Guest post by Deborah Barnes
For as long as I can remember, I have been a writer. It was not until now, with the completion of my first book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary, that I could claim I was an author. My writing began in typical fashion – scribbling with lipstick on the bathroom mirror as a toddler that elevated to a career as an Executive Assistant for over twenty-five years, whereby brilliant business letter after brilliant letter were crafted, only to have the credit taken by the manager in charge who signed his or her name to my words. I was also always assigned with the task in my family of writing the perfect verse for a greeting card or a signature for gifts and flowers. Granted, I was honored to be asked, but the task hardly had publishers knocking at my door.
Although I had always wanted to write a book and was encouraged many times throughout the years to do so, like so many others with dreams, I put it off thinking, “Yeah, maybe one day I’ll get to it,” without actually believing it. Well, completely unplanned, one day did come in the form of two major events – Zee, my lovable male Maine Coon cat, and Zoey, my high-spirited female Bengal cat fell madly in love and subsequently had a litter of kittens together. The other event – I was unexpectedly laid off and had a lot more free time on my hands.
The birth of the Chronicles began unsuspectingly as a weekly series of emails that I sent to various family members and friends documenting the growth process of Zee and Zoey’s kittens with a humorous narrative that was complimented by photographs taken by my fiancé, Dan. These emails were sent out religiously every Friday morning and soon became a sensation, as many recipients clamored for a book. All seemed well and good, but literally seconds after I hit the “send” button on week 7, I was called into my supervisor’s office and life forevermore changed as I was out of a job.
The process that followed was a long and difficult road, filled with many deep, dark holes, uncertainty, and severe depression. I knew I wanted to write a story about my cats, but emotionally, I was not capable of being an author with any authority or talent. Being unemployed in my late 40’s was a lesson in humility and I found it difficult to function. I had envisioned a cute and sweet story filled with adorable kittens and humorous antidotes – being that I couldn’t even muster the energy to smile, this was a task too large for me to tackle. As it turns out, my cats and kittens were far wiser than me and were about to teach me some invaluable life lessons.
It was through them, that I began to see life through their minds eye and the personal revelation was profound. Cats live without judgment and in the moment. They do not dwell on circumstances, and, as long as they are loved, fed, have clean litter and a lap to nap one, then life is good. It was then that I realized I had a story to tell and a message to teach – I wanted to use my cats as more than a cute story about kittens climbing up a curtain. I wanted to use an honest, conversational, warm, and humorous style of writing to share a story that really explored the very real core of being a cat – how they express feelings and emotions, not just with one another, but with the world at large. I felt whether you were a “cat person” or not, that the journey of the chronicle itself, is something we all can relate to in one way or another and I became convinced I needed to share my positive feelings as they did, i.e., to “embrace the ordinary in life and dare to make it extraordinary.”
Once I grasped that simple but profound concept, from that point on, I really truly understood how simple the message was and how rewarding, limitless, and fulfilling the possibility could be and I tried to look for those silver-lining moments all the time to help me appreciate my life all the more, despite how it seemed on the surface sometimes. If an explanation is in order – just imagine a bug walks across the floor – for a cat, in a split second, life magically transforms from “ordinary to extraordinary” as they spend endless minutes in fascinated pursuit of this nondescript moment in their lives. It’s all in how you perceive the moment. As people – take a rainy day for example. Rather than find it to be a hindrance, perhaps it is a stolen moment for a much needed nap or a chance to snuggle on the couch to watch an old movie.
The writing began to flow with abandon after that point and I knew I wanted to immerse my readers into that simple concept. I felt by creating a heartfelt and inspirational story that was narrated through everyday events that anyone could relate to, coupled with stunning photos and exquisite artwork, that the reader would experience the very concept of “from ordinary to extraordinary.” I wanted this book to be an experience for my readers and I truly think I have achieved that goal.
I cannot wait to share this story – I know it has made me a better person today and I hope it will give people a few laughs and inspire them to think in a different way about their lives as well.
Deborah Barnes currently resides in South Florida and after an unexpected life-changing event, she decided to follow her dreams of becoming an author, using the relationship of her cats as inspiration for her first book. She is also the author of the popular Blog, Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection. Visit Deborah at: http://www.zeezoey.com