Today is the one-week mark before the publication date of Tribbs: The Very Handsome Cat, now available for pre-order at Amazon here and Barnes and Noble here. The book will start shipping next Thursday, National Love Your Pet Day, 2/20/2020. As with the first book in the series, Little White: The Feral Cat Who Found a Home, a portion of all proceeds will be donated to non-profit animal rescue organizations.
For some people, Valentine’s Day is about flowers and maybe chocolates for a significant other. But there are so many kinds of love to celebrate — from the love between friends and family to the love many of us have for our animals — and so many ways to celebrate it. This year, I thought it might be nice to spread a little love for the hard-working team that brought my second children’s book to life.
My first published book was a memoir-in-essays called Message From a Blue Jay. It took a lot of time and hard work to write a full-length book of creative nonfiction. But children’s books offer a whole different kind of challenge. There are a few important choices to make at the start (do you want to include rhyme)? Then, in addition to telling a heartfelt, engaging story in just a few words, you have to choose words that are understandable for a particular age group. Your sentences have to be easy to read out loud, and you have to envision illustrations and a layout as you write your text, gaining insight into the process of more visual storytelling. Then there’s the matter of working with the illustrator to develop the illustrations and with the publisher to get the final text and layout just right.
You might be surprised to hear that from start to finish, it takes more than a year to create each book. And through the entire process, it’s important to keep the heart and message of your story always at the center of your project.
So today, I have a lot of thanks to hand out. First, thanks is owed to the amazing illustrator, Laurel McKinstry Petersen. I have known Laurel since we went to high school together, and from the start I knew I wanted her to illustrate my children’s books. Her work is full of charm and tenderhearted whimsy, and she intuitively knows how to tell stories with her art. This second book especially required a lot of time and effort from Laurel, and I am so grateful to her for everything she did to make this book the best it could be.
Then, I owe thanks to the publisher — Writer’s Coffee Bar Press, owned by MaryChris Bradley. MaryChris is a seasoned publishing pro with a career’s worth of experience in the world of big, New York City publishing houses. Her first independent press, Buddhapuss Ink, published my memoir-in-essays. These days, with her smaller imprint, she picks and chooses very few projects. I am thankful that she showed interest from the start in producing the Stray Cat Stories series. Her editing and design helped make the books as adorable as they are. Overall, her knowledge of children’s books and the publishing industry has been so important to the success of the Stray Cat Stories.
Of course, there is plenty of love to go around on Valentine’s Day — and some should also go to my husband, Jean-Paul Des Pres, who supports all of my projects, and to the family, friends, and colleagues who encourage my writing work and embrace each book I publish.
And finally, there is Tribbs himself — the “cat among cats” who shared my life for almost 20 years and whose story inspired me to write Tribbs: The Very Handsome Cat. Although the very early days of his story are invented in the book (since I don’t know how he and his mom actually ended up on the streets), the story of his path from being rescued to fostered and adopted is based on his true-life experience.
Tribbs is no longer with us, but I will love him and miss him for the rest of my life. I’m glad I had a chance to immortalize him, in a way, in this book.
Thank you, everyone, and Happy Valentine’s Day. I’ll see you on 2/20/2020.