I’m very excited to present our very first “Member Spotlight”. Each month, we’ll be featuring one lucky CWA member here on our blog. Our “Member Spotlight” will give us all the chance to meet our fellow CWA members and hear how they got where they are today and what they’re up to now. This month, Betty Sleep was the winner of our random drawing. So, I’ll let Betty take it from here.
Betty Sleep – CWA’s Spotlighted Member for March, 2014
My writing career can be largely blamed on two teachers who were the first people to encourage me to dream. Mrs. Young pulled me out of the Grade Six lineup at a school assembly and introduced me to one of the District supervisors, and said “This is Betty. She’s going to be a writer someday.” And by gosh, she was right!
Cecil Porter was one of those long suffering and least appreciated individuals: the high school English teacher. But if you had a desire to achieve, or the least spark of initiative and creativity, he was there to challenge, encourage, and help you find a way to express yourself.
From freelancing articles, I moved on to copywriting at a tv station. And while there was little scope to exercise your talents in 30 and sometimes 10 second bites, it was a memorable time for the parodies of our commercials, which I wrote on the side. Because you see, I’d always had a sense of humour. I just hadn’t found a way to let it out. One day an editor from the newspaper across the street scowled at me and said “Why are you writing commercial crap when you can do so much better?” Lo and behold, he was right too.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received, was from Dan Ross, the prolific Canadian novelist. He said “write what you know.” So I asked myself, what did I know? Really?
I knew about children and animals. No matter which one you’re working with, it’s good training for the other. I’m lucky enough to have done both. The unfettered joie de vivre of children and the character appeal of pets is what led me eventually to writing the Purrlock Holmes novels for middle grade students.
As a retired breeder/exhibitor of Golden Retrievers, and a breeder/exhibitor of Birman cats for nearly 20 years, I had a paw on the pulse of family pets. And as a mother, I sometimes had a paw on the child. When I could catch him. Then there was the sense of humour, which even serial hairball chucking and middle of the night projectile vomiting by the child didn’t quite manage to squelch.
But no writer emerges from a chrysalis one day to spread their wings and soar into the wonderful world of publishing all by themselves. It takes nurturing, like I was fortunate enough to receive from my teachers. It takes knowledge that comes to you through experience and exploration. Inspiration and support are essential, and much of that can be found in a community like the Cat Writers Association. All of this is fuel when set to the wick of your creativity.
Betty Sleep’s first Purrlock Holmes novel “The Case of the Vanishing Valuables” won the CWA Muse Medallion for young adult fiction, and the second book “The Case of the Missing Treasure” won a Muse Medallion for artwork and cover design. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada with an assortment of Birman cats, and a blind Golden Retriever whose exploits fill her blog, The Grady Report.