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Monday, June 5, 2023
June 5, 2023

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Castle Rock writer published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’


LONGVIEW — Perhaps it’s the way they look at you, or maybe it’s the support they can provide. It comes in many forms: a purr, a cuddle, a wagging tail.

It’s difficult to find the words to describe the love of a pet. But for Castle Rock-based author Angela C. Atkinson, finding the right words is part of what she does.

Atkinson’s personal essay was published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons Learned from My Cat” in February. The royalties from the collection go to the animal welfare charity organization American Humane.

“I’ve been writing since I was a kid. As early as I remember, I’ve been making up stories. I haven’t actually been pursuing it until the last couple years,” said Atkinson.

During an online meeting of a Portland-area writing group, another writer recommended she submit to “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Atkinson had never submitted a piece of writing before; she didn’t think she would hear back.

But she did.

Atkinson’s essay, “CAThartic Therapy,” highlights the support pet cats can provide. For Atkinson, the pet in question was her cat Xena, “a little gray fluffball” who sat by her side and supported her through a difficult medical diagnosis, she said. Atkinson suffered from AVM, a rare illness that required her to have brain surgery, leaving her with seizures and chronic migraines.

Xena went from being a beloved pet to something more.

“She was my constant, my rock, and my self-imposed therapist; she never batted a whisker,” Atkinson writes in her essay.

Atkinson hopes her story resonates with readers who have also found solace in the love of their furry friends and animal companions.

“If I could tell anybody anything it’s to be their own advocate and find your support wherever you can,” Atkinson said. “If I didn’t have my family and I didn’t have Xena and the doctors and stuff that I had, I probably would not be here today. It was a very hard time.”

Atkinson had written the original version of the essay when she was in school for creative writing and revised the story for “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” a collection of inspirational essays published monthly since 1993.

“I tightened it. I took a lot of details out because I didn’t want to make people cry,” Atkinson said, chuckling. “I wanted to pull at the heart strings but I didn’t want people bawling while reading it.”

Atkinson said she is working on another pet-related essay for another collection of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” as well as a paranormal/romance series. She recommended new and aspiring writers find communities locally or online to collaborate and receive feedback. She said she also worked with a writer’s group at The Vault Books and Brew in Castle Rock before the pandemic.

Putting yourself out there can be hard, she added, but the best thing is to trust yourself and trust that other people will be interested in the same things that interest you.

Although Xena passed away in 2013 at the age of 14, Atkinson is happily joined for writing sessions in her office by three cats, Anya, Patches and Bones, who has a dedicated cardboard box next to her computer keyboard. She’s also trained her German Shepherd Bella as a service animal herself, which she hopes to highlight in further writing projects.

“They’re so much smarter than we are and we take them for granted,” Atkinson said. “We really do. We just kind of see them as ‘just a pet.’ Yes, you have to take care of them but they take care of us sometimes.”