Sep 162013

Sixth Installment on The Book Coach Is Writing a Book
(for previous installments, email Francine)

Looking back on the 70 or so interviews I’ve conducted so far for Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts (about people who sleep with their pets), I have to ask myself where did the pleasure come in. Where does the pleasure still come in?

First of all, I love interviewing people. I love exacting the sensory detail they share with me; it teases out the emotion of the experience. If the devil is in the details, so is the heart. I want to get right into their skins.

I urge my interview subjects to  describe the precise circumstances of their interaction with their animals, the disposition of bodies on the bed, the dog’s breed, the bird’s name, the cat’s age, the aspect of their animals. Exactly where in the house, where on the bed they were. Were their pets always allowed on the bed or did they wheedle their way on to it?

I want to know how it felt to have the cat sleep on your chest. I hunger to recreate the experience of having a bunny sleep with his nose tucked under your neck. What could be more delicious?

Writing for me is the balance of the right side of the brain and the left. I strive to get the all the facts that put the incident in context so the reader can relish them too. I also endeavor to recapture the sensory experience as if I were living it myself: what does the interaction smell like, look and feel like? Again, so the reader can also taste it.

But it isn’t just the sensual experience.  It’s the spiritual connection between beast and person. The comfort of knowing you share this universe with another sentient creature. One that has different thoughts than you do, one who thinks you look weird too. But loves you still.

Now maybe some people would argue that a head of lettuce and an egg right out of the box are also sentient. But I just can’t cuddle up to them.

Sep 052013

The Writing Process for Cat Naps and  Doggie Snorts.

Fifth Installment on The Book Coach Is Writing a Book
(for previous installments, email Francine)

In describing the sleeping habits of the  human and the pet(s), I had to offer enough background and context to highlight the remarkable aspects of their interaction.

Sometimes I needed just a few sentences and sometimes several pages.

For instance: Beau, the ten-pound Maltese of Carole and Larry Paulsen in Concord, California, likes to sleep between them.  He lies facing the foot of the bed, then turns onto his back with his back legs wide open.

“He likes for us to put an arm on him the length of his belly, and every once in a while he will stretch and squeeze our arm with all four legs,” says Carole.

In this case, the disposition of the three bodies in space is pivotal to understanding the affection between the Paulsen’s and Beau. And that’s all it needed.

Also: Sandy Farber of San Francisco adopted a 20-pound male cat. The first night she brought him home, Sandy put him in the bathroom—following much-accepted advice about introducing a new animal to unfamiliar surroundings.

She suspected he was an escape artist so she pushed her television on its stand against the bathroom door to secure him within.

Sandy awoke in the morning with the cat snuggled against her in bed.

Here the element of surprise makes the story work.

However, in relating how Marti Touchstone’s two Airedales pinned her under the covers while she was mourning her husband, I had to provide more detail. I had to describe Marti’s relationship with her husband John, John’s fondness for the dogs and his death. Only by building up this background could I give the story the poignancy I was seeking.

I had determined that Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts would be a series of unrelated anecdotes, not a story with a continuing plot line. But I did have to organize them in themes. Several stories could fit into more than one chapter as I sorted them, for instance Reveille, Murdering Sleep, Bed Real Estate and so on. So I just made a decision based on the length of the item and its balance in the chapter.

Always in the back of my mind was the question, will this format sell? I hoped an agent and a publisher would see its value as a gift book.

Sep 042013

Write your life story with author and journalist Francine Brevetti

The 7th Avenue Presbyterian Church, San Francisco
between Irving and Parnassus Streets.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 10 AM – 2 PM

Don’t leave this life without creating a record of your challenges, triumphs, wisdom and culture. Write for your descendents and for your own sense of fulfillment.Master techniques for stimulating memories and overcoming writer’s block. Learn how to start writing and keep writing.

This free workshop  runs from 10 AM to 2 PM with a break for lunch. You are requested to bring your own lunch and to notify Francine as soon as possible if you plan to attend.

This presentation is sponsored by Encore Adventures, a free program of the City College of San Francisco’s Older Adults Department – in partnership with the 7th Ave., Presbyterian Church at 1329 7th Ave.

For more information call 415-397-7830 or e-mail