Liz here, and today I’m welcoming Janiss Garza, editor of the anthology Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats Through Their Eyes, to the blog!
It’s no secret that I’m the crazy cat person here on the Wickeds, and I’ve done my fair share of writing about cats before my Pawsitively Organic series. I joined the Cat Writers’ Association years ago, and it was through that group that I saw Janiss’ call for stories for an anthology based on the lives of rescue cats. Kind of a no-brainer for me, I figured! So I wrote Tuffy’s story and submitted it. Many of you know Tuffy as the genesis for the cat Nutty in my series. He had an interesting journey before he became a book star, which he describes in detail in his story From Starving to Stardom, the first in the anthology. The rest of the stories in the book are equally touching, inspirational, and will make you love cats even more! Please check it out – it’s already won in the Compilations/ Anthologies categories in the San Francisco Book Festival and the Holiday Book Festival.
Janiss, take it away!
I love writing. I also love editing. At the magazine editorial gigs I had in the 1990s and 2000s, I enjoyed working with the writers (in fact, I always thought of them as “my” writers), and to this day I edit stories in my head as I read them far more often than I probably should admit. I also love the production process and working in InDesign. Being a publisher is just something that comes naturally to me.
I also happen to love cats. I didn’t plan to publish cat books, it just sort of happened. Cats are like that – you put one on the internet and the next thing you know, people are asking you cat questions, and websites and magazines are asking you to write cat stories and you wind up doing cat books. Give a cat an inch and the whole feline species winds up taking over your whole life. At least, that is how it worked for me.
I started my career as a heavy metal music journalist and music mag editor. Along the way I also wrote about vintage film (silent and pre-code) and fitness. But in 2003, when I started on the feline path with my cat, Sparkle and her website, sparklecat.com, I suddenly became the “cat writer person.” So I figured, why not use this strange turn of events for good? Like I said, I love cats, so I certainly wasn’t going to use it for evil – unless you consider Cat World Domination something bad.
By the time I put out the call for submissions for Rescued, the anthology I published in January 2015, I had been working on the idea for a couple of years. As part of the very large cat blogging community, I saw there were probably at least 300 active or occasionally active cat blogs in existence, and a few hundred more that have come and gone or are currently dormant. And although I unexpectedly got sucked into this crazy community, I learned a few things right away about its fun, colorful members. They are a close knit, but inclusive bunch – they look out for their pals, and happily welcome new cats, and the humans behind them, into their blogging family. They are also passionately cause oriented, and will step up to help a cat, an animal rescue, or even a fellow cat blogger in need. I’m always on the lookout for a good book project that will both enhance people’s lives… and make money for both me and the writers. Rescued seemed like a perfect fit, and it was. Twelve cat stories, with a portion of the proceeds to go to rescue – I was sure from the start it would be a winner.
Along with my fellow cat bloggers, I sent out feelers in the social media communities. You might have noticed cats have taken them over too. I looked specifically for cats (and writers) with a strong online presence since I knew they would already have an audience of fans wanting to buy the book. I also sent word out to the Cat Writers Association, a professional group of cat writers I happen to belong to. As a result, I got a really amazing variety of submissions, and most of them were good enough for serious consideration to go into the anthology.
One thing people don’t realize about anthologies unless they’ve put one together themselves: it’s not just picking out a bunch of stories and tossing them in the book. They all have to work together, and they need to be arranged in an arc. The opening couple of stories are crucial, if you want to keep the reader reading. The ending story needs to tie up in some way the stories preceding it. If you want to make enough money to eventually pay your writers, you also want people who are not only storytellers but who are willing to be promoters too – which is why I had each one pick out an animal rescue as part of her promotion. Cat lovers will fight for a cause, even when they are too shy to fight for themselves.
In the end, I picked the dozen stories that worked best together, although there were a couple of times where it was almost like throwing darts. At one point when choosing between two stories, I realized that that the majority of cats in the book were male… so I picked the story featuring a female cat. The writers themselves came from all parts of the U.S. (and one from Canada), and included both novices to experienced authors. Although I had a few submissions from men, the writers I chose all happened to be women. After working with them through the editing process, and now that I’m halfway through the book’s promotion, I have to say, I’m so impressed with the writers I picked. What a talented bunch – and what amazing human beings!
I’m really proud of the writers I wound up with for Rescued – and I hope to be equally proud of the ones I choose for the sequel. Because I had such a rewarding time with the first book, and there are so many more great cat stories out there, that I have to do another one.
Someday, I plan to break out of cat mode, but right now I’m having too much fun.
Thanks, Janiss! We love the work you do. Tuffy is thrilled that you helped him find his voice. August is his month, where a portion of the book’s proceeds go to his rescue of choice. He picked Friends of Feral Cheshire Cats, an organization here in Connecticut that supports Trap-Neuter-Return for ferals and a foster program for any friendly cats or kittens they happen to find in the course of their work.
Readers, do you have an inspirational pet story to share? Leave a comment below!