Telling Animal Tales

TFK talks to author Gwen Cooper about her work to help animals and how others can help them too

Oct 23, 2013 | By TFK Kid Reporter Abhinav Piplani
COURTESY GWEN COOPER

Gwen Cooper holds a kitten at animal shelter Good Mews, in Atlanta, Georgia. The author is visiting animal shelters around the U.S. to donate supplies and talk about her new book, Love Saves the Day.

Author Gwen Cooper traveled to animal shelters and rescue groups from May through September, donating supplies and talking to people about her new book, Love Saves the Day. She plans to finish the tour by December, and by then will have donated more than $40,000 worth of products to shelters and raised $5,000 more to help them. The book came out in paperback this week. Through Sunday, Cooper is donating money from paperback sales to Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary in memory of her cat Homer. TFK Kid Reporter Abhinav Piplani caught up with the author in Atlanta, Georgia.

A cat at Good Mews animal shelter hangs out next to Gwen Cooper's books during a tour stop.
COURTESY GWEN COOPER
A cat at Good Mews animal shelter hangs out next to Gwen Cooper's books, Love Saves the Day and Homer's Odyseey, during a tour stop.

TFK:

Your books show that animals can play a big role in people’s lives. But how do you help animals in different ways?

GWEN COOPER:

A big part of what I do is things like this tour that I’m on right now, which is a tour of animal shelters instead of bookstores. And a lot of what I do is letting people know of rescue organizations, the work that they do, the kinds of animals that they work with. Also because my last book was about my cat Homer, who is blind, there is a lot of work that I do with special and disabled animals; cats and dogs who are different and who are sometimes considered unadoptable because they’re different. A lot of the work that I do is just getting the information out there.

TFK:

Is there a reason that you care so much about animals?

COOPER:

Ever since I was a little girl I had a passion for two things—books and animals. People always ask me “why do you care so much about animals?” and I always want to ask them “why don’t you care so much about animals?” It was never really a decision that I made, it’s just the way I’ve always been. But really I don’t like to see anyone to suffer whether it’s a person or an animal so I think that’s really a big part of it. Whether we walk on two legs or four, suffering is suffering.

TFK:

Your latest book Love Saves the Day is written for adults, but is there a message for kids in there?

COOPER:

I think so, certainly about learning to appreciate your parents. It is the story of a mother and a grown daughter who have a very difficult relationship. And a big part of what the daughter has to learn over the course of the book is to see things from her mother’s perspective which, I think, is one of the hardest things for a kid to understand. That’s something you definitely learn as you get older. And one of the key parts of the book is how the mother and daughter learn to better understand each other.

TFK:

Was there a specific inspiration for the book?

COOPER:

I decided to write the book when my publisher, Random House, came to me and said, it would be interesting if you could write a novel from a cat’s perspective. And when you are a writer and Random House asks you to write a book, you write it. The cat, Prudence, who tells the story in the book, is based very closely on my cat Scarlett. And anyone who has read Homer’s Odyssey, which is my previous book will see a lot of Prudence in the book, so she was a lot of the inspiration for what I was writing.

TFK:

What pets do you have and what do you like most about them?

COOPER:

Right now I have three cats: Homer, who is a blind cat and is the star of Homer’s Odyssey, and last year we adopted two kittens, Clayton and Fanny, Clayton only has three legs, and we say that when a three legged cat and a blind cat get in a fight it is the world’s saddest catfight. But they don’t fight. And then we have Fanny. It is really hard to pick my favorite thing about them; I mean Homer has been such a big part of my life for such a long time that I can’t even imagine my life without him. And the kittens are just so sweet and friendly and high energy, very entertaining, but we don’t think that they are very smart. They are not the sharpest tools in the shed.

TFK:

What can kids do to help out animals in their community?

COOPER:

There are a lot of shelters and rescue organizations like Good Mews animal shelter in Atlanta that have different programs for kids. Actually a lot of shelters were founded specifically by parents and children together, so there is a lot of work children can do in terms of volunteering. You can also help fundraising and also letting other people know about shelters and recue organizations in their community. Sharing using social media if you have it, also to find different shelters that you like and find out what you can do to help.

TFK:

As a writer what writing advice would you give to kids who like to write?

COOPER:

It has to be something that you are really committed to working very hard on for a very long time. I always say that the best advice to give a writer is to be dissatisfied, and by that I mean you should always be thinking that your writing can be better; that you can be telling better stories; that you could be doing a better job. You should never love anything so much that there is no room for improvement. Even if everybody tells you that it is amazing and that there is nothing that you can do to make it better, there should always be a part of you that wants to work hard and make it better. So whether you are an adult or kid that is the advice I would give.

TFK:

Is there anything that you would like to add?

COOPER:

Just to keep reading. I love talking to people of all ages who love to read.