I started writing my memoir Home with Henry while my ginger cat Henry still quivered under my bed. He’d been a feral cat. I’d rescued him from sure death on a busy suburban road. As far as I knew, he had little experience of humans. I had no experience of untamed cats. How could I get him to trust me and come out from his hiding place? I kept a journal in small spiral notebooks, noting down each small step in his progress.
Every evening and often at work, I scrawled in a notebook, finding comfort in the physical act of pushing a pen across the lined paper. When I’d finished the daily entry, I’d sprint across the hall to share it with another copywriter, my coworker, Lynn. One morning after Henry had been with me for two weeks and still hid under the bed, I burst into Lynn’s office in our ad department. “Guess what Henry did last night,” I said. “Instead of arching his back, he rested his head on his paws and looked steadily at me.”
“That’s an intimidation technique,” Lynn explained, tapping a pencil against her stylish hairdo. “I don’t think you’re getting very far with this taming business.”
Our conversations went into my notebook, too. Although I don’t, as a rule, keep a journal, this project of taming Henry fascinated me. Perhaps I wanted to encourage myself. Keeping careful, exuberant notes helped. Eventually, my journal filled four spiral notebooks which lay in a drawer for several years. Then an editor at a small Philadelphia publisher offered to publish my tale. My journals, which had to be turned into a book, had the immediacy of a story unfolding since I didn’t know how the story would end as I was keeping the notes. Would Henry stay under the bed forever? Would he find it impossible to get used to human beings and just scuttle around in the spare room for years? When I worked on the book, I had the answers to these questions, but I decided to keep the journal entry format, so the reader would have as much excitement and apprehension as I did while I lived through the events my book described. It took me two rewrites to get the book into shape, to clarify the story line and check the details. But rereading my journal entries and working on the book brought the events of those days vividly to mind. I’d brought a small frightened feral cat home. Very gradually, he stopped hissing and spitting, learned to trust a human being, and revealed his deep and genuine sweetness.
This post is the first spot on Anne’s tour for her book. Other stops in coming weeks include:
July 1: http://judyalter.com/
July 3: http://consciouscat.net/
July 6: http://maryannwrites.com/
July 7: http://womensmemoirs.com/