Text from JAN ~ FEB WOMEN ON TOP 2011
WOTmag.ca for women 50+
Authors In Their Own Write, literary column
spotlights authors and their books.
co-authored by Barbara Florio Graham and Simon Teakettle,
is an assemblage of
humorous human and cat perspectives and voices. A collection of prose, poems, and thoughtful deliberations, Mewsings/Musings breaks the mould in a hilarious fashion.
Jo-Ann L. Tremblay: What compelled you to create Simon Teakettle in the 1970's?
Barbara Florio Graham: The story of how Simon Teakettle evolved is told on my website. In brief, I was writing a column in my local community newspaper when I adopted a cat who was a year-and-a-half years old. At that age, I felt it was unfair to change his name, which was Simon. Since he was all black, I took the line from Cervantes about the cat calling the kettle black, and called him Simon Teakettle. As soon as I said the name, I knew I had the byline for another column for the paper.
JT: Simon has had an illustrious career in radio and print. Can you share some of his career highlights?
BFG: The column I wrote about him was quoted on a local CBC
program reviewing community papers, which encouraged "us"
to write to some national radio and TV personalities. He was
"heard" on several national CBC radio programs, and then
became a "regular" on David Lennick's daily show from
Edmonton, called R.S.V.P. Meanwhile, one of his short pieces appeared
in CATS Magazine, his centrefold (which appears in Mewsings/Musings)
sold to a U.S. calendar, and he was asked to write a column for a
One of the highlights of his career was definitely his appearance on Animal Planet's Pet Awards, hosted by Valerie Pringle, and another was when he wrote several pieces for CATS magazine's last-page feature called The Last Meow.
JT: Musings is written in your voice exploring human experiences, the other half of the book Mewsings is written in Simon's voice. Can you elaborate on why you and Simon collaborated on this project?
BFG: He insisted. I used the story of his taking over my career as an appendix in my first book, Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, and his "rules" for obtaining publicity in my second book, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity. He threatened to leave unless I gave him his own book, bank account, and website.
JT: Humour writing is in a class of it's own! In Mewsings, Simon is hilarious. For example, starting on page 5, we come upon The Rules for Cats, and as one of the rules Simon states; Establish, right from the beginning, your right to sleep where you choose on the bed. If one of your humans objects, for example, to your sleeping on the pillow above her head, flick your tail in her face every time she tries to get you to move. From whom does Simon get his comedic material ?
BFG: The best humour always comes from real life. The humorist figures out exactly how much to exaggerate or emphasize in order to make it funny.
JT: Musings is filled with food for thought. The short stories and poetry explore a range of connotations and shades of meaning. The power of your words give maximum impact. Can you share with us a little about what motivates you to write?
BFG: I have always been a writer. My first poem was published when I was nine years old, paid $5 and a free subscription to the magazine. I was hooked!
JT: I understand you are an award winning author, can you tell us about your awards?
BFG: I've won awards from many different writers' organizations, including Canadian Authors Association, the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (now the Professional Writers Association of Canada), Valley Writer's Guild, Ottawa Independent Writers, the Cat Writers' Association, the Cassell Network of Writers, the Alberta Poetry Competition, and the International Association of Business Communicators.
JT: Simon Teakettle III, known as Terzo, has a blog,. Can you give us more information about this?
BFG: You have to keep a cat busy, or he gets into trouble. Terzo is a PURRfect gentleman, never climbing on kitchen counters or scratching furniture, but that's because I ensure that he spends time on the computer. He began his blog when he was first adopted, and he always finds interesting things to write about. He usually posts something new each week, corresponds with other cats to obtain fresh information, and last winter, when he got bored, formed a Virtual MEWSical Society which has 33 cats and a parrot from all over the world. That group has its own Facebook fan page.
JT: You have published other books, can you tell us about them?
BFG: Five Fast Steps to Better Writing
grew out of courses I had started to teach for federal government
departments. As I created handouts, I realized I could distill the
information I'd gathered from many years of teaching high school
English into a book. I was encouraged by a local publisher, and when
the book was still selling after many years, I brought out the 20th
anniversary edition, with new additional material specifically for
freelancers, under my own imprint in 2005.
The book guides the reader through the writing process, with no boring exercises, specific lists on the left- hand pages to make it easier for quick reference, and fun tidbits to keep it from being too much like a textbook. It's been used in many courses (I've franchised my course based on the book to teachers in key cities) and is currently being used at the Thomas More Institute in Montreal.
Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity also evolved from workshops I was teaching. When I was asked to
create a media relations handbook for an association, I had them agree that I would hold the copyright so I could adapt that material into a book. This is a manual with no graphics or case histories, just solid information. It's been revised and reprinted many times and is popular because its spiral binding allows it to lie flat.
JT: How can WOTmag readers contact you to purchase their own copy of Mewsings/Musings, or your other published works?
BFG: All three of my books can be purchased from my website: www.SimonTeakettle.com, where I also offer some publishing resources (including a database of Canadian libraries), online courses, and mentoring in writing, publicity, and publishing.
JT: Reading Mewsings/Musings is indeed a delight, teasing one into chortles, guffaws, chuckles, snorts, and isn't that the truth? moments.
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