I was very fortunate to read with three of the contributors to the new anthology, Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost (New World Library, 2011) at the famed independent book store, Book Passage, in Corte Madera, California this past Wednesday, May 4.
It was great to meet essayist Melissa Cistaro, whose essay “Calico” is one of my all-time favorites. It reads like a fantastic short story, full of suspense and unusual characters, about a young girl whose cat is a more reliable emotional companion than her own mother.
Best-selling novelist Jacqueline Winspear (creator of the Maisie Dobbs psychologist/private investigator series) talked about her essay “My Sal,” about her beloved black Lab.
Editor Barbara Abercrombie not only conceived of the book, put together the essays, but also wrote the very moving essay “Winesburg” about her scrappy, globe-trotting kitten.
And I wrote the essay “Red the Pig” about my pet pig that I raised when I was growing up on a farm in South Dakota. Here’s a copy of my high-school yearbook photo: Yep, it’s me and my pig!
I was pleased so many pet lovers came to the reading at Book Passage! Many people shared their stories of pets they loved and lost. But rather than being depressing, we all agreed that the evening felt like a time to honor our special pets and to recognize it’s okay to say we miss them.
And one woman even brought her adorable little dog, a Jack Russell terrier-chihuahua-boxer mix.
I like what Melissa said tonight about contributing an essay to this collection. She says it gave her permission to acknowledge her grief for her pet. (I’m paraphrasing.) I understood immediately what she meant. Until Barbara asked me if I’d like to contribute to Cherished, I’d never written about my pig before. It seemed ridiculous and frivolous of me to mourn his loss. As I write in my essay, “Growing up on a farm, I wasn’t a fool. I knew our animals were destined to become food.” And yet, I did mourn the loss of my pig. I don’t think it’s foolish to admit that we love the animals that have graced our lives.
Signed copies of Cherished can be purchased from Book Passage. (Phone: 1-800-999-7909)
Full list of writers: Carolyn See, Michael Chitwood, Robin Romm, Jane Smiley, Joe Morgenstern, Judith Lewis Mernit, Melissa Cistaro, May-lee Chai, Anne Lamott, Samantha Dunn, Billy Mernit, Barbara Abercrombie, Monica Holloway, Linzi Glass, Jacqueline Winspear, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Victoria Zackheim, Jenny Rough, Sonia Levitin, Thomas McGuane, and Mark Doty, (plus a poem by Ted Kooser).