Norm Hacking answers
© Norm Hacking (written January 2005)
Norm received a package of colourful cat-shaped "letters to the author" from each student in a Grade 2 class after their teacher, Mrs. Weir, used Norm's book "When Cats Go Wrong" (illustrated by Cynthia Nugent, published by Raincoast) in her classroom. See Norm's reviews page for some of the student letters (including the two at left) and Mrs. Weir's letter. In addition to answering each of the students individually, Norm wrote the following letter to the class in answer to the most common questions. Mrs. Weir made a display of Norm's letters for the whole school to enjoy.
Norm's letter includes not only his thoughts on cats, but also some philosophies for all of us. He organized his response in categories of the students' most frequently asked questions (about his cats, about himself, about writing):
a) About my cats:
(What are their names, how many, what colours, are they really bad, what sizes, which ones are my favourites? etc.)
From the time I was just a baby, my family has always had cats, too many of them to remember all the names. But, "Syd, The Orange Cat", "The Flea" and my current cat "T-Pot" are three of my favourites.
Syd was a great big orange cat, and his picture is on the cover of the CD "Orange Cats Make the Very Best Friends". (I'm sending a copy of the CD to Mrs. Weir, for your class.) Syd was my best pet, and best friend ever.
The Flea was a lovely little mostly-black kitten (with some white patches). When she first came to live with us, she was so little that she looked like a flea that had jumped off Syd's back! That's why we named her The Flea. (There's a song on the CD I wrote for both of them, called "Syd and The Flea".)
My current cat T-Pot is also a very small girl, even though she's now 12 years old. She never grew very big, but she's beautiful, with colours of white, and orange, and brown. This colour combination is known as "callico". (Did I spell that right, Mrs. Weir?)
We called her T-Pot , because she carries her tail up in the air, and it curls over and down, so the tip of her tail touches the middle of her back. It looks funny, as if she had a "handle" (like a teapot).
Almost all of you asked whether my cats were really that "bad", and whether I liked them or not.
Well, I don't like them - I love every cat who's ever been my pet, and friend.
Cats are wonderful, warm, mysterious and loving creatures. I've always known that it is a privilege to have a cat come to live with you, and share your life.
If you respect your pets, and care for them with love, they will give that love back to you and your family a thousand times over.
As for the song "When Cats Go Wrong", it's really meant to be funny.
Cats don't really "go wrong". But they are playful and curious. If you have ever spilled something, or if you've ever accidentally broken a window, or something else, you'll understand. You didn't mean to, you were just playing.
It's the same with your pets. They don't mean to break ornaments, or mess up things, they're just being curious and playful.
When they scratch furniture, it's because they are trying to keep their claws from growing too long. Also, they really can't help when they shed hair on the furniture. They shed more hair in summer, when it's hot. This is just nature's way of helping them be warm in the winter, and cooler in spring and summer.
As for goldfish and budgie birds, well, fish and birds would be natural food for them! Don't forget - your pet kitties are related to bigger cats like lions and tigers.
They see a bird, or a fish, and they instinctively will try to catch it for food. Maybe Mrs. Weir will tell you more about the difference between thinking and deciding how to act, and acting from instinct. O.K., Mrs. Weir?
As for those "tongue marks on the butter", I'm sure that any kitty that finds a dish of butter probably thinks it's a treat you left out just for them!
b) About me:
(How old am I, how many books do I have, do I like my job as a writer, etc.)
Well, I'm 54 years old. That must sound pretty old to you, but I love writing and singing, and it helps keep me young at heart.
I only have one book so far, but I'm working on at least two more.
Since I left school, I've written over 300 songs, and have recorded eight albums of my songs.
I love writing songs, because I love poetry, and when you write music, and add it to the words, it makes a wonderful combination. By the way, Andrew and Scott asked a really good question "What is my favourite song?"
I had to think a long time about that. It was a really hard question.
But, I finally decided that I love Christmas so much, that my favourite song is "Silent Night". I think it is beautiful and timeless.
It makes me feel very emotional, and when I hear it, it makes me feel closer to my fellow human beings.
That's really important.
c) About writing:
All of you wrote such great letters. Maybe I should be asking you about writing!!
But, since I've been doing it a lot longer, here are a few of my thoughts about writing.
Remember I just told you that a really good song, like "Silent Night", makes me feel closer to other people. I said that's very important, and it is.
Think about it for a minute. We're all different. If you saw me, you might think I look pretty strange and different. I've got a long gray beard, and I always wear a funny old hat that I love, and I've got a big tummy like Santa Claus.
Sometimes we make fun of people who are different, and sometimes people make fun of us, because they think we're different.
But, I can tell you that we're all part of one big family.
A good writer has to be brave enough to be honest, and to open up his or her heart to their readers or listeners.
A good story, or poem, or song, or book, touches the readers' or listeners' hearts. It reminds them that despite our differences, we share so many feelings and hopes and dreams.
We're all hoping to love and be loved, we're all hoping to be accepted for who we are.
Sometimes we get confused, and scared. Sometimes we're sure no one understands us.
A good writer can remind the reader that we all feel the same things at one time or another. And, that helps us all remember that we are all connected. We celebrate the feelings we all share, as well as the differences between us.
It sure would be a boring world if everyone was exactly alike, wouldn't it?
Anyway, I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I wanted to make sure that I answered most of your terrific questions as best I could. I'm also sending a short personal note to each and every one of you.
I'll finish this letter, with one last thought about writing.
Like everything else - playing sports, cooking food, or building a house - every activity has a certain set of skills you must learn and practice.
You have a great teacher in Mrs. Weir (I wonder if she is blushing). She and all your teachers in the future can teach you about the skills you'll need - spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. No matter how great your ideas are, you'll need these skills to express yourself properly.
But, the other part of writing is the part about all of us being different.
If all of you were cameras, and you all took a picture of Mrs. Weir, all the pictures would be of Mrs. Weir, but they'd all be different. They'd be from different angles, and heights and distances.
Don't be afraid to open up your hearts, and be who you are. Don't try to write like someone else.
The most interesting part of whatever you write, will be that you wrote it!
No one will have quite the same view, or way of expressing themselves.
A great example is the letter I got from Sydney. He wrote "When Jill plays your CD, I am forced to sing."
He could have written "When Jill puts the CD on, I sing". If he did, I would have wondered whether he sang because he thought he was supposed to, or because everyone else was singing, or because there was nothing better to do.
But, when he wrote "I am forced to sing", I felt I knew about not only what he did, but about his feelings about doing it. It meant to me, that something inside was touched by the music, and the rhythm, and the words, and that it just had to come out.
I get that feeling when I listen to music. And, now, I feel I know Sydney, and all of you so much better because of your wornderful letters!
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I have high hopes for all of you. Keep writing, and reading.
You will all find that voice that is inside your hearts, that is you.
When you do, it feels great.
Love to all of you,
See the index of Norm's lyrics, music, poetry and prose on this website
Letter added to website July 25, 2005
HOME / NEWS
/ COMING UP / BOOK
/ DISCOGRAPHY / TRIBUTE