Writers and Their Familiars

Somebody’s trying to tell me something. These are a couple of the cards I received for my recent birthday.









And this is the bag that contained a few birthday gifts.

kitty-bagFor several months now (has it been years?), I’ve been talking about getting another cat. I’ve been feline free since I lost my darling Rumi in 2012. I mean what kind of writer am I that I don’t have a cat?

cat-butt-magnetsI do have some near-cat experiences. Most mornings as I sit at my kitchen table writing, I catch glimpses out my window of Lennon, the black cat that lives next door as he leaps from rooftop to fence railing, where he does his yoga-like stretches and morning ablutions. Plus, I have these cat-butt magnets on my fridge—another birthday present—but these are just teases of the real thing.

“If you want to write, keep cats,” Aldous Huxley said.

We all know about certain writers and their cats: Hemingway comes to mind, for an easy example. And there’s also Edward Gorey, who said he liked cats more than people. Gorey illustrated T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. “Books. Cats. Life is good,” Gorey said. Eliot was a cat-man, too. As were William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Edgar Allan Poe, of course, who once said, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” Neil Gaiman, Mark Twain, the list goes on. In fact, here’s a list of 30 Renowned Authors Inspired by Cats from a BuzzFeed post.

Not just men, of course: Colette, it’s said, began her morning writing by picking fleas from her beloved felines. “There are no ordinary cats,” she said. Sylvia Plath, Doris Lessing, Patricia Highsmith, all were cat women. As is Joyce Carol Oats who said “I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up.” (So that’s her secret!) Rumi didn’t sit on my lap so much as he sprawled across my keyboard. And my notebooks. Actually anywhere he wanted to. I still miss him.

Rumi's MAC Book

Rumi The Writer

I’ve been thinking of paying a visit to the Cat Cafe in downtown San Diego. Have you heard of cat cafes? They started in China and Japan several years ago and found their way to the US where a couple dozen such places invite patrons in for a coffee and a cuddle. What could be better combination for a writer than coffee and cats? Many of the cat cafes work with humane societies and have kitties that are available for adoption. San Diego’s is one of those. It’s located in the Gaslamp Quarter, just around the corner from the original location of The Writing Center at 3rd and Island so there’s the hint of nostalgia for me as well.

Now that I’m in the throes of a longer work, I might just need a companion to help me see it through. If I do find a kitty to come and live with me, you’ll be the first to know. And then you’ll have to put up with the endless photos of me and my cat on Facebook.

What about you? Are you a cat writer? Or a dog writer? Or do you go it alone?

When Memory Doesn’t Speak

Several months ago I began writing a piece based on memories from a long ago journey I took. I decided I wanted to write strictly from memory, and not consult the journals I kept during my travels. It’s challenging, it’s interesting, and it’s fun even though I don’t know if most of what I’m writing is what really happened or something I made up, or something I’m making up even as I write.

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