By Debbie De Louise.
As a child, I loved to read and write.
I also loved my cats. My parents were animal lovers, so I grew up surrounded by pets, both dogs and cats. During my college years at LIU/Post where I studied English and then library and information science, I wrote a daily diary, penned full-length books and stories in notebooks, volunteered as a writer and editor on my college newspaper, and produced and contributed to my library school newsletter. I received no payment for this writing and neither did it appear in any publication beyond my campus.
It wasn’t until after I married and heard about the Cat Writers’ Association in 1996 that I considered publishing my writing to a wider audience. The impetus for this was the group’s requirement of two published pieces for professional membership. Inspired by the cats I had at the time, Floppy and Holly, I wrote two articles and submitted them to cat magazines. The subjects were treating feline diabetes (something I was familiar with because Floppy suffered from it), and introducing a second cat (my experience bringing Holly, a feral, into my home to live with Floppy). Both articles were accepted, and I became a professional member of CWA.
During my twenty-seven years in the group, I’ve won awards, met and befriended fellow cat lovers and authors, and benefitted from several writing opportunities.
In 1999, I attended my first CWA conference that took place in Kansas City. There I met two of my favorite cat authors, Carole Nelson Douglas and Shirley Murphy. Sadly, they both passed away recently, but Carole’s Midnight Louie mysteries and Shirley’s Joe Grey series live on and still touch many readers.
After publishing additional cat articles in pet magazines and newsletters, I wrote a short story, “Stitches in Time,” that I queried to the editors of the anthology Cat Crimes Through Time. This was part of a series of Cat Crimes books edited by Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg. Besides my story, there were also stories by well-known authors. Carole Nelson Douglas was one of them. I attended one of her book signings and was thrilled to have her sign my copy of the book in which we both had stories. The book has since gone out of print, but I treasure my autographed copy.
In 2008, I published my first book after my cat Floppy died, and I featured him as a character in it. Cloudy Rainbow was originally self-published by Booklocker.com but has since been reprinted by my publisher with new edits and a new cover for its ten-year anniversary in 2018.
My Cobble Cove cozy mysteries featuring Alicia the librarian and Sneaky the library cat began in 2015 and now include six titles. Sneaky is loosely based on my Siamese Oliver, who passed away in 2017.
Oliver, remembered in an award-winning article.
Each year as part of the CWA conference, awards are presented in various categories of writing and media. Entries are judged by members of the association, and the winners receive the coveted Muse Medallion for their work. To be eligible for the Muse, an entrant must first earn a Certificate of Excellence for a work published that year. Additionally, an entrant may also receive a special prize that can include a monetary reward donated by a pet organization that sponsors the award. In 2015, I entered an article from Catster Magazine on pet grooming, “Brush Your Cat For Bonding, Beauty, and Better Health,” in a special award category sponsored by Purina. This article detailed the technique I used for brushing Oliver (who loved to be groomed) and the advantages of brushing to both owner and cat. While I didn’t attend the conference that year, I won the contest and received by mail a beautiful glass engraved trophy and a check from Purina.
The last CWA conference I attended in person was in St. Louis in 2019. At that conference I met an editor, Lonnie Hull DuPont, who publishes annual anthologies of non-fiction pet stories under the pen name Callie Smith Grant. I submitted a story for her anthology, Second-Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats We Rescue and the Cats Who Rescue Us. “The Story of Harry and Hermione” was published in that anthology. It shared my experience of adopting my two cats from a rescue. A year later, my story “First Christmas with Kittens” was also published in Grant’s anthology, The Cat in the Christmas Tree and Other Stories of Feline Joy and Merry Mischief.
The Muse Medallion award.
Although the last few CWA conferences have been virtual due to the pandemic, I won my first Muse Medallion during their virtual awards ceremony in 2020 for my short story, “Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery.” This story had been published as an eBook, but my publisher has since republished it in the anthology, Sneaky’s Supernatural Mystery and Other Cobble Cove Stories that includes four other stories.
Last year, I received another Muse Medallion at the CWA virtual conference for my time-travel book, Time’s Relative, that featured the two cats I had in 1998 when I originally wrote it. I found the manuscript when I was going through papers, and updated, revised and published it in 2021.
The Cat Writers’ Association
I still enjoy including cats in my books and stories, whether they are cozies, thrillers, or poems, and am honored to be a member of the Cat Writers’ Association, which turns thirty this year. My new cozy series, The Buttercup Bend Mysteries, features the owner of a pet rescue who becomes an amateur sleuth in the first book, The Case of the Cat Crazy Lady. Oliver passed away during the writing of this book, and I featured him as the pet of Cathy Carter, the main character. I followed this book up with The Case of the Parrot Loving Professor in which I introduce my current cats, Harry and Hermione, as Cathy’s new kittens after Oliver passed away between books. My upcoming release, The Case of the Llama Raising Librarian, takes place at a llama farm but also includes cats. As Cathy investigates the murder of a retired librarian who moved back to her family farm, she leaves her kittens at home but meets three barn cats who live on the farm.
If it hadn’t been for the Cat Writers’ Association, I’m not sure I would’ve published any of my writing. I credit them for giving me the push I needed onto my publishing path. They continue to do so through opening their membership to new and established authors and other media professionals who focus their work on felines. To learn more about CWA, check their website at https://catwriters.com/join-us/.
Debbie De Louise is a retired librarian and the award-winning author of 16 books including the Cobble Cove and Buttercup Bend cozy mystery series. She’s also written novels, short stories, poems, articles, and a novella. A member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Cat Writers’ Association, she lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and two cats.