting textbooks, three national awards, as well being twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He remained with the Courier-Journal until 1963.
Spaid's journalistic path then led him back to his home state of Indiana, on to North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland, Kentucky and, finally, to Madison, Ind., in 1983. During that time he served as a public relations coordinator, associate and executive director, independent consultant, team leader, and training specialist for several corporations and universities. His ability to train trainers for various activities and positions led him to become an innovator in education and to record his findings in two books, one of which is still being used as a textbook.
Still, with all his past notoriety, Spaid is best known in Madison as "the guy who wrote the dog book."
Ask Spaid about his latest literary venture, and he will willingly share the woes of self-publication, along with the joys of a good sale and, as he adds, "the touching responses from readers." He will relate how he fought the odds and won with a clever marketing tactic tailored to target a certain type of customer, and his news release that included the statement: "When you've walked dogs for 50,000 miles, you can write a book about it."
Former owner of The Paperback Exchange, Kathy Adams-Manning, has been a staunch supporter of Spaid's work since he first placed "Grass" in her bookstore.
"I grew to have a great respect for Ora while interacting with him in handling his book. He's a man of his word who does not avoid confrontation when he perceives a wrong. He is outspoken, eloquent and capable of great devotion to what he loves."
Adams-Manning, a poet herself, continues, "I'd like to write as beautifully as he does when I grow up. My strongest impression of the man is that ever-present twinkle in his eye."
Spaid has not remained idle. He has been kicking around ideas and contemplating the possibilities of another book.
Three summers ago he conducted a popular course in Life Review and Life Writing for the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library. Approximately 30 participants recalled, discussed and recorded memoirs from their own lives and stories handed down through their families. Spaid encourages this type of writing to preserve family history for future generations.
Although Spaid refers to himself as a journalist, he does occasionally stray from his chosen path and dabble in fiction. The results are so believable, readers often ask how one of his characters is getting along.
This is the case with Crazy Annie. Instead of sending traditional Christmas greetings in 1998, he composed a story about an elderly lady, Sarah Elizabeth Ann Jacoby, or Crazy Annie for short, and her adventures at the Riverview Nursing Home.
The story was so well received, he sent out a second installment in the Crazy Annie saga for Christmas 1999. It relates the obsession Annie has for cows, particularly purple ones, and Elsie, the famous Borden Dairy product logo popular in the 1950s. Spaid's humor breathes life into the pages and makes his readers look forward to the next story.
Artist, poet, and former Madison resident, Hazel Austin Baker summarizes Spaid and his work: "He has a very dry sense of humor and a wonderful way of expressing himself. His work always has meaningful content."

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