Friend Friday

As a Leo and a firstborn, I can be a bit bossy at times. I even remember bossing today’s guest, Kevan Atteberry, around at an SCBWI International conference. He had not brought his portfolio and was regretting it. I told him to have it Fed-Exed. . .and he did! While his subsequent success has had nothing to do with my suggestion, I have loved watching Kevan create books that really speak to kids and their families. (One of my all time favorite read-aloud moments came when sharing Bunnies! with my granddaughter Esme) I was privileged to read Ghost Cat (Neal Porter Books) in F&Gs; the moment I turned that last page, I predicted to Kevan that this book would be a new classic. Once you read it, I suspect you will agree with me.

Kevan Atteberry

I have a ghost cat in my house. It’s been there several years now. It is not something I really see. Just quick movement out of the corner of my eye. There and then gone. Too elusive to really see. I’m sure there are a lot of logical explanations for the phenomena. But I’m going with there being a ghost cat in my house.. .

We had a black cat for years. It was a cat that just showed up and my wife, Teri, started feeding. I warned her if she fed it it would stick around. But she did, and it did. It came to us as an outdoor cat but eventually became an indoor/outdoor cat. If it had other places to be he was free to go there. He didn’t, preferring to live with us. And he did for about a dozen years. One day I hadn’t seen him around and went looking for him. I found him lying passed away in the side yard.

At that time, my wife was five or six years into a diagnosis of young-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I had to tell her several times over the next few days that the cat had died. Each time it was like she was hearing it for the first time. Not too much later she forgot that we ever had a cat. 
Jumping ahead, a year or so after the cat died, after being Teri’s caregiver for seven years or so of decline, her condition became such that I just could not do it all by myself anymore and ended up having to place Teri in an Adult Family Home.

I can’t remember if the ghost cat appearances were happening before I placed Teri, but this is when I started noticing them. Maybe because I was home alone all of a sudden with no responsibilities, nothing to distract me.
I’m an intelligent person. I don’t really believe I have a ghost cat in my house (or do I?), but I keep almost seeing it. So, naturally, as a writer, I thought I’d write a story about it. I had no idea what that story would be, but I knew it would be different than anything I had written before. When I shared the first few drafts with my critique groups, I was encouraged by their acceptance and suggestions. A year later, several more drafts, and they told me, “Kevan, this is your story,” which of course it was. I’d written it. “No” they said, this is YOUR story. You have a ghost in YOUR house.” And what they meant is that ever since I had placed Teri in a home, I really WAS living with a ghost in my house.

It became imperative at that realization that I get the story absolutely right. And I understood where exactly it needed to go. This was a story about loss, moving on, and the permission to love again while never giving up the love that came before.

Ghost Cat by Kevan Atteberry

Of Ghost Cat (Neal Porter Books ), Publisher’s Weekly said it well…”The heart, it seems, has room for everyone we have ever loved.”

Kevan is a writer/illustrator of award-winning children’s books including Bunnies!!!, Puddles!!!, I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas, and just released, Ghost Cat. Among books he has illustrated for others are Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett, and Frankie Stein by Lola Schaefer. 

But Kevan’s biggest claim to fame may be creating Clippy the Paperclip, the Microsoft Word helper. At one point it was annoying hundreds of millions of people a day. He finds an odd kind of pride in this…
Kevan lives in the Pacific Northwest with the aforementioned ghost cat.