Friday, April 27, 2012

Meet Gwen Cooper - Author and Blind Cat Activist

Homer is blind, strong, and smart and has an…epic tail? No, not that Homer…I’m talking about Homer the Blind Wonder Cat! The story of Homer the cat is a very special and true story. Written by Gwen Cooper, Homer is a story about an eyeless cat, and how he changed Gwen’s life for the better.

Homer had “a virulent eye infection [that] required the surgical removal of both his eyes,” the reader learns in the first chapter of Homer’s Odyssey. However, Homer’s story is not a sad one – Homer lives with Gwen presently.

 Each chapter of Homer starts off with a quote from Homer from The Odyssey, also followed by a picture of Homer the cat. The reader soon becomes enamored with Homer’s happiness and lust for life. Perching on the edge of the toilet seat and catching flies in his mouth, mid-air!

Homer in his glory. Image from

At what moment did Gwen decide to write Homer’s Odyssey, and how did she come up with the title?

“I first came up with the idea when I read about the sale of Dewey to Grand Central (Dewey's publisher).  I thought I have a pretty cool cat!  I wonder if I could write a book about him!  The title came to me instantaneously and I never considered any alternatives.  But it still took about a year until I had a proposal I thought could realistically be shown to anybody,” Gwen said.

Though Homer’s Odyssey is the main title of the book, it is followed by the subtitle: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat.

What made Gwen realize Homer's story could be a book? She wasn’t sure for the longest time.

“I didn't know what the narrative through-line would be that would make it an actual book instead of just a collection of anecdotes.  When [my husband] Laurence proposed to me, I remembered that I had adopted Homer right after a major break-up, and then I realized that that would be the story,” said Gwen.

Gwen wrote Homer’s Odyssey so that it “is a book that would begin with a break-up and end with a wedding, and in between would be the ten years of discovery and transition for both Homer and [Gwen] between those two events.”

Writers all have different processes they go through to complete their books.

“I don't write every day.  I've found that sometimes, when I'm stuck, the best thing to do is to get away from the computer and do something completely different.  On the show Mad Men, there's a great scene where Don Draper, the creative director of an ad agency, gives advice to a junior copywriter who's suffering from writer's block.  He tells her, ‘Think about it deeply, and then forget it.  The answers will come.’  I've always found that to be true,” Gwen said.

But like all people, Gwen knows when to write, when to procrastinate, and when to be serious.
“Of course, the trick is knowing the difference between times when you really do have to stop writing for a few days and times when you're just procrastinating.  I can't say I always stay on the right side of that line, but I do always try!”

The most exciting thing about authors with great books is when they decide to write a new book! Gwen and Homer have been posting on Facebook about the new book Gwen has coming out in January 2013. You can preorder LoveSaves the Day on Amazon.

“LOVE SAVES THE DAY is a work of fiction and is about a made-up cat named Prudence.  She narrates about two-thirds of the book, and her two humans take turns narrating the other third.  Basically it's a story about a woman and her grown daughter who have an estranged relationship, and Prudence is the bridge between them.  Prudence is based a good deal on Scarlett, and I'm just wildly in love with her.  I hope readers will be too!”  It’s not hard to see that Gwen is very enthusiastic and excited about her new book. So are we!

Many cat bloggers and writers post every day about their cats’ activities. I wondered if it is hard for Gwen to “share” Homer with the world.

“It's interesting how many readers have come to feel that Homer is ‘their cat’ too.  It means that when I write about Homer and things that are going on in our lives, I get deluged with advice and feedback.  Mostly, though, this has been overwhelmingly positive.  So many of my readers have a lot more experience with cats then I do, and they tend to have ideas that I wouldn't have. 

Still, it's odd sometimes to look at Homer napping on the couch and think that there are thousands of people all over the world who love him.  He's just my little cat!  But, of course, since the book came out he's become more than just my cat.  It's amazing to think about.” She said.

Homer is just Gwen's little cat, who made a big impact in her life. Image from
Being a New York Times Best Selling Author may not have the paparazzi following Gwen around daily, but she has been recognized when she is out and about.

“Very rarely--maybe once or twice.  Being "author famous" isn't like being famous famous.  I have friends who've known me forever who occasionally say things like, "How weird is it that you're famous now?"  And I always say, "And yet, when I go to the grocery store, they treat me just like I was a regular person!"  That's my little joke, the point being, of course, that I'm really not famous at all. 

The only time I come close to feeling like I am is when I do a reading and a few hundred people show up--but, even then, I feel like they're there for the book and not for me, personally,” Gwen said.

One of the wonderful ideas that have come with Homer’s Odyssey is taking the prejudice often found with adopting blind cats. Living with Homer, has given Gwen strong motivation to help promote blind cat adoption. What’s her advice for people unsure of adopting a blind cat?

“Blind cats do very, very well, and blindness by itself is no reason to either not adopt a cat or "put down" a cat who has gone blind.  I always say that, at the end of the day, a blind cat is just like any other cat, and just as capable of loving you and living a wonderful life.

Homer is like any other cat, when getting into mischief. Image from

Being a successful author can be measured in many ways. How many copies of books have been sold, number of fans you have on Facebook or how many people show up to a book signing.

“I'm still not sure that I [feel successful]!  It's a cliché, but it's absolutely true, that success is a horizon line that keeps receding no matter how close you think you're getting to it.  I never take it for granted that just because Homer's Odyssey had done well, my future books will also do well.  Success is something I get up every morning prepared to work hard for.

And of course, the best interview question is saved for last: is there a question that you've wanted to be asked in interviews, but have never been asked before?

“People never seem to ask about my husband, Laurence.  So I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge him and the amazing "cat dad" he's grown into since my cats and I first moved in with him seven years ago.  When Vashti and Scarlett became ill in their last years (Vashti with chronic renal failure and Scarlett with cancer), I literally couldn't have done everything I needed to do to take care of them on my own.  When we were dating, Laurence wasn't sure he could live with three cats.  But when things got bad and I was beside myself with worry and grief, Laurence was incredibly gentle and compassionate and never once complained--or was anything less than cheerful--about helping me out with some of the difficult and unpleasant things that had to be done.  He's a remarkable and loving man.” Gwen said.

Make sure you find Homer on Facebook!  You can read Gwen’s blog here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blog The Change

Today's post is special, because it is sponsored by Blog the Change for Animals. I am writing about a cause that is dear to my heart - volunteering for a rescue group.
  • What have you done to Be the Change for Animals? Most teenagers would not be willing to spend every Friday night volunteering with their parents, to adopt out cats. But I am not like most teenagers. I have been volunteering with Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation since 2005 and helping out in many ways.
                    I have been able to learn many lessons that have made me a better person. When I volunteer, I interact with potential adopters, volunteers, and adults. I am able to answer questions people might have, conduct adopter interviews, play with the cats and help take care of them by cleaning their enclosures and feeding them.
                    While volunteering, I have helped save many lives. At an event one night, a cat’s spay incision came open and her internal organs fell out. Along with the other volunteers, I was able to get the cat to calm down and get her to the vet. Acting quickly in an emergency situation helped save a cat’s life.  I have also helped socialize cats by fostering them in my room. I play with the cats so they get used to people and can go to an adopter. Many cats come into the rescue very scared and need someone patient to work wit hthem.
                    My experiences with the rescue have been very beneficial to me. I am able to have conversations with adults as well as conduct myself in a manner in which adults will take me seriously. I enjoy volunteering with the rescue because I know it makes a difference to the animals that I help save. 
Gizmo, the one eyed kitty who was adopted with her one eyed sister, Sooty (below). Two of the many wonderful cats that I had the pleasure of working with, until they went to their forever home.

  • Who do you know who acts tirelessly on animals’ behalf? Perhaps my favorite part of volunteering for the rescue, is that I don't do it alone; I volunteer with my family and friends. My mom, dad, brother and friends we have made while doing rescue, always join us on Friday nights to volunteer. It is nice knowing that not only that I have my family and friends behind me, but also we share in the reward when we see the animals we take care of, get adopted and go to a loving home.

  • What favorite cause has a special need right now? The best part about volunteering is that we always need more help. Whether we are in need of more volunteers, fosters or caretakers of the cats in the PetSmart adoption center, help is always needed. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lucky Friday the 13th Cats

Black cats + Friday the 13th = A massive stereotype. Why is it that black cats always get a bad rap and an even worse connotation on Friday the 13th. Well here at Sandpiper Cat, we consider it lucky to come across a black cat on Friday the 13th! (and a calico too, because Piper is one).


My lucky black cat

Lucky Piper

Piper and mommy (and Bean in the background!)