The Blessings of the Animals

September 28, 2010

You may remember my reference to Katrina Kittle in an earlier entry related to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. I promised to write more about her and today is the day. Katrina spoke at the conference not about humour (though she was charming and witty to be sure!) but about the craft of writing. She is a writer who takes the responsibility of her role very seriously and while it is tempting to say she’s “gifted” the reality is her gift is her dedication to exploring social issues and then presenting their nuances in a most readable and inspiring way. Please do not be daunted by the tough topics (AIDS, Child Abuse, Addiction, Divorce …) Do yourself a favour and take the plunge. She is a sincere storyteller – you will find humour along with some sadness and be left with a hearty whiff of optimism. I have read The Kindness of Strangers and The Blessings of the Animals and am delighted there are two more to relish. (Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie)

I most recently read The Blessings of the Animals. The story focuses on a veterinarian (Camden) who is left by her husband and must forge a new understanding of herself and the important relationships in her life. The characters in the wide cast have intriguing stories of their own and are surrounded by a delightful troupe of wise animals, each with its own tale too. (Tale/Tail? I know … too much!) For the record, I’d like to come back in another life as Muriel the Goat – ahhh the sass! 

A wonderful discovery within the pages was a reference to a real-life Blessing of the Animals. This enchanting ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City (there are others around the world too) celebrates the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (this Sunday, October 3rd in 2010) and blesses the animals in his honour.  Katrina incorporates it into a  poignant part of her story but this video gives you a little peek of the real deal.

The cover of the the Blessings of the Animals book is so appealing. Katrina shares her feelings about it in her own blog:  “What I love about this cover for The Blessings of the Animals is that not only does it suggest (rightly) that a woman and a horse will be key players, but it speaks to me of love, of trust, of comfort (which one is comforting the other, or is it mutual?), and even hope (grass that shade of green can only be springtime). Combined with the title, hopefully it will compel potential readers to want to know more.”

Pick up a copy of The Blessings of the Animals and keep an eye on the news media this weekend for coverage of the feasts and ceremonies.

Click here for an earlier post on books and their covers.

So I’m back from Camp Erma much inspired and having learned a great deal – therefore  it was a success in my books. (punny, huh?)  I attended sessions ranging in topics from Paths to Publication to The Three H’s: Humour, Heartbreak, and Honesty. The speakers were exceptional and it was wonderful meeting them in person and jotting down the titles of their works in order to read more by them.  I’m a bit concerned that the list may take  more than a year to read through and is likely to distract me from their universally emphatic message which was if you are a writer then you’d best sit your beloved bottom in the chair and just write!

Here is a selection of the faculty’s work:

Craig Wilson–  (writes The Final Word column in USA Today) It’s The Little Things: An Appreciation of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Katrina KittleTraveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, The Kindness of Strangers and coming soon, The Blessings of the Animals (will feature more on Katrina and her books in future posts)

Wade RouseAmerica’s Boy, Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler, and At Least in the City Someone Would Hear me Scream (just plain wonderful ability to blend funny with poignant)

Gail Collins – (columnist with The New York Times) When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 ot the Present Wonderful sense of humour as she discusses quite serious topics.

Steve Dooce –  (Fox News morning news show host) Tales from the Dad Side

Christian Lander –  Stuff White People Like  ( a fellow Canadian and a great surprise – look forward to more from him) Book developed from his blog.

W. Bruce Cameron8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter and being released shortly, A Dog’s Purpose

Loretta LaRocheLife is Short, Wear Your Party Pants  (this is a favourite I’ve already shared with several friends)

Erma’s three children were in attendance with their families and spoke informally and formally, lending an interesting perspective to her life and success.  University of Dayton adores its most famous alum and besides creating a lovely monument to her, have named a street in her honour.  My fellow attendees have provided me with entertaining writing prompts for years to come!

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