Caturday Story Corner

Caturday Story Corner: The True Story of Oreo

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Becky Cuadra who lived with her parents and brother in Miami. She loved cats dearly, but her allergies prevented her from having any. Because she couldn’t have one, she learned everything she could about them instead. She studied a giant book of cat breeds, wrote stories about cats, and dreamed of having her own feline one day, against all odds.

And to everyone’s surprise, that day came. One fine summer afternoon, a black and white kitten showed up on her doorstep with its paw stuck in a bright red collar. Soft kitten mews called the family to the door. Becky’s father helped the kitten get unstuck. The grateful feline played with them right there on the doorstep.

After no one claimed the lost kitten, Becky begged her parents to keep her furry friend. They said they couldn’t bring her inside because of Becky’s allergies, so they set bowls for the kitten outside, took her to the vet, and did their best to give the kitten a loving home. Becky named her Oreo. Her best friend, Jenny, also had a cat named Oreo–yet another thing they had in common.

Oreo brought Becky joy every day they spent together. Becky would rush outside after school to cuddle and play with her kitten, who soon grew into a cat. Oreo brought the rest of the Cuadra family joy as well. Every time Becky’s mom washed dishes, Oreo would jump up on the windowsill. While Becky’s mom would coo, “Oreo, kitty,” Oreo would rub her head against the glass.

One night, a fox came for a visit and ate some kibble from Oreo’s bowl. The whole Cuadra family watched from the sliding glass patio door. Should they shoo the fox away? Make a loud noise? Call for help?

But no help was needed. Oreo booped the fox on the head with her paw, and it ran back into the trees across the street. The Cuadra family laughed and cheered and retold the story of brave little Oreo to anyone who would listen.

Oreo brought Becky laughter and joy, but also comfort in her greatest sorrow. One day after school, Becky ran out to the patio in tears and cradled Oreo in her lap. Oreo purred and stayed longer than usual, because Becky needed her. That was the day Becky learned her great grandmother had passed away.

Becky and Oreo bonded over several years as they grew together. At one point, Oreo had a little cat boyfriend that would sit in the patio chairs with her. Becky was glad to see her cat fall in love, hoping one day she would, too.

For the rest of the days they had together, Becky would run outside after school to hug her cat–the highlight of her day. Her mom would coo to Oreo through the window while washing dishes. Her brother and father would play with Oreo outside and share a laugh. Oreo was a Cuadra, through and through.

As Becky continued her Saturday morning short story tradition, more and more special felines became characters in her repertoire. Today, Becky brings the Saturday morning tradition back to life.

Next time…we’ll journey through the true story of Fraidy the siamese cat.


Life Reflections

Does your writing spark joy?

Hello, dear readers!

Please grab a cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa and join me for a chat. It’s been a while since we’ve last met, so I’d like to give you an update. Please let me know how you’re doing in the comments as well.

This past New Year’s Eve, my favorite holiday of the year, I finished the rewrite of my contemporary women’s fiction manuscript. Afterward, I shared an unforgettable meal with my soulmate, then rang in the New Year in the kitchen amongst the cheers of other guests, the restaurant staff, and the chef and owner himself. It was my happiest New Year’s Eve as an adult. The happiest New Year’s Eve of my youth was 17 years ago, when I finished my YA novella at 17 years old, then danced salsa and merengue with my Cuban family members and best friend in the living room until it was time for our midnight twelve grapes and sidra.

Two manuscripts, two New Year’s Eve completions. As you may have guessed, I’m fond of patterns, whether intentional or serendipitous. One pattern that fell by the wayside, however, was writing a short story every Saturday morning.

This pattern began at eight years old, and it’s how I fell in love with writing. Somewhere along the writing journey in adulthood, the pure joy of childhood writing got overshadowed by the fear of criticism and rejection, not to mention the unrealistic goal of perfection.

I recently listened to the audiobook Stop Worrying, Stop Writing by Sarah Painter, which I highly recommend. My biggest takeaway from that book was that the joy is in the actual writing, not the destination.

Considering Sarah Painter’s wise words and Marie Kondo’s philosophy of only keeping items that spark joy, I ask myself…does my writing spark joy?

My answer is…it depends.

Now, before we all thank our laptops, notebooks, and pens for their service and hurl them out the window, let’s take a closer look. When does writing spark joy? When does it spark tears and frustration? When does it spark turning to TV or chocolate or hiding under the covers?

For me, the answer lies in the object of my focus. Is it on the actual joy of writing, as Sarah Painter so wisely recommends? Or is it on the destination? On publication, or the need to feel good enough for my parents or husband or friends or peers. Where does the drive to succeed come from? The drive to write?

As a child, I wrote for the joy of it. Every single time I sat down to write, it sparked nothing but the utmost joy. Everything else faded to the background. I didn’t write to prove myself or to get good reviews or to find an agent or publisher to validate my worth. I didn’t even write to get my parents’ approval. I wrote because it was fun.

So why do I write now? Is it still fun? Again, it depends. When I’m not worried what people will think, it’s fun. When I’m anticipating critique, judgment, or review, it’s stressful. As you may already know, I suffer with anxiety and depression. I have low self-esteem, as well as rejection-sensitive dysphoria (look it up–it’s a thing, and I even run a Facebook support group for it if you’re interested). Basically, I am my own worst critic. I can’t say when exactly I picked up this baggage…only that I miss the weightlessness of writing without it.

Sometimes writing is painful. It doesn’t always flow, and it isn’t always fun. When I worry what people will think, how I’ll be perceived, whether I’m good enough, whether I’m making amateur mistakes or letting somebody somewhere down, then it’s not so fun. More like…agonizing. I persist, because I want my voice to be heard, I want to share what I’ve gleaned from life, and I hope readers will love my characters as much as I do. I want the pain I turn into art to mean something. To help someone.

So how do I keep that spark of joy from burning out in the darkness of negativity?

In one EMDR session with my therapist, I traced my writer’s block to the shame of not feeling good enough. To my struggle with attention and reading comprehension all through school, caused by undiagnosed ADHD. To the business college professor who told me to find someone who “knew how to write,” because I had accidentally written “threw” when I meant “through” while struggling with untreated depression and ADHD. To the desire to please my parents by excelling like my brother, when I didn’t have his knack for mathematics. To the need for validation. To the fear of failure. To the fear of success. It became so intense that sometimes I would self-sabotage, procrastinate, and numb my mind with TV and social media instead. The buried shame and feelings of inadequacy were too intense to face every time I opened Scrivener to write. I tearfully recounted to my therapist that maybe it would be easier to give up the dream, because it hurt too much to pursue it.

In the second half of that EMDR session, after processing the roots of my shame and fear, I reframed my writing practice as a serene day at the beach, making sandcastles. Playing with words. Letting go of them as the water comes to wash them away. Writing the way I did as a child. Ebbing and flowing like waves on the sand.

That EMDR session broke down the stubborn foundation of my writer’s block. Though I am not fully cured, I have a newfound awareness. And I’ve changed my writing practice to rekindle the joy.

Instead of writing in a serious serif font, I now write in the font I used as a child…Century Gothic. It’s playful, it’s simple, and it reminds me of those childhood Saturday mornings. In Scrivener, the backdrop to my writing is now a sandy beach. My desktop wallpaper is a dreamy sandcastle. This small brain trick has worked wonders.

And now, I plan to implement another change, here on my blog. In honor of my childhood Saturday mornings, as well as my lifelong love of cats, I declare that Saturdays will now be Caturday Story Corner days on Shelter for Sensitive Souls.

My cat, Charlotte the Literary Cat, now has her own WordPress account, so she will make the occasional appearance as a guest blogger. I will start this Saturday with a story of the cats God has placed in my life along the journey when I’ve needed them the most.

I hope this post has blessed you in some way. I am so grateful to you for reading, and I hope you will stop by again soon.

So I will end with this question…does your writing spark joy? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you, and best wishes for your 2019.

Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt: The Lost Letter

One of your characters comes across a letter in the back of a closet while searching for something. Your character becomes emotional after reading the letter. What was your character looking for in the closet? Who is the letter from? What does it say? What is its significance to your character? Show how your character is feeling.

Please comment with your entries!

Inspirational Quotes

I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent—and when you don’t, panic sets in. The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.

Malcolm Gladwell