Category Archives: Little Cat’s Luck

Keeping a Long Career Alive

Little Dog, LostThe first time I did it, it was a challenge. I’d never thought of doing it before. In fact, when my MFA students at Vermont College of Fine Arts wanted to do it, I confess that I discouraged them.

I’m talking about novels in verse, often called poetry novels. Poetry novels, I used to tell my students, are usually neither. They aren’t poetry and they don’t work as novels.

But then I did it. I wrote one. And I had to eat all my old reservations. My verse novel was called Little Dog, Lost.

I wrote Little Dog, Lost in verse—I eschew the word poetry, because what I was doing was certainly not that—for a very special reason. I wanted to write a story that would be accessible to developing readers, and I didn’t want to work in the short sentences usually required. I had written in those short sentences many times with a series of books for Random House Stepping Stones: The Blue Ghost; The Red Ghost; The Green Ghost; The Golden Ghost; The Secret of the Painted House; The Very Little Princess and its prequel, The Very Little Princess, Rose’s Story.

Marion Dane Bauer books It is entirely possible to write in short, accessible sentences and still to maintain rhythm and flow. I did it in those Stepping Stones books. But after a while, I itched to write with my own more natural flow. And the best way I could think of to do that and still give young readers bite-sized pieces was to write in verse. The white space on the page would make every line feel more accessible, no matter the length of the sentence it was part of.

So I tried it.

And surprised myself. I started out tentatively, uncertainly—was I truly writing verse or was I just breaking my prose into ragged lines?—but I soon fell in love with this new way of bringing a story to the page. Writing in verse naturally condensed my language, made it tighter and more powerful, too. And the lines looked so pretty on the page. I discovered that I liked white space, too.

I also found it more difficult to pull in backstory, so my story became more about the present moment. Which changed its nature. (This lack of comprehensive back story used to be one of my objections to verse novels.) But I began to see the change as good. Different from, rather than worse than.

I loved writing Little Dog, Lost. So much so, that I decided to do it again. Not a sequel with the same characters but another animal book in the same style. And Little Cat’s Luck was born.

Little Cat's LuckThis time I fell into the verse the way I had once fallen into prose writing, as the most natural way in the world to write. It felt like the way my story needed to find its way to the page. Rather quickly, though, I found myself wanting not only to do what I had done before, to write a story in verse, but to play with that verse. To see what else the form could accomplish. And so I played until I stumbled into concrete poetry.

When a golden leaf fell in my cat’s world, the words

f
e
l
l,

too.

And I was off and running, learning something new.

Little Cat’s Luck is out now, another verse novel by Marion Dane Bauer, who now appreciates verse novels, and another example of an old writer learning new tricks.

little cat's luckThis time, at least, I don’t have the embarrassment of having denigrated concrete verse before I discovered it for myself. And it’s reminded me to keep my door open to ideas that are new to me. It’s the best way I know to keep a long career alive.

I wonder what I can discover next.

Little Cat’s Luck

little cat's luckI’ve always loved cats. From the time I was a child, I’ve had cats in my life. One cat, two cats, sometimes three. But a while back, after years and years of cats, I began to notice the way my eyes turned red, the way they swelled, the way they itched. Miserably. Constantly. But especially when I was petting my cat. Finally, I figured it out. I am allergic to cats. Especially, it turned out, to Siamese cats. And so I had to be a grown-up and decide not to own a cat any longer.

No more cats on my bed, in my lap, in my home. No more cats in my life. Sad. More sad than these words can convey.

But then I realized there was no reason that I couldn’t create stories about cats. Stories couldn’t make my eyes redden, swell, itch. If I wrote a story about a cat, I could carry that little cat around inside my head day and night and suffer no allergies at all. And to make that story come to life, I could use my years and years of cats.

I know cats watch you, bored, disdainful, greedy. The way they twitch just the tip of their tails before they pounce. I know the thrum of a purr beneath my hand. I know the force with which they can attack a pretend mouse. Or the caution with which they can tiptoe around a live one. I even know how a cat brings kittens into the world. The first time I assisted with that process I was a girl lying across a boarded up window-well reaching down to reassure my frightened calico, a first-time mother. So I know cats . . . deeply.

I know them exactly the way I need to know any character I’m going to build a story around. In my bones. In my gut. In my heart. So that’s why I wrote Little Cat’s Luck.

Little Cat's LuckAnd now the day has come. My little cat has emerged into the world. The official publication date for Little Cat’s Luck was February 9th. She’s garnered some nice reviews and found some enthusiastic readers already. And after all the time I’ve spent with her, my eyes don’t itch! Not even a little bit.

There’s something to be said for book cats.

So now the book is out, and there is a fun trailer on my website, too.

And a classroom discussion guide and a social/emotional learning guide for teachers to widen the way they can use this story in their curriculum.

And guess what! Now anyone who wants to can enjoy my little cat without a trace of sneezes or itchy eyes.

And without a litter box in sight!

 

A Lucky Day!

Giveaway placardHurrah! This is the day! The day for what? The publication day for one of my favorite books. Little Cat’s Luck, a companion book for my earlier verse novel Little Dog, Lost, comes into the world today.

And why is it one of my favorites? Well . . . truth be told my newest book is almost always my favorite, because it’s the one my heart has most recently been living in. But this little book, another novel in verse, is a special favorite. It’s sweet and sad and surprising and very, very satisfying . . . to read as well as to write.

Look for Little Cat’s Luck today. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it!

(See details about the Book Launch Giveaway here.)