Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gwen Cooper, author of "Homer's Odessey" Comes to Town

Gwen Cooper, author of Homer's Odessey
with Alana Miller of Blind Cat Rescue looking on

A year ago, during one of our Friday nights at our local Barnes and Noble, one of us found a book with a photograph of a thin black cat on the cover that reminded me somewhat of my Ani.  I sat down and read the first chapter of Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat and then read on to the second...and the third...and the fourth. By that point it was clear that I wasn't leaving the store without buying a copy of the book.

Homer's Odessey is the story of a small black cat named Homer, and the many ways he changes his mom, Gwen Cooper's life once she brings him home.  Homer, blind from birth, (and, therefore, doesn't know that he's blind) has an incredibly adventurous spirit and takes on life and his world with gusto.  

Cooper is a good storyteller and Homer is an exceptionally fine character.  She explained to us that today was Yom Kippur and she was fasting for the day.  As a result, she was feeling a little light-headed and was very funny and open with the crowd.  It's clear she lovevs Homer and loves spreading his story around.

Cooper was in town on Saturday both do a reading at Quail Ridge Books and to fulfill a promise that she made to herself when she was first writing Homer's Odessey.

As she told a reporter for the Raleigh News and Observer:

"In 2007 when I had the idea for the book, I went to my then-agent and told him my idea, and he said, "Nobody's going to want to read this." So I knew I had to think of a new project or get a new agent. I Googled "blind cats" and among the first couple of entries was this Blind Cat Rescue. I called and got Alana Miller on the phone, and we talked for a long time. We both felt so passionately about this issue of blind cats not being adopted because people think they are going to be a burden or they are not attractive. She felt a book like this could help people understand that a blind cat could be happy and healthy and loved and have a wonderful life. She inspired me to go looking for a new agent. I promised myself that if the book did well, I would remember Alana and that conversation and the Blind Cat Rescue. I just got my first royalty check a few weeks ago, and this is my first big donation. I hope this will help cats at the sanctuary and make room for more. It's only one of a couple of rescues devoted to blind cats in the country. "
Today, after telling us this story, she presented Alana Miller, the founder of Blind Cat Rescue with a check for $10,000.

Seriously: how cool is that?

For today's reading Gwen read the chapter where she woke up in the  middle of the night to find a strange man in her bedroom at the foot of her bed.  Homer, who had always been a sweet and loving little guy, turned into a fierce and vicious protector who scared the bejeebers out of the would-be robber.  When the robber turned and fled, Homer chased him all the way out of the apartment and into the hallway.  It's one of a book full of great stories and one that really shows Homer's character and the extent of Gwen's feelings and devotion to her little guy.

The Blind Cat Rescue group has a Facebook page that has numerous pictures from Saturday morning when Gwen went to the facility and met with the volunteers and, of course, the cats. 

This was everything you could hope for in an author reading.  She was funny, engaging and very personable.  During her Q&A period, she answered questions that I'm sure she's been asked hundreds of times before with the interest and enthusiasm of someone who had never been asked the questions before.  There were at least 100 people there to listen to her read and autograph their books and Quail Ridge Books sold out of all of the copies of Homer's Odessey they had on hand for the reading.

My wonderful and suportive wife, Bonn, offered up a friendly, softball question, asking if there were videos of Homer online.  Cooper mentioned Homer has several videos at YouTube, a page on Facebook and even has a Twitter account.  The sad thing, Cooper said, is that between the three social media sites, Homer has about 13,000 followers while she only has about 300.

If you like cats and fine stories about cats, I wholeheartedly recommend Homer's Odessey.  And even if you're a dog person and/or don't think you like cats, I would hope you'll give Homer's story a try.  He might be the cat to change your mind.

-- Tom

p.s.  Don't forget -- there's still two days left to enter to win an autographed copy of Alicia Bessette's Simply from Scratch.  Just click on through to the other side to find out how!


  1. Looks like a great time! Thanks for sharing.

  2. It was. Cooper did a great job of showing how to do an author reading right. She was engaging, funny and very personable.

    -- Tom

  3. What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks, Nicole. "Homer's Odessey" is a great read, too.

    -- Tom