Naomi Wood works by day in the Toulouse Graduate School at UNT and is a grad student at the school's International Studies program, but by night she often writes about a freakishly fetid feline that she and her daughter have dubbed Kitty Cat Meow Pants. Last month, she even self-published a children's book with the cat as the titular character. We being fans of all things literature and feline-focused decided we needed to talk to Wood about her writing process for the book, smelly cats, and how true friends will tell you when you smell bad. Read on for more...
We Denton Do It: What was the inspiration for Kitty Cat Meow Pants?
Naomi Wood: My kid brought home a plastic cat one day, and I kept saying in a creepy, high-pitched voice “Hi, I’m kitty cat meow pants, and I have no pants!" She laughed so hard that I kept going with it until we eventually had a whole storyline. We have a habit of trying out our accents and voices on each other, and I can't explain why this one stuck. I decided to flesh it out because I wanted to give her the book for her 7th birthday, but when I started looking for an illustrator, the positive feedback started rolling in and we decided to publish it.
Did you do your own illustrations?
My friend John Wilcox illustrated the book. I bought the illustrations from him outright since this was his first piece and we weren’t sure if we were going to print one book or a thousand. It was exciting collaborating with him because this was both of our first times writing and illustrating a children’s book, or working on anything like this period.
What was your daughter’s involvement with the creation of the book?
Besides being a kid and the main inspiration, she was in on the writing a little, but I wanted to present her with the final product on her birthday. She was so proud when we gave her the first color sample, that she took it to school and read it to her class and had all her classmates sign it for her birthday.
Is there a moral to this story?
Yeah, I think maybe there’s a hygiene moral. We weren’t actively trying to teach a lesson, mostly we were just writing what made us laugh. But the moral could be that friends are true friends when they tell you that you have a booger in your nose, or if you are smelly, or better yet if they get you a pair of jeans to mask your smell thus diverting that painful conversation. Although true friends tell friends the truth even if its a little embarrassing.
Who is your favorite children’s author?
I really like Mo Willems, Britta Teckentrup, and P.D Eastman. I gravitate towards books that are funny for adults too. Also, animals doing anything outrageous hits me to my funny-bone.
Have you ever thought of creating a musical version of your story a la Phoebe Buffay’s “Smelly Cat?”
People have asked me that, and Jocelyn and I do like to sing and perform musicals at home. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hear us in real life though. I want us to be a mom/daughter comedy duo in my wildest fantasies, but she’s a little more camera shy than I am. We do have a vine account where we create little snippets of our daily lives or just of ourselves saying strange things. I think that's about as far as any musical will ever reach, if that was a real question lol.
How did you decide upon the rhyme scheme in the book?
I honestly didn’t think about it too much. It just came out that way. I didn't take a formal class or try to come up with a witty way to write it, it just happened. We don’t always read books that rhyme especially because Jocelyn is getting older but there’s something about remembering a book just like lyrics. Just like Dr Suess' work, the words get stuck in your head. I know John had the book memorized when he was done with it for that very reason. If I truly pursue writing children’s literature in the future, I would still write about simple or funny things that kids and animals do with or without rhyme.
Was self publishing your book a difficult process?
I did a lot of research and ran into a few road blocks. Children’s books are uniquely expensive to print because each page is elaborate and full of vibrant illustrations. There are simple online programs like lulu or blurb but they are not cost effective. I ended up (with a lot of help) using adobe indesign myself, and literally cold called printing companies to ask how much they would print my book for. I went with a soft cover again because it was the most cost effective, and if a major publishing company did want to pick it up, I would go with hardcover as an option as well andsend the Adobe files to them. I also purchased my own ISBN which all of these things are totally doable without any formal knowledge.
Any future books or collaborations in the works?
I’m glad you asked! Within the past few weeks I asked if I could write my fiance’s mother’s memoir. She has a fascinating life story and has overcome so much adversity in her life mainly with surviving a violent drug war in Colombia in the 1990’s. I’m doing a bit of research on style and biography questions, but it would be a very personal project that I will be working on this year. I hope to write it both in Spanish and English so that the family could have a copy for themselves as well.